As the holidays approach, many of us are scrambling to find that perfect gift for everyone on our list. We strategically avoid shopping malls during all waking hours, scour online sales to find the best prices, and agonize over whether what we’ve found will please our loved ones. Sometimes they give us lists to guide us, and sometimes we give our own to others to help them find things that will put a smile on our face as we rip off the paper and bows.
During this season we’re often reminded to try not to let the gifts be the focus of our celebrations – to instead enjoy time spent with our families and loved ones, and to participate in religious celebrations if we so choose. While I am in complete agreement that focusing on our loved ones during the holidays will make them the most memorable and fulfilling, I believe that sometimes gifts can be manifestations of our love for one another. In his book entitled “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts”, Gary Chapman discusses how different people feel loved through different actions, and one of those is through receiving gifts. For many people, receiving a meaningful gift can increase their feeling of intimacy and connection.
Let’s think about it, when the time comes for the gifts to be opened, which gifts bring you the most joy? I don’t know about you, but I know that I find the most happiness when I open a gift that I didn’t expect – something that I know came from the giver’s heart, something that shows me that they know me and put a lot of thought into making or finding something that I would love. The old saying that “it’s the thought that counts” holds true – if the reason we give presents to people in our lives is because we care about them and want to demonstrate that to them, the best way we can do that is to intentionally give from our heart.
This also means that the traditional definition of what makes a “gift” can be expanded – we tend to think of a “gift” as something material, and often associate the best gifts with the most expensive and coveted items like new electronics or designer items. Sometimes, certain material items (a meaningful piece of jewelry, for example) can communicate love and thoughtfulness. However, there are plenty of non-material gifts that can bring even greater joy and facilitate increased connection and intimacy. I have a friend who makes it a point to give only “experiences” – she spends time thinking about her loved ones and what they like to do, and finds a way to share meaningful time with them through a fun activity. It might be a musical, a sports event, or a painting class – but each can result in quality time spent together. I think it’s brilliant! This can be especially fun with your significant other or family – try taking a vacation together, or even a weekend getaway.
Sometimes, no matter what gift you’d like to give, money is tight and it just isn’t possible. Luckily, some of the best gifts can cost no money at all! If you find yourself in a difficult position this year but still want to show your loved ones how much you care about them, try to find special, creative ways to show them how much they mean to you. I’ve heard many couples say “we’ve just spent too much money, we decided not to exchange gifts with each other this year”. Rather than deciding not to exchange gifts, what if you decided to give each other things that money can’t buy? Small things like being extra affectionate, spending a designated date night together, letting them be “queen” or “king” for a day (relaxing and/or choosing the day’s activities) or cooking a favorite meal can show your significant other how special they are to you. For family members – things like helping them with major home projects, helping elderly members to clean or organize their home, or babysitting children can be great gestures.
What are your favorite ways to give? How can you use this season of giving to increase connection and intimacy with those you love?
Lindsey Hoskins & Associates provides family, couple, and individual therapy in downtown Bethesda, MD. Call us at (301) 200-5290 or email [email protected] to schedule an appointment or discuss how one of our skilled and passionate therapists might be able to help you.