Duana C. Welch says that science can teach you a thing or two about what to give your significant other this holiday season.
Good Men want to give the perfect gift. Yet so often, it’s tough to guess your sweetheart’s desires. It doesn’t have to be so challenging, though. Here are four simple, science-backed strategies for making sure your partner is beyond pleased anytime a gift is called for.
Any guy who’s ever given that just-wrong gift can probably relate to “Charles,” who wrote when his girlfriend swept him aside for gifting her with a Hoover. He couldn’t believe it; he thought he’d been truly thoughtful: “She was getting set up in her first apartment on her own, and I wanted her to have something she needed.”
Vacuum cleaners are symbolic, of course. But as gifts, they suck. That’s because, for most women, the symbolize housework and drudgery, rather than love or commitment.
Are you a gambler? You bet. We all are. Science shows that all of us who pick a mate a mate must hedge our bets that our Chosen One will be who we need them to~for a lifetime. It’s life’s ultimate gamble, and fortunately, it usually pays off; in studies, married men and women alike do better in almost every way than those who cohabit or go it alone. They have more sex, and better sex; they become healthier and wealthier; they build more satisfying careers and happier lives over-all. And their kids even do better in nearly every way.
So most Good Men get married. And most benefit. Yet that gambling psychology is key to giving great gifts. It comes from an ancient past, and the winners passed their thoughts and desires and mate-tests down to us.
Men of the past were betting that their mate would be fertile and faithful. Gifts from women don’t tell a guy much about that — so men should be pretty easy to please, gifts-wise.
And they are.
But women sense the symbolism behind what you give.
And we should. Because we’re gambling on your Commitment. Betting badly can literally be a life-death, success-failure distinction for us and our kids, even now.
Problem? Men’s ability to provide can be viewed on a balance sheet, but your desire to provide, which is far more important, is invisible. So women have to look for indirect signs of that commitment everywhere.
And one of those signs, whether it’s the Twelfth day of Christmas or our twentieth anniversary, is what our true love gives to us.
Stinginess conveys an unwillingness to provide that women universally despise. After all, there may have been women in the ancient past who didn’t care whether a man stuck around and kept bringing home the wild boar; but research suggests they’re part of history rather than ancestry. The genes that got carried forward to today’s women were those from the winning psychological bent.
Great gifts are, therefore, never stingy.
But expensive? If you’re in a new(er) relationship, science shows there’s something to it: in worldwide studies, women view a costly gift as a sign of your enduring commitment. Hence the enduring and global popularity of jewelry, especially during courtship. It’s both symbolic and expensive.
In long-standing marriages like mine, costliness probably isn’t that important to most women. After all, you’re already proving every day that you want to be here, providing and listening and loving.
Give a gift that shows cost without commitment, though, and you could actually ruin both your bank account and your relationship. One man wrote me that he’d been dumped after he bought a very expensive computer — one that cost more than many engagement rings — for his girlfriend of seven years. His gift basically said, “I could buy you a diamond; I could propose. I just won’t. Ever.”
Unless your darling point-blank asks you to buy her a food processor, major appliance, automotive part, or (Danger! Danger!) gym membership — DON’T. Even if she makes such an unorthodox request, comply while giving something that’s pure luxury, too. The union you save could be your own.
A lot of men love receiving practical gifts. If a guy needs a briefcase or wrench set, he’s pleased to receive it. The end.
Thing is, a lot of men who give dud gifts believe they’re giving great gifts; the women simply don’t see love in the practical gifts a man might appreciate and therefore give.
Now is not the time to follow the Golden Rule. Don’t give her what she needs. Give her what she wants.
Of course, some women don’t want to be asked what they want.
If your sweetheart insists on being surprised, she’s asking you to show her that you pay attention to who she is. Select a gift that displays your intimate knowledge of what pleases her as a special and unique individual.
Nothing says “I love you” like “I know you.”
Knowing I love writing, but not sitting, my husband bought me a stand-up desk — the most beautiful, comfortable cherry-wood stand-up desk I’ve ever seen, and much more luxurious than any I would have bought for myself. It was, for me, the perfect gift, and made me feel so cherished, because although it was practical, it showed his intimate knowledge of me, plus a generous, committed heart.
Another man knew his wife craved carefree, pampered time with friends, so he bought a weekend spa package for her and her three besties. He undertook all child-care during her absence, and made sure she came back to a clean home and well-attended progeny. I understand this worked out well for him on many levels — several of them sexual.
Upshot? Great gifts speak to women. And what they say is: “I want you, I love you, I notice you, and I know you. Thank you for being in my life.”
If you convey all that and mean it — you’re pretty great, yourself.
Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do, releasing January 7, 2015. To learn more and get a free chapter, visit www.lovefactually.co.
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