A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of him. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts, but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love. Gifts are visual symbols of love. Most wedding ceremonies include the giving and receiving of rings. The person performing the ceremony says, “These rings are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual bond that unites your two hearts in love that has no end.” That is not meaningless rhetoric. It is verbalizing a significant truth—symbols have emotional value.
Perhaps that is even more graphically displayed near the end of a disintegrating marriage when the husband or wife stops wearing the wedding ring. It is a visual sign that the marriage is in serious trouble. One husband said, “When she threw her wedding rings at me and angrily walked out of the house slamming the door behind her, I knew our marriage was in serious trouble. I didn’t pick up her rings for two days. When I finally did, I cried.” The rings were a symbol of what should have been, but lying in his hand and not on her finger, they were visual reminders that the marriage was falling apart.
Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than to others. That’s why individuals have different attitudes toward wedding rings. Some never take the ring off after the wedding. Others don’t even wear a wedding band. That is another sign that people have different primary love languages. If receiving gifts is my primary love language, I will place great value on the ring you have given me and I will wear it with great pride. I will also be greatly moved emotionally by other gifts that you give through the years. I will see them as expressions of love. Without gifts as visual symbols, I may question your love.
Gifts come in all sizes, colors, and shapes. Some are expensive, and others are free. To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts, the cost of the gift will matter little, unless it is greatly out of line with what you can afford. If a millionaire gives only one-dollar gifts regularly, the spouse may question whether that is an expression of love, but when family finances are limited, a one-dollar gift may speak a million dollars’ worth of love. Gifts may be purchased, found, or made. The husband who finds an interesting bird feather while out jogging and brings it home to his wife has found himself an expression of love, unless, of course, his wife is allergic to feathers. For the man who can afford it, you can purchase a beautiful card for less than five dollars. For the man who cannot, you can make one for free. Don’t wait for a special occasion. If receiving gifts is his/her primary love language, almost anything you give will be received as an expression of love. (If she has been critical of your gifts in the past and almost nothing you have given has been acceptable, then receiving gifts is almost certainly not her primary love language.)
The Gift Of Self
Physical presence in times of crisis or at special moments is the most powerful gift you can give if your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts. Your body becomes the symbol of your love. Remove the symbol, and the sense of love evaporates. If the physical presence of your spouse is important to you, I urge you to verbalize that to your spouse. Don’t expect him to read your mind. If, on the other hand, your spouse says to you, “I really want you to be there with me tonight, tomorrow, this afternoon,” take his request seriously. From your perspective, it may not be important, but if you are not responsive to that request, you may be communicating a message you do not intend.
Speak The Language
1. Try a parade of gifts. Leave a box of candy for your spouse in the morning; have flowers delivered in the afternoon; give him a gift in the evening. When your spouse asks, “What is going on?” you respond, “Just trying to fill your love tank!”
2. Keep a “Gift Idea Notebook.” Every time you hear your spouse say, “I really like that,” write it down in your notebook. Listen carefully and you will get quite a list. This will serve as a guide when you get ready to select a gift.
3. Enlist a “personal shopper.” If you really don’t have a clue as to how to select a gift for your spouse, ask a friend or family member who knows your wife or husband well to help you.
4. Offer the gift of presence. Say to your spouse, “I want to offer the gift of my presence at any event or on any occasion you would like this month. You tell me when, and I will make every effort to be there.” Get ready! Be positive! Who knows, you may enjoy the symphony or the hockey game.
5. Give a living gift. Purchase and plant a tree or flowering shrub in honor of your spouse. You may plant it in your own yard, where you can water and nurture it, or with permission in a public park or forest where others can also enjoy it. You will get credit for this one year after year.
6. Give your spouse a gift every day for one week. It need not be a special week, just any week. Remember, the gifts do not have to be costly or can even be free! Depending on his/her response, you can then taper the gift giving to once per week or month. Make it something your spouse can look forward to.