Finding the perfect holiday gift for that special someone in your life can be the headache that keeps on giving. Even couples who have been together for decades can falter under pressure. Though, at least that far into a relationship, each person likely has an understanding of what the other enjoys.
But what about a new love that develops during these chilly months? What does one get the new suitor? Is a gift even appropriate? How much money is too much to spend on this not-yet-significant other?
All good partnerships begin with open communication. The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center urges budding couples to discuss whether they even want to exchange presents, instead of assuming what the other is thinking. From there, the duo can set the parameters of price and emotional value (lighthearted, romantic, etc.).
Most dating experts agree that the monetary value of the gifts at this early stage should not exceed $50. According to Relationship 411, "No one is saying you have to come off cheap, but if you spend too much money on your first gift it could cause feelings of guilt if your partner did not or could not spend the same. Expensive gifts are also suggestive of a more serious relationship, which could make your new love interest uncomfortable."
Syndicated columnist Amy Alkon aka The Advice Goddess further stresses that new couples should stick to fun items that reflect each other's personalities. She recommends books as a surefire, inexpensive holiday hit -- unless, of course, the recipient isn't much of a reader.
It's OK to get a feel for a new partner's tastes in literature, TV shows and the like, but Alkon says to avoid listening too closely. Intimate, one-of-a-kind gifts may be heartfelt, but they serve as red flags in a relationship's infancy.
"(Don't) go on eBay for three weeks and try to find the rare thing that their mother lost when she was a child, which is just very desperate and bad," Alkon warns.
However, because of the unstable economy, Alkon says that hitting up one's local thrift store for gifts isn't out of the question. Depending on the recipient's own income and interests, one might uncover secondhand gold. This can be especially true, she continues, for younger couples who delight in rummage-sale treasures.
One may be surprised to hear that seemingly innocuous, generic items that often appear at white elephant exchanges can also be troublesome for a fresh relationship. Bonny Albo, dating guru for About.com, writes: "Items that are only practical in nature (such as a can opener), suggest a more serious relationship than what the two of you have forged." Albo instead counts magazine subscriptions, food items and card games as new-couple friendly for the holidays.
One must be careful when giving edibles. Find out whether the recipient is on a specific diet and whether the recipient has any allergies. This will eliminate much of the worry. Whether it's a homemade sweet treat or the offer to take the other person to a restaurant of his or her choice, the way to a man's or woman's heart this season might be through his or her stomach.
Whatever gift -- or lack thereof -- that a new couple might bestow upon each other, the experts tend to agree: It's the togetherness of the holidays that really makes a difference.
"It's really best to have the gift be the gift of you," Alkon says.