The Five Best Gifts for Your Wife or Girlfriend
By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD
This is a special holiday edition of my series about The LATE Men – adult men who are Lost, Angry Teenagers – late to mature and late to show up as fully functioning adults. They become stuck in an adolescent level of development. The LATE Men experience relationship distress because they’re lost and angry – they don’t understand women and what they need, and when their women express feelings and needs, they often react with anger.
Men Lost in the Holidays
The holidays are tricky and stressful for LATE Men. These men typically grew up in dysfunctional families, and they were culturally influenced by a toxic code of masculinity. This code taught them how to be controlling and angry, and how to stuff their more sensitive feelings (sadness, shame, and fear). The holidays present LATE Men with challenges they are unprepared for.
The LATE Men were never taught how to properly love and care for the women in their lives. So they don’t know what to do during the holidays. Or they’re so angry they sabotage this special time of family connection and celebration. For example:
- Due to shame or self-doubt they numb themselves with alcohol, drugs, electronic devices, and other activities – and they don’t show up for the holidays.
- They’re angry because they feel burdened, unappreciated, or they’re running from their shame – and they isolate, pick fights, or become excessively controlling.
- Many LATE Men do their best to be helpful – even generous – but they miss the mark. They don’t really understand her needs or desires and they buy inappropriate gifts. Or they buy expensive gifts but don’t show up as loving partners.
The Five Best Gifts
Many women appreciate nice jewelry, perfume, and clothing – even certain electronic devices. These are perfectly nice, lovely gifts. They can also be impersonal, with little relational meaning or depth. LATE Men can do something different this year, and surprise her with a heartfelt gift of love and positive attention.
Here are the five best gifts a LATE Man can give his wife or girlfriend – gifts that express heartfelt sentiments of appreciation, gratitude, and love.
- Give Her a Break – Let her know you will take care of things at home so she can go out with her friends. Cook and serve dinner for her (and don’t let her do the dishes). Make a commitment to do that once every week. Buy her a package of spa services for a few hours, a full day with friends, or an entire weekend. Organize and plan a romantic weekend trip for the two of you. All of these gifts are more special and loving when they are presented in a romantic greeting card (in your own handwriting!).
- The Gift of Emotional Connection – The biggest complaint made by women in couples therapy is the lack of emotional support and connection by their men. I suggest writing a letter to her that expresses your commitment to be attentive, responsive, and emotionally engaged on an ongoing basis. But no empty promises! Add a note in your calendar (one that shows up every week of the year) that reminds you of this commitment. Let her know that you intend to stay emotionally connected by truly listening to her with understanding and empathy.Practice being emotionally open and honest yourself. All LATE Men have a healthy, loving, and responsible Adult self (in contrast to the Lost, Angry Teen, a wounded Inner Child, and a demanding, judgmental Inner Critic). Put the Adult in charge, and focus on maintaining a confident (not arrogant) friendship with your wife or girlfriend – one that includes humor and laughter.
- The Gift of Service – A recent study found that women are more interested in sex when men do household chores. And we know that both women and men feel appreciated and loved when partners are helpful and actively contribute to the upkeep of home and hearth. A special holiday gift of service (which may arrive as a written promise in a card or letter) may include timely completion of your “Honey-do” list, organizing and cleaning the garage, painting the house, or planting flowers. Other gifts of service may be ongoing, with a written commitment to wash her car every week, vacuum the house weekly, or do the laundry on weekends.
- Romantic Gestures – Write her a romantic poem. Leave a love note for her once a week (surprise her by placing the notes in different locations – such as her car, on her pillow, in her closet). Buy her some flowers – or a single rose. Send her loving texts during the day. Shampoo her hair – or brush her hair. Give her a massage (without the expectation of sex). If you want other romantic ideas, try asking her!
- The Gift of Appreciation & Respect – The sincere expression of gratitude, appreciation and respect is one of the four cornerstones of a healthy, loving relationship (along with trust, emotional support, and positive attention). I suggest writing her a letter that details everything you are grateful for. Let her know that you recognize and appreciate all that she does, and all the love that she gives. What do you respect, admire and honor her for? How is she your equal in life, and what has she taught you? Make a commitment to show her appreciation and respect every day.
One final gift idea for LATE Men and the women who love them: Our Connections: A Workbook for Couples. This reasonably priced workbook is a wonderful gift for her and for the relationship. The workbook is “…like a repair manual for relationships.” Based on our popular Connections program of marriage retreats and couples therapy intensives, it is a collection of exercises and articles designed to help couples in the pursuit of a more
secure, satisfying and successful relationship. It’s also the perfect gift for counselors and therapists who work with couples.
For additional information about the LATE Men, counseling for men, and couples therapy, please contact us today. The following articles about the LATE Men can be found in our web site: