Why is it so hard to find the perfect gift, and why does the act of gifting often fall short of our expectations for the experience?
I’ve been studying relationships, relating, communication and this thing called attachment styles in the last year. It’s been kind of a mind-blowing year in the area of relating as I realize s0 much of what I do to cultivate and care for the relationships in my life is motivated by selfishness and fear of not getting what I think I need.
My eyes have been opened to see more clearly than ever that we are relational beings, made to find the most joy, fulfillment, and security when in proper relationship with our Creator, and in healthy relationships with those around us.
So, when I was thinking about gift giving this month, I thought that the reason we are so often frustrated in our quest for the perfect gift and disappointed in the aftermath of the mass gifting and receiving is because we weren’t made to be fueled and satisfied by stuff…
We were made to find true joy and fulfillment from healthy relationships, not stuff.
So, if that’s true, then that means the best gift we can give someone is to love them well, to learn to communicate deeply, to pursue intimacy, and to make the effort to have strong, healthy attachments.
It’s not something you can wrap. But it’s guaranteed to be the gift they’ve been waiting for and one they will treasure the rest of their lives.
Adventures in giving the gift of healthier relationships
When I first was introduced to the concept of secure connections and what true communication looked like, I was exhilarated. I had felt like something was missing from my marriage, but couldn’t put my finger on it. This was because it wasn’t someone else’s fault—it was my own mindset that was crippling my ability to connect deeper with my husband.
The first book I read on this topic was Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk. My mentor recommended it to me and gave me a copy (it was so good, she’d been buying it by the case and giving it to everyone who would read it).
The chapter that talked about the three communication styles (Passive, Aggressive, and Passive-Aggressive) was intriguing. I immediately assumed that I was an aggressive communicator, because I can be, shall we say, rather loud. But when I read the chapter to Jeremy, he said, “Honey, I think you’re a passive communicator.” I was in shock, until he explained. “You rarely say what you really need, but dance around the issue.”
(This is where I pause and thank God for my insightful husband. I would never have realized this about myself!)
That’s when I began to realize the depth of manipulation and grasping for control that goes on inside me as I tried to relate to those around me. I ask for a lot out of my relationships—I’m an extrovert, a verbal processor, and I thrive on deep communication. But I steer clear of stating needs in a clear, forthright way because I’m terrified they won’t be met.
Later in the book, we read about learning to make “I need” statements. If that sounds simple, it’s because you’ve never tried it. It is the most vulnerable, intimate thing I have ever done—to actually say out loud what my heart is truly craving from a relationship.
The waiting to see if the need will be received and fulfilled is the scary part. But being completely honest is a way I can sow value into a relationship and there is always fruit from that effort.
The first time I tried to honestly express my needs to my husband, I’m afraid I rather overwhelmed him, and—not surprisingly, he kinda shut down. But, I understood what was happening and didn’t get too upset (not for long, anyway) because of the other book I’d been reading…
Learning How We Love
My second awesome relationship book discovery this year was “How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. This book focuses on attachment styles—that is, the blueprint we receive at a young age that informs how we attach (love and interact) with people in our adult lives.
I love studying personality styles, love languages, and the like. This is one more classification method that will blow your mind with how it informs and enlightens the trouble spots in one’s relationships.
Within minutes of first learning about the 5 attachment styles, I had identified both mine and Jeremy’s.
The bad news is, an avoider married to a vacillator is one of the most challenging combinations.
The good news is, the book (and attached workbook) thoroughly explore each attachment style, walk you through letting go of the lies and wounds that foster that style, and demonstrates how you can relearn to love in a healthy manner. It also gives tips for how to interact with each style if you’re the spouse!
The book is written by a couple who are both Christian counselors. They share lots of stories of counseling sessions and lives changed by the concepts in the book. Reading it feels like a therapy session–except way cheaper!
Between these two books and my continued journey to see and know God as He truly is, my mind and heart are being renewed and I am learning how to love well.
So, if you’re stumped on what to get your spouse this Christmas, and want it to be truly special, how about the gift of a better communication, more intimacy, and stronger connection? And if you want something to wrap, try one of these books.
I share more about how the best gifts can’t be wrapped over on Kindred Grace today.
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