How to Recover From the Worst. Gift. Ever. (and Live Happily Ever After)

How to Recover From the Worst. Gift. Ever. (and Live Happily Ever After) November 30, 2017

how to deal with unmet expectations in marriageHas your husband ever given you a gift that made you cry? Not because it was so good but because it was so, so bad?  People only say, “It’s the thought that counts” to dull the pain of a crummy gift.

Who’s cares about the “thought” while trying to wrap your head around what you’re holding in your hands? Especially when it’s your first Christmas as a newlywed and you’re left holding unmet expectations.

Let me start at the beginning.

When my husband reached underneath the tree on our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. and handed me a diamond necklace-diamond earring-gold watch-shaped sort of a box, I was excited. When I opened it and pulled out a set of commemorative Liberty Coinsthe Statue of Liberty coins–I cried. Hard.

History lesson: The U.S. government sold coins depicting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to raise funds to refurbish the monuments in the 80s. (Lucky me.)

I know it sounds selfish and ungrateful to cry over a gift, especially when someone is trying to do something nice for you. But, Liberty Coins were not nice for me.

I wasn’t a coin collector nor had I ever expressed an interest in coin collecting. At that time, I’d never even seen the Statue of Liberty. I couldn’t even use the coins to buy something I wanted. I was disappointed.

I was upset because I didn’t think my husband was thinking of me when he gave me Liberty Coins. He was the coin collector.

I also cried because I thought of the hundreds of gift giving occasions to come.

At that time I didn’t understand the reason for my hurt. I now know it was unmet expectations.

Disappointment is a terrible feeling. I knew my husband loved me, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I knew if I didn’t say something, my hurt would come out in the form of anger.

It’s pretty simple. James said in Chapter 4, Verses 1-2, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.”

I wanted something, and I didn’t get it. Maybe you’ve never been disappointed by an unmet expectation, but unmet expectations have caused a fair share of disappointment in our marriage.

We’ve been married for more than 30 years now. And, we laugh when we talk about the Liberty Coins. I haven’t always handled disappointment in the right way.

But I’ve learned how to identify the hurt of unmet expectations and how to deal with it.

Here are some ABC’s for dealing with disappointment in marriage:

1. Admit you’re upset. Don’t hold the feeling in and pretend nothing’s wrong.

2. Be kind with your words. Disappointment can sometimes come out as anger. Instead of immediately launching a verbal assault, remember your husband loves you so be careful not to say anything you’ll wish you hadn’t.

3. Consult with God. Pray and read Scripture.

4. Distance yourself from the situation. Sequestering myself for a little while usually puts me in a more level-headed state of mind and sometimes helps me see the situation from another point of view.

5. Express yourself without drama. Create an atmosphere for dialogue. When I’m upset or accusatory, I can put my husband in defense mode. It’s natural to want to defend yourself when someone attack you.

My disappointment over the Liberty Coins was obvious. Once my husband figured out why I was upset, he was more than apologetic.

Liberty Coins aren’t a bad gift, if you like that sort of thing. I expected something different.

People–husbands, friends, relatives– will let you down at some point. When you’re hurting or disappointed because of an unmet expectation, ask God for the liberty through grace to forgive.

Need skills to build intimacy?

  1. Get on the waitlist for my next group coaching session–Change Your Mind; Change Your Marriage.
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Also known as the Not So Excellent Wife, Sheila Qualls understands how tiring a tough marriage can be. 

She went from the brink of divorce to having a thriving marriage by translating timeless truths into practical skills. She’s helped women just like you turn their men into the husbands they want.

After 33 years of marriage, she’s a  coach  and a speaker whose passion is to equip women to break relationship-stifling habits and do marriage God’s way. And you don’t have to be a doormat to do it.

She and her husband Kendall live in Minnesota with their five children and their Black Lab, Largo.

In addition to coaching, Sheila is a member of the MOPS Speaker Network.  Her work has been featured on the MOPS Blog, The Upper Room, Grown and Flown, Scary Mommy, Beliefnet, Candidly Christian,, The Mighty and on various other sites on the Internet.

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31 responses to “How to Recover From the Worst. Gift. Ever. (and Live Happily Ever After)”

  1. Some of your stories are so funny. I appreciate you sharing with such transparency. You have a tremendous analytical mind that is able to look past the surface evidence to determine what is really driving our emotional state.

