Buying gifts for a partner can be tricky. If you've been together a long time, it can become very predictable and formulaic. A more recent relationship can also have its challenges. How do you know what they really like? How do you find something appropriate?
Christmas gift giving is a fantastic opportunity to brighten up your relationship, and to reveal a new dimension about yourself. It's also the time to make your partner feel special. The good news is you don't necessarily have to purchase an expensive gift to do so. A bit of creative thinking can save you a whole lot of money, and will be appreciated much more.
Here are my top tips to gift buying for a partner this Christmas:
Find a shared experience. You're giving the gift of special time together and creating shared memories, which is priceless. It can also be as expensive or money friendly as you wish.
Capitalise on a shared interest. If you both enjoy cooking, for example, why not book a course to do together? This could be two hours at the local cookery school, or a gastro fortnight in Tuscany with a top chef. Alternatively, embark on a new adventure together - perhaps explore an unfamiliar city together in this country, or blow the budget and head abroad somewhere you've always fancied trying.
Try something brave! Pick something totally 'alien', to take you both out of your comfort zones. Most team building activities happen somewhere unusual -and that's not by chance. When you can't cling to what you know, either about a subject or yourself, you tend to be more open to others, so if you know the person well, you potentially experience them in a new way.
If you've never been to the opera, book it! If you hate the idea of clubbing, go and see how it really is. When something's a gift, there feels more permission to be experimental somehow, and if your partner has a 'set view' of you, it's a great way to potentially challenge that, in a fun way.
Be empathetic towards their current emotional state. Let your partner's feelings or mood determine your choice of gift. If they have been stressed at work, book a relaxing couples' massage or if they are feeling life is in a rut or dull, try to pick something more unusual or wild, to inspire them.
Be aware of hints. Women especially drop hints around the festive period, so try to make a mental note when your loved ones says: "Oh I really like those shoes" or "I think I need a new computer ". It shows you're attentive and are open to fulfilling their requests.
Draw on shared memories for inspiration. Remind them of a special time you shared together e.g. if it was a holiday abroad, a specific bottle of wine or recreating a particular meal you had there, may work. Alternatively create a photographic book to remind them of your favourite moments.
Theme your gift. Whether you choose a food theme, music, or literary theme, this is a chance to be really personal, and helps you build a very special gift out of lots of smaller things. Show that you know what they love by creating a hamper of their favourite foods or treats. Let them revert to childhood by packaging it all in a Christmas stocking!
Plan ahead. Why not book a concert, the theatre or a top restaurant for later in the year, so you both have something to look forward to. Alternatively, if you buy jewellery or something that comes in a set, maybe gift the first part for Christmas and keep the matching parts for Valentine's Day, their birthday or an anniversary.
Get creative. Make a book of vouchers or wishes, or put them all in a jar folded up like raffle tickets to be taken out in a dull moment, or that your partner can 'cash in' at will. They can range from a massage from you, to cleaning the car, to a meal at their favourite restaurant or be as crazy, rude or romantic as your heart desires!
Personalise gifts. There are so many retailers offering personalised gifts these days. It leaves someone in no doubt you were thinking of them, specifically. Perhaps you can frame a picture of their favourite pet, or even commission a painting of them.
Life gets busy, quality time gets short, and things go unsaid so Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Use Christmas to express how you feel about your loved one, when you write your message or card. Sometimes those closest to us just wish, most of all, to feel appreciated. Saying what you feel is the most amazing gift, both to give and receive. Perhaps it really is the thought that counts and how that makes us feel is more precious than anything...
By Sara Griffiths