Dr. Molly Barrow

The Official Dr. Molly Barrow Blog offers educational self help advice about relationships, business, dating, marriage, parenting, teenagers and children, self-esteem, love and romance. Dr. Molly Barrow holds a Ph.D in psychology and is the author of Matchlines for Singles and the self-esteem adventure series, Malia and Teacup Awesome African Adventure and Malia and Teacup Out on a Limb. Dr. Molly is a relationship and psychology expert host on progressiveradionnetwork.com and television guest.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

GIFT GIVING Dr. Molly Barrow Matchlines Relationship Self Help

A.When you've just been on a few dates:

1. Should you give a gift at all? Why?

Gift giving has both age and gender differences. The older and more formal the man, the more likely he will feel compelled to present his partner with traditional gifts, like flowers, wine and candy. If a woman reverses this traditional behavior taking on a “male” role, the older man may feel insulted. Younger men are more open to looser definitions of male-female roles, but a female still risks stepping on manly toes. Romantics and people who fall hard quickly may begin heavy courtship behavior on the first date, creating awkward intimate moments too quickly. Same sex partners have all the same dynamics in their relationships. We struggle with what the next move should be in our relationship that will bring comfort and pleasure rather than revulsion or disaster. All this in a little box with a bow?
Gifts come in many packages, most of which are not gift-wrapped. If you have agreed to spend time with someone then that is a gift of trust and precious time. If you have shared a special film, gallery or hangout that is a gift of sharing. Did you wear a new tie, pressed shirt, cologne, or cruel high heels, a new dress, and extra care on hair or makeup to create a more pleasant view for your date? Each effort, thought and dime spent to enhance the date experience is a gift given.
Or do you take all that for granted? Do you need a token that you can tell your friends about or even better, show them? The more insecure that you are about your self worth the more likely you will need a gift in direct proportion to your insecurity. Maybe you should stop dating and work on yourself until you value yourself and others more highly. You then will begin to see each moment shared as gifts that you are giving to each other. The first few dates are not the right time to substitute shopping for sharing.
2. How much should you spend?

Spend all the time and energy that you can afford to give freely, with no strings and no expectations. Keep it uncomplicated and uncommitted until you know if you want to stick around.

B. When you're dating, but not exclusively:

1. What is an appropriate amount to spend?

Dating means one of you, or both are still “shopping” for other people. All relationships must start somewhere and most “catches “are dating someone before and often during your first dates. An expensive gift shouts bribe during this phase. Instead opt for a considerate gesture, a home cooked meal, a favorite CD, or tickets to something fun. I remember getting an electric pencil sharpener and actually really appreciating it.

2. What are two tips for picking a gift that doesn't say more than you want to?

3. Check out your true motive. Are you trying to influence his or her opinion of you, have you been somewhat calculating in your selection, or is it a fun gift from your heart designed simply as a gift of pleasure for a friend with potential.
4. Ask yourself if you could lose this amount of cash from your back pocket and not wince or cry. If not, you are spending too much.

C: When you're dating exclusively:

1. What is an appropriate amount to spend?

By now, hopefully, you have learned to communicate well with each other. Set some parameters such as, “I know money is tight for both of us, let’s decide on a gift giving ceiling, maybe keep our gifts under fifty dollars (or two dollars depending on your situation). Do establish what the word extravagant means to each of you. At this point in a relationships, judgments are made very quickly, and that grand gesture may be received as “I could never marry someone so wasteful,” or “What a stingy creep.” Talk about it first. Surprises can be risky especially if you have started blending your finances. Avoid one-upmanship that requires you to out do each other and have bigger and costlier gifts. You are needlessly competing with each other and with yourself. Set limits and avoid the unnecessary shame of not spending enough or the resentment of having spent way more.
2. What are two tips for picking a gift that doesn't scream "COMMIT!" or"NONCOMMITAL"?

The ring is a universal symbol of commitment, so avoid that unless you mean it. Could you give the gift to your sibling without recourse, then that is probably noncommittal. Is there an implication that you want that person to change, like season tickets to your team, rather than theirs? That is uncomfortable-committal. Stick with gifts that are personal, unique and of fine quality, but in the medium range of your gift giving habits.

D. Misc:

1. Why do we all get so freaked out about giving holiday gifts to the people we're dating?

Because you know you should be giving to the poor, not shopping for new hubcaps for your boyfriend’s Porche. Maybe this year you could combine your gift money and together give something special to someone who really needs it. One year my husband and I gave Heifer International water buffalos to poor families in our relatives names, although one brother wanted a photo and the name of his buffalo that I was unable, unfortunately, to supply for him. A gift does say more about the giver than it does for the receiver, and is a little risky emotionally. However, if someone dumps you for a bad gift, then consider yourself very lucky.

E. What are two steps for getting past our anxiety so we can make smart gift-giving decisions (please emphasis HOW to do this)?

1. Know if you are artificially trying to pump life in to a mismatched relationship by using a gift as a relationship combat weapon, ie. trying to make someone feel guilty for not loving you enough, or substituting money for real emotion, commitment and kindness. In my book Matchlines: A Revolutionary New Way of Looking at Relationships and Making the Right Choices in Love, it is easy to decipher the right relationship match for you and you will thus avoid many common pitfalls of dating. If a relationship is a good match, it takes very little effort to make it work, because a base of mutual acceptance makes the size of your gift meaningless.
2. Do not spend a cent over your budget and comfort level. If you do, then the gift has strings attached and is no longer a true gift. If someone should give you a “small” gift, just assume it is the best that they can do.


  • At 3:17 PM, Blogger Dave Patterson said…

    Molly, thanks for the good words about Heifer International. I went to work for Heifer last year and it is a great organization.

    We have just launched a BlogRaising program that lets bloggers like you help us raise money. To see it just go to www.heifer.org/onlinecommunityfundraising. I hope you will consider taking part.

    Again, thanks for the good words.


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