Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and this year I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make the loved one in your life feel truly special. It all comes down to listening.
Listening is the key to finding the right gift for someone and to figuring out the perfect way to celebrate together. People operate on different “relational currencies,” which are the ways we show we care about one another. Not everyone comes from the same background, and we’ve all grown up with different ideas about gift giving. Tapping into your partner’s specific wavelength is the secret weapon to Valentine’s Day success!
Some people are raised in families where the emphasis is on buying expensive gifts. Others place the focus on hand-crafted projects that are low in cost but require a heavy degree of planning. In some families, creating an experience is what is expected, while others have grown up with the idea that doing something for your loved one is the best way to show how much you care.
Trouble arises when relational currencies are not aligned. For example, your boyfriend thinks he’s giving you a fantastic gift when he buys you an expensive gold bracelet, but you think it’s impersonal and would have preferred a handwritten journal filled with memories of your dating history. Or you plan a fantastic night out on the town with your sweetheart, but he is disappointed because he would have preferred a gourmet, home-cooked meal paired with an intimate night in. Clearly, you’ve each tried to show the other how much you care. But in this case, that’s not enough.
How can you get on the same wavelength? Listen. Reflect back on stories your partner has told you about his or her family’s traditions. Think about how you’ve spent previous holidays together and the types of gifts you’ve received from your partner on other occasions. And then get creative about tailoring a gift to your loved one’s liking, rather than getting him or her something you’d like to receive. Thinking about things this way can take some practice – you may not get it right the first time. But keep on trying, and you’re bound to find the perfect way to show someone you care!
Here are a few gift ideas matched to different relational currencies.