Just five months after we said, “I do” I launched an all-out search for the perfect birthday gift for my new bride. After all, this present would be the most memorable of her life because this was the first birthday we would celebrate as husband and wife.

In typical guy fashion, I attacked this endeavor like Marine commando storming the enemy’s beach. I sounded out our friends, our families, and tons of store clerks. I soon found out that more ideas only complicated my predicament. Then I discovered the best source: my wife herself!

All Mary needed to do was casually comment that she “liked” something and what she liked immediately jumped to the top of my “hit list”. The problem, however, was that my wife said she liked many things. But finally, I was able to zero in on what I felt was the ideal gift.

While visiting friends for dinner, Mary fell in love with a cute little color TV that hung just under kitchen cabinets by the stove. Our hostess commented that she could watch her favorite soaps while preparing dinner. This appliance had all the trappings of a real winner: My wife loved its cute size, practicality, convenience, and it was a blessed appliance (and you know how guys love appliances). Best of all, I could spring into action to install it.

This was all the encouragement I needed. I became a man on a mission to track down the finest under-counter color TV at the best price. Yes, Mr. Consumer Reports, strung out on a gadget search high, spent the next two weeks with his nose in appliance store ads, mall crawling his lunch hour, wherever these gadgets were sold.

My research finished, I withdraw the funds from our joint savings account and made my purchase. It was a big purchase for us, not in our, budget, but what the heck, it was the love-of-my-life’s first birthday as my wife and I was too pumped up to sweat little details like these.

Timeout. By now yellow warning flags should be popping up in your psyche. I hope they are. I made at least five critical mistakes up to this point. Did you catch them all? Re-read my story and see if you can identify my marital fax passes. I’ve listed them at the end of this article so you can compare your score with mine.

The big day arrived. Family and friends gathered for dinner at our small apartment for my wife’s birthday and, in my imagination, my dubbing “Husband of the Year”. I took care of all the arrangements but I wasn’t prepared for my wife’s comments or reaction when she opened my gift.

Her first words were:

“How much did you pay for this?” and “Where did you get the money?” followed by “We’re taking this back tomorrow!”

My first thoughts were:

“She doesn’t appreciate all the work I put into this ? just for her!” and “She doesn’t appreciate me!” followed by “She doesn’t love me!”

This is the point where some marriages turn south. This could be called the point where the proverbial honeymoon is over. Hurt feelings turn to anger, resentment and eventually retaliation.

This is a true story, which took place more than 20 years ago. But, by God’s grace, my wife and I were able to move beyond this incident. We survived this and many other blunders along the way, but we consider our marriage alive and healthy today.

A while back somebody recommended a book to me, which speaks to the situation I described from our first year of marriage. The book is The Five Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman. It has become a classic with more than 5 million copies sold.

According to Dr. Chapman, there are basically five emotional languages: five ways people speak and understand emotional love. Everyone has a love language. Most of us probably speak all five love languages but are fluent in one or two. These are our primary love languages. When you know your loved one’s primary love language, you’ll be able to communicate your love to them more meaningfully.

The five love languages are:

1. Quality time
2. Words of affirmation
3. Gifts
4. Acts of service
5. Personal touch

The titles are pretty obvious, but for a detailed discussion, pick-up The Five Love Languages , available in most bookstores or check out the The Growing Husband’s Book Club.

In my story, I assumed that my wife’s love language was gifts. It isn’t. I now know that she’s a quality time gal who appreciates acts of service and personal touch. This doesn’t mean I never give her a gift. I just know she doesn’t value gifts as much as time spent together. Personally, I like gifts, but if my wife doesn’t knock herself out selecting my birthday gift, I know it just means that’s not her language.

Not realizing my wife’s love language was my first mistake. Ignorance is no excuse. Make a major purchase without consulting my wife was number two. Withdrawing from savings without a consultation is a big no-no and was my third mistake. When I re-tell this story I can’t help examining my motive in this gift quest. I was putting my best interests before my wife’s. Was the gift for her or me? The whole process was all self-serving and that’s number four.

Finally, if you don’t remember anything else, remember this: never, ever buy your wife an appliance as a gift. Streamlining Mary’s time spent in the kitchen preparing my dinner is not her idea of a gift and I’m sure it wouldn’t be your wife’s idea either.

Rob Gaskill has been married for 21 years to his wife Mary. Rob and Mary have seven children and live in suburban Chicago. Rob is the founder of the Growing Husband’s Book Club, a regular feature of Marriagetrac.com, an online marriage resource.

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