Finding a holiday gift for a partner can feel like a daunting task. But it's also an important one — giving gifts to our partner fosters intimacy and cultivates a stronger relationship. "Giving to your partner shows that you’re prioritizing the relationship, planning ahead, which means you have your partner in mind even when you’re not together, and putting in the effort to go out of your way to make sure your partner feels loved," Samantha Burns, a couples counselor and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "Giving is a selfless act that’s about making your partner happy, which in return should make you feel happy too. It can require compromise, or even doing things you may not like or enjoy with the goal of putting your partner first."
During the holidays, we may find ourselves searching for the perfect gift for our partner. But Burns urges us to not get caught up in the commercialism of the season. "Successful gift-giving is not about how much money you spend, but how impactful the gift is," Burns tells Bustle. "I recommend that people take a strategic approach to gift giving by considering your partner’s preferred love language. There are five love languages, and each represents the most meaningful way in which your partner likes to receive love. Note that the way you show love may not be the way in which your partner most likes to be loved.
The theory, first laid out by Dr. Gary Chapman in his 1995 book "The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate", categorizes the five ways that we give and experience love: Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, and Words of Affirmation.
If your partner's love language is gifts, Burns says, "Think about your partner’s hobbies, interests, or things he or she has admired or mentioned in the past, and surprise him or her with it."
If your partner’s love language is quality time, Burns suggests an experiential gift. "A concert, cooking class, or getaway vacation," Burns says. "Your undivided attention is the most important aspect of this gift."
If your partner’s love language is physical touch, get them something that'll bring you closer. "Choose a gift that allows you to be close and intimate, such as a couples massage, or a bed and breakfast where you can stay snuggled up in bed," Burns says. "Make sure to be extra affectionate with hand holding, kissing, hugging, and other physical acts of love."
If their love language is acts of service, give them something that'll help them. "Think about ways you can help decrease your partner’s daily stress, whether its a cleaning service, a nice dinner out or home-cooked meal in, or even tackling the household to-do list you’ve been putting off for years," she says.
If your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, give them something that makes a statement. "Whether it’s an engraved piece of jewelry with a sweet sentiment or affectionate nickname, a poem about all the things you appreciate about your partner, or even a thoughtful social media post with a photo and caption about how much your partner means to you," Burns says.
Of course, the best gift out there depends on your partner and even your relationship. I spoke with 20 people about the best gifts they've ever received from a partner. Here's what they said:
"Huckleberry Jam she had home made for me when she went back to visit her family in the country."
"An Amy Winehouse CD. I have such a personal connection with her and I loved that my partner gave me a CD because it's a classic touch."
"I'm really interested in the psychology behind sexual fantasies and he got me My Secret Garden."
"Tickets to Scotland."
"A dress he had picked out for me with his mom."
"A teacup set. I lived in London for a year and I love tea!
"An eco-powered watch."
"A briefcase because I had just been accepted into my MBA program."
"I had just moved into my first apartment on my own and my partner gave me ceramic coasters she had handmade for me at the ceramic shop. She painted them in the Cowboys (my favorite sports team) colors."
"A year membership to Sirius XM so I could listen to my sports shows in the car."
"A necklace with three pearls that stood for my past, present and future."
"A healing crystal when I was sick."
"My partner and I are now married but for three years we did long-distance between Philadelphia and Ocean City, Maryland. He drove but I was in college and couldn't afford a car. I used to take the bus or he would meet me halfway. He finally bought me a car so it would be easier for me to visit him!"
"Salsa dancing lessons!"
"An engraved wooden picture frame."
"A spa day."
"A CD with a playlist he had made just for me."
"A selfie stick for my upcoming road trip."
"I was in the process of getting out of the military and I didn't have any formal clothes. My partner gave me cufflinks for Christmas."
As you can see, the most powerful gifts are thoughtful and come from our heart. They express to our partner that we love them, we cherish them and we appreciate them.