Fifty one years ago, Bill and I celebrated our first Christmas together. We were married in November and I started shopping for his gifts in December.
Every time I’d buy something, I’d get so excited I couldn’t wait until Christmas. So within 24 hours of getting the gift home, I gave into my excitement and the gift was opened. Then I’d get something else and the entire scenario would repeat itself. By Christmas there was nothing left to give.
As much fun as that was at the time, it wasn’t too many years after that that we gave up giving gifts on conventional holidays like Christmas and birthdays, etc. where gifts are usually expected. We found that extremely freeing.
When we could or wanted to give each other something, we did. And although our surprise gifts to each other were few and far between over 51 years, they were lots of fun and very memorable.
The Most Important Gifts Can Be Intangible
The most important gifts I received from Bill were intangible.
Valentine’s Day for example was never very important to me and I never got one valentine’s day gift from Bill. And I never gave him one. I didn’t require anything on that day to know that he loved me unconditionally and above all else. I already knew that everyday of the year.
Purchased gifts may be easier to give, but the intangible gifts that Bill gave are all that are truly required to make any spouse feel loved. They’re the same gifts that we can give our children to make them “feel” loved unconditionally and help them grow into well-balanced independent adults.
Focused Attention Heads the List
As simple as it sounds focused attention heads the list of the most important gifts you can give your spouse or your children.
I never remember a time that Bill was ever too busy or preoccupied to talk to me if I needed him. I tried to be considerate about my timing, but even when I was not as considerate as I should’ve been, he always stopped and gave me the focused attention I required. Even when he was painting (and I should never have interrupted him!) he’d always stop and pay attention to what I wanted. I never remember him acting irritated or annoyed.
There will always be opportunities to show our spouse or our children how important they are to us, by stopping what we’re doing and addressing their concerns. If the situation is such that it’s impossible to stop, then we need to get back to them as soon as we can.
Being Able to Express Feelings
One of the things that I feel made our marriage possible was being able to express my feelings to Bill. If ever he did something that made me angry or hurt my feelings, I could always tell him honestly how I felt. That way, those feelings never built up to cause problems.
The same thing can make a big difference in a parent/child relationship as well as in a marriage. If kids can express how they really feel without having their parent(s) over react emotionally (in anger, or with ridicule, disapproval, or rejection), it’ll go a long way towards keeping lines of communication open.
Time and Commitment
As much as I hate to admit it, I was a young person who went into marriage with the attitude “if doesn’t work we can divorce”. (Fortunately, I changed over the years.)
Bill was committed to our marriage since the first day. He was always willing to do everything he could to make it work.
Often when something would come up in the news about marriage situations in the world today, I would say to Bill, “How does anyone stay married today!?” His reply was, “They have to want to stay married.”
A good marriage as well as good parenting take time and commitment.
It’s easy to get caught up in the gift giving tradition especially when it’s fun. And only you can decide what’s important in your life.
But I think we can all agree that the intangible gifts are some of the most important we can give or receive.
Wishing you an abundance of both!
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