Avoid gift-giving anxiety

(Fotolia.com)

(Fotolia.com)

Joanne Richard, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:28 PM ET

‘Tis the season to be ho-ho-horribly wracked by gift-giving anxiety, especially if you’re just freshly dating.

Spending struggles abound. Just how many dates do you have to go on before giving a gift? Just how much is too much?

Tricky questions – and the wrong answers could sink a promising relationship, according to the experts.

A new survey by Match.com, a dating website, says most Canadians believe in giving a gift after one to two months. And more men than women believe in giving gifts to someone they’ve been dating only a few weeks.

According to Match.com relationship expert Kimberly Moffit, “all gifts send messages… it can be interpreted, or misinterpreted, by your new partner as needy, too extravagant, cheap or inconsiderate.”

The pressure is on for new couples to give each other the perfect gift and it can take its toll. Have a price limit and talk about gifts in advance.

“It may sound unromantic but communication, especially when you are first getting to know each other, can help to avoid embarrassment if things do go wrong,” Moffit says.

Gift giving is tricky in the first stages of dating because you can make or break a relationship, says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, chief relationship expert at Perfectmatch.com. “You don’t want to be cheap, but you don’t want to do anything that is so expensive it creates some turmoil over whether or not it should be accepted. Also, you don’t know this person very well so it’s hard to know what will please them.”

Shallow or not, we place a lot of value on the dollar amount of a gift, Schwartz says.

“Much of human trust is predicated on the exchange of gifts,” Schwartz says. “We do want to know that the gift means something and so, in lieu of deep knowledge about one another, knowing that the gift was worth more than trivial money makes us feel that the person cared enough not to buy just any cheap trinket.”

Do not snatch up something generic that anybody could pick up in a grocery or hardware store, stresses Schwartz, a sociology professor and love and relationship ambassador for AARP.

“Or making it obviously so cheap that it looks like they didn't try very hard to either look for something - or spend anything - that would make this more than a last minute, unimportant thought,” Schwartz says.

According to Moffit, not giving a gift is often the biggest mistake you can make.

“Canadians appreciate the small gestures around the holidays,” Moffit says. “If you’ve just started a relationship, consider doing something small but thoughtful. A favourite home-cooked meal or a handwritten card with some sexy coupons can let your new date know that they are meaningful to you” – and that you want the relationship to continue to bloom.

If you’re just starting a relationship, stay away from anything too personal in nature, adds Moffit.

“Gifts send messages. Giving someone a healthy cookbook might seem like a great idea, it can also be misinterpreted and come across as a suggestion that you think they need to lose a few pounds,” she says.

For a budding romance, she advises giving something that you can experience together; it shows you want to spend more time with them in the future.

“A gift expresses that you care enough to do something special for your new partner, and that you think they are special too. In my experience as a relationship counsellor, I’ve found that the act of ‘gifting’ is sometimes more meaningful than the physical gift itself,” says Moffit. “The act of doing something simple and fun can be just the right mix for heating up your relationship around the holidays.”

She adds: “Giving good gift is about connecting with your partner, not about how much you spend.”

Giving guidelines from Kimberly Moffit, Match.com Canadian relationship expert:

Dating for less than one month:

More than one-third of Canadians believe you should spend between $25 and $50.

For Him: His favourite home-cooked meal, credits to the newest driving range, a home massage with candles and mood music.

For Her: Date for a drive-in movie night and picnic, gourmet chocolate, a gift card for a spa treatment.

Dating for one to six months:

Half of Canadians believe you should spend more than $50 on a gift.

For Him: Cooking lessons together, a private yoga/pilates class, sexy lingerie - it’s for him anyway!

For Her: Small bottle of her favourite perfume, dance lessons together, theatre or concert tickets for the two of you.

Dating for six months to more than a year:

The majority of Canadians believe you should spend $75 to $100 or more; three times the number of men than woman think more than $200 is a great amount.

For Him: A personal training session, pre-paid vouchers to his preferred car detailer, tickets to see his favourite sports team.

For Her: I-Owe-U coupon book of things you will do for or with her, favourite designer handbag with a sweet love letter inside, diamond stud earrings.


 

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