'Tis the season for gift ideas. Some are clever and fun to read. Few actually help with gift-giving.
Why? Because your spouse is a unique individual, not a category, and so are you.
Let's start with attitudes toward receiving gifts.
For some, all gifts feel like they come with strings attached. They create an obligation instead of delivering a message of love. The underlying beliefs creating this discomfort may have been planted long ago. The best gift you can give is one you don't need any gratitude for, because your expectation of gratitude is a premeditated resentment. So don't go overboard trying to please a spouse who has never been happy to open your gifts, unless you get a kick out of doing it regardless of how the gift is received.
For others, gifts are a waste of a precious resource, whether time or money. They receive your gift with a sense of guilt for contributing to the waste. Oddly, even extravagant gift-givers may feel this way about receiving gifts. They would rather control how money is spent on them. Give them time or money instead: a coupon for some of your time or a gift card they can spend. Or donate to a cause they support in their name.
Still others value the exchange of gifts more than the gifts themselves. Don't raise the ante by spending a lot more than they do or investing more time in choosing something perfect for them. Instead, pay attention to the presentation: beautiful wrappings, delivery well ahead of time if they enjoy watching a pile of unopened gifts build in anticipation of the holiday or at their perfect moment if they prefer surprise.
Some, however, view gifts as their love language. Receiving gifts fills them with feelings of being loved. The more you personalize the gifts to their interests and tastes, the better. The more of your own efforts and talents you put into their gifts, the better. The more creative or elegant the wrappings, the better. Even the more you spend, the better.
Now add on your feelings about giving gifts. Does it make you feel loving and happy to give them? Fantastic! If you're married to someone who shares this way of expressing love, get going. Put all the time you can spare into making your gifts perfect. You will both be uplifted. But if you are married to one of the other categories, remember that rejecting or minimizing what you perceive as an offer of love is not a rejection of your love. Faux delight won't bring you closer, so don't demand it.
If both of you find gifts unexciting, consider dropping out of the game. It's no one's business but your own. And if one or both of you are into gift-exchanging as a tradition, consider creating some new traditions that make it easier and more fun for both of you.
OK, ready to look for or make your gift for your spouse? Choose uplifting, confirming, supportive gifts. Take some time to list his or her best traits, favorite clothes, most loved tools, great talents, sources of pride and happiness. Add to them. Give more stuff like the stuff your mate loves or give gifts he or she can use to get even better at those traits, talents, and sources of pride and happiness. This says you value these things about your spouse and add your support to his or her journey.
Unless, of course, neither of you reads love into gifts. Then give your geek one of this year's top gifts for geeks, your exec the latest in executive toys and accessories, your beauty the latest clothing and accessories, your home improver the latest in tools and gadgets. Or skip the gift giving altogether.