Holiday gift-giving is such a rich tradition in this country that most of us can’t imagine celebrating without it. But some couples are finding that the usual round of shopping, wrapping, giving and receiving isn’t all that satisfying. And if they have children, they may feel concerned at what this frantic (and costly) says about how we express our love.
This time of year, while millions of us are anxiously running around searching for the perfect gift, often spending more than we’d planned and ending up with more stress than pleasure. The alternative is to declare the holidays a gift-free time and simply enjoy each other’s presence. There are many ways to make Valentine’s Day pleasurable without spending outrageously for dinner and roses.
For instance, one father of teen girls says he sneaks in as many long hikes as he can before the winter holidays. He and his wife enjoy cooking delicious dinners and reading out loud by the fire. Their daughters look forward to playing games, tossing the football on the lawn and relaxing with their favorite movies. It’s a cheerful, no-pressure approach to a season that is often fraught with tension and even disappointment when the “perfect plan” doesn’t work out as expected.
CHOOSING TO KEEP IT SIMPLE
This couple is embracing a practice that some call voluntary simplicity, in which we consciously choose to consume and do less. This can be a path to greater calm and satisfaction as we notice and appreciate the more subtle pleasures of the season – the look of frost on a morning windowpane or a curling column of smoke coming from our neighbor’s chimney.
The couple had noticed over the years how many of their family members struggled to keep up with the Joneses, working constantly to make payments on a big house, two brand new cars or a boat – and of course, made extravagant holiday plans to match.
They decided early in their marriage that they would minimize their wants and stick closer to their needs, which led to an agreement that birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and other holidays would not involve store-bought presents. Instead, they would write poems, create something by hand or give each other an experience to savor. This might involve a delightful meal at a favorite restaurant or a sporting event.
When they had children, they looked around and saw the family scrambling to give gifts for all the kids at every holiday. They feared that they would be doing a disservice to their own kids by teaching them that this was what life was all about. So they extended the no-gift rule into their family life – and they’ve been very happy with the results. The children enjoy making and receiving homemade gifts and spending time with their parents. Which is a good reminder that the greatest give we can share with each other, no matter the season, is love, caring and attention.
CARING FOR YOUR MARRIAGE THIS SEASON
As an experienced couples counselor, I have worked with hundreds of couples at all stages of marriage. If you are experiencing pain and conflict in your relationship, especially as the holidays approach, you don’t have to go it alone. Call me today for an appointment at a time that’s convenient for you.