Chad and I are twenty-eight-year-olds who’ve been married for four years, but we’ve been together way longer. We met when we were twelve; we sat across from each other at the table in art class. We’ve been together basically ever since. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of laughs, tears, and times we wanted to give up. We’re still together though, and still happy. We’ve learned that our society’s idea that monogamy isn’t possible and marriages aren’t forever just isn’t true. Marriage is hard, it’s frustrating, but it can last. In this new segment, I’ll share some real-life tips about what we’ve learned along the way.
Every woman, on some level, craves the grand gift-giving gesture. You know, the one from the movies where the sinewy protagonist blindfolds his significant other and leads her into a room filled with billions of roses and a gorgeous, one carat diamond ring. Or there’s the lavish surprise vacation to Hawaii for two weeks filled with romance. Maybe it’s an outrageous dress to wear to a lavish, reservation only dinner. Maybe it’s a brand new Corvette. Maybe it’s that hot pink diamond ring in the Litman’s jewelers case with a $5,000 price tag (no hints here, or anything, Chad).
But let’s face it: for many of us, these lavish gifts are simply daydreams and may stay there forever.
Few of us live lives of the movies…and, if we’re being real, few of us would want to. Does the ring big enough to make your hand hurt necessarily equate to a real emotional connection? It could… but then again, a huge price tag does not necessarily symbolize a huge amount of love. It’s sparkly, it’s gorgeous, it’s envy-worthy… but it doesn’t solidify your relationship, as too many women have come to learn the hard way.
For many of us, reality can bite when it comes to gift giving. The struggles of paying the mortgage and the outrageous phone bill coupled with life’s lovely surprises (as in our water heater blowing up a month after we spent our savings on the house) can sway even the most romantic couple to a dollar-store level exchange. The corvette gets traded for a waxy piece of chocolate. The one carat ring becomes a one dollar carnation. The lavish vacation becomes a trip to McDonalds.
But you know what I’ve learned?
In all seriousness, it doesn’t matter.
Give me McDonald’s cheeseburgers over caviar and champagne any day… because true, the cheese might be a bit strange and the burger a bit questionable. But I’ll still have an awesome time. I’ll still laugh my butt off with the crazy, goofy man I’m married to.
Over the years, Chad and I have struggled with finances like any couple just starting out. We’ve been blessed, but we’ve had the years where we bought each other ten dollars in stuff from Dollar General for Valentine’s Day instead of splurging. We’ve had our years of waxy chocolates for Valentine’s Day and dinners at home. We’ve had our Christmas exchanges where things are far from equal.
Flashback to our high school days when Chad was working part-time for minimum wage, and there were plenty of Valentine’s Days and holidays on the cheap. Wildflower bouquets, dinner cooked at home, and homemade gifts became our staples.
But guess what?
I still have the wooden heart he carved for me in eighth grade (complete with a mistake on the backside of it , which just makes it more precious). I still remember the day he stopped on his way to school to pick a bunch of random “wildflowers” which were probably just weeds because he couldn’t afford roses. I still have every note he wrote me, every dollar store card.
That’s not to say we’ve never gone overboard on gift giving.
Have we splurged on gifts over the years? You bet.
There was the time in eighth grade he saved his allowance for months to buy me a locket for Christmas. There was a promise ring in tenth grade that set him back a few. There was the Playstation and DDR game he bought me one year for Easter (Don’t judge :) ). There was the Nicholas Sparks signed novel he bought me last year for Christmas.
There was the Wii and the gaming chair I bought him. There was the expensive toolbox, countless video games, and trips to Medieval Times.
We’ve both splurged. Maybe not Corvette level, Hawaii level splurges, but, in the scheme of our middle-class budget, they were splurges.
Were they special moments? Yes.
But would I trade all of those splurges for some of our free and cheap moments? You bet.
Last Valentine’s Day, we didn’t even exchange gifts. We spent the evening splitting a $10 Stromboli and a bottle of the cheapest vodka. We watched Netflix, laughed at stupid inside jokes, and just spent time together.
And it was the best Valentine’s Day we’ve had to date.
So there will be years in your marriage when you don’t have the money to buy or get gifts. There will be disappointing holidays where you feel like he’s forgotten you or doesn’t care about your relationship.
Please remember, though, that gifts are not measures of your relationship. We’re all guilty of Facebook bragging… I myself put a picture of the roses Chad got me on FB for Valentine’s Day last week. But don’t feel like you have to compete with your friends.
At the end of the day, gifts, no matter the holiday, are just nice gestures. They are not predictors of the success of a relationship. They are not requirements.
Giftless holidays sometimes allow you to understand what you have when you take all of the extra stuff away. If you have a giftless holiday but can still enjoy the company you’re with, then you’ve achieved the greatest gift of all.
Voice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love