Larry Bernstein loves exchanging presents with his wife over the holidays. But it has nothing to do with material goods. Believe or not, it really is the thought that counts…
“You didn’t get me any presents yet?”
“Black Friday passed.”
“I know, but…”
“Channukah’s like 10 days away.”
“I got all of your presents. I have all the children’s presents. And you haven’t gotten me one present yet?”
Yes, My wife was pissed. A little scary too, I must admit.
But, I get it. She likes getting presents. And so do I. In fact, we exchange presents on our anniversary and mother’s/father’s day and birthdays. I know, I know, many married couples don’t bother. “What’s the point?” they whine. It all comes from the same pocket of money. “I can get myself a present,” they reason.
Sure, there is a certain degree of truth to this. After all, we adults have access to money (hopefully) and can buy for ourselves.
But I beg to differ. I think receiving and giving presents is important and valuable.
Oh, and don’t start telling me you don’t like getting presents. Everyone does—at least on some level. So, why do you like receiving presents?
Let me guess. It’s nice to know that someone took the time to think about what you would like and then got it for you. Giving takes effort and sensitivity and is a way for a person to show that they care about another person and want to make the other person happy.
One of the great present givers—at least in the fiction world is Charlie from Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallfower. If you had to describe Charlie in one word, it would be sensitive.
And sensitivity is the key ingredient when it comes to being a good present giver. After all, you have to know someone in order to give them a present that they will truly enjoy. You have to pay attention to what they say and do in order to get them a present that suits them.
If you’re a parent and you’re like my wife and I, much of your energy goes towards your children. Needy little stinkers. Beyond the occasional date night, it’s easy to forget about or at least not focus on your spouse. Marriages can drift because spouses are so focused on the children and forget about each other.
In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Ellen Langer said, “…the more we give, the more we come to care about the person to whom we are giving. We feel alive in the activity. And it is the receiver who has provided the opportunity for us to feel this good, so we feel loving in return.”
So, giving a present not only makes the receiver feel good but also the giver. By the way, I’d like to note here I’m not being paid to write this article by any particular retailer. I might have missed out on a opportunity here. Hmmm.
Anyway, my wife and I set a budget. The goal is not to go broke or outdo each other. We alternate nights with each of us receiving four presents. Now, my wife is a tough one to buy presents for. She’s the type to go out and get something (actually, she’ll order it online) when she wants it rather than wait. In terms of the presents, she does want—well, half the time she emails me a list of things she wants. She still insists I wrap it up. I used to think this was silly and still do to some degree. However, wrapping the present adds an element—again care and time. Besides filling her list, I always get at least one present that is not on her list. A real rebel I am, I know. Anyway, it’s always my favorite present to give her. I actually get nervous beforehand because of how much I want her to like it.
There are legitimate and practical arguments against giving presents. Some of us are more challenged financially than others. However, the amount of money spent on a present is not what matters. Like Dr. Langer said above it’s about giving. Plus a present does not have to be something purchased at a store—creative people can find ways.
The last argument against presents is clutter. I’m not a fan of clutter. Yet a present does not have to be big and may be the type that is consumed or used once and is gone. Also, new stuff could inspire you to get rid of old stuff you don’t use much but would benefit those less fortunate.
So, I say give a present to your spouse. I say receive a present. It’s good for your marriage. “Attending to someone else’s needs leads to affection for that person,” says Dr. Langer.
Now, where’s the wrapping paper?
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