Just in time for the holiday season a reminder: Gifts aren’t for us. They are for the recipient. Sounds basic, right? But how many times do we give gifts for other reasons? If you are giving a gift expecting some sort of benefit or payback for yourself, then you’ve got it all wrong. Don’t give a gift because you want to look good, demonstrate your wealth or thoughtfulness, right a wrong, get laid or store up brownie points for later. Gifts are meant to be given freely with the express purpose of delighting the recipient. Not the giver, although we may feel good about pleasing our partner.
Fuck “It’s the thought that counts!”. Do your goddamned homework! Understand your partner and what would delight them. Observe, ask questions, pay attention. If you get it wrong, learn from it. You wouldn’t want your partner to endure receiving gifts that they don’t love and pretend to appreciate them just to massage your fragile ego, right? You want to give them gifts that will truly touch their heart and make them feel seen, heard, understood and cherished. Example: my sweetie and I took a shopping trip to World Market. I love browsing all of the tchotchkes and interesting food items there. He paid attention to what caught my interest and then went back later and bought ALL of them for my birthday! I felt so known. He doesn’t always hit it out of the park like that, but he always tries to get it right. We have also been able to navigate less successful gifts because we are tender with each other. I knew he wanted to please me, but I didn’t pretend to love a necklace he got me (just too flashy for me and jewelry taste is very individual). We were able to laugh about it. Same when I got him a much too practical gift for Christmas and now tease him about how frequently he uses it (never). It was a dud, oh well. No feelings hurt or hidden. Contrast that with a previous relationship where I received a tent for my birthday. A tent. I dislike camping, to an extreme. To be fair, I was a less evolved person then and probably hadn’t owned my aversion to camping sufficiently, but in that weak relationship my weak attempts to hide my disappointment triggered an earthquake that left a chasm so wide we never recovered. See my article about sentinel events for more about that.
Giftgiving does make the giver vulnerable, no doubt about it. You are putting yourself on the line. It is risky. But that is ok! In a safe relationship, its ok to be vulnerable. Because you feel secure in the knowledge that your partner isn’t out to hurt you. Its ok to get it wrong, because your partner will help you get it right next time. Its ok not to be perfect at this right out of the gate. This can be a fun process though, learning about each other, growing closer and slowly getting it right more of the time.
This article is about gifts, but it applies to other areas of a relationship where it’s not all about you. It’s about giving to another and about learning and appreciating what they want. Where hiding your own true feelings is not helpful and you and your partner would both be better served if you would each come to embrace your own vulnerability. Where we understand that pretending to like something to please your partner isn’t going to be a recipe for true growth and intimacy in the relationship. Sex and camping come to mind. Probably others…