Types of Gifts

Lovers give and receive all kinds of things as a relationship progresses. Some gifts are seemingly inconsequential, but they serve as expressions of interest.

Early on in a relationship, the gift should be inexpensive but thoughtful. In the previous chapter we discussed the importance of listening in terms of choosing the ideal dating venue. The same advice goes for gift-giving when you're just getting to know someone.

Lots of times the gift is as simple as providing your phone number! When you don't want to be that forward, use your imagination. Gift-giving can be a great form of flirtation at this point. The idea is to let the item serve as notice that you would be inclined to accept a dating invitation.

Gifts That Say, “I'm Interested, How About You?”

  • Candy (Hershey's Kisses, lollipops, etc.)

  • A card

  • A cup of coffee or a soda at an opportune moment

  • A flower

  • An inexpensive book on a subject you know interests him or her (even if it's just a loan)

  • Recordings of songs or copies of the lyrics

  • A small souvenir you bring back from vacation

Traditional Gifts

Lovers of all ages tend to give traditional romantic gifts at special times and on less notable occasions. Romantic experts of all kinds recommend them. The most typical list would probably include:

  • Candy

  • Flowers

  • Jewelry

  • Perfume/cologne

There may be an upside and a downside to giving traditional gifts. The upside is that each one says you've made the effort to buy an item that signals your interest and involvement. In other words, it's hard to go wrong with flowers. This is especially true when a relationship is just beginning. The gift is in an “acceptable” category, in which the intent is to make a good impression without going overboard.

On the other hand, sometimes giving these more routine items can seem to be a cop-out. That is, they are so standard that it can appear as if the giver didn't give it any thought at all. To avoid this interpretation, it's wise to make sure you personalize each gift in some way. A box of candy should include a note that says something more original than “Sweets for the sweet.” If you're not all that creative, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

“Nothing in this box is as sweet as one kiss from you.”

“Life with you is like a box of chocolates: one treat after another.”

“To the woman who helped me redefine ‘delicious’!”

“These treats do not compare with the treat of being with you.”

The same holds true for perfume and cologne. Just the bare bottle doesn't send the entire message. Fill in the blank somehow with meaningful words. Also, make sure the scent is one the recipient prefers.

Get the idea? Just remember to only say these things if you are sincere!

When it comes to jewelry, take care to find out what your romantic interest likes. Ask his or her friends what will make a big impression. Or listen carefully as you walk through a store. Sooner or later, your partner will tip his or her hand and let you know what would be best. At that point, you can pounce on the opportunity.

Somewhere-in-Between Gifts

These gifts are highly personal expressions of interests that don't suggest an engagement is pending. They are delightful to give and receive.

Gifts from Men

  • Your favorite shirt to wear instead of PJs

  • Simple jewelry such as a pin or a single pearl

  • His pajama top or gym shorts

  • A wallet photo

Gifts from Women

  • A coffee cup that has some special meaning for him

  • A framed picture of you

  • A throw or blanket with his favorite team's insignia on it

  • Tickets to a game he's dying to see

These little gifts shouldn't stop after marriage. From time to time, both partners should make the effort to give something that will have a special meaning, just to be nice. If the one you love enjoys the ocean, and the two of you have picked up lots of seashells along the way, make them into a display of some sort. It's impossible to be overly thoughtful, isn't it?

“Sweet” Gifts

During your time together, many opportunities to give what we call “sweet” gifts will present themselves. These items may not cost much, but they still pack a big romantic punch. What do “sweet” gifts mean? There are two ways to look at it. One is that you're “in the moment,” and the opening was available to do something nice. That by itself makes a gift both romantic and good for the relationship. The other meaning is that these small tokens become great keepsakes. Many of us have them hidden away somewhere, especially if they were given by someone other than the person we're now with. They serve as reminders of a different time in life. And, of course, when you are settled in with that special person, these little gifts are warm reminders of the good times that took place early in the relationship. Later, you can pull out all of the movie, airplane, and theater ticket stubs; matchbooks; cards; menus from restaurants; seashells; wine bottles; and other small items and go through all of them together.

No-Cost and Low-Cost Gifts

  • Anything you make by hand

  • Back rub

  • Compliments and kind words

  • Cooking a meal (and cleaning up afterward)

  • Doing any household chore unexpectedly or to free up time so you can be together

  • Hair washing and drying

  • A personal IOU for one really tough favor

  • Photographs and videos of special events you shared together

  • Picking up some little “goodie” at the store you know your partner loves

  • A poem that you write about your love (it doesn't have to be serious—a lighthearted limerick works well too)

  • Rub anywhere (feet, hands, neck, etc.)

  • Taking his or her stuff to the dry cleaners

  • Taping a show for him or her to watch later, uninterrupted

“Couple” Gifts

Bonding experiences of various kinds appear throughout a dating relationship, including those times when you find little “couple” gifts to share.

A simple, fun gift is a pass to a wine-tasting party or food fest that the two of you can enjoy together.

Couple gifts go beyond exchanging more impersonal items, which means that they take on substantially greater significance. When we knew we were getting serious, we came across a coupon for a relatively inexpensive portrait. One Saturday morning, we got all dressed up and had a portrait taken. This came at a time before our engagement. Over the years, that photo has become one of our more treasured keepsakes.

