Are You Bad at Giving Presents?

Here’s how to give and receive the best gifts

Susan Bostian


a woman’s neck adored with several necklaces
Photo by Max Ducourneau on Unsplash

For years, my husband (now ex-husband) gave me fancy necklaces, expensive earrings, and pretty rings. I remember his expectant face as he watched me unwrap the presents. I knew he wanted me to love what he was giving me.

But, as soon as he presented me with the boxes, my stomach tightened and I felt a familiar wave of anxiety. I know it’s not the present itself that is important, it’s the thought behind it that counts.

And that’s exactly the problem. I don’t wear jewelry. I don’t like the way it feels against my skin. On other people, it looks gorgeous. On me, it feels scratchy and I want to remove it as quickly as possible.

And, after 10 years of marriage, I thought my husband should know me well enough to know that jewelry wasn’t the right gift for me.

The only “jewelry” that I wore was my wedding ring. Ironically, he said he didn’t want to wear his wedding ring because it felt uncomfortable.

When my wedding ring was stolen by movers during our transition to California, I was heartbroken. This became the one piece of jewelry that I hoped he would buy for me. But, he never did. And I never asked him because I thought he should know.

Giving presents is an expression of love

Years before, I had a boyfriend who presented me with earrings that he had purchased for me at a science museum in Boston. They were beautiful copper earrings with Pegasus, the majestic horse with wings, chiseled into the shiny round discs.

I remember the moment he gave them to me. His lovely face was full of joy and delight. I loved the earrings, but I didn’t feel happy. I tried awkwardly to explain, but honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was trying to say.

He asked if I didn’t like them. I told him that I loved them and I loved him for being so thoughtful. It would take years before I would be able to articulate my feelings and he was long gone by then.

So, what’s the problem?

I later realized that although I appreciated the earrings (in fact, I still have them) I would have rather gone to the museum and…