Posts Tagged ‘new relationship


new fling gift protocol

Reader L. S. asks:

I am in a very new relationship, and I think I want to get my new fling a gift for Christmas.  I don’t want to be presumptuous that we’re more than we are. But at the same time, I want him to know that I like him. So, what is the protocol on new relationships over the holidays — present or no present?

Dear L.S.:

Here is my hard and fast rule on gift giving: If you feel like getting someone a gift, do it. If you don’t, don’t.

Giving someone a gift is about your feelings for them. It has nothing to do with their feelings for you, or at least it shouldn’t. Giving a gift says “I know you; I know what you like; at least, I think I know you and I think I know what you like, and here’s my best attempt at showing you this”. This is why we get so disappointed when we get ugly sweaters from our mothers-in-law or vacuum cleaners from our boyfriends. It’s because we feel like they just proved they know nothing about us. In these cases, it’s almost better to give nothing than to give something that’s actually not in line with what the person wants.

It’s also why I hate sending people lists of what I want for Christmas. It shouldn’t be compulsory, in my opinion, and if they can’t think of something to get me, then they shouldn’t feel they have to. That need to get someone something without knowing what is the exact compulsion that leads to bad gift giving.

Furthermore, it’s why we get upset when someone tells us they don’t want us to get them anything for Christmas. It’s a let down. When you have the need to give someone a gift, it doesn’t matter whether they have expressed their desire for it or not; it’s you showing that you care.

All I want for Christmas

Image: Suat Eman /

So if you want to get your new fling something, and you have an idea of what you want to give him, absolutely do it.

However, you may want to think about how he’s going to take this gift-giving, too. Even though my hard and fast rule says you shouldn’t care. Maybe there can be a difference between caring about what he might think and just being aware that he may have an adverse reaction. Let’s try that on for size, shall we?

I am glad you recognize how your new fling could take the gift-giving (i.e. presumptuous that you’re more as a couple than you actually are).  Or he could react by being ecstatic. I must reiterate that while you should not take any of these reactions into your gift-giving plans (because you may not know how he is actually going to react), you should at least be prepared for a reaction from this new fling of yours. How he responds could speak volumes about the future of your relationship. For instance, here are a few scenarios:

– He says, “Thank you, this is perfect! Now open what I got for you!” And you live happily ever after.

– He says, “Thank you, this is perfect! But I haven’t gotten you anything!” And you’ve taken the relationship up a level he wasn’t expecting, but is happy about.

– He says, “Dammit, now I have to get you something.” And you’ve taken the relationship up a level he wasn’t expecting, and is not happy about.

– He says, “Oh. Thanks.” And hides the present away or never uses it, thinking you don’t know him at all and probably you two shouldn’t be together.

– He says, “Oh, uhm, thanks.” And hands you a present that is as unsuited to you as yours is to him. And you both feel awkward and break up a few weeks later.

– He dumps you because he’s totally uncomfortable and thinks you’re taking things too seriously.

See? So many outcomes! Or he could react in a way I haven’t listed here at all! Be prepared.

Still, I say take the risk. Since you’re sure you like this person and you want to show him this, I say there is nothing wrong with getting him a present without caring how he could react. It’s basically just like telling someone you like them. If they don’t feel the same way, you can deal with that after you’ve told them. But you’ll never know unless you go through with it.

You can lessen the risk a bit by broaching the subject with your new SO to give him a heads up. Just ask, “Are we planning on doing presents for Christmas this year?” Notice I used “we”, not “you” or “me”. Yes, it implies a lot of intimacy, but it’s also not accusatory. Asking this will let him know that you’ve been thinking about it. He’ll probably say, “I don’t know, are we?” At which point you can confess that you were considering getting him a present, and he can know what to expect.

Surprises are fun, too, though, and the holidays are all about surprises. Maybe you can try being brave this season and expressing yourself without expecting reciprocation, or caring what the other person might think. It’ll be fun.

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