What is a good Valentine’s Day gift for someone you just started dating?
When a relationships is just starting to bloom, Valentine’s Day can make many of us nervous. You don’t know each other extremely well and you don’t have a long history of seeing how the other person reacts to various gifts. You’re also aware that what you do and how you do it can impact the trajectory of your relationship.
When selecting a Valentine’s gift for someone you just started dating, look for something relatively small that demonstrates that you’re creative, fun, and pay attention to their interests. Giving something that costs under about $30 sends the message that you’re still interested, but not desperate or trying to buy their affection which could put extra pressure on them and make them hesitant.
Valentine’s Day often comes with pressure from around us to construct elaborate fantasies of perfection and compete with others in our circle of friends. Most of us are influenced by expectations from our imagination and society. We have ideas about how things should go and what others will think. Sometimes, that adds pressure to try to make Valentine’s Day perfect. However, this can suck the joy out of the occasion. If we want to enjoy getting to know someone who has the potential to be our partner, it can be helpful to avoid some common pitfalls. Then you can have a better idea of what gifts could enhance the experience for both you and your date.
Avoid expectations of perfection
We want to have high expectations for how we are treated in relationships, but that is different from having fantasy expectations for how everything will unfold. Fantasy expectations are akin to perfectionism since they can only lead to disappointment as reality always fails to match our imagination. Sometimes fantasy expectations lead us to try to plan out every detail of Valentine’s Day. Sometimes they lead us to expect the other person to read our mind and react how we have planned in our heads. Other times, it tempts people to go overboard with gifts.
Avoid making Valentine’s Day a competition
This is sometimes made worse by our competitive nature. Many of us have friends who have seemingly magical relationships and have shared stories about perfectly romantic occasions. Often, we see this through social media feeds. You remember that your friend had a perfect Valentine’s Day at that lavish restaurant last year. The photos prove it and you don’t want to be outdone again! If only you could have matching wonderful photos that prove your dating life is a blast…
Avoid buying affection
Once we have constructed a fantasy and know that our social media feed must reflect that image, it is not too big of a leap to use our bank account force it to happen. However, spending too much or being too lavish early on can distract from the joy and make the other person wonder if there is something else behind your motivations. Even if they aren’t sure why, they will likely wonder if you are trying to use money to buy their affection, that you expect something of equal significance in return (no matter how much you would deny it), or that you have put them on a pedestal and will expect them to fit some fantasy that you have created about them.
Be interesting and interested
Instead of adding stress, a Valentine’s Day gift can be a great opportunity to send the message that you are creative, fun, and genuinely interested in getting to know them. This is a great way to keep and grow the spark that started your relationship. Creative gifts show that you can keep your partner on their toes in a good way. They will look forward to what you come up with and appreciate your effort. Similarly, when you give a gift that shows your fun side, your partner will start to associate you with enjoyable experiences.
Along with enjoyment, it is important for a person to feel known and appreciated. By showing that you are genuinely interested in getting to know someone, you show that they are important and your gift is not something that you would give to just anybody; it was meant specifically for them. When planning your gift, it can be helpful to jot down a few notes about some things your significant other has mentioned. Often people will freely leave clues about their interests and likes. A follow-up question here and there is fine, but don’t interview them; many topics will come up on their own. You’re just making sure to take the time to write things down that came up naturally in conversation. Ask yourself, do you know their sense of humor? Do they like things cute, punny, saucy, or based on memes?
Here are some favorites that you might listen out for:
- TV shows or movies
- games or sports
- scents and flavors
Now, let’s talk about examples that fit these ideas. Don’t worry, you don’t have to create some elaborate home-made gift. Essentially, even though you don’t know your date extremely well, you know a few things. Sprinkling in a little bit of your knowledge about them in a cute or fun way can be enough. For the gift itself, sometimes it’s enough to find something that connects to one of your date’s interests. For example, if you know they like to barbecue, you could consider a mini branding iron (from Amazon). A practical gift related to barbecuing might not work as well since they probably already have tools they know they like and it can feel boring to receive something pragmatic at this stage in your relationship. Another gift idea is a heart-shaped personalized jigsaw puzzle (from Etsy). Since you supply the image or photo, you can pick something light-hearted but significant to your date.
Creative Card Choice
Sometimes you can show your creativity in a simple way such as through a card. What kind of card you select can frame the occasion and make a statement without require Hallmark-level writing skills. For example, if you sense that your date would enjoy punny or cheesy humor, you could give them a card that has a pun embedded in it like this pizza pun card (from Etsy). Or, if they are a musician (professional or amateur), this music-themed card (from Etsy) that features musical notes in the decorations could be a good choice. In your message, you could include a line that shows you paid attention to an opinion or something they’ve said about music. Or maybe you want to fashion a highly customizable 3D card like this one from Etsy. You can include elements that will make an impression on your date without you having to physically craft the card from scratch.
Specific Landmarks that some experts suggest
Some experts suggest giving gifts based on various landmarks. You can use these as a general guide in your planning:
After just a few dates:
- a card
- a card and a home-cooked meal
- a card and a bottle of wine (make sure you know if they prefer red or white)
After a month or two:
- a small gift (up to $30) and nice restaurant dinner
- a small gift (up to $30) and concert tickets
Between a couple of months and six months:
- a small gift (up to $50) and nice restaurant dinner
- a small gift (up to $50) and concert tickets
About six months:
- popular “sweet and sappy” gifts won’t feel over-the-top at this point
- spend up to $75
- experiential gifts to spend more time together
- if you give jewelry, pick something small without gemstones
- (you can include a gemstone if it’s their birthday month stone)
Remember that planning and searching for a Valentine’s gift can be less stressful with the right mindset and expectations. You can send the message that you’re fun, creative, and genuinely interested in forming a meaningful connection. You might even display other positive qualities of your personality through your card or gift. Whatever gift you decide upon, we hope that your planning and search contributes to the excitement and anticipation of your budding relationship!