It’s that time of year again when you try to wow your partner with the most thoughtful, fitting gift you can think of. Valentine’s Day can be a point of stress for many, especially when choosing what to get for your special someone.
You want to communicate affection, attentiveness, and thoughtfulness. At the same time, you want to avoid being cheesy, predictable, or over-the-top. It’s easy to overthink the process and end up playing it safe with flowers and chocolates (yes, again).
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If you really want to impress your sweetheart, however, you’ll need to be more original than that.
Although using science may not sound very romantic, scientists and psychologists have done some digging on how to pick the perfect Valentine’s gift. Their findings can help you choose a gift that isn’t a heart-shaped box of truffles!Money Spent Doesn't Equal Thoughtfulness
It may seem logical that the more expensive a gift is, the better it will be received. This, however, is a fallacy. While you don’t want to skimp on Valentine’s Day treat for your partner, spending exorbitant amounts of money on it won’t make much difference either. Research by Flynn and Adams has shown that while gift-givers expect more appreciation for expensive gifts, recipients don’t appreciate expensive gifts any more than budget-friendly ones.
Get Valentine's Gifts that Will Last
According to Galak, Givi, and Williams, the giver of a gift is usually focused on the moment of mutual gratification when the gift changes hands. They want to perfect the moment of giving, rather than the experience of the recipient while using the gift.
Conversely, the recipient is more likely to value and appreciate the gift if it has long-term utility.
If you think about gifts you’ve received in the past, which ones stood out to you more? The ones that you enjoyed for a few hours, or the ones that improved your life for months or even years afterward? Then ask yourself, do you want that moment of appreciation to be fleeting or lasting?
If you get your loved one a gift that lasts, they will think of you fondly every time they use it. They may even tell their friends stories about where it came from and how thoughtful it was, solidifying their appreciation even further. In other words, think about how the gift could improve their lives rather than what would elicit the most positive reaction in the moment.
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Give Your Partner Something You Both Appreciate
A recent study highlights how sports and travel are two of the most common interests in America. Knowing your partner's interests is a great help when choosing a gift as the chances are you probably enjoy many of the same things.
People are best at choosing gifts for others that they would appreciate. For example, if you both love to hike, you know what kind of hiking boots you’d love to receive from somebody else. Therefore, it becomes far easier to choose a suitable gift that you know they’ll appreciate. This can be a material or an experiential gift—a year pass to one of their favorite national parks, for example.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask Them What They Want
People tend to believe that asking someone what they want for any special occasion shows a lack of thoughtfulness or affection. They think that for a gift to be special they need to come up with the idea themselves. While there is some logic to this assumption, research indicates that recipients appreciate gifts that they’ve asked for or expressed interest in more than gifts they’ve never mentioned. Gino and Finley’s paper on the matter, which spans five separate studies, shows that you are usually better off buying something that the recipient has expressed interest in or explicitly asked for.
Of course, there’s still something to be said for surprise and spontaneity. With this in mind, perhaps it is best to find out what they want without making it obvious that you’re fishing for gift ideas. If you’ve ever received a gift that you wanted for a long time without knowing it was coming, you know how good it feels to have someone anticipate your desires and act on them without needing explicit direction.
Don't Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself
At the end of the day, most gifts will be appreciated, especially if receiving gifts is one of your partner’s love languages. The gesture, thought, and affection behind the gift are what matters most. Try to let this shine through in your selection rather than stressing over “the perfect gift.”
The above pointers will hopefully give you some direction, but the most important part of any gift is the intention behind it!