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Exchanging gifts, while fun in theory, offers endless potential for aggravation: Thronging crowds, ransacked stores, confusion, indecision, cash depletion and, finally, the belated knowledge that you bought the wrong thing.

And even worse, perhaps, is receiving a spousal gift that you wouldn't buy for your worst enemy. Well, maybe for your worst enemy, but only if it's on sale.

But there is a cure for the holiday gift blues. Just substitute this agreement for those subtle hints -- the ones that are always either missed or misconstrued. Then kiss that Returns Counter good-bye. This year's gifts are for keeps.

AGREEMENT entered into this ___________ (Date) by Husband and Wife, hereafter called "Couple."

WHEREAS, Couple often argues over ill-chosen gifts; and

WHEREAS, a gift giving agreement may save Couple's marriage and/or reduce return trips to the mall.

NOW, THEREFORE, Couple hereby agrees to these provisions:


1. Self-serving gifts shall be avoided. For example, Husband shall not buy Wife the following:

a. Chocolate when Wife is on a diet.

b. Tight clothing meant to encourage Wife to diet.

c. Anything transparent.

2. Husband shall not give Wife practical gifts such as an iron, a dish washer, or a vacuum cleaner... unless husband plans to use them.

3. Husband shall keep track of Wife's clothing sizes, except those Wife refuses to divulge.

4. Husband shall not give Wife anything that can be bought at an airport.

5. Husband shall not buy Wife earrings that weigh more than her head.

6. Husband shall remember that gifts should be personal. Gift certificates, checks, and wads of cash are not personal...unless large enough to buy a diamond watch.

7. Husband shall avoid all of the following:

a. His former girl-friend's favorite fragrance.

b. His mother's favorite fragrance.

c. Anything Wife admires on someone else, unless Husband confirms candor of compliment.

8. Husband is encouraged to buy Wife gifts in the following categories:

a. Anything Wife specifically requests.

b. Catalogue items discreetly circled by Wife.

c. Any object containing silver, platinum, and/or gold.


1. Wife shall not give Husband anything that smells like matter how macho its name or spokesman.

2. Wife shall not buy Husband home repair manuals.

3. Wife shall not give Husband anything "cute" or containing the word "organizer."

4. Wife shall not get Husband anything used in a gym.

5. Wife shall not buy Husband silk boxers, unless she agrees to wear a matching pair.

6. Wife shall not give Husband anything that's for Husband's own good.

7. Wife is encouraged to buy husband items in the following categories:

a. Anything Couple's twelve year old son would like.

b. Sporting equipment, provided Husband can exchange it for something with a better feel.

c. Stereo and electronic equipment, provided Husband can exchange it for something with more oomph.


1. Husband won't buy their son a toy gun, provided Wife doesn't buy him a doll. Puppets, however, are permissible.

2. Wife won't buy anything that requires assembly.

3. Husband won't buy children toys he plans to play with.

4. Whoever picks the gift must make the emergency trip for batteries.

5. Couple shall try to buy the children educational toys. The following shall not be deemed educational:

a. A toy stove for their daughter.

b. Anything bearing the name "Barney."

c. Anything involving a drum.

7. Couple shall not succumb to hunting for elusive fad gifts. But if they do, they'll take turns waiting in line.


1. Husband concedes that writing thank you notes for the entire household and buying gifts for Husband's business associates are not the Wife's job.

2. Husband acknowledges that reminding Husband about his parents', uncles, aunts, and siblings' birthdays is not the Wife's job. However, in light of Husband's actual or feigned absentmindedness, Wife will make reasonable efforts to do so. But if Wife screws up, Husband has to deal with his mother.

3. Husband concedes that there is no connection between gender and gift wrapping.

4. Couple agrees that the phrase "Someday I'd really like to get...," if uttered by Husband or Wife, shall trigger Pavlovian note taking and an appropriate gift. If uttered by one of Couple's children, however, the proper response is "We'll see."

5. If despite all precautions, one spouse buys the other something he/she hates, Couple shall behave in a diplomatic fashion. Saying the following shall not be deemed diplomatic:

a. "Are you insane? How could you get me something so ugly, stupid, and out of style?"

b. "Give me the receipt you cheapskate. And while you're at it, give me your gift back."

c. "But you said you wanted this. I have you on tape."

6. Couple shall cherish the loving thought behind every single gift...even the ones they exchange.

SIGNATURES: Husband ________________ Wife ________________

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
1st Published Family Circle Magazine

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