Every year I look forward to Christmas all year long, and every year I am surprised at how quickly it comes and goes! I’ll keep this post short (it is Christmas, after all!), but I wanted to put out a reminder for anyone like me who forgets to think of New Year’s resolutions until New Year’s Eve, and then makes silly or hasty resolutions. So here’s the reminder: Christmas has gone, and New Year’s is almost upon us. Let’s take some time to really think about what we want for next year so our resolutions can be meaningful and realistic. We’ll talk more on Tuesday about picking relationship resolutions for the new year. Merry Christmas!
Among all of the expenses of Christmas, gifts are probably one of the biggest for many people. Well, if your wallet is feeling squeezed, you’ll be happy to know that today we are talking about Christmas gifts you can give your partner that won’t cost a dime.
Every person has things they want in their relationship that they aren’t currently getting. It’s simply a fact of life, and your partner is no exception. It may be more shared activities, less criticism, or more home-cooked meals. So instead of just giving material gifts, why not add a relationship gift in the mix? If you’re not sure what relationship gifts your partner would like, check out this post: Making a List and Checking it Twice.
I think that this year I’m going to give my husband the gift of intellectual conversations. My husband really likes discussing current events and deep philosophical issues, but having a young baby means that sometimes I don’t take the time to stay up to date on current events or explore new ideas that I can discuss with him. So for his Christmas gift this year, I’m going to start reading one news item each day using my news app (News 360) so I always have something interesting to discuss with him instead of just having our conversations revolve around diapers and spit up.
What relationship gifts would your partner like to get from you?
One of the downsides of the holiday season is that it often brings a healthy dose of stress along with the joy. There are presents to buy, a tree to put up, a house to decorate (and clean before guests arrive), special meals to prepare and make, and on and on it goes. I often find that the extra stress makes me worry about things I normally would have no problem with.
For example, last night our daughter got extremely tired about two hours before bedtime. We decided it would be a good idea for her to get a quick nap so she could make it until bedtime without becoming really grumpy. My husband took her and rocked her to sleep, then held her while she slept.
Now, usually my husband takes our daughter at bedtime, while I go to sleep so I can get a chunk of sleep before she has her first waking during the night. This time, though, she woke up about 15 minutes before he normally would take her. He thought I should take her for an extra half hour so he could get a break before he put her to bed, while I thought I needed to get to sleep as soon as possible so I could make it through the night feedings.
Before we realized what was happening, we were in a fairly intense discussion of this issue. What was really fair here? Who should take care of her for the next 45 minutes? I’m sad to say that we argued about it for almost half of the 45 minutes before I finally realized something: it didn’t really matter. We were wasting our time and energy on something we would both forget within a week, if not earlier.
As we continue deeper into this holiday season, I am trying to remember not to stress about the things that don’t matter long term. After all, I’m lucky to be able to have friends and family to buy presents for, enough money to buy a tree, a safe and pleasant home to decorate. I don’t want to waste my holiday season worrying about things that don’t matter when I have so much to be grateful for.
The holiday season presents us with a myriad of chances to sweat the small stuff. Between all of the extra things to be done and the pressure of everything going just right with friends and family, the holiday season can be a stressful time of year. One way to help reduce the stress of the holiday season is to keep things in perspective.
Instead of diving headlong into stress and worry when something goes wrong or when you contemplate all the things you have to get done, take a moment to ask yourself, “How much does this matter in the grand scheme of things?” So your partner forgot to vacuum like you asked him to before your in-laws arrived. Will anyone notice? Even if they do notice, will they remember a week from now? A month? A year? Even if they do remember, is that your problem, or theirs?
There are many, many details that can go wrong during the holiday season. The vast majority of them do not matter even a little bit in the long run. So step back from stressing over the small things that go wrong, and refocus on the truly important things about Christmas: celebrating Christ’s birth and spending time connecting with your family and friends. If those two things are happening, there is no need to worry or stress. So take a moment, relax, and let your worries and stresses go. Christmas is a time to enjoy!
One of the beautiful things about the Christmas season is the way that it inspires people to be generous to those around them. Every year, my husband and I choose a charity to give to around Christmas. In past years, we’ve generally given to charities that help children, such as the Christmas tree programs where you buy gifts for local children or The Daughter Project, which runs a group home for girls who have escaped prostitution. This year, I think we might donate to a charity that helps mothers or their babies, since that is close to our hearts right now. If you’re interested in giving to a charity of this type, check out this post based on the research I have done so far: 5 Charities for Mothers and Babies.
