Gifts are the best, especially when they are from (or for!) someone you love deeply. Generosity can feel just as good as being on the receiving end of an awesome gift.
But not all the time. Holidays (like birthdays, Christmas and Valentine's Day, to name just a few) tend to put way too much pressure on us to find the "right gift." This can feel particularly true in the case of giving a gift to your partner: we want to be the one who understands them best.
There's ONE thing that is truly the most romantic and thoughtful gift you can give to your partner. Note that this is a gift that will last beyond flowers and chocolates, and is something you don't have to pay lots of money for! What could be better?
Let me warn you: this gift will require something more from you than placing a quick online order. You'll have to learn something new, and maybe open up to a new sense of vulnerability. But it will pay off in ways you can't even imagine.
Intrigued? Here it is: Tell the truth.
I'm talking about a very specific form of the truth. It's not of the variety of "Stop bugging me" or "I never liked your mother," or "Yes, you do look fat in those pants." Most of us know that being excessively critical or attacking those we love isn't a useful form of honesty.
The truth I'm talking about is unarguable. It's about what is really happening for you — your experience of the world (and your relationship) at all moments. It's not the story of what's going on, but your emotional response.
The list of what someone can't argue with is short. You can't argue with someone's sensations, whether they're hot or cold or have tightness in their stomach or chest or jaw. You can't argue with their emotions, if they tell you I feel mad, sad, glad, or afraid. And you don't get to argue with what they want.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? It is. And, as you try this out, you might realize that simple doesn't mean easy.
Most of what people talk about is arguable. Think of the questions we tend to ask in our daily lives: Who is to blame? Would have been faster to take the other route? Is that friend thoughtless? Does he love me?
Answers to these questions are all arguable. And our inner voice often sounds a litany of the arguable: "I shouldn't have eaten that cake." "He's so mean." "I'll never find the person of my dreams." "I suck at this."
As you read these, notice that I'm not talking about whether something is true. The only criterion I'm using is this question: Can someone argue with this?
Let's go through the list of what is unarguable again, more slowly. It comes down to the acronym S.E.W.: Sensations, Emotions, What You Want.
These are simple body sensations, things like warmth in your chest, a knot in your stomach, shooting pain in your head. Noticing your sensations will bring your attention to your internal world, away from the (arguable) stories you're making up about what is going on.
Feeling sensations in your body is an awesome (and accessible) mindfulness practice. The sense of presence you're cultivating physically will inevitably help you be more emotionally in tune with yourself and your needs, while also taking into account those of your partner (and others!).
To keep yourself from becoming entangled in stories your mind is spinning around, try to rely instead on a short list of the emotions you're feeling: Mad, sad, glad, scared. And so on.
Keep in mind the rule that anyone gets to feel anything anytime for any reason. No one should have to justify his or her emotional experience. Feelings are as true as anything else for those who are experiencing them.
That said, it's essential to be sensitive about how you communicate about your emotions. Rather than simply stating, "I'm mad because you were late," try to present a whole statement that can't be argued with. (For example, "My jaw is tight. I feel mad. I made dinner and I wanted to eat it with you while it was hot.")
3. What You Want / Don't Want
Once you've noticed your sensations and the emotion attached to them, it will be much easier to get to the bottom of what you really want.
Communication issues are the universal reason that people come to see me for couples work. It can be so frustrating to try to express what is going on and end up arguing about it. Learning to speak what is unarguable will move you out of this frustration and back into flow and connection. What could be a better gift than to make a concerted, mindful effort to create connection with the one you love?
And what do you get in return? Your loved one will see you and know you for who you really are. You can move out of power struggle and frustration and back into a flow of working together, on the same team.
And both of you will receive the ultimate gift: Living life from your connected, loving, open hearts.