Sunday, January 23, 2011

Holiday Gift Exchange Landmines

4 Holiday Gift Exchange Landmines to Avoid in a New Relationship
Brand new romances are usually a hyperactive blend of overwhelming elation, insecurity and terrifying (what if we find something we don't like?) slash euphoric (OMG, they love that too?!) exploration of each other, especially when they're the first new thing we've had since a big relationship breakup. When you throw holiday gift exchanges into the mix, the hyperactivity can head straight into stress territory and turn a simple, enjoyable thing -- getting a gift for our new favorite person -- into a "what if?" fest of epic proportions. Here's a rundown of the top "what if"s and how to handle them and get through December with our sanity intact.

1) You find out you spent waaaaay more or less than them. Awkward for sure, and potentially embarrassing if you're the one who spent all the money, but ultimately, this is a chance to work through what is potentially your first conflict together. Since this is a new relationship, chances are good you don't know everything about their holiday patterns and traditions. If it's a case of differing traditions, enjoy each others' gifts and knowing something new about each other. In the future, if what happened this time around isn't OK with both of you, talk about any gift giving before it happens to discuss your expectations and figure out a solution you're both happy with. If the way more/way less situation is one where one of you feels uncomfortable, talk first, then try one of the following: try again, with rules about how much spend; say thanks, enjoy the gifts and vow to discuss the rules for next time; or scrap the gift exchange and just enjoy a night out together. This is supposed to be fun, so if one of you isn't comfortable, talk until you both are.

2) One of you gives, one of you doesn't. Awkward, but not insurmountable. Again - the reasons for giving or not giving may be due to tradition or culture. Talk about it and figure out what you want to do -- does the person who gave want to return it and then the two of you can enjoy a night out instead? Does the person who didn't give want a chance to return the favor?

3) Their gift is waaaaay more thoughtful than yours. It's not a competition, contrary to how it feels. Express your heartfelt appreciation for their thoughtfulness, and vow to do better next time. Gift giving in relationships is a learning process.

4) Your gift is something they hate. In relationships, the general consensus seems to be to pretend to enjoy gifts, no matter how we actually feel. However, if they missed that memo and are honest about how they feel (assuming they're very appreciative of the thought and aren't just being a jerk), talk through it and figure out why. Maybe your choice of golf lesson reminds them of their recently deceased father, or perhaps they don't wear a watch because they work somewhere where wearing jewelry is dangerous. If you've inadvertently screwed up, you can offer to try again. Some people are easy to find gifts for, and some aren't, and it can be very challenging to do well with someone we don't know very well. Don't beat yourself up about an honest mistake.

Having a pre-holiday pow-wow -- about your mutual expectations about gift exchange, how much or little you want to spend on each other (or whether you want to have a fancy date instead of gifts) -- although it may seem awkward to discuss, guarantees far less than the awkwardness of any of the above. Gift expectations (or lack thereof) can be a major landmine in relationships, long-term and new alike. Talking about it beforehand, especially in a new romance, can be a fun "get to know you" conversation as well as an extremely useful and healthy building block for whatever future the relationship may hold. And when we're cultivating a new relationship after working hard to bounce back from the old one, healthy, solid building blocks are very welcome.

Originally written for and published by BounceBack, LLC on and on Yahoo! Shine.