I'm No Expert, But...

Indiscriminate and unscientific judgments about relationships of all kinds.

Giver Beware

Holiday gift giving can be treacherous terrain for new couples.

Last night a friend of mine frantically called me asking for advice. He just started dating a great girl two weeks ago and it looks promising enough to last well into the holidays so he has to get her a Christmas present. But what should he get? This question, and the new Target commercial where a guy gives a girl a seemingly expensive necklace over dinner and she says something like, "I didn't think we were at that level yet" made me realize for many people buying presents for a brand new boyfriend or girlfriend is a daunting and delicate task and can often make or break the budding romance.

I know I'm a little late to help out with Hanukkah presents but here is my 5-step gift giving guide for people in new relationships, which I define as dating for 6 months or less.

  1. Do not go overboard. Regardless of your income, it's tacky to buy extremely expensive gifts for a brand new love interest. If you start off by giving extravagant presents like diamond jewelry and gold watches, you're saying "I think I can buy you," "I'm so insecure I want to impress you with my wealth," or "I am rich and unimaginative so I will just throw money at you instead of being thoughtful about my gift." There is a reason the traditional 1st anniversary present is paper and the 15th is crystal. If the relationship lasts there will be plenty of time to treat your partner to luxury items.
  2. Do not buy anything utilitarian. New love should be exciting, adventurous and sexy and shouldn't include gym socks, vitamins or a Jiffy Lube oil change.
  3. Do not buy a gift card! It screams, "I haven't been paying attention and don't know a thing about your likes and dislikes so I am taking the easy way out" or "I am lazy and gift cards are hassle free" or "I have a problem with commitment so I'm buying something open ended." It's always better to make a decision, even if it's slightly off, and know your sweetie can return the item and find something perfect at that store.  
  4. Do buy gifts that have a relationship inside joke connection. If you two went to the zoo on your first date, a stuffed animal of a lion might be perfect. If you met at the beach, a cute bathing suit is appropriate. A gift that brings back a fun memory helps to bond the couple even more.
  5. Do give gifts that you can both enjoy together. A couple's cooking class, a night of wine tasting, or a trapeze lesson, are not only great presents, but a fun way to spend more time with each other. If you decide to go with tickets for a sporting event or a concert, make sure the date it isn't too far off! If you buy tickets for something several months down the line and you haven't been dating long two unpleasant things might occur. Either you scare the other person away by planning too far ahead, or you break up before the event and have to have the awkward "are we supposed to still go to this together" conversation.

If you heed this advice you are bound to have a joyous gift giving experience. Good luck and happy holidays!

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Sascha Rothchild is a Los Angeles based television and film writer. Her memoir, How To Get Divorced By 30, will be out February, 2010.

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