Diary of a Marriage: From Diamonds to Dishes

Out with the jewelry, in with the … errands?

When I walked in the door after work on Tuesday, J. made me close my eyes. He led me, stumbling, into our living room, where he sat me down on the couch and instructed me to keep my eyes closed. And then, after a few seconds: “Okay, you can open.” He said it proudly, excitedly. I opened them.

There it was, in all its glory: Our DVD player. The DVD player I’d bought for J. (well, for us, because, really, who doesn’t own a DVD player?) for Christmas, and which stayed in the box for the next five months, gathering dust in our coat closet. He’d finally set it up, and it worked. I didn’t even care that a thick black cable snaked up our wall, an eyesore in the otherwise white room. Let unsightly wires protrude from our walls! We had a working DVD player! It was like Christmas, all over again.

I’m not sure how it works in other marriages, but in ours, the idea of gifts has changed. It’s become less about jewelry and flowers and boxes wrapped in fancy paper, and more about the basics. I pick him up a nice pair of socks on a random Tuesday; he buys me a bottle of my favorite lemonade at the store. Random, no-pressure, “thought you might like this” kind of stuff.

I remember the first real gift I got from a boyfriend: A silver Elsa Perreti heart necklace from Tiffany. I remember how exciting it was, thinking a boy had gone to a jewelry store and picked something out just for me. I wondered if he made the salesperson pull several necklaces out of the case before deciding on the silver heart. And now I’m squealing over a DVD player, and wondering how long it took J. to read the directions, why he decided to spend his first day of his summer vacation traipsing to Best Buy to buy the right cable — how much I appreciate it. Funny how things change.

Even our holiday presents to one another are different than they were in the beginning. Instead of exchanging expensive things bought during frantic, last-minute trips to the mall (shudder), we’ve redone our powder room, saved up for that trip we’ll take to Europe (someday), splurged on new kitchen floors.( Of course, one of us — or, more often, both of us — always flouts our longstanding “no presents” rule, and goes beyond the basic. There was that one Christmas when I bought J. his long-coveted Fathead, the very same Christmas he bought me the gold starburst mirror I’d been lusting over. (Our modern version of The Gift of the Magi.))

I wonder if our gifts to each other will keep changing: From jewelry to bathroom updates to — what? — a new changing table? A Diaper Genie? A weekend away from the kids to a spa retreat in Vermont?

In any case, coming home to a bottle of my favorite lemonade on a sweltering Thursday afternoon, or to a DVD player all set up for a weekend of movie nights, is even better than that silver heart necklace.

What about you? Have you found that gifts — or what constitutes a gift — has changed since you’ve gotten married, moved in together, or been together forever? What special things do you do for each other that have replaced actually buying things?

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