The Art of Gift Giving: The Platinum Rule

Remember hearing the Golden Rule when you were a child?  It simply means treat others as you would like to be treated.  It is a great standard.  Well, it’s since been upgraded to the Platinum Rule.  The Platinum Rule means treat others as they would like to be treated.  Wow, what a difference!  The best way we can treat another is the way they would like!  This tenent fits so beautifully with Imago Relationship Therapy.  Imago teaches that each person has his or her unique way of seeing the world.  One person cannot claim to know what is true for another person until the other person communicates it to us.

What does this have to do with gift giving?  A few weeks ago, someone dear to me read aloud an article listing gift ideas for your Valentine.  What struck me was: how could we choose a gift for someone from a list written by someone else?  Reminds me of the Golden Rule: buying gifts that, to us, sound like a great idea.  (Or, many people give gifts they’d secretly, or not so secretly, would like to receive themselves.)  The Platinum Rule is lightyears ahead of this and can be applied to gift giving as well.  Both the Platinum Rule and Imago encourage us to find out what the person likes first, before we buy for them.  This also dispels a myth about marriage: if my partner loves me, he/she will know what I like without me having to say it.  A myth that has been at the start of many arguments within relationships.  I’ve been there.

One way to learn what your partner likes is the Reromanticizing exercise found in Harville Hendrix’s book Getting The Love You Want.  To do this exercise: on separate sheets of paper, each of you write a list of gifts or behaviors you would like receiving.  Perhaps they were ones you partner gave you or did for you in the past.  Or they may be ones he/she hasn’t purchased or done for you yet.  Make each item as specific as possible.  Now, exchange lists and use it whenever you need to buy a gift or do something special for your partner.  Note: it’s OK if there are items on your partner’s list that you are unwilling to purchase or do at this time.  You can focus on the other items and talk in couples therapy about why that item is particularly challenging for you.  (These difficult items may be hints as to the lost parts of yourself that your partner is encouraging you to grow.)

If you like to surprise your partner with his or her gift, how do you learn what is it they’d truly like to receive?  Be a detective throughout the year.  Listen closely for your partner to say what they like when you’re out at a store, reading the paper, and out with friends.  Your partner may already be saying aloud the things they like.  Even if it’s months away, you may decide to buy it the now and save it for the holiday.

The art of gift giving is so much more rewarding when we cherish the ways our partner is different from us and bestow upon them a gift they truly want to receive.

To schedule an appointment to learn more about how feeling gratitude for your partner can greatly improve your relationship, call 908-246-3074 or email

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