Nov 29, 2016

Gifts as a Love Language

I've had trouble explaining to people why I don't want gifts for various life occasions.  For example, even before we decided to elope, I was determined to tell our guests, "NO GIFTS."  And we're talking about having a baby party in January (not a shower, because, again, "NO GIFTS").  Someone asked me, "Is it because you want what you want and not what other people will get you?"

That made me feel bad.  Like I think I'm too good for other people's gifts or something, and it's not that at all (heck, at this point most of our baby stuff is secondhand).  I don't want gifts because it feels materialistic and contrived to me.  Gifts is the love language that means the least to me and while I'm happy to accept them from people who I spend a lot of time with and express affection in other ways as well, I don't want to ask for gifts from people who I don't know as well.

I think it feels fake to me because my primary love language is acts of service (and probably 2nd would be quality time).  So if you don't spend time with me and you're not willing to do favors for me, a physical gift just feels pretty meaningless.  And I'm not a huge fan of gifting things to other people for the same reason.  I don't feel like we're "friends" unless we spend some time together.  So how can I ask you to show up to this party and give me shit?  And are you asking me to come to your party/shower/whatever because you want to spend time with me or just because you want my money?

I'm self aware enough to realize this mindset is just mine and not everyone shares it and not everyone has gifts as the last on their list of ways to express affection.  And I'm trying to be open-minded to the idea that to other people, not giving a card for special occasions can be a big deal or that Christmas gifts are expected rather than a perk to an already special day.

But I still can't bring myself to make a registry and then share it with everyone.  Sorry, gift-givers!  It's not you, it's me.

That being said, here's a list of "gifts" I'd really appreciate:

  • An offer to babysit sometime next year
  • Hang out with me AND the baby after it comes so that I don't have to find a babysitter
  • Plan an outing so I don't have to (I get so sick of the endless "What should we do?  Where should we eat?  Does anyone have any ideas?" that inevitably follows a suggestion for a group hangout.  Either contribute an idea, vote for your favorite, or don't say anything. It's like the "yes and..." rule for improv actors.)
  • Spring cleaning.  Do you ever just want to talk to someone while you clean?  I do.  Even if they sit there and don't help, it makes the chores go by so much faster.  I seriously used to cajole Sister3 into sitting on my bed while I tidied my room back in high school so I could chat with someone.
  • Talk books with me.  Super extra bonus credit: read a book at the same time so we can compare notes the whole way.
  • Talk to me about something I posted on the blog.  Far more of my IRL friends and family read than I realize and it always means a lot when someone mentions a blog post.  Plus, a lot of the topics on here are things I'm really interested in or feel strongly about and don't necessarily get to talk about in everyday life.

Notice a pattern there?

And even with physical gifts, there's always going to be some I treasure more than others.  Did you spend time making something with your own hands?  Sure, that's a "gift" but it's also an act of service.  You're speaking my language.  Is it a gift based on an inside joke or something we talked about previously?  There's a tenuous link there to quality time, which adds a whole layer of meaning for me.

I've actually been asking friends and family about their respective love languages, so I can be more thoughtful when I do want to do something nice for them.  If their language is gifts, I'll try to think of something appropriate to buy, if it's quality time then I want to spend more time with them or make more of an effort to chat on the phone, and so on.

Some people just don't know and then I'm stumped (like Sister3, whom I have decided has her own unique love language of food photos).  And some of the languages are harder than others.  Like someone whose primary love language is physical touch?  What do I do with that???  "My gift to you is this hug."  Bahahaha!

Anyway, I'm starting to ramble so I'll cut myself off, but what do you think?

Is it easy for you to accept gifts or do you prefer non-tangible gifts?  Does your love language have an impact on how comfortable you feel giving gifts?  Do you know what your primary love language is?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design


  1. I'm very similar to you. Mine is acts of service, so like, take my garbage out or drive my dog to the groomer, that's love. Gifts are meh (particularly since I hate clutter!) John's family is big on gifts so Christmas is a struggle for me because I'd rather give my services like help someone clean or cook some meals but they want physical gifts. It's tough. And then they ask what I want and I'm trying to think of a nice way to say 'please stop gifting me clutter, how about a nice fruit plate.' Quality time is way at the bottom on my list though, thank goodness since John works like crazy!

  2. This is totally understandable, and I think if you give alternatives to gifts (like the baby-sitting or coffee date promise) it helps a lot. My issue comes when people give gifts the person doesn't like...I mean, if you buy me 10 shirts in a size I can't wear it's really just more trouble than it's worth.

    For someone who's love language is touch- maybe something like a handmade blanket or jewelry? That could just be "gifts" but it's something they can tangibly feel and know it was made with love. Or Pinterest has craft ideas (mostly kid based but still) on how to "send a hug." I think it's awesome that you are making an effort to ask people language they appreciate.

