Gift Giving Through the Relationship Stages

The winter holidays have become a stressful time for many; due mainly to the pressure people feel to find just the right gifts for co-workers, friends, family, and those they are dating or in a committed relationship with. Concerns are often centered on choosing something the person will not only like, but will actually use, going overboard and spending too much, and/or not doing and spending enough. Gift giving when dating or in a relationship can be especially challenging due to the fear that a gift will say too little or too much and send an unintended or even hurtful message. The following simple guidelines for gift giving according to your relationship stage should be useful to anyone who is wondering what to give to the person they are newly dating, to their boyfriend/girlfriend of 6 or more months, or to their long term partner or spouse.

First Stage--dating 1-6 weeks

The mantra for this stage should be to keep it "simple and inexpensive." A casual meal, home cooked or out; a nice bottle of wine, or perhaps a book in their favorite genre. I recommend you keep the cost to 30.00 or less. If you spend too much, the receiver may feel uncomfortable or even that there is now a quid pro quo that they didn't sign up for. If the gift is very cheap and completely unimaginative, it could say that you the giver are not that interested or invested and perhaps just giving out of a sense of obligation. Therefore the simple, inexpensive, and thoughtful gift is just right for this stage.

Second Stage--dating 3 or more months

This is a challenging stage for gift giving because you feel like you are kind-of, sort-of, boyfriend/girlfriend; but have not made any commitment yet. Therefore, not doing too much or too little still applies--but giving something that reflects thought and effort, is what makes a gift at this stage, a perfect gift.

It can be very practical like an item for the kitchen or other place in their home; tickets to see a favorite group, sports team, or theater production; or perhaps a fun day trip to go skiing, hiking, or any activity they enjoy or have an interest in pursuing.

Third Stage--Newly committed

More intimate and romantic gifts are key to getting it right in the newly committed stage. Jewelry can be perfect as long as it isn't over the top expensive, a favorite (and hopefully) romantic activity you can share, a special dinner where the ambiance says "us," or perhaps a gift certificate for a massage (couples?) or day at the spa would all fit the bill. Again, don't spend too much, don't pick or plan the gift at the last minute, and use what you know about your partner's interests and tastes to guide you.

Fourth Stage--Long-term partners/married

This is the stage where you know your partner well enough that right gift expectations are high. If you go out and spend a lot of money on something your partner has never shown or expressed any interest in--it will feel to him or her that you are just throwing money at this "chore" and not willing to put in the necessary thought and care. This stage is all about gifts given with much thought and effort, so don't leave home to shop without them. It is also the stage where your participation can be an important part of the gift itself.

A romantic weekend away at a B&B, a whole day together getting massages, going out to eat, visiting a favorite museum or art gallery, a night at the theater, opera, ballet, or going to hear their favorite band--or any very special activity that allows you to focus on and stay connected to one another is the perfect gift for a beloved partner. Very expensive jewelry, piece of clothing, accessory, painting or other piece of art are also good ideas for a partner who has let you know that one of these would hit their sweet spot.

Ironically, many people fail miserably when giving gifts to their romantic interests or partners because they overthink it. When they do this, they question their instincts and too often go against them--which is always a mistake. By tuning into your gut, and following these basic guidelines--you too can be a great gift giver to that special someone in your life.

Want to read other articles on this subject?

"Making the decision to cohabitate--or not"
List of more "Relationship Stage Challenges" articles

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Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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