“The best gift that you can give someone is your time because you are giving them something you can never get back.—Anonymous

gifts and experiences

Around this time of year, everyone is trying to finish their last-minute Christmas shopping. You might feel overwhelmed by the crowded stores and chaotic parking lots.

The stress of finding the perfect Christmas present for your spouse can get you thinking about choosing between gifts and experiences.

Whether the idea of having no presents under the tree scares you or excites you, it’s time to talk with your spouse about what kinds of gifts and experiences will strengthen your marriage.

Every marriage goes through seasons. In your early married years, you may have spent hours looking for the perfect gift or creating something by hand. When children come into the picture, you might shift your focus toward them and spend less time planning a gift for your spouse.

As years pass and family dynamics change, you might decide you want to exchange gifts for experiences—or vice versa. There’s no right answer. What works for you this year might be different next year.

Perhaps you need to reconsider your traditions of giving tangible gifts to each other. For some families, gift-giving is a key part of the holidays. Are you and your spouse interested in continuing this?

This conversation also extends beyond Christmas. Think ahead to Valentine’s Day, your birthdays, and your anniversary. Between gifts and experiences, what means the most to you?

Your desires and expectations can change, and so can your spouse’s. If you’re not engaging in emotional intimacy with your spouse, you might miss out on discovering what you both really want.

Talking with your spouse about choosing between gifts and experiences is vital because 80% of you said you would prefer to receive experiences over gifts. There are several reasons you might desire experiences over gifts.

Experiences can be more fun, create memories, and provide an opportunity to connect with your spouse. In addition, experiences don’t add clutter or lose value.

However, some people prefer gifts over experiences. Planning an experience can be stressful and complicated when you have young children. It’s fun to open a wrapped present and see your spouse’s effort in selecting your gift. When you see or use the item, it reminds you of your spouse.

Some people love gifts. Others want experiences. When choosing between gifts and experiences, what matters most is what’s meaningful to your spouse.

There are three easy steps to navigate the situation of choosing between gifts and experiences when it comes to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and more.

First, start with a conversation.

There’s a reason emotional intimacy is the workhorse of the 6 Pillars of Intimacy®. When you connect with your spouse, you can express desires and expectations. Knowing what matters to your spouse will help you choose something meaningful when it comes time to give a gift or experience.

Consider taking a trip down memory lane with your spouse. What gifts or experiences meant the most to you both? The things that stand out can help guide you in the future.

When you speak with your spouse, keep in mind that you can prefer different things.

Second, be intentional about the giving of experiences and/or gifts.

One of the greatest human desires is to be seen and known. Your spouse wants to feel they are important to you.

When you find a gift or experience that touches your spouse’s heart, you show you love them, hear them, and see them. As a result, you might hear something like, “You know me so well!” or “I can’t believe you remembered!”

Start by determining whether you want to give your spouse a gift or an experience. Recognize that whether you are searching for the perfect gift or planning a meaningful experience, both are gifts of time.

Once you’ve decided between gifts and experiences, look to The 6 Pillars of Intimacy® to determine which pillar would mean most to your spouse.

If your spouse prefers gifts, consider the following items that correlate with each of The 6 Pillars of Intimacy®:

  • Emotional intimacy: conversation cards
  • Physical intimacy: massage oil
  • Financial intimacy: set up an investment account
  • Spiritual intimacy: devotional book
  • Recreational intimacy: hiking books
  • Sexual intimacy: underwear or lingerie

If your spouse prefers experiences, consider the following items that correlate with each of The 6 Pillars of Intimacy®:

  • Emotional intimacy: walk and talk
  • Physical intimacy: give your spouse a massage
  • Financial intimacy: plan a trip together
  • Spiritual intimacy: do a devotional together
  • Recreational intimacy: go hiking together
  • Sexual intimacy: be fully present while making love

Third, remember that gratitude is priceless.

When you are on the receiving end of a gift or an experience, be sure to express your gratitude. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.

By having a conversation, being intentional about giving gifts and experiences, and expressing gratitude, you and your spouse can strengthen your emotional intimacy and have a deeper understanding of each other’s expectations for holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries.

Not only will this lead to more meaningful exchanges, but you’ll also know that you’re giving your spouse something they want and will cherish forever.


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