Gift Giving - To Strengthen Your Relationship

Gift Giving - to strengthen your relationship


It’s gift giving time. Are you feeling clueless or stressed over what to give your lover? Don’t want to become one of those crazed last minute shoppers?

Or worse yet might be the fear of hearing a polite, less than enthusiastic ‘thank you.’ Have your previous gifts taken up residence in the back of a drawer or the corner of a closet, never to be worn or used?

I’m going to make it easy for you.

But first, let me share some basics of gift giving:

1) Buy your partner something that they want; not something that you want them to have. (Can’t tell you how many times my male clients have shared ‘I bought her sexy lingerie and it’s stuffed in the back of her drawer. Why doesn’t she wear it?’ Answer: ‘Because she wanted a bathrobe.’)

2) Once you’ve given the gift, you no longer have any rights to it. That means you need to stifle any comments such as: ‘When are you going to wear that sexy teddy/Broncos sweatshirt?’ ‘I never see you using that waffle maker/new car vacuum.’ ‘I thought you wanted that book on firm abs that I bought?’

That gift now belongs to your partner and what they do or don’t do with it is up to them.

3) Not to up the stress level, but there’s another aspect of gift giving that should be mentioned –‘Bad gifts’– for lack of a better term. Gifts can strengthen a relationship (more later), but they can also threaten a relationship.

When a gift is judged as ‘bad’ (not what was wanted, not appropriate for the situation, in poor taste…), women tend to interpret that as a signal that the relationship is not strong. ‘I thought he knew me better.’ ‘He knows I hate orange.’ ‘Why did he get me the same thing he bought his mother?’ In other words, a ‘kindred spirit’ does not give a bad gift.

How men and women deal with the bad gift issue brings up a gender difference: Women are more often motivated to strengthen the relationship. In contrast, when men don’t like their partner’s choice of a gift, by extension, they like their partner less.

Relationship longevity

This may seem like common sense, though don’t we know that when love or lust are running the show, sometimes common sense is nowhere to be found? You might be head over heals in love with your new partner, but if you’ve been dating for just a few weeks, expensive jewelry or the iPhone 4 is not an appropriate gift. A gift that is overly expensive will create discomfort, even though it may not be a strain on your budget.

Early dating gift suggestions are: wine, flowers, his favorite gourmet jam, Godiva for her, a book, CD or DVD. Keep it simple.

Similarly, the type of relationship path that you and your partner have chosen is to be considered. Are you exclusive? Polyamorous? Friends with benefits? In a non-monogamous relationship, refrain from gifts that shout ‘You’re my one and only.’ Or ‘Til death do us part.’

Consider ‘The Five Love Languages’

In ‘The Five Love Languages’ Gary Chapman shares about the various ways in which we feel loved. When it comes to giving and showing love, be aware of what matters to your partner. It may be different from how you are programmed to show love, or how you feel loved by another.

The Love Languages are:

1) Words of Affirmation – You may want to write a love poem for your partner, or present her/him with a book of poetry in which you have bookmarked a favorite. Or simply write words of affirmation as decoration on the wrapping paper of her/his gift.

2) Quality Time – Give the gift of a shared experience (more below). Or suggest that you both block out one entire day each month to focus on each other. Shut out the world and have some fun.

3) Receiving Gifts – There’s lots of suggestions as you read on.

4) Acts of Service –Would your lover like a home-cooked meal of their choosing, a housekeeper for a day? Think ‘pampering’ and acts that only you could provide.

5) Physical Touch – Give a gift certificate for a professional massage, rolfing session, cranial sacral work, or maybe Thai massage. Or offer a sensual or sexual massage with candles, incense, music

Be practical…or not…

Is your partner currently very practical or budget-minded? If so, presenting a gift that s/he would routinely purchase for themself might be a good idea. Possibly a gift basket or *stocking brimming with toiletries, office supplies, car wash items… You get the picture.

Tread carefully with this one.

*I’m thinking: the red kind of stocking that hangs by the fire. But men, if stuffing a sexy black silk stocking is your vision – go for it!

Create tradition

Creating tradition at holiday time can be fun, bonding, and will add some anticipation.

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Examples: Give your partner a new autographed baseball each year for his collection. Put a mini bottle of her favorite liqueur in her stocking each year. Or present a quart (gallon?) of luxurious, scented massage oil with the ‘house rule’ that it must get used up before next holiday time.

Can you take a hint?

