“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” This sentiment is an important one. My interpretation is that it is important to avoid measuring the details of a gift in front of its giver. Show that you appreciate that the gift was given. I like this sentiment, and I agree with it.
Though I never thought that a variance of this issue would arise, it recently did, and I had to mull over the ins and outs of it. I was working with a man who is in a relationship, and we began to discuss the efforts that his wife makes to show him appreciation and affection. To her credit, it sounded as though she really puts thought and care into what she does for him. Then we discussed how he shows her affection and appreciation. He noted that he cooks for her and fills her gas tank up so that she never has to buy gas. Admittedly, I like those two gestures. I suspect that she does too.
I then asked him about the spirit behind his efforts. How does he present his efforts to her? He responded, “What difference does it make? No matter how I present them, she should be appreciative.” I wasn’t completely sure if he was serious or not, so I dug a little deeper. I asked him, “If I was standing on the corner and gave you a penny, would you be just as elated as if I gave you one million dollars?” His answer was “yes.” I never saw a conversation of this nature coming. I took a deep breath. He added, “It is the thought that counts. I appreciate that I was given anything.” We went back and forth with the issue for a few more rounds. Then I left it alone.
Later, I asked his wife if she had ever witnessed her husband cry out of appreciation or gratitude. She thought for a few minutes and then recalled a story where his sister gave him a sculpture that she created of the two of them when they were children. She presented it to him at his wedding and he cried like a baby.
A week passed, and it was time for another session with the husband. We picked up where we left off. I reminded him of what we last discussed and made sure that we had the same understanding of where the conversation left off—the points that were made and the areas of contention. I then shared with him the story that his wife had shared with me, followed by the question, “Do you still think that all gifts are the same?” He responded, “No. I see what you mean now.”
Given his concession, we went further. “Did you like the sculpture?” I asked. “Yeah, I loved it. It was beautiful,” he said. I then said, “Correct me if I am wrong, but what touched you deeply about that gift is not only that she put her time and effort into it, but also that she presumably captured you both in a manner that you appreciated. And she didn’t mail it to you. She unveiled it in front of people. She publicly shared her affection for you.” “Yeah, exactly,” he responded.
To bring the point home, I asked, “Was that the same as her putting a smiley face on two pieces of playdough and mailing it to you? I am not suggesting that you would not have called her and laughed and joked about her thinking of you if she had given you playdough, but it isn’t the same. Correct?” “Correct,” he said.
“Your sister touched your heart because she knew where your heart was and because she cared enough to do so. It sounds as though she put love into her project … and it brought tears to your eyes.” He almost cried as we talked. So did I.
Now that the conversation had gotten further than the question of whether all efforts and gifts are the same, it was time to discuss why the original sentiment existed in the first place; what did he get out of believing that? We’ll peel that back in next week’s blog.
Frank Love coaches individuals that are in and/ or wish to be in a relationship on ways to be more loving. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Way to Be Loving. To schedule a consultation contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.