An Unconventional Valentine’s Day

Usually, my wife and I do a fairly conventional Valentine’s Day celebration.

We’ll get gifts for each other. We’ll do a nice dinner at home once the kids are in bed. We’ll watch one of our favorite old movies, like Roman Holiday. We’ll sit by the fire. We’ll drink champagne.

This year, however, is going to be a little different. Here’s why…

Our anniversary and Valentine’s Day come in pretty quick succession. This year, my wife was trying to decide whether or not to purchase a gift for me that was a little bit more expensive than what we normally spend on each other for gifts. The gift was also non-refundable. She felt a bit uneasy, so around the time of our anniversary, she flat out asked me if the gift she had in mind was something I would want. If so, she asked if I was ok with a joint anniversary/Valentine’s Day gift given the cost of the item.

When she told me what the item was (a new watch), I was thrilled and said I thought it was a great idea!

Now, on my end, I had planned on getting my wife a specific item for Valentine’s Day. When I went online to purchase the item a couple weeks ago, the company was out of her size. They were ALSO out of her size in my “back-up plan” item. I mentioned this to her in passing and said I was thinking about what else to get her for Valentine’s Day (I had already gotten her something for our anniversary).

A couple days later, she came up to me and asked that if instead of me getting her something that wasn’t quite what I had in mind, would it be ok with me if she purchased something for herself that she had been eyeing. She said we could count it as her Valentine’s Day gift from me.

I was totally fine with the idea. The item she bought for herself wasn’t something I would have thought of for her. And I wanted her to have something she really wanted instead of some third-string gift I would have gotten considering my first two ideas fell through.

So, basically, we both kind of picked out our own gifts.

It was certainly not the usual process we go through when buying gifts for each other (see my article on buying gifts for your wife). But it worked out perfectly and we are both happy!

Why did this work out for us when it might not work out for others?

Well, the biggest reason is that over the years my wife and I have built up a great deal of “gift equity”, for lack of a better term.

We take gift-giving seriously in our family. We are both thoughtful and considerate when it comes to buying something for the other person. We don’t always totally hit the mark. Often, we do! There are times when my inspiration is flowing and other times when my inspiration runs a bit dry.

The point isn’t whether or not what we get is “good”. The point is that we put effort into thinking about what to get for the other person.

We put in that effort because we love each other. The effort is an expression of our love.

Over time, we have built up good energy around gift-giving. I know how much my wife thinks about what to get me for a special day. She knows how much I think about what to get for her. These warm, positive feelings provide wiggle room for those times when it’s harder to come up with something good or for when we choose to have a more unconventional gift exchange (like this Valentine’s Day).

That latitude with each other makes gift-giving stress-free and enjoyable for both of us.

On the other hand, if one of us was a habitually thoughtless gift-giver (or worse, one who forgets entirely), then an unconventional holiday like this might even reinforce negative feelings one partner may have for the other. That can cause a downward spiral of resentment.

You might be sitting there thinking, “Isn’t picking out your own gift instead of letting someone choose it for you kind of selfish?”

Not at all. Here’s why…

If I didn’t want my wife to buy her own gift and instead said, “No, I want to buy you something that I picked out”, then the focus of that gift is on ME not her. I would be buying her a gift in order to satisfy my own desire to get her something, not to actually make her happy. THAT’S selfish.

I’m very thankful that my wife and I have such a warm relationship with getting each other gifts. But it didn’t just sprout and grow out of nothing. We put in the time and energy year after year, holiday after holiday to get to the point where we can draw outside the lines a bit without the other person being disappointed.

So, if you’re looking for ways to have a bit more flexibility in your holidays, or if you want to make special days more relaxed, make sure you put the in the effort year-round. Trust me, it will pay off.

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