Sometimes we forget that things we’ve experienced with our partners can lend a hand with gifts. Was there a meaningful vacation, outing, food, activity,or place? There are many creative ways to work these into a gift (i.e. photo collages, personalized games, photo albums, even fully re-creating an experience in a different environment, etc.). If you have the meaningful moment from the past in mind but not the creative idea, this is also a good place to check with his/her friends, or family, for help.
4) Ask your partner directly:
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But doesn’t this ruin the element of surprise? The answer is: it depends on when you ask. If you ask the week of their birthday, then it could. However, if you ask randomly during the course of the year, then you have a list started that he/she could likely forget about by the time the next occasion arrives. And then you could always add to the list when clues start to surface.
5) Do a list exchange:
Exchange lists of gifts you’d like. By both creating a list for each other, doing a list exchange puts you on an equal level of giving and getting help from each other. Neither one of you is perfect and this allows you to experience this acceptance together. We don’t always automatically know what our partners want (not just with gifts), and this is okay. We’re not meant to be mind-readers. Preface this by actually telling your partner that you want to make him/her feel special but that you become overwhelmed by stress and anxiety in trying to find the perfect gift, and a list exchange would really be helpful for you. This would also allow you to see that your partner’s expectations may not be as hefty as we might sometimes believe.
6) Radical acceptance:
Gift-giving anxiety is mostly linked with idealization and perfectionism. The perception is that there is a perfect gift that will give the reaction we desire, and anything short of this gift is a failure. The problem is that the fantasy is often split off from reality. This is a struggle for many people, so you are certainly not alone here. But practicing accepting that a “very nice and thoughtful” gift need not be the ”one perfect” gift can be very helpful. It will open doors to gifts that normally would be dismissed as “not good enough.” The more options you open yourself to, the less the anxiety will be.
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Finally, when you’ve decided what you’re going to do, always remember to give yourself credit for doing your best. Actually say out loud, “I really put in a great effort to do something special for my partner,” and allow yourself to be wrapped in comfort with these words. And when all is said and done, just remember why you’re doing all of this work in the first place. Love is what is driving our emotions (and making us anxious). You want to show your partner how much you love him/her by doing something meaningful on these special occasions. So when you give the gift that you chose to put your time, thought, and effort into, remember to say, “I love you.” After all, that is really what we’re trying to say anyway.