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My wife won't wear the sexy lingerie I bought her

Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.

A reader writes: During a recent business trip to France, I purchased a Christmas gift for my wife - a very tasteful (and expensive) lingerie set. But when she opened it, she appeared to be disappointed and has yet to wear it. While we live in a rural area and she does not have many opportunities to wear it on a day-to-day basis, I am still hurt that she has not even taken the tags off them, much less worn them on some quiet cold winter night to take the chill off the air. Did I make a mistake? Perhaps she feels I was giving this gift "for me." If so, what do I do now? I did have the best intentions. Should I raise this issue with her or let it go?

APOLOGIZE

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Yes, you made a mistake. Best intentions aside, unless she normally wears lingerie, it appears you did buy them for yourself. Secondly, underwear, fancy or otherwise, is very personal and brings out all kinds of anxieties we have about our bodies. If you broach the subject, accept her response graciously, apologize if need be, then drop it.

-Darby Brown, Kitchener

RECOGNIZE HER DISCOMFORT

When I was in my early 40s, my husband returned from France and presented me with an elegant set of lingerie. But I have never worn it because I have never felt "elegant" in fancy lingerie - just exposed and uncomfortable. I love him for thinking of me like this, but what I want on a cold winter night are my flannel pyjamas! Explain your feelings to your wife. The fact that you recognize her discomfort will go a long way.

-Linda Gibson, Collingwood, Ont.

ASK HER TO TRY IT ON

I cried when I read the question. Long ago, my husband bought me the sheerest baby-doll set in bright red for Christmas. I dutifully thanked him, and it got stuffed in a drawer. If he had only said, "Would you just try it on once for me?" I would have, and if I had seen his eyes light up, and that silly grin on his face, I would have left it on. But he never did, and when he died years later, it was still in the drawer. Perhaps you could try asking. And if she tries it on, praise the hell out of it.

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-Jean Burton, Mississauga, Ont.

THE FINAL WORD

Oh, you poor man. Did your father never take you aside and give you the lingerie talk? You might as well have presented your wife with a beautifully wrapped box of tasteful French explosives.

Plenty of women adore fancy underthings. Did you check to find out if your wife is one of them? Because there are just as many women who consider lingerie sort of … dumb. Meant to be worn exclusively in the boudoir, lingerie is not the most practical of gifts. The good stuff is absurdly expensive, irritatingly flimsy and doesn't even hold anything up, meaning you've spent a ton of money on something she can't actually get a lot of use out, as our friend from Collingwood notes.

If she's been walking around loudly pining for the latest electronic bauble from Steve Jobs, a box of overpriced frills and ribbons can add insult to injury.

And yes, as Darby says, there's the fact that you've dropped a wad of cash on a gift ostensibly for her that she may well not derive nearly as much pleasure from as you would. This is a gaffe on par with Homer Simpson proudly bestowing a shiny new bowling ball on Marge.

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Here's the thing about lingerie: The only time we see it outside our own bedrooms, it is on women who are gloriously freakish in their physical perfection. You never see a Victoria's Secret ad featuring, say, a 37-year-old mother of two who's retaining water. This gnaws at a woman's confidence.

To say, "Hey, driving home I saw this amazing billboard with a stunning six-foot, 100-pound, blonde on it and she was wearing … this! Try it on, honey!" Well, let's just say it's not good relationship etiquette.

Approach your wife and ask frankly if you screwed up. Explain you only wanted to give her a gift as priceless and gorgeous as she is to you (you charmer!). And, like Jean says, ask her to try it on once, for you. But only ask once. If she'd rather not, then bury the silky white elephant at the bottom of a drawer and never speak of it again.

Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy.

Next week's question

I am an unmarried woman in my late 30s, recently diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Despite having two degrees and working on a third, I've always had disappointing, underpaid jobs. My psychologist says Asperger's impairs the ability to socialize through small talk, and I have never been able to chit-chat at work. How can I find a job where socializing is not expected, and how can I find it without networking?

If you would like to answer next week's question - or submit your own dilemma - e-mail us at grouptherapy@globeandmail.com. All questions are published anonymously, but we will include your name and hometown if we use your response (it will be edited).

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About the Author
Relationship Columnist

Lynn Coady writes the Group Therapy column for The Globe and Mail's Life section. She is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven, Saints of Big Harbour and Mean Boy. Her most recent novel, The Antagonist, will be released this September. She lives in Edmonton, where she is Senior Editor of Eighteen Bridges magazine. More

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