If you’re anything like me, the idea of exchanging gifts around the holidays is a bit stressful. Sure, there’s absolutely nothing better than finding the perfect present for a loved one, but finding something a person will like and won’t end up sitting in the bottom of their closet before inevitably finding its way to Goodwill can be an intimidating challenge.

Bring a new relationship into the mix, and the gifting situation feels like a lose-lose. Get nothing, and your partner may be disappointed. Get something too extravagant or sentimental, and your partner might feel like things are moving too fast. And don’t even get me started on the nightmare scenario of if one person in the relationship does get something and the other doesn’t!

Here’s the thing about presents: Everyone is different. Some people prefer experiences over things. Others would prefer gag gifts that make them laugh over something useful. Some find both giving and receiving presents uncomfortable and would rather not exchange gifts at all. Receiving and giving gifts are even one of Gary Chapman’s five love languages as a way for people to express their feelings. As they say: “Different strokes for different folks.”

Therefore, the best way to make sure you and your partner are on the same page is to talk about it. Simply say, “So we’re on the same page, did you want to do gifts this year?” If they turn the question back to you, give your honest answer. If you are the type of person who is excited to go shopping and find a gift, communicate that. If it’s not a big deal to you, that’s fine too.

If you decide to do presents, the amount of time you have been together should factor into what type of gift and how much you spend. If it’s still a new relationship, less than three months and no “I love you's" have been exchanged, keep it simple yet thoughtful: a T-shirt of their favorite band, a bag of their go-to coffee brand with a funny mug, a comfortable blanket featuring their favorite sports team or a bottle of their favorite alcohol with some new glassware are appropriate. There’s no need to splurge on fancy watches, jewelry or plane tickets — it’s likely to just make the other person uncomfortable.

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You could also suggest that instead of doing physical presents, you treat yourselves to a special experience like a fancy dinner or tickets to a concert you’d both like to see. There are even couples who save their money on holiday presents for each other and put that money toward a vacation.

At the end of the day, figure out what makes both of you happy and go with it. Whether the result is a fun experience together, nicely wrapped gifts under the tree or simply foregoing the present exchange altogether, communication is key — like most things in a relationship.

Erika Ettin
Erika Ettin

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, eepurl.com/dpHcH, for updates and tips. ©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC