3 Men Suck at Gratitude
Television has a pretty clear idea about men and their relationship with gifts -- namely, men are thoughtless buffoons who suck at gift shopping (TV Tropes has a whole page dedicated to all the times male characters have screwed up gift-giving). TV writers don't do it simply to annoy men's rights activists (though that's always a bonus) -- they do it because we love thinking of women as fragile time bombs easily set off by the wrong present, and men are cavemen who can't afford to put three minutes of thought into anything that's not football or boobs.
But there is an upside: Men don't care what you get them, either. They're like dogs, just happy with whatever. Get them a new drill or something and a month later they'll probably forget where it came from. Living with an emotionally stunted yeti has its advantages.
Even if the DVR is a bit one-sided.
But Actually ...
Men get tied up in emotional knots when they get a gift -- they find expressing gratitude to be more complex and uncertain than women do, and for men it's tinged with more internal conflict. Men have been so hammered with ideas of detached masculinity that saying "thank you" carries emotional baggage that's normally reserved for interactions involving genitals.
While women can (usually) accept a gift as simply someone trying to be kind, a man's reaction is more, "Oh God, now I need to get something in return or I'll look like an ass. Life would be much simpler if nobody gave me anything." There's a reason Scrooge isn't a woman. Yes, the reason is that Victorian England allowed women to make exactly jack shit, so that would've been totally unrealistic, but we're going to shoehorn "men hate gifts" in as a reason for the purposes of this article.
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And if we can convince you to give your favorite comedy writer sex for Christmas this year, all the better.
So yes, ladies, you may have spent weeks hunting down the perfect anniversary present for your man while he got you jack shit, but he's not actually the bad guy here. The internal struggle he experiences when he opens his present is part of an emotional cocktail that tends to ruin his overall happiness. You should be ashamed of yourselves, ladies.
2 The Longer the Relationship, the Worse You Are at Choosing Gifts
Everyone loves stories about couples who are as much in love after 50 years as they were back when they had complete control of their bladders. The ultimate goal of marriage is to be snuggled up to the same person, decade after decade, until your genitals wither and your partner's once supple flesh is scrunched up raisin-like beneath your arthritic palms. Old-people couples are cute, is what we're saying.
Awwww, look at his nipple-high pants! He thinks he's people!
We'd like to think that if you spend all of your life with someone, you'll eventually know them even better than you know yourself. These beacons of companionship can basically read each other's minds, so if there is one exception to the "don't guess on the gift" rule above, it's these old farts.
But Actually ...
Psychologists from the University of Basel in Switzerland did a study with two groups of couples -- one group consisting of couples who had been together for an average of about two years, and the other old-timers who'd been married for over 40 years. The couples were presented with a number of items, including food, movies, and kitchen designs (buying someone a kitchen equals instant lay). Then they were asked to rate each prospective gift from 1 to 4 based on what they liked, and then again based on what they thought their partner would like. (You can never go wrong with Boba Fett-shaped robes, right?)
Surprisingly, the younger couples did a better job predicting what their lovers would be into. The older couples incorrectly tended to think their other half would like the same things they liked. Scientists aren't entirely sure why the older people stopped listening to each other after 40 years, but it might have something to do with the fact they'd been listening to each other for 40 goddamn years.
The researchers suggest that couples that have been together that long might just constantly lie to each other to keep the other person happy, or it might be that their generation is one that never put much stock in married couples talking to each other in the first place. But don't take that the wrong way -- the older couples reported more satisfaction with their relationships overall, suggesting that taking any notice of the other person's interests is probably a complete waste of time anyway.
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"You've been watching football down there? I just figured you were smuggling knock-off Big Hugs Elmos from Mexico."