As a woman, I’ll be the first to admit, buying gifts for girlfriends is not easy. You want to score big with a thoughtful gift that would impress her, but depending on your relationship with your girlfriend, the ideal gift may be different. More importantly, there are gifts that you should NOT give her. Here’s some general guideline for various levels of relationships, but note that these levels are not linear; you could completely skip a level or straddle between levels. However, it’s unlikely you could go backward.
Girlfriend Level 1: A Little Spark
You started dating her not too long ago. She is really cool to hang out with, or she is really hot. There’s some potential to “upgrade” the relationship, but until then you could be still dating other people. You haven’t met any of her friends yet and she hasn’t met yours. You certainly are not ready to take her home to see your mom. In fact, it might be a little awkward to call her “girlfriend” at this point.
Ideal gifts for girlfriend of “A Little Spark”
Something casual is the key here. You don’t know her very well and her expectation is not too high yet. My suggestion is to give gifts that are consumables or of small value. There is no hard and fast rule for how much you should spend. If you are a billionaire, taking her to have lunch in Paris might be a drop in Niagara Falls. But if you are a college student, a box of ramen noodles is an indulgence. Some gift ideas are:
Beware of these gifts for girlfriend of “A Little Spark”
Two things you don’t want to happen—you don’t want to convey the message that you are ready to commit more to the relationship (unless you are), and you don’t want to scare her away. That’s why we want to keep the gifts a bit more casual. These are items that you should stay away from:
Girlfriend Level 2: Warming Up
You met several of her friends and figured that she is still pretty cool (or hot). You are spending most of your free time with her. She might even have a toothbrush at your place and vice-versa. You don’t even miss seeing other women (that much). You are not exactly taking her home to spend Thanksgiving with your folks, but maybe you are. Who knows? Thanksgiving is still couple months away. But you haven’t told her you love her yet.
Ideal gifts for girlfriend of “Warming Up”
At this level of your relationship, you can give her thoughtful gifts and not risk scaring her off. You know more about what she likes, so you have more information to work with. The goal here is to impress her and score big (and you genuinely want to please her too). The best way to show you pay attention is to give her something that is specifically related to her, her hometown, her hobbies or her favorite pastime. Here are some gift ideas:
Beware of these gifts for girlfriend of “Warming Up”
You still need to make sure you are not sending the wrong message. Gifts that are too casual and have no meaning to her won’t get you any points; they may even disappoint her. On the other hand, you still want to work within the commitment level you are comfortable with. Forget about giving her:
Girlfriend Level 3: Burning Madly
You can’t get enough of her. You want to share what you see, hear, smell and taste with her. You are practically living with her. Your fish at home are all dead because you fail to go home to feed them. You are proud to take her to your high school reunion. Your parents love her and are prepared to pop the question on your behalf if you are not doing it soon. You are working out how you could spend the holiday with both sides of the parents without upsetting anyone.
Ideal gifts for girlfriend of “Burning Madly”
You want to make her happy, surprise her, romance her and hope she loves you as much as you love her. You want a memorable gift that will remind her of you everywhere she goes in the rare moment that you are apart. Personalized items are good ideas. In addition, anything that promotes your togetherness will be great. Some ideas are:
Beware of these gifts for girlfriend of “Burning Madly”
Similar to the previous level, you want to avoid gifts that are too casual.
Girlfriend Level 4: Steady Flame
You feel like you have already been married for years. You live together, have a dog and take turns doing each other’s laundry. Except for the designated guys’/girls’ night out, or an occasional crunch in the office or business trip, you spend every evening eating dinner together. You now feel a little awkward to call her your girlfriend and you can sense that she is a little upset when you do so, because she seems like much more than that. So officially, she becomes whatever that is in between of a girlfriend and a wife—maybe that is called a partner.
Ideal gifts for girlfriend of “Steady Flame”
You’ve already given her everything you can think of. Gifts for her now gets more and more expensive because you feel that the only way to show your thoughtfulness is to buy her more expensive stuff. But that’s not necessarily true. At this stage of the relationship, experiential gifts become more important. Studies show that people tend to remember experience much more than tangible things. Some ideas for you are:
Beware of these gifts for girlfriend of “Steady Flame”
You can get too familiar here. These are not gifts for any stage of the relationship, especially not the Steady Flame stage:
Comments? Any suggestions? Tell us your experience? Do share!