Never in the past eight years that we’ve been together, have we exchanged anniversary cards or gifts. To a lesser extent, we also rarely exchange birthday or holiday gifts as well.
When we were approaching our first anniversary, we discussed how we wanted it to look and what we wanted to do. Since our anniversary was originally near the winter holidays, it competed with family obligations and other commitments. We were both in school, I lived 500 miles away and needed money for travel expenses, and we both had to buy gifts for friends and family. We decided not to buy anniversary or holiday presents for each other. Instead, we decided to find time to spend just us.
We made plans to spend the night at an amazing hotel where each room had a different theme, there was a 50s diner, and an endless movie selection. Having time and space dedicated just to us was special and important as we spent that year living in different states and only saw each other once a month, at most. We were able to reflect on the growth we made as a couple, the adventures we’d had, and what we loved about each other.
That first anniversary sparked a few cherished traditions that we didn’t intend to happen. The first being that each year we take time to travel down relationship memory lane. We laugh and smile as we retell each other the story of our own relationship. Despite how long we’ve been together, there are always things that are new or surprising to hear. It might be a forgotten experience or learning what prompted a certain behavior. Re-experiencing these memories never grows tired or repetitive. It’s our time to revel in the happiness and love that surrounds us every day and to fully appreciate what we have.
The second tradition is to have new adventures or experiences with each other rather than exchange gifts. The adventures we select build on our desire to have fun, try new things, and to challenge ourselves. I’ve taken him winter horseback riding when he’d never been on a horse before. He helped me climb Mount Washington for the first time. We spent 11 hours at 6 Flags riding every roller coaster over and over and road tripped for more than 13 hours to visit Michigan and Niagara Falls.
Each year, I look forward to these traditions. We plan our anniversary together and neither of us has to worry about whether our gifts will be good enough or equal to what the other person has done. Our excitement grows as details fall into place and as our anniversary approaches because we know we’re about to build even more memories together. Memories that we’ll retell in the years and anniversaries to come.