Every year my husband dutifully asks if there is anything I would like for Christmas. And every year I rattle off a list of items I want or need but never got around to actually getting for myself. (Moms especially are terrible about not buying items we need, like socks.) And so it goes for birthdays, Mother’s Day …

Please don’t think I’m complaining. If it weren’t for you wonderful husbands, we might never have anything we actually need (in my case, warm feet). But most women I know who say, “Oh, anything would make me happy,” don’t really mean it. They do not want to unwrap new windshield wiper blades or something they have no intention of actually using. You probably already know this and feel frustrated when you get that response.

So let’s talk.

We know women can be hard to shop for (honestly, we feel the same way about you). If you feel stuck shopping for your wife this year, maybe it’s time to step outside the box this Christmas. Instead of dazzling her with diamonds, delight in the joy she brings to your life. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Has your lovely lady been a blessing to you? Christmas is a great time to remind her of how much better your life is with her in it. She needs to hear it. So for the gentlemen having a hard time finding the perfect gift for their beautiful brides, here are a few ideas of what your wife really wants for Christmas.

1. She wants you to know her.

I’m sure right now you’re thinking, What?! Of course I know my wife. I married her! But do you really know her?

Women can easily struggle with who we are. (No jokes about multiple personalities, guys.) We’re confident in our identities as mothers. Even as wives, most of the time. But if you stripped all that away, would anyone recognize us? As much as we love you and the kids, we still crave for someone to really know us.

Guys, what does your wife fear? Dream? Does she have a goal just for herself?

Let her know you see her for who God created her to be. Give her the gift of knowing her. Slip a pretty box under the tree with an invitation for dinner or even a special lunch. If sitters or cost are issues, make it for after the kids are in bed and stay home. Spend the time getting to know her all over again.

Here are some starter questions:

  • What is one fear you are struggling with right now?
  • What is something you always wanted to learn but never found the time?
  • What’s your favorite (color, book, movie, food, etc.)? Why?

You might be surprised to discover you don’t know this woman as well as you thought. She has dreams, expectations, fears, and hopes that have nothing to do with being a wife and mother.

2. She wants to know she can still turn your head.

I know we can get in a habit of donning sweatpants and old t-shirts the moment we get home from work or running errands. And if your kids are young, it’s hard to feel like a hot wife when sticky hands have touched you all day, the baby spit up on your shoulder, and the kids didn’t nap so you didn’t get a shower. Again.

Maybe we don’t have the trim waistline we had when we said “I do,” but we still need to know we turn you on. That you still find us desirable, and you can still see a glimpse of the blushing bride you married. And if you haven’t noticed, we tend to see ourselves in a negative light most of the time. We see every wrinkle, dimple, stretch mark, and gray hair.

So unless your wife has directly asked for a gym membership, a gift card to her favorite stylist to have those roots covered, or something similar, do not give her something that will make her look better. Your compliments can make her shine brighter than an overpriced chemical peel (and it’s a lot less painful).

For Christmas, sneak a list in her stocking of the top five things that turn you on about her. Maybe it’s the way she looks at you over her shoulder, her laugh, or maybe it really is the way she looks in those sweatpants and old tees.

3. She wants a day off.

If the love of your life is a mom, this might be the best gift you get her. Ever. You will be a rock star, and all her friends will be jealous. (Not that that’s the point.)

For one day, take care of all the things your wife would normally do—laundry, kids, meal planning, kitchen clean up, the endless errands. You’ll get bonus points if at the end of the day you tell her you have no idea how she gets it all done. And at the end of the day do not say, “Today was so easy.” That is dangerous ground, fellas.

Or if your wife is the chef of the house, gift her a week’s worth of dinners made by you. Or get takeout every night if it fits your budget. Either way, plan the menu, buy the ingredients, and take that burden off her plate for a week.

Whether she works 9-5 outside the home or not, giving her time to herself while you dive in to her daily routine shows that you recognize all the things she does for your family. Trust me, she has probably wondered if anyone notices.

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4. She wants physical affection that doesn’t lead straight to the bedroom.

Bear with me for a moment, guys. It’s not that she doesn’t want to head to the bedroom with you (she does). But a lot of wives I speak to worry that their husbands want sex more than they want them. Does that make sense?

Yes, it may seem silly to you. Yes, it should be taken as a compliment that you want them so much. But the worry is still there. For most men, sex is a form of intimacy. For most women, sex is a by-product of intimacy.

If you think this might be true for your wife, give her an amazing back rub, run your fingers through her hair, or massage her feet that have been in heels all day. Hold her hand, snuggle up next to her on the couch after dinner, randomly hug her and kiss her. And then don’t expect anything else. If she initiates more, by all means, go with it. But if she just wants to fall asleep in your arms, let it be.

(And don’t think I’m picking on you. I address this issue from a different standpoint in “What Your Husband Really Wants for Christmas.”)

5. She wants something that reaffirms her role.

We put a lot of heart into being a mom and wife. So when we fail, even if for a moment, it can be crushing.

Your wife probably doubts herself and second guesses whether she’s good enough. Men, your opinion matters far more than you will ever know. Remind her that she’s doing a good job, that the little things she is doing matter and are noticed.

For Christmas, tell her. Write her a sappy love note (even grown girls like that stuff). Get specific. Maybe she held your hand through some of the hardest parts of life. Maybe those little encouraging reminders from her mean a lot. Let her know how much she means to you and your family.

If words don’t come easy, an object can help. A friend received a small globe charm from her husband. The note said, “You keep our world spinning.” Another friend told me about a gift her husband had given her when money was tight. It was a box of rubber bands. He said, “You’re the one that holds me together.” (All the women are saying “aww …” right now.)

Guys, when it comes down to it, most women just want to know you love us. That can be done with a simple letter or even a small gift reflecting an inside joke you share. My husband once wrote me a love letter with 30 little sticky notes on the bathroom mirror. I loved every single one. Some just had silly faces drawn on them. I might have loved those the most.

This Christmas, give yourself some credit. You love your wife. I know this because you read all the way to the end. And I think, deep down, you already know what your wife really wants for Christmas.

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