Is it too soon in your relationship for an extra-special gift? (Getty Images )
Chicago winters are hard enough without all the guesswork and anxiety that come from holiday gift shopping for your luvvah. Will a tie make him think I have daddy issues? Are flowers cliche? How much is too much to spend? Will she think I’m moving too fast? These are some of the questions you may have about how to delight and surprise your partner this yuletide season. But fear not, for we’ve put together a gift guide for every stage of your relationship.
One-night stand: A cup of coffee and an apology are all that is required of you. Or, if you want to see him or her again, your real phone number.
One week or less: No gift is required for such a newly minted relationship, especially since you probably haven’t even exchanged last names. That said, you’ll garner Cute Points if you get him/her a card and a small edible present. You can’t spell “mmm” without M&Ms, if you catch my drift.
A few weeks to a month: Since it’s still early in the game, you’ll want to avoid going overboard. Focus instead on a small gift tailored to one of their hobbies or personal interests. For instance, if your beau is a writer, get him a journal. If she’s always listening to That Hot New Local Band on Spotify, score her some concert tickets. Do they have a sweet tooth (sweet teeth?)? Take them out for a coffee/dessert date at a place they’ve wanted to try. The goal is to be somewhat personal, but not “I got us a timeshare in Gary!” serious.
A few months to less than a year: Now you can purchase that timeshare (just kidding). At this stage, you should know your partner decently and be able to match a gift or two with their personality, or better yet, an experience. If you’re on the fence about whether the relationship is going to take a turn for the serious, experience gifts (like from How About We, Groupon, Living Social, Cloud 9 Living, etc.) can be an intimate, yet low-pressure way to do something new and fun (doing new activities together helps facilitate bonding and love-feelings, says science). The date options can range from making your own macarons to learning Shibari rope knotting to couples massages, tours, parasailing and so on.
This is also the time your gift will start to have sway about your intentions and where the relationship is headed. So while your luvvah may love salted nuts, a $20 Trader Joe’s gift card might not send the message you want it to.
Long-term, or more than a year: By this stage, you shouldn’t be worried about making or giving something personal. In fact, your gift should be capital-p Personal. A Justin Bieber fragrance or dozen roses isn’t going to cut it (unless your sweetheart is a 12-year-old girl). This isn’t to say you need to spend lavish amounts of money—quite the contrary. But your gift should reflect how well you know them, it should be at least a little romantic and of course it should come from the heart.
Anna Pulley is a RedEye special contributor.