Whether you’ve been married six months or sixty years, coming up with a Christmas present for your spouse can present a challenge. Perhaps they’ve left subtle or not-so-subtle hints; sometimes that helps. Perhaps you’ve told each other you don’t want presents this year. But what if I told you the gift your spouse really wants doesn’t cost a penny, but is truly priceless?

No irons or toaster ovens. No sox or ties. Lingerie, perfume, jewelry – well, for many women that’s a step up. And what guy wouldn’t enjoy a cordless drill? But stereotypes aside, gift giving is not primarily about the gift. And it’s not even “the thought that counts.” Gift giving says something about you, and what you think about the relationship between you and that person.

Seeing your spouse unwrap a present you prepared for them can be a wonderful Christmas moment. But the most important gift you can give, the one your spouse wants most but will almost certainly not ask for, won’t fit in a brown paper package tied up with string.

And here it is:

Give the Gift of Your Presence

By your presence I don’t mean sitting in the same room, though it may start there. Your body might show up but mentally/emotionally/spiritually you could be on the other side of the world. Instead, this gift is the bringing of your whole self to be with your spouse in this moment. You’re offering your undivided attention, letting down the walls around your heart, and being fully present.

This gift may also be the most expensive you will ever give, though it doesn’t cost a penny. And it’s the most valuable of anything you might offer. This gift is so priceless is because it’s so challenging to give and so rare. And sadly there are too many people who have never received this gift from anyone, even their spouse.

Has your spouse received the gift of your full presence?

When God looked at his hurting human children and imagined the most important, necessary, and transformative gift He could give, He gave them Himself. Being with them. “They shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us) (Matthew 1:23).” That’s the gift He gave on the first Christmas.

And it’s the gift your spouse truly needs.

Struggle with Intimacy

Oh, there’s a hard word to put into practice. And let me clarify that I’m not talking about sex or about talking together, though those are both usually good things. They may be aspects of intimacy. I’m talking about seeing and being seen. Knowing and being known. You can have sex together or talk together without ever being seen or known.

We’ve been hiding from each other ever since the garden of Eden. It’s scary to come out of hiding, even to the person closest to you. They might see things about you that you’d rather they not see. You might see things about them that challenge your emotional response to them.

Letting down the walls between you and allowing each other to truly see what’s under the surface is the key to intimacy. And it can also expose a lot of shame.

For some, this kind of intimacy seems unimportant. There are too many things to do. Time spent seeing and being seen, knowing and being known, is time you aren’t able to spend being productive.

For others, because of all the hurt and frustration you imagine this kind of intimacy as only bringing more pain or disappointment. Wouldn’t that just make things worse?

The struggle to see and be seen, know and be known, is real. And it can be costly. That’s why it’s such a priceless gift to offer your spouse, and so necessary.

Giving the Gift of Intimate Presence

What this looks like in each marriage will vary somewhat, but let me offer a few specific ideas on how you can offer this gift of intimate presence.

Watch for opportunities. There will be moments during this holiday season when you notice a crack in your own shell or your spouse’s shell. Your default mode may be to ignore those moments and just press on. This year, intentionally watch for such a moment and pause when it occurs. Notice. Go there. Position yourself as a safe place. Invite. Oh, there you are! I’m here too. Let’s be here together.

Be vulnerable. Make the difficult choice to let the wall down around your own heart. Vulnerability on your part may well invite vulnerability from your spouse as well. Share something of your interior world. Ask your spouse what’s going on for them. Listen. If you’re a guy who hates to talk, this will require you doing the hard work of staying emotionally present. If you’re a women who regularly complains and pushes for more, it will require you welcoming seemingly small moments and shutting up and listening. (Important: this assumes you are both people of good will. If abuse or toxicity is going on, please get some help.)

Make the gift explicit. You might think of a creative way to express your gift of intimate presence. You might wrap up a talking stick under the tree, and include a note that you are committed to a weekly rhythm of communication in your marriage. Or you might write out some coupons such as “Redeemable for two hours of uninterrupted togetherness,” or “Redeemable for an hour of physical pleasure together.” If you need some help as a couple, it might even look like an appointment with a marriage counselor.

The gift of your intimate presence is always in style, and it never gets old. It also requires you to continue giving this most valuable gift of all to your spouse, this Christmas and throughout the year.

Your Turn: What gift are you going to give your spouse this year? How will you offer the gift your spouse wants most, that of your true presence? Leave a comment below.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • The gift your spouse wants most won’t cost you a penny, but it’s priceless. They won’t ask for it, and it may be the hardest gift you ever give. It’s the gift of YOU, of your intimate presence. Tweet that.

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