I have an anniversary coming up, and I’ve been married long enough to know what kind of gifts to get my wife. I’ve been trained, you see.

Guys can be notoriously lousy gift-givers. You’ve heard the stories about men giving their wives blenders or vacuums or crock pots, and you think, oh please, that can’t possibly be true. Well, trust me, it is.

We had a friend whose boyfriend of almost ten years gave her jumper cables for her birthday. That’s right. Jumper cables. They broke up within the next year, not so much because of the gift, but of what it and innumerable other missteps signified. Nothing screams incompatibility quite like expecting a ring and getting auto parts instead.

Another friend gave his wife a Wii for their anniversary. He thought it was a fun and original idea. She thought otherwise. She gave him the Wii when they broke up, and I wonder if that wasn’t his plan all along.

The worst gift I ever gave my wife was a backpack. Yeah, I know. But we’d just spent a summer working in Yellowstone Park right after graduating from college. (No, we weren’t park rangers. People always ask me that for some reason, like a 21-year-old can drive into a national park and be handed a ranger uniform.) We did a lot of hiking that summer and found out how important a good pack is to your hike, mostly because neither of us had one. So when her birthday came around just a few weeks after we got home, I knew exactly what to get her.

It’s not that she didn’t like it. It just wasn’t romantic. And that’s where untrained guys go wrong at gift-giving. We aren’t thinking romantic; we’re thinking practical or fun or something we can pretend is for you but is really for us, like sexy lingerie or a Vegas weekend. In other words, most guys are clueless, and we don’t pick up hints very well. Many of us aren’t exactly experienced shoppers, either.

That’s why you have to tell us what you want. Jewelry. A spa day. A trip to Paris (ha, keep dreaming). Tell us. No, we aren’t being lazy; we want to get it right. Yes, we should already know, but we don’t, at least not at first. So, please, tell us what you want. It’s called training your man, and a good man, like a good student, wants to learn. You don’t have to pick out the exact thing you want, just point us in the right direction. Then leave us a little dignity and allow us to be creative, which we can do once we’re in the right ball park.

I realize that all women are different. Not everyone wants a romantic gift, or some might consider a backpack or a Wii romantic in its creativity. (Not jumper cables. If you think jumper cables are romantic, see your doctor.) Whatever the case, the point is that your man won’t mind a little nudge in the right direction. In fact, we prefer it over having to kick ourselves in the ass after getting you a lame gift.

More from Beliefnet and our partners