Category Archives: Christmas

What Your Partner REALLY Wants For Christmas

Let’s be honest, buying gifts for others can suck. Often sucks. Almost always sucks. I remember when I was younger I really struggled with finding a gift for my dad. Man, he was so hard to shop for. He is one of those people that if he wanted something, he would just go buy it. On top of that, he’s a publicly declared minimalist… He wore the same pairs of shorts for what seemed like twelve years, only to be replaced because of the risk of getting charged for indecent exposure. Thanks to new shorts, he’s still allowed around playgrounds.

The imminent approach of any holidays has a direct correlation to a rise in our blood pressure. Whether it’s for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, whatever holiday it may be,  buying the perfect gift is something that can cause a lot of stress, right?! Especially when it comes to our romantic partners.

We want a great gift to be thoughtful, unique, creative, and for it to mean something. That’s a lot of pressure isn’t it?! And, of course, when we ask our partners what they would like, we’re more often than not, met with the incredibly irritating reply, “I don’t need or want anything, it’s fine.” Ha. I’ve fallen for this one. It’s total BS. It’s like a trap just waiting for us to take the bait. We only make that mistake once. That’s when we hear after, “I know I said I didn’t want anything, but I didn’t mean it.” Ok great, now we’re saying things we don’t mean.

And to think, all we had to do was get them something…anything, really!

So in the land of relationship booby-traps, how do we satisfy the list of things from above that make a great gift, and make it meaningful?!?

The research is very fascinating on this subject, because when we look at buying a gift, we usually consider a material gift, like a purse or a watch, versus an experience, like a vacation or a thoughtful day planned out.

Gifts, i.e.  material things, are instantaneously gratifying. We get a spike in happiness and well-being when we receive them, but that feeling doesn’t last long (hedonic adaptation). And soon, that purse that cost more than any rational human should pay for a bag, becomes the emotionless container to carry all your partner’s stuff for them. That watch just reminds us of how late we’re running to pick up the our lovely partner who was supposed to make time stand still.

So what’s the secret to a great gift? Firstly, I don’t want to dismiss the value of a material gift. If it’s something that we’ve wanted for awhile it can be very gratifying and mean a lot. In order to buy a great gift listen to the things your partner says in passing, the little cues when they mention or reference something he/she would like but they’re not explicit about. This type of gift serves two purposes, (1) It indicates you listen even when you don’t have to, and (2) You care about the things you hear in those moments. The ability to hear things and take note is a great sign of thoughtfulness and will have your partner feeling both cared for, and appreciated. Now those are two great feelings that nurture and foster great connection.

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So now that we’re done defining what makes for great material gifts, let’s look at what the research proposes will win their heart, and having them feel all of the elation that great partnerships provide.

Experiences, bar none are the greatest gifts. Here’s why:

  1. They are new. They are novel. Adventure is sexy. People love feeling loved. Material gifts are one small second of bliss,  experiences are a smorgasbord of those moments. And the very cool part is that you’ll be associated with this novelty and newness. A passive way of stimulating the same neurotransmitters that are associated with love. That’s right, your partner will fall in love with you all over again. Think of the “honeymoon stage” we are all made to believe is only at the beginning of relationships. Maybe it’s only at the beginning because we stop doing new things? We can literally trick (or is it a trick?!) our hearts and minds into seeing the person differently.
  2. The emotions the experience produces can be relived. WHAT?! Wait. That’s right, this is the gift that can keep giving. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you took someone on a day trip to the mountains. You packed a lunch, you drank wine, you went for a hike, you humped in the bushes. Whatever. Fast forward six months and you’re sitting on your couch together… You say to your partner, “Hey! Remember that time we did that amazing day trip to the mountains?! We ate great food, we rolled around in the bushes… How fun was that?!” And boom. You’ve just released the emotions associated with that experience. Want to add more? Ask them, “What was your favourite part about that day?”

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In Psychology we call this savouring. In essence, it’s allowing someone to relive a moment and to actually get their physiology to replicate that moment and that experience. You’ve just changed their chemistry with your words. You’re basically a God. If you want to be really good, before you have the experience, you can ask them. “What are you looking forward to most about _________ (insert awesome idea here).” Anticipatory savouring… that’s next level.

So, if you want to be the ultimate gift buying baller, you could combine the two. I don’t want to give away the farm (and give away my future ideas to my lady), but one thing that is brilliant is to plan a special day when they get a gift that matters and an experience that matters. True love and connection isn’t built on “stuff”, it’s built on shared moments.

Ultimately, the secret to giving great gifts is making them meaningful. People just want to feel loved. They want us to pay attention to the moments between the perceived important ones. They want us to care and listen even when we don’t have to. They want us to recognize the little things that light their heart up.