Portraits, photos, and drawings of you as a couple are bound to create the impression that you're close. In fact, anything that has both of your names on it, such as a T-shirt or sweatshirt, is a gift with special meaning. These kinds of gifts indicate you've taken another step as a couple. Each represents some unique point in time during your life together, giving it greater meaning that is easily attached to romantic memories.

Holiday/Birthday Gifts

Holiday gift-giving can be tough, especially at Christmas and on Valentine's Day. It's clear a gift is in order, but finding what's appropriate can be a challenge. During the dating years, you want to find the present that says, “You are special to me” without going overboard. Newlyweds want to give nice things without busting the budget. By the time a couple reaches their golden years, they have pretty much everything they need. Any time a gift is “expected,” the challenge is in finding the right one.

It's a good idea to divide holiday gifts into two categories: regular items and grand gestures. Regular items are things you give more than once; grand gestures are more unexpected.

Regular gifts for holidays, Valentine's Day, and birthdays should be simplified as much as possible. This means communication is critical. The straightforward way is simply to ask what he or she wants. Now some of you may say this takes all the fun out of it. The alternative, of course, is to pay attention. When he says he's running out of golf balls, take notice. Write it down for the next event. When she picks up an item of clothing and says, “I love this,” double back. Buy it and save it for a special day. Making a surprise out of a routine present requires a little extra effort, but that's in the nature of the romance game anyway.

For routine gifts, think in the more traditional categories. Lots of men like things such as:

  • Cologne

  • Sports equipment or videos of sports events

  • Liquor or items for a bar

  • Tools and work gloves

  • Items for the office

Ladies tend to like certain routine items as well. Most fellows can feel safe when they buy:

  • Bath oils, soaps, and perfumes

  • Candles

  • Decorations for the home

  • Gift certificates from clothing stores

  • Inexpensive jewelry

  • Lingerie

Your lady friend may or may not want all of these things. Still, it's easy enough to figure out which ones might suit her needs during any given holiday season. It's also easy to slip into the bathroom to see what she buys for herself, or to ask her friends or her mother for some help.

If you're still stuck for ideas, try bookstores, toy stores, secondhand shops, office supply stores, dress boutiques, music stores, and hotel gift shops. Something may jump out at you for the oddest reason.

This points out another way to give regular gifts. Lots of folks have hobbies that involve collecting items. This makes shopping easier, since adding to his or her collection shows your support of the hobby with a personalized gift.

Do you want to give a nice gift, but hate going into stores and malls? Use the Internet or go through gift catalogs. Many of your partner's favorite things are sold online or by mail.

The other side of holiday gift-giving is the grand gesture variety. These gifts dramatically widen your number of choices. Everything from a dream vacation to an automobile or an expensive piece of jewelry may fit into this category. Of course, the key to a grand gesture is planning. First, how are you going to pay for it? If you're thrifty, you can set up a regular savings plan to set money aside to fund a major extravagance. Each time some cash is put in the “kitty,” you can enjoy the idea of building up to a great moment. You do have to be able to convince yourself and your partner that this present is affordable and is not taking the place of something more important.

Second, make sure the gift is something your partner truly wants. There's nothing worse than going to a huge amount of effort only to find out it's not that valuable a commodity as far as your partner is concerned. Careful research is in order.

Third, question your motives. The only correct one is love. If you're working on a guilt trip (yours because of something that happened in the past or trying to create one in your partner), a grand gesture is a bad idea. Also, those who are trying to establish a big-time IOU, or who keep score in some way, shouldn't bother. It's worth remembering that no matter how grand the gesture, life will eventually return to normal. If you even vaguely suspect that some day you'll feel taken for granted when he or she stops saying thank you, a grand gesture-type of gift probably won't work the way you intend.

Ladies, find out if your partner is interested in one of those sports fantasy camps, where men play sports games against legends from their favorite teams. He may not ask to go, but he might be thrilled if you arrange one for him. Guys, look into renting time at one of those luxurious health spas where women go to focus on their health while being pampered. She'll love it.

Fourth, if it's a time-based gift, like a vacation, make sure in advance that your lover isn't booked with something else. There's nothing worse than arranging a weekend in Vegas only to find out he or she can't go. Call your partner's office and check things out with the boss and secretary. Then, ask friends and family members to make sure there are no conflicts.

Anniversary Gifts

Choosing an appropriate present for an anniversary may be even more challenging than finding the right holiday or birthday gift. Men know practical gifts like kitchen or household appliances may not be appreciated as much as more romantic gifts. Diamonds are always a safe bet, but they're expensive. What in the world can a woman get for a man as an anniversary gift? Tools and appliances make most guys happy but they're not very romantic.

Remember two things when selecting anniversary gifts: simplicity and sincerity. To keep it simple, help your partner out with a few well-placed hints. Remember the clichés about the heart being in the right place or that it's the thought that counts. Give your partner an A for intention and effort, no matter what the gift. Also, it's possible to choose a gift together that both of you can enjoy, such as a new piece of furniture, a trip, or something else. To make it even simpler, book a night out for dinner and a hotel room. Just don't forget the “Do Not Disturb” sign.

As you can see, there are lots of different kinds of romantic gifts, intentions for giving them, and times to present them. And some people just seem to have a knack for selecting the perfect gift for every occasion. Those of you who are challenged in this regard can get better simply by putting a little extra thought and effort into the process.

Whenever a gift is given, there are at least two people involved. It's just as important to know how to receive a present as it is to give one. In this next section, we'll take a quick look at how to give and receive these tokens of affection romantically.

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