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We've all been there. You're new beau's birthday is coming up, but even with six dates under your belt, you barely know the guy — let alone where the relationship's headed. Are you really expected to whip out the wrapping paper and ribbons?
Of course, the problems don't end once you've sealed the deal. When you've been with someone for over two years, the old tie-and-a-button-down gift is going to start to feel old ... fast.
Common sense can solve a lot of gift-giving headaches, it's true. But love tends to cloud the senses, does it not? That's why we asked relationship expert and author of "Write Your Own Fairy Tale," Siggy Flicker, to help us make sense of when, how, and what to get that new or not-so-new guy in your life.
"You should give what you can afford. That's the overall thing," she told TODAY.com in a phone interview. "And always do what your heart desires, even if it feels silly."
He's a crush, but you're pretty sure the feeling's reciprocated
WHAT TO GIFT: As Flicker told us, "I always think the most special gift you can give is to buy a blank card and fill it up with something that comes from your heart." Keep things cheerful, throw in a witty inside joke, and that first date's practically guaranteed. Maybe save the full 12-page love poem for your personal diary, though. After all, "sane person" is the aim here. "Nightmare dressed like a daydream?" Not so much. ($6.00, ashkahn.com)
You've gone on three dates but are still practically strangers
WHAT TO GIFT: A "just because" gift might be a little out of place at this stage in the relationship. But if it's the week of his birthday, offer to pick up the dinner tab, or, better yet, cook a romantic dinner for the two of you. Yes, even the worst cooks can perform this sweet gesture with the help of a meal subscription service like Blue Apron. "Simple and from the heart," Flicker reminded us. "That's what matters." (Services start at $59.94, BlueApron.com)
You're dating, but it's not yet serious
WHAT TO GIFT: Reading is for lovers. Assuming your man's got a solid head on his shoulders, a book will make for an excellent gift at any stage of your relationship. Just be sure you've actually read the book in question before gifting it; awkward subtext, whether intentional or unintentional, likely won't go unnoticed. ("City on Fire: A Novel"; $20.26, Amazon.com)
You're exclusively dating
WHAT TO GIFT: According to somewhat irrational, time-honored societal standards, it's around this time that you can finally throw caution to the wind and show that you do, in fact, care a whole lot. Hooray! Relish that fact by opting for more thoughtful gifts catered to his personality, like a small bottle of his favorite whiskey. ($70, rhumclementusa.com)
You're a couple and he's met your mom
WHAT TO GIFT: We hope you know his shirt size, because you're in for a whole lot of casual-but-chic button-down shirt gifts over the next few years (assuming things go as you've planned over on your wedding Pinterest board, you sly dog, you). If his mom's in the picture, go on, get carried away. ($79.50, JCrew.com)
You've been together for six months
WHAT TO GIFT: When you're button-down-ed out, it's time to whip out the bigger guns; namely, sports and concert tickets. Seeing as these excursions require a bit of advance notice and sometimes even a trip out of town, you'll want to wait until the 6-month mark before springing for a pair. (Prices vary, Ticketmaster.com)
You're going through an especially rough patch
WHAT TO GIFT: Nothing can cure the blues quite like an uber-personal, thoughtful gift that reminds your boyfriend of happier times. Use a service like Tweed Wolf to create a designer-quality photo album containing photos of your best memories. Simply upload your photos; they'll edit each one, curate them, and layout a proof for a beautiful, luxe hardcover album that you can have delivered. ($295, TweedWolf.com)
You've been together for a year
WHAT TO GIFT: Go back to basics. "At any point in your relationship, a dinner where the atmosphere is just right, and just saying 'Hey, let's get dressed up' will work wonders," said Flicker. A date night outside of the ordinary pizza shop around the corner can rekindle old flames, and if you don't normally do the date "asking," this is your chance. If your budget's a little tight, check Groupon for some awesome discounts at restaurants near you.
You've been together for three years
WHAT TO GIFT: A weekend getaway — whether it's to a far isle or just two towns away — will get you out of whatever rut you've found yourselves in. After three years together, we think an expense like this one is no longer risky ... and besides, you can make the trip as extravagant or simple as you please.
You just moved in together
WHAT TO GIFT: Practicality might be on your brain at this point, but that doesn't mean you have to be boring about it. Since sharing's the name of the game, spice up your collective home with some fun cooking tools you can both use. (Grilling kit; $39.99, WilliamsSonoma.com)
You're together forever
WHAT TO GIFT: With "forever" looming in front of you, you're going to have to get creative. Whether it's been decades of wedded bliss or you've simply been with the same partner since way back when, those "just because" gifts can still have a huge impact on your day-to-day happiness and appreciation of one another. We like the idea of something personalized; a desk-side photo calendar, which brings into play both your most cherished memories and the ever-romantic element of time, is a perfect choice. ($20.38, Etsy.com)