Learn How to Avoid Gift-giving Stress in Portland Marriage Counseling

December 16, 2011 by

At my Portland marriage counseling practice, my clients often talk to me about the stress they feel around birthdays, anniversaries, and especially the holidays to buy gifts that their partner will love. Some even go so far as to say they are afraid a bad gift will cause relationship issues.

Sadly, they might not be too far off from the truth. Research into how gift-giving affects relationships shows it to be a bit of a no-win endeavor. When you know a person well (like, say, with a spouse), they expect a good, thoughtful gift, and if you get them something they don’t like, it reflects badly on the relationship. But good gifts do little for the relationship beyond affirming how similar you both are.

Portland Marriage Counseling Tells Us That It’s Not the Gift, It’s the Baggage

A particular gift, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. Negative feelings about gifts and gift-giving are what cause relationship issues, not the gift itself. And this can happen from both directions. If you really wanted to buy your partner an expensive gift but couldn’t afford it, you’re likely going to believe your partner is disappointed regardless of how they really feel. Or if you have spent a lot of money and your significant other knows you can’t really afford it, their reaction to the gift is almost guaranteed to be laced with guilt.

Other problems I’ve encountered in Portland marriage counseling include people not feeling worthy of expensive gifts or believing they can’t please their partners and giving up entirely because of this. But these fears – whether they be financial, related to self-esteem, or something else altogether – are preventing you and your spouse from having a truly connected giving and receiving experience, and there are things you can do.

Planning Gift-giving Together in Portland Marriage Counseling Reduces Stress

As with most relationship issues, the best way to reduce the stress involved in gift-giving is to talk it out and make a plan. This doesn’t mean that you have to tell each other what you’ll be buying, but oftentimes setting rules and boundaries together can help.

My clients have come up with a wide variety of stress-reducing measures. Some like to set dollar amounts for gifts that both have to adhere to. Others write down lists of things they want, and each partner is allowed to purchase only one gift from that list. This way there is still a bit of a surprise, but each person knows they will be getting something they want. And a few forego individual gifts altogether and instead purchase something that will be a present for both partners like a vacation or day at the spa.

If you and your partner are experiencing gift-giving stress and anxiety and feel like you need further help, seek out Portland marriage counseling today.