Whether you’re a big holiday shopper or a minimalist, here’s one holiday gift your spouse is guaranteed to enjoy.
There’s no need to wrap it and plenty of opportunity to use it.
This year, give your partner a break.
Fifteen minutes late? Think: oh, she had a hard time getting out of the office.
Snappish tone? Think: he must need a hug and some TLC.
All too often we look at our spouse through the worst possible lens: She’s so inconsiderate. He’s such a stickler for detail. We go to always and never, turning individual instances into sweeping generalizations, seeing ordinary annoyances as clear evidence of character flaw.
Some of the most unhappy couples I know keep close tabs on their partner’s transgressions, stockpiling their missteps to be used as ammunition. They’re all over each other’s shortcomings and regularly air their displeasures— giving one another the clear message that they’re being heavily scrutinized and they’re coming up short.
The end result, of course, is a climate of mistrust and defensiveness, a relationship that feels more like a war-zone than a loving alliance.
Every spouse comes complete with his or her annoying behaviors that, like it or not, are unlikely to change. What’s the value, then, of pointing them out?
The alternative: keep track of your partner’s good deeds. Recognize her well-intentioned efforts, her strong work ethic, her kindness. Take note of his patience, his generosity, his willingness to grow.
Giving your partner a break may include any and all of these useful relationship strategies:
Choose your battles (and choose as few as possible).
Allow minor disappointments to pass without comment.
Question your assumptions about your spouse’s motives.
Don’t believe everything you think (about yourself, your spouse and your marriage).
Focus on and affirm what is loving and good in your spouse. Feel free to express it. People rarely complain that their spouse is too grateful.
Find ways to joke about the inevitable ways you drive each other nuts.
Consider your partner’s needs and well-being to be as important as yours. Act accordingly.
Accept imperfection in yourself and your partner. Every one of us is a work in process.
Lose the ledger.
Pay attention to your tone of irritation, condescension, dismissiveness. Remember: you’re a spouse, not a judge or a drill sergeant.
Tackle important issues gently and respectfully. (Not right before bed when your partner is prone to insomnia; not at 7:45 a.m. on the way out the door…)
Recognize and accept that you are two separate people. As such you will think differently, see things differently and consequently respond differently to almost everything. Though we all have our preferences, there’s no right way to be.
Don’t get hung up on fairness. Set a standard for your own behavior and then live up to it, even if you’re sometimes doing the larger share.
Who needs another necktie, soap dish, or useless gadget from the kitchen store?
Never mind the wool cap, the cookbook, the solar-heated travel mug.
This year, give your spouse the gift of love and acceptance, a gift that will quite likely be re-gifted to you.
Got any good ideas to add to the list?
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