  2. Sheila, I think it is beneficial for couples to read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Not only is it helpful for the spouse searching and giving a gift but for the one on the receiving end. We have all suffered from unmet expectations. Your list of ways to deal are very good. I especially like number 4 and 5. I wish I would have had this list when I first got married. It would have saved us a lot of tears and silent treatments. Ha, ha. Thanks for sharing. – Amy

  3. Thanks, Damon. I am glad you enjoyed the story. I’ve had lots of practice exploring my attitudes behind my actions. LOL! I wish I could say I’m an expert, but I’m can’t.

  4. Great post, Sheila. I think that a lot of the unmet expectations come from the paradigms we absorbed early, and can’t really see.

    Case in point – in dealing with terminal cancer, I have a kind of lunatic “Good to go!” bravado and a propensity for black humour…”I’m kinda like a junker truck in a redneck’s yard…you can take bets on which part will fall off next.”

    I need this to keep up my morale, but for my wife, it’s anathema. She learned to expect that the dying would be very different, quiet and sad and reaching out for comfort. She wants me to be able to cry, and is horrified that I laugh.

    Everything she saw, growing up, taught her to expect that we’d cling together in tears, and being the sole audience for a macho standup routine is not something to which she can relate.

    There’s no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ here. It’s just different.

    Oh, and I am your neighbour at InspireMeMonday.

  5. What a great story to learn from. My husband and I don’t really do gifts anymore and I guess in some ways I’m disappointed, but also know it works for us. These are great tips on expressing disappointment.

  6. Hi Sheila,
    I’m blessed to be your neighbor over at LMM this week! What a great story. After almost 40 years of marriage, my husband & I have had our fair share of disappointing and goofy gifts also. Thanks for sharing your great tips. Do you know that even after all these years I still have to work on that last one, and find ways to express myself honestly, without all the drama? So glad for GRACE!

  7. Sheila, this is great advice. I’ve received some terrible gifts from family members, and I didn’t always handle the situations with grace. Your suggestions remind me that I need to tell my children to approach this Christmas with tact and kindness. Thank you!

  8. Oh goodness, Sheila you made me laugh because I can relate! Thankfully, God has been working on my heart AND my hubby is so much better at picking the gift that’s not just perfect but perfect for me!
    Your tips are on-point and well worth applying to so many different situations.
    Wishing you blessings!

  9. You’re welcomed, Bettie. I can relate to your struggle with expressing yourself honestly and with grace. It’s a tough row to hoe. : )

  10. My guy has gotten a lot better at choosing gifts, too. I am thankful for that. LOL! In the end, it’s only God who can change my heart–not matter how good the gift is (or not).

  11. I’m not sure there’s a married couple out there that cannot laugh at your story and understand it completely! I have a few gifts I could name…or lack of them! You’re right, it’s all in taking the time to react, and choosing to believe the love behind the gift was real, even if the gift bombed horribly. Thanks for linking up at InspireMeMonday!

  12. Yes, Sheila, I quite agree that “It’s the thought that counts” doesn’t cut it when we feel someone has been thoughtless towards us. Thanks for sharing how we can deal with the hurt. I suppose there’s also the need for us to be more thoughtful towards others. Cheers! ❤️

  13. So true that it’s important to admit the hurt, even if it feels silly. And the other points are so full of wisdom. My husband and I have never been big on gift giving- our love languages are very similar thankfully. But in other situations I’ve learnt the lesson of admitting the hurt, rather than suppressing it and allowing God to unravel and speak truth. Thank you for this Biblical encouragement.

  14. Number one, dealing with the anger has been one I’ve had to work on. I don’t like to argue, so I would stuff my anger and pretend nothing was wrong. But it would come out in others ways. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insights.

  15. Love your humor, Sheila. 🙂 Great advice regarding expectations. — Our first Christmas together was probably 30 years ago as well, (although this is our 26th Christmas married), and my husband gave me an alarm clock. haha. We’d only been dating for a few months, so I’m not sure what I expected, but it definitely wasn’t an alarm clock. Haha. He meant well though, bless his heart. 🙂 — Hope you and your family are having a wonderful advent season. Great to see you today. ((hug))

  16. That is a lot of wisdom, there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been disappointed. I read the love language book, there are people it doesn’t work on. While I don’t think it’s Venus and Mars in all cases, women just get deeper truths and are more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in many ways.

  17. Sheila, I love this! I laughed out loud when I read your sentence – “I also cried because I thought of the hundreds of gift giving occasions to come.” Who can’t relate? Right? Your tips are spot on and I’m featuring this at the Faith ‘n Friends Link Party this week! Blessings!!