Money Can’t Buy Love, But the Right Gift Can

by Jamie C. Williamson, PhD

  Amity Mediation Workshop - Right Gift
 ‘tis the season.  But how do you know the right gift to give your partner? 

Most gift givers assume that a more expensive present will be more appreciated, yet, receivers don’t appreciate expensive gifts more than other less expensive gifts.  And, that goes for gifts of clothes, wine, home décor, jewelry, and even the price of an engagement ring.

Research clearly shows that money can’t buy you love.  Instead, when it comes to gift giving, it truly is the thought (and effort) that counts.  

Or, said differently, expensive gifts can’t buy you love, but the right gift can.

So, how do you select the “right” gift? 

Selecting the right gift begins with the understanding that the gift you give – no matter the cost – communicates how you feel about the receiver and the relationship you share.  If you want your partner to receive a message of love, appreciation, admiration, and commitment, then you need a gift that makes that statement.

A good gift is tailored to the needs and desires of the receiver and also communicates a commitment to the relationship.

But the best gifts do all of that and more.  The best gifts also reflect effort and high levels of involvement.

For example, if your husband dreams of owning a sailboat and, like most of us, you can’t afford it, don’t buy him a toolbox or a new pair of running shoes.  Show him you want his dreams to come true.  Buy him a sailboat (and captain) for a day. Arrange with his boss for a day off, schedule child care, and buy him a pair of deck shoes.  Then, the two of you go for a day of sailing. Include a night sleeping on the boat, if your budget allows.   If that is too much, buy him a subscription to Sailing magazine, open a special “sailing” savings account, and start saving for next year’s rental or even boat ownership.  Just let him know his dream is your dream, too.

Or if your wife is a busy mother who longs for the romance and excitement of your early marriage but barely has time to blow dry her hair, don’t buy her a gold bracelet or the truly forbidden food processor (unless it comes with a cooking class in Italy).   If she longs to feel passionate again, show her she is still the woman you married. Buy her a day of luxury and romance.

Amity Mediation Marriage Enhancement WorkshopsDo all the planning. Book her into a resort spa, arrange for her to have a day off, arrange childcare, and schedule a massage, mani-pedi, facial, and blow-out (or whichever services you can afford).  Give her a new sexy top to wear with her black pants, and end with an overnight “date night” at the resort.  If that’s too much, give her the mani-pedi, send the kids to grandma’s, and prepare a romantic dinner at home.  Just let her know for sure that, to you, she’s not just a mom, she’s the love of your life.

If you can follow the spirit of these examples and create a gift tailored to your partner’s unique needs and desires, you should be able to send a strong message of love, appreciation, and commitment to your partner.  These types of gifts truly have a long-lasting “wow” effect and create wonderful holiday memories.

It truly is the thought and effort that counts.

Here’s another, less extravagant but still effective example.  Last year around Thanksgiving, my husband broke his favorite reading glasses.  He had a backup pair and could get along fine for a few weeks.  I could have easily ordered him a new pair of readers. But, I knew they wouldn’t be the same.  So, instead, I searched until I found an optometrist’s office willing to repair the old ones, wrapped the repaired glasses in tissue, and put them in his Christmas stocking.

When he unwrapped his repaired favorite glasses on Christmas morning, he said “This is way better than a new pair….how did you do it?”  And, I replied, “That’s the real present”.

Getting the glasses repaired was tailored to his needs and the effort showed my commitment to him and our relationship.  The effort also showed a high level of involvement (I had to do a lot of running around rather than just order something online).

Although my husband received other more expensive gifts last year, the repaired readers were his favorite because they told him the lengths I would go to make him happy.   In turn, he was happy with me.

Money didn’t buy that all-around happy feeling.  It truly was the thought and effort that counted.

Love is, after all, an action word.

Give all of this some thought and get creative. Make this the year you give your spouse (and anyone else) the best Christmas present ever.

Try sharing this post with your spouse to start a discussion about what you both might want most for yourselves and your relationship this year.  Talk about what it means to recognize that the best gifts are not the most expensive.  The best gifts are tailored to the receiver’s unique needs and desires, reflect effort and involvement on your part, and demonstrate your commitment to the person and the relationship you share. Then work it out so you have the best (and perhaps, least expensive) Christmas ever.

If you would like to give your spouse a private and fun marriage enhancement course, contact me and I’ll set it up for you. You’ll find me at Amity Mediation and Relationship Workshop, where we offer psycho-educational Marriage Refresher Sessions grounded in the Gottman Method. We call these “Let’s Stay Together” and offer them to happy couples who want to stay together forever.

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