One of the ideas that I’m considering in addition to the charity donation is a warm clothes drive for the homeless in our town. Although we live in California, which people generally associate with warm weather, we’re in Northern California, and it still dips below freezing frequently here in the winter. Our town is small, but like many Californian towns, there is a large homeless population. I’m thinking of getting together a core group of friends to collect winter gear from their own homes and from their friends. Then, on a given day, we will get together for a holiday party, everyone will bring their donations, and I will take the donations to a local charity that helps the homeless. I haven’t figured out all the details yet, but I feel like this could really be an event that makes a difference while still being manageable for my husband and I to plan along with taking care of our daughter.
I’m really excited about giving back this Christmas season, and I hope you will join me. Feel free to share in the comments what you have done (or would like to do) to make Christmas a season of giving for you and your partner.
As you look at giving this holiday season, you may be interested, like I am, in helping out a charity that assists mothers and their babies. So, in the spirit of giving, here are five unique charities I found in my research that serve mothers and children. Each one serves a slightly different mission, so I’ve titled them based on their mission.
If you want to focus your giving on…
Project Night Night provides homeless children who come to shelters around the country with a package that includes a security blanket, a stuffed animal, and a book to read with their parent. You can help by donating new items or sponsoring a package online. If you want to donate items, you can do that at many shelters around the country.
Shelter List: http://www.projectnightnight.org/Shelters.html
Operation Shower supports military families by providing baby showers for pregnant military wives whose husbands are deployed. This provides material and emotional support during a very difficult time for these families.
Mothers around the World
One of the many difficulties facing Syrian mothers who are refugees is needing a way to carry their young children for long periods of time. In response to this problem, an American mother set up a page to allow people to support these women. You can help by donating funds or new or lightly used baby carriers.
The next charity, Mercy in Action, also falls in this category because it serves mothers in the Philippines regularly and mothers in other areas during natural disasters.
Newborns and Pregnant Women
Mercy in Action is a religious charity that focuses on encouraging healthy births worldwide; their current focus is in the Philippines. They reduce mother and child mortality during and after birth by providing prenatal education and medical care and by training midwives to assist in childbirths in poor areas of the Philippines.
Operation Shower, discussed above, also falls into this category; they provide baby showers for pregnant military wives.
Things You Can Knit or Crochet
Warm Up America! provides knitted and crocheted items to those in need. They accept donations of knitted or crocheted items in addition to monetary donations. Although they help a variety of populations, they are currently collecting donations of baby blankets for babies in a maternity ward in Dallas, Texas.
Project Night Night, discussed under “Homeless Children,” also falls in this category, as they accept donations of homemade blankets, including knitted or crocheted blankets.
This extensive Babble article lists 50 charities that help babies and young children: http://www.babble.com/baby/top-best-charities-babies-kids/
If you want to get more charity ideas or to check whether the charity you are interested in is reputable, Charity Navigator is an excellent resource:
The holiday season is often called a time of giving. Really, though, many of us only give to our friends and family. We’ve already talked about connecting with your partner by giving them your time during the holidays, but this week let’s talk about ways you can give to others as a couple this holiday season.
Technically, this week’s strategy in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love, the book on which this blog is based, is to organize a charitable project together. While I think that is a wonderful idea, and certainly could bring you closer together, I want to expand the strategy a bit to include other ways you can give together during the holidays, just in case that idea doesn’t work for you. There are lots of ways to give as a couple!
Organize a charity event
Organizing a charity event sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be. Obviously, you can plan a huge fancy event together if that’s your thing, but smaller events work too. Here are a few ideas for manageable charitable events:
- Have a holiday party and ask each person who comes to bring a given number of non-perishable food items. Package them up and give them to families in need in your community (your church can give you names) or just give them to the local food bank.
- Invite some friends over to make food bags and warm drinks, then pass them out to the homeless people in your community.
- Call or email people you know asking whether they have unneeded winter coats you could have, especially children’s coats, then donate them to a local charity that gives coats to those who need them.
- If you have children, have an outing with your children and their friends where each child brings a box or bag of toys they don’t play with anymore, and you go as a group to donate the toys and learn about the organization they are donating to.
Reach out to your neighborhood
- Make plates of holiday goodies and take them to people on your street or in your building.
- Together with a few friends from the neighborhood, or even just with your family, go door to door singing carols to your neighbors. Just make sure you don’t go late enough to wake anyone and that you bring plenty of warm drinks to keep you toasty.
