Unfortunately, this annual gift exchange exercise doesn’t get easier with time; being thoughtful, and creative, and knowing just what to get is complicated hard work whether you’ve been in a relationship for 10 days or 10 years.
And when gifts don’t match up in terms of price, size, scope, and any other quantifiable measurement, things can get uncomfortable—fast. They say no good deed goes unpunished, and if you receive, say, a fancy piece of jewelry after giving a personalized, sentimental book of special coupons…geez, does that maxim ring true. If this happens, you’ll both expend copious energy trying to pass off an awkward grimace as an authentic smile while gazing at your present. Meanwhile, you’re both likely just wondering how this wild gifting miscommunication even transpired. The resulting stress might even be enough for your partner to cash in that back massage coupon on the spot.
To make sure your well-intentioned gift-giving ceremony ends happily for all parties involved this year, I called in an expert: Below, Fati Marie, a life coach, shares tips for making sure you and your S.O. are on the same page about prezzies this season—so you can enjoy each other and your new goodies.
3 tips for broaching gift-giving expectations with your S.O. before the holidays
1. Agree to limit
Money conversations can be tough, but they’re infinitely less awkward than the hurt feelings that can arise when gifts aren’t evenly matched. This isn’t to say that a thoughtful gift requires a hefty price tag, but if one gift is just expensive and the other is just sentimental, both of you might end up feeling strange after exchanging.
“If you and your significant other decide together to set a limit, that helps alleviate a lot of stress for all the parties. It lifts a huge weight off everyone’s chest knowing that no one will be upstaged or left behind.” —Fati Marie, life coach
Sure, saying “hey boo, let’s set a budget range for our presents this year” may not feel super romantic when you broach the topic—practical things rarely do—but the discussion will likely be a relief for both of you. “If you and your significant other decide together to set a limit, that helps alleviate a lot of stress for all the parties. It lifts a huge weight off everyone’s chest knowing that no one will be upstaged or left behind,” says Marie.
2. Be honest about what you want—and absolutely don’t
“The hardest part about swapping gifts is really trying to dive into your special someone’s psyche and trying to anticipate their reaction, what their favorite color is, how much they will cherish it and so on,” Marie says. “Yes, we all want to be surprised, but how many times have you been surprised and felt a little let down?” (Related content: It me.) “To avoid this, just be honest with your S.O.”
Okay, so that’s maybe a little easier said than done, but think about it like this: Your partner wants to make you happy. So, if there are things you have in mind that’ll get the job done, communicating it will actually take off some of the heat for them. So tell your S.O. about those APL trainers you’ve been salivating over. The intel will be appreciated, because the last thing anyone wants is an unopened bottle of perfume being the elephant in your relationship all year long.
3. Weekend adventures are also gifts
Look, no one is knocking physical presents, but there are a lot of benefits to planning an experience together in lieu of exchanging materials. “You’re bringing in the element of fun and much needed alone time,” Marie says. This also allows you to set a budget (see: tip number one) so that you both feel like you’re on even footing. “And really, isn’t the real gift getting to spend the holidays with each other?” Marie says. Yes. That, and Netflix holiday movies.