"A custom mouse pad and coffee mug with pictures of her all over them. Kinda creepy."
What's apparently the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful (and defining) for a relationship, presenting (in just-the-right-gift-wrapped box) the perfect opportunity to show him how much you care about him; how much you get him (or, alternatively, really don't).
To make sure you don't send the wrong message this season (and miss out on that mistletoe), we asked guys to chime in on some of the gifts that have left a bad taste in their mouths and, for some, turned out to be the beginning of the end.
Read on for their words of caution, along with some bonus tips for getting it right (may we suggest you leave them in plain site so he has a fighting chance, too?)
1. "An ex once gave me flip flops. To make matters worse, they were women's. I think I ended up donating them, and didn't tell her until months later… when we were in the process of breaking up." - Shawn, 33
2. "I once received a custom mouse pad and coffee mug with pictures of her all over them. Kinda creepy." - Steve, 27
3. "Cologne. In my experience, girls never get you the cologne you like. They get you what they like, and you probably won't." - Sean, 30
4. "I'm typically going to like anything a girl gives me, unless she forces a gift that's really impractical and wouldn't be purchased in any month other than December–like a matching Guinness pajama shirt and pants." - Brian, 30
5. "I was tipped off by family and friends that an ex was getting me Winter Classic tickets, so the hype of that present was huge. She ended up getting me a kids-sized sports jersey that had no name on it. Awkward." - Michael, 28
6. "When I was in high school, a girl gave me a personal massager I thought was a dildo. I kept it in the box for a while and, once I revisited and realized it wasn't, gave it to my mom for Mother's Day." - Eric, 27
7. "I once received a studded belt and wallet that cost maybe $20 combined, which may not have been so bad if I hadn't spent all my energy (and almost $300!) picking out the perfect, thoughtful gifts for her." - Jordan, 28
8. "I've gotten some really crappy clothing from exes. Not only bad quality, but proof they didn't get my style (or me as a whole)." - Basheer, 27
Bonus Shopping Tips:
1. Get to the (Price) Point
Especially important in newer relationships, avoid anxiety surrounding what's too much ("Will I come across as too serious?") or not enough ("Will he think I'm cheap?") by establishing a gift limit. If you think it's unromantic to talk a specific amount, set a loose limit or get a sense of what he thinks is appropriate by asking him to reveal a few ideas on what he wants this holiday, or what kind of gifts he has really enjoyed in the past.
2. Listen (Watch) and Learn
If he's hesitant to reveal specific gift ideas (after all, the element of surprise is part of the fun), pay close attention to his own behaviors and comments when shopping or engaging in everyday activities. If he mentions specific brands he likes or has some regular go-tos, you typically can't go wrong getting him something else from the same or a similar collection. Sports or music fan? Look into tickets to an upcoming event. Just be careful not to overthink outlier comments. Just because he mentions he liked penguins as a kid doesn’t mean he wants to see them all over his sheets or next sweater.
3. Splurge, Baby, Splurge
Dealing with the guy who has it all (at least now that you’re in his life)? The holidays are a great time to play into his fantasies. Maybe he's always wanted to try a hobby or new destination, but wouldn't do so on his own. Maybe he regularly complains about his sore back, but won't invest in a massage appointment. Spoil him with something that is a cut above or outside of his comfort zone (and consider including yourself— couples massage?— in the experience).
4. Steer Clear of Fixer-Uppers
Because there's nothing that says "Something is wrong with you" like a self-help book or tool (read: nose-hair clippers), we suggest avoiding the self-improvement aisle unless you receive a specific request. This is the time to celebrate who he is, not who he isn't.