  3. This is definitely where you and I differ, I love giving and receiving gifts. Giving gifts is definitely one of my love languages because I love to figure out the absolute perfect gift to give someone. The flip side, is (and this sounds somewhat terrible) I am often disappointed in what people give me because they don't put the same care in their gift to me and the care is what matters to me. The gift is icing. Instead it is a check off their to-do list - got Tanya her b-day or Christmas gift. But I do understand what you're saying and love that you are so clear about not-giving gifts or asking for gifts that you actually want and mean something to you.

    1. Yeah, that's another part that makes it so difficult for me. Sometimes it feels like to make a gifts person happy you almost have to read their mind and it gets very difficult with people you know less well. If I struggle to come up with gift ideas for my own sisters, how am I ever supposed to find a "good" gift for a friend or acquaintance?

      I actually wish I had an email for you, because I'd like to ask you more about this mindset. Like, as a gifts person, does it make a difference to be store bought vs homemade, and if giftcards or tickets to experiences still feel like a "gift" to you or if it's better if it's something more tangible.

  4. Gifts isn't my love language either, but I don't mind them ;) Haha. I will say I feel uncomfortable when people who don't know me well gift me something because it is awkward and usually they don't know me well enough to know what I actually like. But when someone gifts me something that they really put thought in to (like what Chris, my mom or best friend usually get me) I feel super special that they paid attention or knew me on that level to get that item for me.

    I prefer that people spend time with me or help me out with something as a way to show love also. But I will say that I usually enjoy Christmas shopping for family and close friends because I love picking out the perfect thing for them. And it is because I spend time with them and know what makes them happy (usually). There are always those that are super hard to buy for!

  5. I've read this book years ago and was fascinated by it for many reasons. One of which was because I could not figure out what "love language" works best for me. It haunted me for a while. Because I felt like if I could label my love language for myself, how could I expect a significant other to figure out what works for me? And, is this why I've had a not-so-great track record in the relationship department? So...that being said...I will avoid answering your question "do you know what your primary love language is?"
    I find it fascinating that people in your real life read your blog, because I'm pretty sure that no one reads mine.
    Anywho...about gift-giving...I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this because I LOVE giving gifts. I like shopping for people. I like wrapping the gift. I like picking out the perfect card. I like trying to choose a gift that is thoughtful, whether it's useful or just fun for that particular person. I truly am someone who believes in the old adage that "it is better to give than to receive". I enjoy receiving gifts, but not nearly as much as giving them.

  6. Oh, YES. Mine is quality time, and gifts is last for me too. I can appreciate that for some people I love giving gifts IS their love language, but we try to find a middle-ground where neither of us feels uncomfortable. When someone sees something and thinks of me, I will graciously accept that gift—and I will happily give a gift that I saw and that made me think of someone too, because it's always nice for someone to tell you they're thinking of you or know you well enough that they knew this thing would either ease a burden or bring you joy.

    But the obligation gifts get me. I don't begrudge my friends their bridal registries and such, but I do notice how some people behave because of them. I had a friend who put some really expensive stuff on her registry that she fully admitted to not even wanting, but she said she did so because this would be the only opportunity to have someone else buy it for her. I was astounded and horrified. The obligatory gift-giving is bad enough (I would never show up at a bridal shower empty-handed, regardless of my belief that gifts generally do little else but create clutter), but that attitude is just way worse.

    Every year around this time and around my birthday, a few family members who don't know me at all, don't support me or show interest in my life at all, and who just generally are crappy people with whom I have relationships in name only come out of the corners to badger me about what I want for Christmas/my birthday. My answer: nothing, really. The back and forth is always the same, and so frustrating: "Well, think of something you want!" The money people are willing to waste in order to keep up certain appearances and needless customs (that the other person is actively rejecting) is crazy to me. I could seriously ramble about this for hours.

  7. see, i find this so interesting because my primary love language is quality time, and my second is gifts. when we did the tests, KC laughed because that makes me 'materialistic' but that's really not the case, i like knowing people know/think of me. i know that's vain, but i mean like hey kristen i picked up this apple juice for you, or someone at work just dropped off a bag of skittles (oops). it doesn't have to be food lol or anything big, it's the act of being like hey i thought of you.. does that make sense? but quality time is my number one. i think a lot of it has to do with my childhood - not that i had a horrible one, but the consequences of having the childhood i had, turned me into someone who wants your time and thoughts. i realise i sound crazy vain right now.
    and i am like 0 on acts of service. like minus if that's possible. isn't that funny?

  8. I actually have a gift for you (baby) and will be mailing it this week. If I lived near you I'd do all of the things on the list. Since I don't you are stuck with a material gift :)


Talk to me! I'm friendly. I won't bite.

P.S. If you use Blogger and you want to get email replies to your comments, use your blogger profile instead of Google+ and make sure the box is checked next to "show my email address."