It doesn’t take money to be a great partner, it takes care and attention, and, at the end of the day, effort. Demonstrate that you care, and they’ll know you do, they won’t have to ask or wonder. It doesn’t matter what our words are if between our words and actions there’s a disconnect.

As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Let the emotional intention you have guide where you invest your time and money… and you’ll find your partner’s emotions will follow suit.

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6 Ways For Singles To Thrive During The Holiday Season

The holidays are easy for couples, aren’t they?

The most difficult decisions they’ll face are when to stop adding to the gift wish list and what to get for their partner. If the stress from that isn’t enough, there will also be the unrelenting struggle to determine which Christmas dinner to go to, on which day. How will they ever decide?! Turkey and stuffing more than once in 24 hours?! Leftovers? Gifts from two families? Noooooooooo!

Hopefully they’ll make it through.

For singles, the holiday season is a whole other story. Christmas movies are filled with romance, love, sex, Hugh Grant, plenty of laughter and never any love misses.

Yet we tend to miss love often during the holidays. It is a time of year that has a way of reminding us that we don’t have anyone. Over and over our heart will feel poked and prodded.

“Who’s your plus one for the company Christmas party?”

The friendship couples’ Christmas  parties become a celebration of being the fifth wheel. To make matters worse, we see couples flirting and wiping the extra whip cream off each other’s noses from their eggnog lattes. How cute. Not. (Haven’t said that since high school.)

So I propose a new type of holiday season. One where single people thrive and reinvent what it means to have enormous amounts of extra time and money.

What’s there to be sad about?

We’re not blowing our money on useless gifts and driving in snowstorms to see in-laws we don’t even like. No more having to endure the same mundane conversations that have us blaming tryptophan for nodding off. Let’s be honest. It’s them, not the turkey.

SO, here’s six ways to turn the holidays into a time for growth, self-love and to thrive in your aloneness or better yet, not get back together with your ex or install Tinder (again).

  1. Don’t Grow Up. It’s A Trap. When we were young we didn’t think about how lonely Christmas was. We were so caught up in the amazing things to look forward to. Sure we wanted the gifts, but in a child’s mind it’s about more than that. It’s about sharing, excitement, cuddling and watching Christmas cartoons, and waking up at 5am before Santa even thought about visiting. A kid’s heart offers a lot of insight into how to live before we learned to build walls around our hearts. Go Kids Table!
  2. Get yourself the gift that keeps on giving. Constantly we search for love when we don’t have it within ourselves. It’s true that once we’re happy alone then we’re able to fully show up in relationships. Christmas is the chance to do just that. Gift yourself the gift of development. Sign up for a course, dance class, learn to build a website, start a blog. Whatever has been on your list forever, do it! It’s time to start achieving and doing things that you put off in your relationship. The time is now.
  3. Have sleepovers. Remember when you were younger and looked forward to sleepovers, movies, and late night talks with your best friends? Now do the exact same thing, except add rum, eggnog, the movie, Elf, and a plan to brunch in the AM. We forget how much these experiences fill our soul. The only difference between then and now is that we’ve found that a nice red wine greatly helps to fill it too.
  4. Holidays are for Family. We often forget what it means to cherish our siblings. We forget what it’s like to laugh and build forts. We forget what it’s like to truly connect with family. We can take the people in our lives for granted and not let them know just how important they are. Being single offers us the opportunity to focus on family. Take your mom and dad on a date; have courageous conversations about fears and dreams and wins from 2014.  (If family isn’t available then see #3.)
  5. Date your friends. What a beautiful thing it is to have close friendships. Research shows that people who have close friendships are just as happy as people in great relationships. Bet you didn’t see that coming?! Take your friends out on a date. Our love doesn’t have to be limited to romantic love. Rekindle a friendship with someone that is important to you. Find love in ways you never though you could.
  6. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Go tobogganing, play shinny hockey, learn to ski, make naked snow angels, brew some hot chocolate and drive around and look at Christmas lights, ask that guy/girl out for a peppermint mocha. Find something that scares you and take the leap. The world has a beautiful way of catching us when we’re filling our souls and following our dreams. On the other side of fear is freedom.

When we look at being single as an opportunity to grow and nurture ourselves it opens our eyes to a world we never thought existed. A world where being single is a gift. How we use each day is a choice. I can readily admit that the holidays can be tough when we’re single, we can either take that energy and use it as a reason to stay the same, or we can see it as a gift of motivation. Motivation to want more. To believe in yourself again, to pursue your dreams and passions and see all of the other amazing facets of your life that you can flourish in. Romantic relationships are just one part. It’s when you start to see all the amazingness you already have in your life that you can forget about what you don’t have, and just focus on enjoying.

Rediscover what it means to love yourself, so you don’t need the love of others. You choose it. Be merry.