Giving someone a gift should not be a difficult process. You ask them what they want, they give you some options, you pick the one in your price range, and they pretend to be surprised when they receive it. However, when it comes to relationships, there are suddenly way more rules and guidelines to follow. I know this because my girlfriend’s birthday is this month, and I’ve gone full Beautiful Mind in an attempt to get her the right gift (think a cork board with twine connecting 30 pictures of nearly identical boots).
Cash is no longer an acceptable gift, despite being the one thing that everyone actually wants and will use. Asking your significant other for exactly what you want is apparently an issue because now “the surprise is ruined.” Most importantly, you have to make sure the seriousness of the gift is not greater nor less than the seriousness of the relationship. As someone who has received many forced smiles in return for gifts, I’m sure that I am the right person to give advice on giving gifts at different stages in your relationship.
Under Two Months
Are you guys officially dating? Are you exclusive? Have you deactivated your Bumble accounts? There are enough questions hanging over your heads without adding gifts into the mix. If the holiday in question is Valentine’s Day, and you think you may want a relationship with this person at some point, a dinner date is the only present you need. Anything more will come across as super serious, even if it’s a Walgreens stuffed animal that plays “Wild Thing” when you hug it (speaking from experience). If it’s her birthday, flowers will do. Christmas presents shouldn’t even be discussed. Last December, a girl who I had gone on one date with not-so-subtly asked me to get her Ray-Ban sunglasses for Christmas, and I deleted her number immediately.
All gifts in this relationship range should be an experience that you two can share. You’re in the honeymoon stage, and you should take full advantage of that. Pick up two tickets to a band she’s always wanted to see. Take a road trip to her favorite winery and get way too wine drunk together. Do what I’m doing and book a bed and breakfast out in the woods for a romantic weekend. Great memories last longer than physical gifts, and three years later, when “date night” is now just the two of you ordering pizza and eating it in your stained sweatpants, you’ll be able to look back and see how much fun you used to be.
Jewelry. Always go jewelry. I’ve learned the hard way that women’s fashion is confusing and nonsensical, and you will undoubtedly get it wrong. While you think you may be getting her the jacket she had on her Nordstrom wish list page she “accidentally” left open on your laptop, you actually got her the jacket that her coworker Becca wears that “looks so cheap, like she’s trying to copy my style but only shops at Walmart.” You don’t want to listen to another story about Becca, do you? Extend your credit limit, hand a saleswoman your card, and let her pick something out.
Under Three Years
At this point, you should have this gift-giving thing down. You two have abandoned all pretense of surprises and just actively text each other a wish list. The real test now is how all-out you’re going to go for her birthday party. After this long together, you better start an email chain with all her friends no less than four months before and get cracking on locations and themes. Don’t think you can get away with just one party either. There’s going to be the dinner that you take her to on her actual birthday, the Friday night dinner to celebrate with all her friends, and of course the Saturday event/party. It could be party bus or a trolley, a wine tasting, or a thirty-person brunch at some place that’s “too classy” for bottomless mimosas. Either way it’s going to take about as much planning and preparation as the Apollo 11 mission. Buckle up.
If your gift doesn’t come in a small black box, given on a bended knee, and cost as much as down payment on a Lexus (with all the options), it’s not the gift she wants. It doesn’t matter if you both agreed you weren’t going to get married until later on in life, it doesn’t matter if both of you still have lingering student debt, and it doesn’t matter if you’re both still barely old enough to drink. After the three-year mark, in the back of her mind, she’s hoping for that ring with every present. She’ll start to conceal her disappointment at first, and will get increasingly more and more irate until you get yelled at for “teasing her” when you bend over to tie your shoe while the sun sets romantically behind you. No matter what present you get, it will not hold a candle to the present of legally binding commitment, and if you go on a date to the restaurant where you had your first date without a ring, you better have an escape plan.
Congratulations on getting married! I’m sure you made that commitment 100% on your own and with no outside influence/coercion. For nearly everyone in this relationship stage, this is your last chance to have fun before you have kids and ruin your life! You can backpack through Europe together. You could take a romantic cruise throughout the Caribbean. Hell, you can go to a restaurant that doesn’t have plastic menus or get on a plane without everyone hating you. Do it big, since you won’t have these experiences for another 18+ years. Or maybe just sleep in and have crazy birthday sex without anyone barging into your room because they had a nightmare. Enjoy parenthood! .