There was a time in my life when it seemed like the only appropriate gift for me (or any of my girlfriends) was body lotion. Every Christmas, every birthday, every graduation always seemed to bring me Peony lotion from Bath & Body Works. The funniest part for me: I hated the smell of it! But isn’t “fancy” body lotion what every teenage girl wanted?
It’s easy to fall into this same trap as adults: flowers, candy, or jewelry for wives; ties, tools, or car accessories for husbands, right? We can all too easily fall back into the clichés and forget the person we are giving the gift to.
Of course it’s better to give your spouse something they will really love, not just something that will sit in the back of their closet for years to come. But how?
Earlier this year, I read the Five Love Languages® by Dr. Gary Chapman. If you haven’t read it yet, put it on your list! It transformed the way I saw myself, my spouse, and the way we give and receive love within our marriage. Knowing your spouse’s love language is key to giving them a meaningful gift that carries with it all the love and appreciation you intend.
Ready to give your spouse a more meaningful gift? Follow these steps:
1. Get to Know Your Love Language: It might feel odd to start by looking at your own love language, but I think it’s important to be aware of your own biases. Some of the worst gift giving I’ve witnessed has come out of Spouse A giving Spouse B what Spouse A would want and not the other way around. You may have a similar love language to your spouse, but it’s unlikely the exact same thing would make the perfect gift for each of you.
Tip: Not sure what your love language is? Take this quiz!
2. Get to Know Your Spouse’s Love Language: Invite them to take the quiz, too —this isn’t something you’ll want to guess at. Then, ask your spouse: “What have I done in the last month to make you feel loved and appreciated? If I could do one thing in the next week to make you feel loved and appreciated, what would it be?” You don’t need to wait for the next holiday to start showing your spouse love.
Tip: If you and your spouse have different love languages it can be easy to shrug off the things your spouse wants. For instance, if your love language is words of affirmation and your spouse’s love language is acts of service, you may not see how raking the leaves, running an errand for them, or vacuuming the kitchen floor could really express love. Seek to understand, not judge.
3. Ask for Help: Knowing your spouse’s love language is helpful, but translating that love language into gift giving isn’t always intuitive — even if your spouse’s love language is receiving gifts. Unpack it a bit. Ask your spouse: “What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received? Why?” Ask for a few different examples so you can begin to see a pattern. Know someone else with the same love language as your spouse? Ask them the same questions and invite them to help you think about ideas.
Tip: Need to spark your creativity? Check out some of the ideas I shared in this post! It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for you to use them.
4. Set Aside the Time: In my experience, the best gifts cost more time than money: time to do your research, time to make the gift, time to enjoy the gift with your spouse. Where people often get into trouble is they wait until the last minute to find something and get stuck with a cliché. Add to your calendar all of the dates when you might want to give your spouse a gift: birthday, anniversary, Christmas, and other special occasions. Then, set aside time 1-2 months out to start searching for a meaningful gift. Make this time a priority.
Tip: It can be difficult to start your research without any ideas already in the hopper. A few years ago, I started a few different Google Docs — one for my husband and one for our family members. Any time I think of a good gift idea for any one of them I add it to the Google Doc before I forget. Then when it comes time to start planning, I’ve got a batch of ideas to work from.
5. Go for the Double Win: Already a gift-giver extraordinaire? Shoot for a real gift winner by finding one that encompasses your spouse’s top two love languages! My husband, who certainly fits this category, has accomplished this many times. One of the most meaningful gifts he’s ever given me was an illustrated book he created that told the story of our relationship. As my top love language is words of affirmation, it was incredibly moving to see the story of our relationship told in his own words. And since my secondary love language is quality time, I loved that after he gave it to me we spent about an hour reading through the book together and enjoying every detail.
Tip: You don’t necessarily have to spend more money, though it may take a little more effort. For instance, for a spouse with love languages of physical touch and acts of service, you might give a massage as your gift and surprise your spouse by cleaning the house while they are receiving the massage. Double win!
Once you’ve given the gift, and a little time has passed, step back and ask your spouse for honest feedback. What was the most meaningful part of the gift for them? Was there any way that you could have made it more meaningful? Getting on the same page with gift giving is an important part of living well in a marriage.
What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received from your spouse? Comment below! If you know your love language, be sure to include that, too. You may spark ideas for someone else.
Talking about gift giving with your spouse can be challenging. In this Thursday’s video on Instagram and Facebook, I’ll offer some conversation starters as well as some curbs and gutters to be aware of to make sure no one feels guilty.