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December 5, 2007 > The Best Gift for Your Partner This Holiday Season

The Best Gift for Your Partner This Holiday Season

By Peter Pearson, Ph.D. and Anne Chan, M.S., M.F.T.

'Tis the season for heartwarming stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary deeds - the busy soccer mom who makes time to sew blankets for homeless children, the elderly man who serves meals in the soup kitchen every single day instead of relaxing in front of his TV, or the teen who helps rebuild houses for Katrina families rather than hanging out with friends.

These people aren't saints, nor do they claim to be saints. They are ordinary people doing deeds that they say are no big deal. Yet, these are acts of extraordinary importance. These small acts of goodness, kindness, and compassion can be enormous in their impact on the lives of others.

Even the Dalai Lama describes kindness as the centerpiece of his religion: "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."

Think about the last time someone was unexpectedly kind to you - how did their goodwill affect you and others around you?

Small acts of kindness can mean a great deal in a marriage. As couples' therapists, we are often witnesses to how small, seemingly ordinary, gestures can do so much to create peace, love, and reconciliation in a marriage. A hug, a squeeze of the hand, listening with patience - any one of these small gestures, done at the right time, can make a gigantic impact in a relationship.

People sometimes think they need to make grand gestures to show their love. Of course, dramatic declarations are memorable, but the little quiet gestures of love are just as important for sustaining love and affection in a relationship. These small acts of thoughtfulness, compassion, and kindness can set the stage and cement the foundation for an extraordinary relationship.

Sadly, many people fail to enact these small acts of kindness in their marriages. Some have the best of intentions, but are overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life. Others simply underestimate the power of bestowing small gifts of grace and kindness on their partners.

The first step in a positive direction would be to shift your thinking around the ways in which you act toward your partner. As Alice Walker recommends, "We have to regain our belief in the power of what is small."

We encourage you to think of the small ways in which you can contribute to your marriage. Perhaps you could give your spouse a much needed extra 30 minutes of sleep during the weekend. Maybe you could give him or her a hug for no particular reason at all. Or a small backrub when they least expect it, or a compliment spoken from the heart. Or a quick phone call or text-message just to ask "How are you?" Or by just listening without interrupting when they need to talk. These are just a few examples of small acts that can go a long way toward nourishing your relationship. A seemingly little gift could be the best gift you could give your partner this holiday.

Sometimes we need to dream big. Sometimes it's good to think big. But let's not forget about the importance of thinking small and doing the small, loving gestures that can make a big impact on your spouse and your marriage. Remember, every little bit helps.

Let's celebrate small gifts and small acts of kindnesses this holiday season. There are hundreds of opportunities and ways to spark a moment of grace, thus improving your relationships. What are some ways you can extend yourself in small, loving ways to your partners and your children?

We wish you and your loved ones a peaceful holiday filled with kindness and love, in big ways as well as small.

Dr. Peter Pearson and his wife, Dr. Ellyn Bader, are Founders and Directors of The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA. They have been helping couples resolve issues and create strong, loving relationships since 1984. For free audio clips designed to help you improve your relationship, visit Anne Chan is a licensed psychotherapist and career counselor in Union City. She can be reached at or (510) 744-1781.

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