I was a new wife. He was my new husband. And I returned his Christmas gift.

It was a jewelry box–one of those big wooden ones–and he spent a fortune on it. But he encouraged me to take it back if I didn’t really like it.

I thought I was being reasonable when I took him for his word, and exchanged it for something I ‘needed’. But now I think I was being foolish.

If I could go back and whisper into the ear of my twenty-six-year-old self, on Christmas morning, here’s what I’d say:

Sure, you like to shop for deals. You only buy things on sale. Scratch that. You only buy things when they are on the lowest possible clearance price. You feel good when you prove that money has elastic in it.

And sure; you don’t buy things that you don’t need. Money is tight right now, and it’s good to be conscientious about spending.

But here’s the thing. You weren’t the one spending. It wasn’t your purchase. You didn’t shop for the jewelry box. He did.

And yes, of course he said that you could take it back. He did that because he’s a great guy. But did you see that little searching look in his eye, when you opened his gift? Did you see how he watched you, carefully measuring your reaction, as you pulled the paper away from the box? He wasn’t looking at the price tag. He was looking at you. He was loving you, and trying to please you.

Now, you don’t know something about yourself that I do. You’re a Control Girl. You naturally gravitate toward wanting to control. And gifts are one of those things in life that you can’t totally control. You don’t know what will be under the paper. You aren’t there at the check out. 

Oh, you can try to control. And sadly, you will. In the coming years, you will return so many gifts that your sweet husband will lose heart and quit trying so hard. He’ll just go to the store and buy the exact thing you circled in the sale ad, wrap it up, and hope to see you smile. But by reducing him to a circled-ad gift buyer, you stamp out some of the glowing embers of Christmas. 

My advice to you is this: Keep the jewelry box. Keep the sparkle in his eye. Enjoy his choice, and let him choose how much to spend on it. Don’t be a Control Girl on Christmas morning! Be a cheerful, grateful wife, and let yourself delight in your husband’s gift! By doing so, you’ll be a delight to him–both on Christmas Day and the days following, as well.

If you’re a Control Girl like me, the only way to conquer our control problem is to do the opposite of taking control: surrender. Gifts are a beautiful way to practice surrendering control. When you open a gift from a loved one this Christmas, why not surrender to their preferences? Wear the scarf, read the book, or plug in the appliance. Delight in both the gift, and the giver. Surrender yourself to the joy of others, and you’ll find more joy for yourself, too!

I should know; I’ve tried it both ways.

For more thoughts on Christmas Gifts and the Control Girl, check out these posts:

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