Listen, listen, listen! Has your partner been raving about a new CD, or circular saw, or spa treatment? They are trying to tell you something. Remember, it doesn’t matter if that is the item that you want to give, give them what they want.

Men, even if she tears an ad out of the Sunday paper and tapes it to your computer, go with it but give her another gift also. Keeping your budget in mind, this gift may be a token one. They key is: let this gift show her that you pay attention to her – to her desires and needs. ‘I’ve noticed that since we’ve cut the budget, you don’t get your manicures anymore, so I got you a gift certificate.’

Women, as enticing as it is, he really doesn’t want that perfect-shade-of-blue wool sweater. You’re probably right – he would look sensational in it. But he doesn’t care. If he hints about a new circular saw, ask him ‘what kind?’

Make a list and check it twice

Beware of impulse buying and good deals. It doesn’t matter if that new 42 inch plasma TV is 30% off, if she’s been hinting about a new necklace or he wants a camping tent.

A gift is as good as its wrapping…and presentation

Actually, it can be. Consider the anticipation, excitement, and presentation aspects of gift giving. If you’ve bought that elegant necklace and wrap it in recycled and wrinkled paper, bowless to-boot, the anticipation may be diminished.

Think about adding your own personal touch with the wrapping. If you are artistic, how about wrapping in plain paper adorned with caricatures of your lover, or using a rubber stamp or stickers that have significance in your relationship? How about writing words or phrases on the wrapping indicating how much you adore her/him? Tie a trinket in with the bow, or remove the instructions from the box and use them as the wrapper.

Feeling lighthearted or comical? That colorful page of comics can also make great wrapping paper. Want to give your man an ego boost? How about tying your package with measuring tape and the message ‘I love EVERY INCH of you!’ Be prepared – his ‘package’ might respond.

Get creative with your presentation also. This creates anticipation and is also an indication to your partner that both the gift giving and your relationship are important. You can hide your gift or insist that it be opened with eyes closed. Play the ‘feel it and guess’ game, or make them wait the entire evening until opening time.

Gift giving can strengthen your relationship

Like most of us, you probably already have a lot of ‘stuff.’ So if you are one who can’t even think of more ‘stuff’ that you want, or want to give, think about giving a shared experience.

As a Sex and Relationship Coach, I often suggest to clients that they add some spice to their lives – a boring (or simply routine) life usually means a boring sex life. Shared experiences are bonding, and shared new, exciting experiences will have a trickle down effect on your sex life.

There’s another aspect of shared experiences that will help strengthen your relationship – invite your partner to share an experience that they’ve been wanting. He loves Broncos games but you’d rather see a movie. She’s always wanted to see live ballet but you’d rather… Doesn’t matter – again, give the gift that they want. Not only will the gift be appreciated, there’ll be an extra dose of appreciation for your selflessness.

Shared experience suggestions: dinner at a new (ethnic?) restaurant, tickets to improv or a comedy club, a concert, dinner/mystery theatre, a weekend at a B & B, adventure trip, museum tour.

Consider a gift that ‘keeps on giving’ like season tickets, or flowers of the month. How about designing a ‘Dinner of the Month’ coupon inviting your partner to pick a NEW restaurant for you both to try out each month?

Please don’t…

■give your partner a gift that suggests they should change. Unless they’ve been hinting, forego gym memberships, exercise videos, hair restoration gel, etc.
■give only gifts that represent your partner’s other roles – like kitchen equipment (cook role) or new vacuum (housekeeper role). Give something, even if it is only a token gift, that says ‘You are my lover!’

Ready, set – but don’t have a clue where to start?

■Women, take a long, slow walk around Home Depot, REI, or Borders. Ask the clerks to show you what’s hot this year.
■Men, if she has a hobby, check out related items online.
■Ask your partner’s friends to give you suggestions.
■Is your partner eco-friendly? You can find lots of ideas online.
■Plan a day of pampering for you both – however that looks.
■Open communication around gift giving: ‘What’s your tradition around holiday gifts?’ ‘Want to come sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what you want for Christmas?’ (Remember, I’m a Sex Coach.) Keep the communication light and fun.

Want to give a gift that will enhance your relationship and your sexuality?

■Give a gift certificate for a coaching session with a Sex and Relationship Coach.
■Scope out some quality, instructional videos.

Above all, enjoy the holiday time with your partner. If you feel that you’ve run amuck with the gift giving, share your concerns and remind your partner how much you care. Clear communication from the heart can fix most everything. Happy holidays!

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