I never buy ‘things’ for John as Valentine’s gifts.
Well, of course I love him. It is simply that lately I don’t feel compelled to show my love by increasing the clutter in our house.
Thinking about it, I used to buy him stuff. I used to buy designer jumpers (my husband is high maintenance like that), expensive perfume and the latest gadgets.
And you know what?
He doesn’t even remember which jumper I bought him last Christmas; or Valentine’s three years ago. He never used the perfume – he claims the smell keeps him awake and it is a selfish gift anyway. As to the gadgets, these were fun for several hours – or days – and then were left to gather dust in some corner of the house (or John’s office which is truly something to be seen to be believed).
Do you know what my husband remembers?
He remembers the flying lesson I gave him for his birthday. He talks about it, he is making plans to fly more aeroplanes and he feels good every time he remembers the feeling of flying.
This was six years ago.
‘Yeah. But you seem to have married to a very weird guy’ – you may think.
This may be true; after all, our marriage is successful and successful marriages are built not only on love but also ‘good fit’.
Are you going to be surprised if I told you that John, weird as he may be, is not unique in losing interest in the things-gifts and treasuring the experience-gifts?
Think back: how long was it before you lost interest in the latest gadget you bought (the latest pair of shoes, the new furniture, the remodelled kitchen etc.)? Be honest!
Because when I think about it, I lose interest really fast and ‘things’ stop giving me pleasure: they soon become just something I trip over and curse.
So there you have it. There is also science behind all this. My new best friends – the behavioural economists – tells us that this is what we should expect and that it is all about adaptation.
You see, being able to adapt to our environment is one of our biggest strengths: without adaptation we would have disappeared as species a long time ago. We adapt all the time as individuals as well – without adaptation, our lives would be lived between angst and separation.
So, adaptation is a good thing.
When it comes to the pleasure we take from our environment, however, adaptation becomes the force that turns everything grey. We adapt to our environment and lose the joy from it; in fact, we even stop noticing it (which to a degree is the biggest favour adaptation does us).
I’m telling you, my friends, the ‘stuck up’ woman who didn’t even realise that her house is beautiful wasn’t just fishing for compliments: she really has stopped noticing it. Or the friend who has a view to die for and he never looks out of the window. It is about adaptation.
Why I’m telling you all this?
Because you were just about to go for one of the offers for Valentine’s gifts that the Internet is absolutely congested with at the moment. You were just about to buy your loved one another perfume/shaver/gadget/item of clothing as Valentine’s gift.
You can do this. But I, and science, are telling you that your gift will be forgotten within the space of days (if not hours).
If you want to be memorable, on the other hand, you have to give the gift of loving memory; you have to think about an experience your loved one will enjoy so much that it will be a Valentine’s gift your partner will treasure forever.
Your Valentine’s gift will really hit the spot – and continue hitting it for a long, long time – if you think of an experience that:
- Your partner has dreamt about for a long time;
- Breaks the everyday pattern of your partner’s life (takes them out of their comfort zone); or
- Will be an unexpected but highly enjoyable surprise.
Obviously, I can’t tell you what to do: I don’t know your partner. But here are eight suggestions for Valentine’s gifts that may spark some ideas.
#1. Have a romantic dinner at home
You may think that going out to a restaurant is the thing to do as a Valentine’s gift. But do you really want to fight the crowds, spend couple of hours in a noisy place with no privacy and drinking over-priced wine?
So think again. After all Valentines is all about romantic love and let’s face it: going to a restaurant with a lot of other couples is not that exceptional. It will be ten times less imaginative than a romantic dinner at home and approximately ten times more expensive.
Now start thinking and planning. Are you going to cook for your loved one or are you going to cook together? What are his/hers favourite dishes? Do you need to learn a new recipe? How about taking a cooking lesson and surprising him/her?
Next, think about creating ambiance (romantic dinners are not about the food, remember?). What music you’ll listen to? How are you going to make the table beautiful? Who is going to look after the kids?
Okay. I think you get the message. Please remember that what matters most is not the dinner itself but that you know your partner well enough to create for them an experience they’ll treasure forever.
#2. Do something with these chocolates
Most of you will be buying chocolates as Valentine’s gifts (or one part of it).
Chocolates are perfectly fine and I’m the first one to approve (I’ve been considering joining Chocoholic Anonymous but decided that as addictions go this is not that bad one).
If you want to give Valentine’s gifts your partner will remember these chocolates are only the means.
Start thinking what to do with them for a romantic and memorable experience.
#3. Take them to a cultural event
Does your partner like music, the theatre or the ballet?
Well then. This was easy.
(And just in case you were wondering, I’ve been considering taking John to a concert – he loves classical music and I listen to rap so taking him to a concert he’d like sounds like something he may appreciate.)
#4. Go away for a weekend of pampering delight
Just make sure that you book a good one and that it is the kind of weekend that will create memories.
#5. Buy them a professional photoshoot
This one is a bit sensitive because your partner may get the wrong end of the stick.
I still remember, and John probably does as well, the Christmas he gave me a professional make up and photoshoot session. I got terribly upset and he could not fathom why.
It was simple misunderstanding really: John thought this will make me feel like a movie star (and I’ll ‘realise how beautiful I am’: his words, not mine) and I thought that he’s telling me I need make up to look half presentable.
Now I’d be really pleased to receive a gift like that.
So you know your partner best but this is worth considering.
#7. Book them a massage (or give them a massage)
Massage is one of the sensual pleasures in life.
You can book your loved one for an exotic massage. Even better, you can learn to do it yourself.
They’d appreciate it. As ‘romantic’ goes this one really breaks the scale, trust me. And if you do it it’s free (apart from some massage oils and scent).
#8. Get them a week in a spiritual retreat
We all live in a very ‘noisy’ environment and our minds get cluttered.
Spending a week in a spiritual retreat (make sure it is not some wacky cult you are buying into) can do wonders for our mood, concentration and quality of life.
Want to give your loved one a Valentine’s gifts to remember?
Be memorable and give them an experience the loving memory of which will warm up their lives for years to come.
You have time to plan yet. And to save yourself the bother and expense of doing what most people will do: buying some more stuff that your partner has absolutely no use for.