My husband can be very romantic. He loves to surprise me with my favorite chocolate-covered pretzels or something that he knows I have been wanting to purchase but have yet to pull the trigger on. He is my best friend, an equal partner in raising our three boys and he shows me his love for me in countless ways. There is one way, however, in which our relationship differs from many others: We don't buy each other gifts. And it works out just fine for us.
I learned early on when I began dating the man I would later marry that he was a nonconformist. He never likes to do what's "expected" of him, including giving gifts, and he doesn't like when other people give him gifts either. I admit this stuck me as odd at first, and it took some time to get used to, but we've become the kind of couple who buys our own "gifts" when we want them for birthdays or Christmas—or nothing at all.
My husband typically uses his birthday as an opportunity to score whatever fly-fishing gear he has been wanting and I've learned that if I want a gift for a holiday—or even my birthday—it's up to me to just buy it for myself.
We give each other things because we want to, and because we care about each other—not because it’s expected of us.
Just because my husband doesn't buy me traditional gifts doesn't mean that he doesn't buy me anything. In fact, I have to be careful in mentioning things that I want because he will just buy them for me without giving it a second thought. He once surprised me with the Taylor acoustic guitar he knew I had always wanted, and Sorel boots that I would drool over while browsing a catalog, and he often shows up after work with my favorite drinks and candy in hand, just because. It's always a surprise and comes out of the blue.
I try to surprise him too and this is what has been working for us as a couple. We give each other things because we want to, and because we care about each other—not because it’s expected of us.
Breaking free of traditional gift-giving etiquette has another added benefit as well: It allows us to focus on our three boys during the holiday season when money is tight and stress is high. I enjoy buying gifts for my boys and having them pick out gifts for others to teach them to think outside of themselves and their wants, but my husband and I don’t feel the need to spend extra money on each other. We don’t have anything to prove.
Sometimes I wonder if my kids will grow up and not be good gift-givers to their partners, but ultimately, relationships are about doing what works for you as a couple. They see my husband’s love for me in his daily actions and affection toward me. They see us nourishing our relationship in countless ways that can't be bought—and that's what really matters.