- If someone in your neighborhood seems to be in need, drop off a bag of basic groceries on their doorstep when they aren’t home.
- Go door to door in your neighborhood offering to rake leaves or shovel snow for free. Have a charity in mind so that if anyone insists on paying, you can let them know where you will be donating the funds.
Practice personal giving
- Most of the charity events we discussed above can also work as an activity for just the two of you: donate canned goods, care for the homeless, give winter clothes to those in need, choose things you (and your children, if you have them) can donate.
- Sponsor a child through an organization such as World Vision.
- Participate in a Christmas tree program where you pick the name of a child in need off of a Christmas tree in church or at a grocery store and purchase Christmas presents for them.
- Choose an established charity and give a donation to them.
However you choose to give, you will find that your relationship is stronger because of your shared sense of purpose, you have helped your community or your world, and you will have truly embraced the spirit of the season.
Welcome to the new year, everyone! I apologize for the gap between my last post and this one, but I had a really good reason, promise! You see, I have an announcement that is related to this post, but I needed to tell some people before I posted it here. I promised that we would talk in this post about how to actually put your Relationship Christmas Gift into practice, and we will, but first, my announcement…
I love shopping for Christmas gifts! In fact, I might love it a little too much. If I’m not careful, I find that I keep adding “just one more gift” until I’ve spent way more than I can afford! For my financial health, I have to make a clear budget for each person’s gift and stick to it. The good news is that with relationship Christmas gifts are free, so you can give as many of them as you want, right? Well, actually, no.
Relationship Christmas gifts are not free. They may not require money, but they do require time, effort, and perseverance, all of which take a toll on your relationship resources. Trying to change too many things in your relationship at one time is like giving someone a lot of cheap, easily breakable gifts. It is much more effective to choose one or two really quality relationship gifts to give so you will have enough relationship resources to make the gifts last.
So now’s the time to narrow down the list we made on Monday. Start by marking off anything that, on a second look, doesn’t seem like it will have a major influence in your relationship. Then, from the remaining gifts, look for themes and repeated patterns. Which of your ideas does your partner mention most often? Which ideas are tied to problems that arise frequently? Which do you think will be most meaningful to your partner?
Once you have narrowed down your list, pick the 1-2 relationship gifts that you think will be most meaningful. You may want to pick one that will be easier for you to give, and one that will be more of a struggle, rather than two that will be a struggle. Again, your goal is to make these high quality, long-lasting gifts, and in order for that to happen, you need to be realistic about what you can do.
On Friday we will talk about how to wrap your gift and give it to your husband. In other words, how can you turn your idea into practical actions that will strengthen your relationship?
Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday! The songs, the decorations, the family, and, of course, the presents, all add up to a wonderful time of year. Since Christmas is this week, it only seems appropriate that we take this week to look at relationship Christmas gifts. What can we give our partners that will make them even happier in our relationships than they already are?
The first step of any truly successful Christmas gift is to make a list of what the recipient wants, so we will start there. Take some time to figure out what your partner would really like to see in your relationship.
Ideas for Creating Your List
1. Consider Asking One (or More) of These Questions
- What could I do that would make our relationship even better for you?
- If you could change one thing in our relationship, what would it be?
- What relationship qualities do you think are most important?
- Who has the best relationship you know of? What do you like about their relationship?
- What things that I do make you feel most loved? Least loved?
- How would you like for our relationship to be similar to / different from your parents’ relationship?
2. Remember Your Partner’s Hints
People usually gives hints about what they want in their relationship, just like they give hints about Christmas presents they would like. Think of times when your partner has said, “I wish you would…” or “I really like it when you…” or just expressed admiration of qualities in other people’s relationships. These types of statements give you clues to what things are meaningful to your partner and what your partner is feeling a need for.
3. Ask Yourself What You Haven’t Given
Part of giving a gift is figuring out what the recipient doesn’t have. Examine yourself to see if there is something you have been holding back from giving to your partner. Maybe you have been protecting yourself when you know being vulnerable would strengthen your relationship, or maybe you have been holding onto past issues instead of giving him the gift of forgiveness. If there is something you have been holding back, it probably belongs on your list.
What’s on Your List?
So, if you are interested in giving your partner a relationship Christmas gift, take some time to make your list. On Wednesday we will talk about how to narrow down your list to the perfect relationship gift for this Christmas!