Why Giving Gifts When First Dating May Cause a Breakup
When I was heavily dating, I met a woman I liked enough to go out with several more times. I was a bit on the fence about her.
One evening, after a dinner date, I walked her to her car. As she opened the door, she said, "Wait just a moment."
She reached in, brought out a gift bag, and handed it to me.
After I arrived home, I found jam, pickled veggies, baked goods, and a card. Very sweet, thoughtful, handmade gifts. Gifts that, if given by a female relative or an established lover, I would have cherished and consumed.
I tossed them in the fridge, and feeling uncomfortable, never called her back.
Giving Gifts Can Be Enough to Tip the Balance
If I'd been stuck on this women, I would have gritted my teeth and ignored the gift. I would have looked at it as a black mark against her on the "Cons" side of the mental Pros/Cons spreadsheet we all develop, consciously or not, when dating someone.
Since I was on the fence with her, that mistake was enough to tip her over into the reject bin.
A male reader wrote us, asking what he did wrong to drive a girl away from him--a girl who had earlier showed interest in him. We said that, among other things, sending a small collection of gifts the morning after their date served to turn her against him.
One of his mistakes was that he also tied the gift-giving to an apology, and I feel that you should never apologize to someone you've spent only a few hours with--unless you physically hurt that person, kicked her dog, or said that her Mother wears combat boots.
The Folly of Gift-Giving
The problem of giving gifts applies only to the first date and the early stages of dating, not later on. Here's why:
- It Looks Like You're Buying Love: Attraction is built by being a high-value person that the other person wants to attach him/herself to. No gift, even hard cold cash, has ever in the history of the world bought attraction and/or love. Maybe you're not trying to buy attraction, but it sure looks that way.
- It Looks Like Supplication: Gifts are tributes. Tributes have traditionally been offerings that lower-status people bring to higher-status people to garner favor. By giving a gift to someone you've only dating a few times looks like you are lowering yourself.
- It Looks Stalker-ish: This is the hardest to admit, but giving gifts to someone you've dated once, twice, or thrice looks creepy and stalker-like. It shouldn't be, but that's the way it is. And this sentiment is echoed by many male and female daters.
When To Give Gifts
Resist the temptation to give any gift in the first three dates.
By the fourth date, if you want to give a gift--and it is by no means a requirement to give a gift--make it small and fun. A t-shirt from a gastropub you both recently visited. A couple of locally-made truffles. Two tickets to a play (that you both can see).
Keep it fun, light, and non-committal. Not flowers or a teddy bear or a piece of jewelry.