Forget the memes about it being a superficial choice — gifts are my love language. And I take them seriously in my relationship with my partner. Whether I buy or make a last-minute DIY gift, it’s how I put my heart out on display and say, “This is how much I love you.”
Leading up to our first Valentine’s Day, I was overwhelmed by how important and special the day was. I hadn’t celebrated with a romantic partner in seven years, and I wanted to find something that would wow my partner and show him how deeply I valued our relationship. Where would I even start to look for a gift like that?
When I brought my fears to my partner, we quickly realized we’d both been feeling the same way. And then we came up with a simple, brilliant solution to our problem: the theme. Sort of like how each wedding anniversary has a gift category, this would be a single word we’d come up with together to guide what we would buy or make for each other. It could be just about anything: an inside joke, a common interest, a name, a movie, or a book genre.
That year, we chose to go with the theme “LEGO,” honoring our shared love of the childhood toy along with the more symbolic desire to keep building on the foundation of our relationship together. With a meaningful starting point in mind, I set out to find a gift he’d love without all the guesswork or pressure of aimless shopping.
On Valentine’s Day, I happily handed him a pair of framed LEGO figurines that had been customized to look like us, along with a keychain made of two LEGO pieces that fit together in the shape of a heart. He gave me the popular LEGO flower bouquet I had been eyeing for months, which was really a two-part gift, as we got to spend quality time (his top love language) building it together later that day.
As time and holidays have passed, each theme has brought us closer together, allowed us to get to know each other better, helped us reflect on how many interests we share, and made giving gifts exciting instead of stressful. It’s also made us more creative. When we celebrated our one-year anniversary last year — for which the theme was “frog” because of our shared obsession with the amphibian — I crocheted us matching frog hats and he gave me an adorable new frog plushie for my collection. We’ve also given each other intangible experiences like hikes and park picnics or, since our Valentine’s Day theme is “Italian” this year, an intimate spaghetti-making dinner date.
The theme method has perks both practical and sentimental. Because we pick a word we both love, there’s a lower likelihood of buying each other things we won’t end up liking or using, which cuts out a lot of the useless spending that so often plagues bank accounts around the holidays. And honestly, one of my favorite parts of the one-word trick is spending time together brainstorming the theme — which in turn gives our gifting a sense of direction and helps us find things we would never think to give otherwise.
No matter what we’re celebrating, whether a holiday or milestone or a regular Tuesday, the theme trick makes the moment of opening a gift from my partner that much more fun and meaningful.