Christmas is just around the corner and everyone is looking for “just the right thing” for their spouses or significant others. But searching for the perfect gift for your sweetie can add frustration and chaos to the off-the-chart stress most people already face at the holidays.
And then there’s a chance that what YOU think they want isn’t always the right thing! Even if they’re excited (or feign excitement) about the gift you hand-selected with care, that enthusiasm doesn’t always last long.
To simplify this process, focus on the spirit of Christmas, and avoid the kind of focus on material things that is fleeting at best, we’ve created our short list of personal, one-of-a-kind gifts you can give to your spouse this Christmas.
There is no doubt that your spouse loves to be treated with respect!
Stating that we need to treat our partner with respect sounds like a given, but how often do we start out strong in this area, only to find ourselves “falling off the wagon” as areas of disagreement or conflict mount? Maintaining high levels of respect requires intentional action (and inaction when what we are doing causes damage to our spouse).
If you don’t know whether your partner feels respected, just ask! Say: “It’s important to me that you feel respected in our relationship. On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you think I rate?” Then wait patiently and don’t react negatively if the number is lower than you expected. Use it as an opportunity to learn more about what you do – however innocently – that causes them to feel disrespected.
Check your attitude at the door. We can all become exhausted and snippy as stress mounts. Stay aware of your tendency to become short with others at home and challenge yourself to remain patient and kind. Remember that emotions are contagious, so remaining calm and cheery can lighten the mood of everyone around you.
Praise your spouse and let them know how much you appreciate them and what they do for you, however small. Find something about their character that deserves special mention. This can be anything: their generosity, sense of humor, or willingness to help you hang decorations around the house.
Focus on how God wants us to treat one another. Philippians 2:3 puts it this way: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.” That just about says it all.
The importance of empathy in a healthy, loving relationship makes this one of the very best gifts you can give your spouse this year. We all long to be heard and understood, and a lack of empathy creates a situation where you will find yourselves repeatedly arguing about the same subjects. It’s not until your partner feels empathy from you that he or she will be able to partner in resolving your issues and move on.
Remember that, while God is the only one who fully knows us from the inside out (Psalm 139: 1-6), a spouse is second on that list. This ‘knowing’ creates intimacy and trust between you. Conversely, secrets and hiding create a barrier in your relationship that can cause your foundation to become shaky. Is there anything you’ve been withholding from your partner?
Empathy for your partner enables you to support them more fully. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with them; you can still acknowledge their thoughts and affirm the reason they may feel the way they do.
Remind yourself of what it feels like when your partner makes the effort to “get” you and where you’re coming from. It feels fantastic, doesn’t it?! Before you jump in to correct them or point out where they are misguided, go into active listening mode – with a full focus on them and what they’re saying – and wait to speak up until the time is right and they’ve had the opportunity to fully express themselves.
When you find yourself running short on empathy, check out our article on Negativity Bias: How to Keep it From Killing Your Marriage.
Along with respect and empathy, intimacy is one essential facet of a marriage that can fall through the cracks during stressful holiday seasons. Sharing intimacy with your spouse is one way to love them in a way nobody else can that is unique to your relationship. It’s what makes you special to each other and special as a couple. It’s the stuff that glues you together.
Keep in mind that intimacy refers to more than just sex or physical closeness. It includes the kind of emotional and spiritual intimacy that takes effort to nurture and maintain. Whatever “work” this requires is more than worth it!
In the midst of crazy holidays, weigh the quality of your time together much more than the quantity of time you have available. You may be pulled in different directions for days or weeks at a time, so make it a point to stay close through texts, making a quick bite together in the kitchen, or grabbing a quick kiss as you pass at the front door.
Saying “yes” to intimacy often requires you to say “no” to other things. You may enjoy the neighborhood holiday extravaganza every year, but how much more important is it to relax and re-connect with your better half in front of the fire with Christmas music on in the background? This is how a strong bond – and memories – are made.
If you don’t know where to start, just request a copy of our list of 99 awesome questions to ask your spouse!
How does your partner show support – and feel supported? This can be unique, depending on their needs and individual “love language”. In ALL cases, great marriages are ones in which both parties have each other’s’ backs. Supporting your spouse through thick and thin equips you to face future challenges and maintain a lasting connection.
Join in your partner’s favorite holiday activity, even if it’s not really your thing. Whether this means going caroling, watching their favorite Christmas movie, or attending an annual work party, being together and showing a willingness to compromise shows how much you care. Your spouse will often feel the desire to reciprocate and this creates a positive loop!
Maintain a united front when it comes to challenges or attacks from friends or family (and these are known to come up during high-stakes holiday gatherings). While you may have heard the saying, “Blood is thicker than water”, there should be no doubt about where your loyalty lies. (Hint: with your spouse)!
Go the extra mile to make the holiday season as relaxing, meaningful, or fun as it can be. Slip a loving message into a Christmas card and hide it in your husband’s lunch or bring your wife a potted poinsettia for the table to create new and enjoyable traditions that just the two of you will share.
I hope you see how these four intangible gifts can greatly enhance the holiday season – and your marriage. Increasing the respect, empathy, intimacy, and support in your marriage can pay HUGE dividends – – not just during the holidays but throughout the year.
Holidays or not, we’re standing by to support your marriage and hope you’ll reach out to us to let us know how we can help!
(Thanks to Angela Harris for her contributions to this article.)
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What is your favorite way of showing respect, empathy, or support in your marriage? In what ways do YOU like to be respected or supported by your partner?
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