For She and I, Christmas is a joyous time of year. Beyond the true reason we celebrate, we both enjoy the opportunity to give to one another. However, I learned a few years back that it is possible to give too much.
The lone Christmas during our engagement was an exercise in frugality. She was living on her own for the first time while simultaneously working to pay off some outstanding Credit Card debt. I was still recovering from the recent purchase of her engagement ring, as well as replacing a stolen vehicle. As such, neither of us expected much from the other in terms of items under the tree. I even made it a point to clarify that I didn't want much, and instructed her not to spend much on gifts.
However, when I went shopping for her, my desire to give her the world took over. I've always had a tendency to purchase beyond my means around the holidays because I enjoy the search for the perfect gift and delight in watching loved-ones reactions as they receive the items I have selected specifically for them. Thus, it was flawed to expect that I would be able to restrain myself when purchasing for my soon-to-be bride.
When Christmas morning arrived, it brought with it an unanticipated series of events. While I cannot recall the items we exchanged, I clearly remember the tears that came to her eyes as she opened the extravagant gifts I had purchased for her. The tears were not the result of disappointment with the gifts, but rather that I had spent considerably more on her gifts than I had allowed her to spend on me. Feeding my joy in giving while limiting hers was not fair, nor respectful.
That cold morning, I learned a tough lesson: You can give too much.
This past Christmas, we set firm guidelines on our giving that both of us committed to. While meager, the gifts we exchanged were just as special (and more memorable), and the outcome was much more desirable. We are doing the same this year to help insure that neither feels selfish for receiving in excess.
I encourage all young couples to discuss your gift-giving (and receiving) expectations prior to your holiday shopping. Not only does it help set realistic expectations, it ensures that both parties are free to exercise their holiday generosity without making the other the victim.