Gift-giving can be challenging in general, but in relationships it can feel especially difficult to come up with unique ideas when you know someone so well and have been with them for so long. For birthdays and holiday celebrations we tend towards gifting material objects, things our partners have expressed interest in or even put directly on a list to make our lives easier. But these times are not the only occasions for gift-giving; in fact, in my experience, giving gifts “just because” can have a great significance and impact on a relationship. I call these “anytime” gifts.
The best “anytime” gifts to help deepen intimacy in your relationship require no purchasing and no wrapping. The first one is simply saying to your partner: “I want to have some time with you. I want to offer you some presence.” Telling your partner you are there for them, that they have your complete attention for an hour, half an hour, or however long they want to share with you, is a gift that can help make them feel emotionally supported. You can invite your partner to share deeper information such as their hopes and fears for the upcoming months, some of the personal challenges they have faced recently, or some things they have learned about themselves or the world over the past year. Or, you can simply ask to be let in on how they are feeling today. And while they respond, let them know that you are just going to listen and give them your full presence for however long they need, with no judgement, no input or advice offered unless asked. This act of intentionally giving your presence to your significant other, offering your time and attention as the gift, can have a huge impact on their ability to connect with you on a deeper level.
The Gift They Didn’t Know They Wanted (Or Needed)
The second “anytime” gift I think can help nurture your relationship is something I am personally working on, and a method I believe to be one of the most sincere forms of showing attentiveness to your partner. It is the art of gifting something that your partner has not specifically asked for or expressed direct interest in, but that you know would help them. Here, you are listening for things your partner needs or wants but hasn’t necessarily told you about or asked for help with. These gifts can be small gestures, such as an unprompted massage after a stressful day, or providing a little extra help with the kids one day because you noticed your partner is taking on extra tasks and could use a reduced load. These actions show your attentiveness and care for your partner by picking up on things they are experiencing but that have not been directly mentioned. A little goes a long way in this case, as sometimes just a little bit of extra help in the house can reduce a lot of stress for your partner.
These types of gifts can also be more material in nature, while still following the idea of reading between the lines and going out of your way to show support for your partner’s passions or current struggles. An example from my own life is that my wife is really passionate about climate change and the issues surrounding global warming. I know that she feels compelled to take personal action to help combat climate change, to feel like she is directly contributing to the cause. Particularly as she is a mom, my wife wants to set an example for our daughter while also taking action towards improving her future, as she has a large emotional stake in this. I recognize this desire and I want to help support my wife in this goal. So, I am in the process of crafting some sort of gift that will help initiate that process for her in the coming year. I’m not yet sure what form this gift will take; it might be a book, or a donation to a climate change non-profit on her behalf, or something else entirely. But whatever it is, I want it to let her know that I support her in this aspect of her life, and that I will help her achieve this goal however I can.
Although my wife has mentioned this passion and this desire to care for our earth, she has not specifically asked me to help her achieve this. That is why I believe this gift will remind her of my presence, my attentiveness, and my interest in helping her fulfill her life goals.
These two types of gifts don’t take very much effort, but can mean the world to your partner. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we need a little bit more emotional support until we get it. Gift giving is so often focused on buying things that people want, rather than taking an interest in what someone cares about and showing them your support for that thing. This year, let’s give more to our significant others. Let’s be attentive, and make the effort to ask them deeper questions and get to know them more. Let’s help them feel special and loved, and remind them that they are supported in both their passions and their challenges.