My husband and I are quite unconventional when it comes to gift-giving. We don’t give each other gifts based on occasions. Rather, we buy things when we want them, taking into consideration our finances.
I understand how this might come across as unromantic to others. But we just never found the idea of surprising each other with gifts romantic. We have witnessed the stress and pressure that comes when couples try to outdo what they did the year before, or what their friends have done. I’ve had talks with friends that end up questioning the quality of their relationships, based on a Valentines’ gift that didn’t quite meet expectations.
I get that Valentine’s Day gift-giving provides joy for some people. But if the giving comes from social pressure, I offer you a different perspective, and if like us, the mutual exchange of gifts doesn’t quite capture how you envision romance.
So how does a couple find romance when giving gifts doesn’t cut it? We find romance in the fact that we treat Valentine’s Day as more than just a day, but an idea to incorporate in our daily lives. This means that we make it a point to continuously invest in things or ideas that will allow us to spend more time together, stress-free, relaxing, full of laughter, and fun. In short, we are giving ourselves the gift of quality time by investing in things that allow us to have more it.
Some investments involve big purchases and decisions, and some not so much. The point is that as a couple, you can keep giving yourselves gifts throughout the year that will allow you to spend more time together. Gift-giving becomes less about the pressure to meet a deadline, and more about growing the relationship everyday.
These gifts also defy gender norms. Gadgets that make housework more efficient and enjoyable are not for me and the tech stuff not necessarily for him. These are for US.
Giving Ourselves the Gift of Time
Where We Live: Avoid Long Commutes
We choose to live in places that have a commute time of less than 20 minutes to work, especially if our jobs require us to be in the office. I have always mostly worked from home, so this helped narrow choices. We can get more square footage if we move farther away from the city, but we made a decision early on in our relationship that we would value time more than extra space.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women spend 2 hours and 15 minutes a day on housework and men 1 hour and 25 minutes on average. Studies show that housework is a major source of contention for couples. We want to make sure that we keep a clean house but that housework won’t overwhelm us or become a source of friction.
- Smart vacuum and mop: We have a couple of Roombas. They keep the floors super clean and we schedule when to turn them on.
- Handheld vacuum: we have two dogs and this works out for spot cleaning, upholstery, stairs, and baseboards.
- Marie Kondo organizational techniques: Our closets and drawers are all organized using the Konmari method. It took time to organize initially, but maintaining this type of system saves time.
- Minimalist Decor: we avoid dust collectors or small knickknacks that take time to clean.
- Honesty and truth: We ask if the other person needs help or wants us to do certain chores. We respect each other’s time in terms of when chores need to be started or completed.
Research on Housework and Romance
Couples who share chores report higher levels of sexual frequency.
Men and women perceive and value chores differently. While women associate household chores as caring and loving, men, not so much. Moreover, women find it attractive when men do household chores, which probably explains the point about sex.
- Fast internet connection and extenders: We update our internet gadgets, from routers to extenders every 3 years. We currently have Orbi from Netgear and it’s fast.
- Apple Watch: lets us spend less time on our phones and makes us more active in general.
- Invest in learning new skills: this can mean taking online courses or purchasing apps that make us better at our jobs.
- Dedicated work spaces and offices
Kitchen and Cooking
We have always enjoyed home-cooked meals, but the pandemic has made us cook at home even more. These have cut back prep, cooking, and cleaning time.
- Instant Pot: spend less time watching food cook on the stove.
- Air tight containers: cook extra and store the rest.
- Smart appliances with internet connectivity and self-cleaning: Newer appliances are easier to clean in general and the ability to control them remotely helps.
- Non-stick, non-toxic, easy-to-clean pans: invest in good ones. I recommend Caraway.
- Grocery delivery: Add an item to your list as soon as you realize you need more. It also prevents impulse buying. I use Wholefoods.
- Electric kettle: quickly heat up water and enjoy more tea time.
- Easy to clean coffee maker and one that makes coffee that you both love. We use Nespresso.
Finance is the number one cause of stress for most couples and families. Stressing about money doesn’t bode well when it comes to spending quality time, so here’s how we approach money:
- Honesty: we both know our finances. No secrets.
- Trust: we trust each other with how we spend it. Big purchases and investments are always a team decision.
- Truth: we accept what we can and can’t afford.
- Planning: Clear goals.