How does relationship status factor in when you’re gifting for Valentine’s Day?

The status of the relationship can impact the appropriateness of the gift and often creates a desire to symbolize a partner’s role in someone’s life with a token of affection.

Valentine’s Day typically symbolizes a day to celebrate and recognize being in a romantic relationship. Sometimes a couple hasn’t gotten to the point where they feel it’s been the appropriate investment of time with each other to acknowledge a commitment. Sometimes the connection doesn’t feel emotionally safe enough to ask for clarification about or label where they are at as a couple. In those instances, it can feel like celebrating Valentine’s Day could create a pressure for some couples to define the relationship or lead to stress or pressure to acknowledge the day with a gift or a symbol of connection. The status of the relationship can impact the appropriateness of the gift and often creates a desire to symbolize a partner’s role in someone’s life with a token of affection. Knowing how much to spend on the present, how much thought to put into who the person is, and what they might like to receive can also create mixed messages if the exchange is not on equal playing fields.

What types of gifts are most appropriate if you’re early in your dating relationship?
(Maybe more than 5 dates but not official.)

A gift that shows you have spent time thinking about who the person is and where their interests lie. For instance, if you have discovered that you both like to read, maybe a signed or engraved copy of their favorite book might be a good gift. Take them on a picnic and offer to read their favorite section aloud while you have lunch. You could also buy two copies of a book you have both been talking about that you want to read and offer to have a buddy-read and have a time to talk about your views of the book. You can even give a gift certificate to their favorite local Indy bookstore and offer to take them there to pick out a new book for you both to read and then have a coffee date afterwards.

If you find out that your new date likes white wine, maybe take them out for a tasting flight. Or you can buy the version of a memorable song you heard on your first date together for a partner who collects vinyl. Anything that says, “I am paying attention to what you care about, I want to know more about what you care about, and I want to spend time with you learning more about who you are and what you love” is a great early dating gift. 

What types of gifts are most appropriate if you’re newly official?

Does your partner have a favorite musician who is coming to town, or a nearby town, where you could take a quick road trip together? How about making a reservation at one of the new restaurants in town that everyone is talking about? Maybe plan a couples massage? Planning something that says, “I want to spend time with you and I want to let you know that I want to create special memories with you” is a wonderful way to signify you each hold a special place in the other person’s life and are excited to see where things go. 

What types of gifts are most appropriate if you’re further along/have met your partner’s family/have been together several months?

Couples who are newly official often want to give gifts that show they intend to have some longitude to the relationship and that they plan to be together in the foreseeable future. Couples at this stage often start planning trips together, buying season tickets to a theater or sporting event, or even discussing signing up to take a class together like a language or cooking class. This shows each other that they intend to be in it for the foreseeable future. It tells each partner that they plan to spend time with each other and want to integrate creating new shared memories together to lay a foundation of their relationship by finding new hobbies and connections that help define who they are as a couple.

What types of gifts are most appropriate if you’re in a long-term relationship?
(a year or more)?

Shared experiences create shared meaning, and rituals of connections help to keep the momentum going in a relationship. By this point in the relationship, you should have an understanding of what your partner cares deeply about, your shared values and passions, and an understanding at a deeper level how you both like to spend time together. You may take a longer trip that highlights your partner’s bucket list or something that speaks to their spirit of adventure or desire to volunteer. If your partner has expressed a desire to start a new hobby like photography or woodworking, find something to purchase that gets your partner started in the right direction. Also, if your partner has a passion or something they have been craving to start collecting, find the perfect longed-for addition to their collection that will make them remember you when they look at it.

Also, anything that supports your commitment to helping your partner be the best version of themselves and your belief in them is always a great choice. If your partner has been talking about going back to school or finding a new career, maybe you can surprise them with a revised resume or a new laptop to start them on their journey.



Dr. Dana McNeil

Dr. Dana McNeil

Founder of The Relationship Place
Marriage and Family Therapist CA License #99008

certified gottman therapist

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