When to Give Gifts in a Relationship


They form a natural element of any romantic relationship. When in love, you try to make the object of your passion happy, and gifts are a good way to do it. However, there are certain rules, and they should be followed regardless of your sincere desire to please.

Psychologists have defined the best stages for gift-giving, as well as the most suitable gifts for each of them. The classification described below is based on research conducted by Professor Russell W. Belk.

When You Have Just Started Dating

Here, you should focus on the so-called “economic exchange”: you get tickets to the movies or take your partner out for dinner. Relatively small, these gifts imply reciprocity, at least emotional. The gift-giver hopes to fix another date with you and wants to show he/she is interested. 

However, size is crucial. Do not overdo it. A man could be eager to impress his new date with enormous bouquets or give her luxury products. This may backfire: the receiver will feel obliged or like you are trying to buy attention. In conclusion, keep it modest. 

Gifts Based on Interests

This stage requires an analysis of your personal preferences and tastes. For example, a man could buy tickets to a concert of his date’s favorite band just to make her happy. If he sees her focusing on something specific in her window-shopping, he will offer to pay for it. She, on the other hand, could get tickets to a soccer match. 

These are called “social exchanges”, and they indicate the transition to a new level. You are now exploring your partner’s passions and hobbies. They show more time and effort invested. Such things communicate your attention to the other person and your willingness to acknowledge their preferences. However, they still imply some form of reciprocity. 

More Altruistic Gifts

This stage is characterized as romantic love. Here, the partners give gifts not necessarily expecting anything in return. You just want to make your other half happy, so you purchase that guitar he/she has long been dreaming about. Their smile and excitement upon unwrapping it may be all you need. 

Giving the perfect gift is not easy. According to Professor Russell W. Belk, “Much of the anxiety of gift-giving [while dating] appears to be due to uncertainty as to whether a dating partner is still operating within the economic exchange model or is operating within the social exchange model or romantic expressiveness model.”

Overall, finding the right gift may be more tricky than it seems. You need to understand where you fit in the system and choose accordingly. Do not shock your new date with something prohibitively expensive for him/her. Even if you think this could make him/her happy, it is best to wait. 

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