Part of dating is getting to know the other person, with successive levels of intimacy.  Buying a gift can be a jumping off point. If you get it right, you’ll win points and can ultimately win their heart (if you haven’t already)! Here are some tips:

1.  Find Out Their Favorite Things

Mary Poppins wasn’t wrong.  Don’t wait for the next thunderstorm to find out what makes your date light up.  Ask, ‘What’s your favorite flower, music, writer, restaurant, next dream-trip destination, color, poet, actress, hobby, etc.  Not only will this give you insight into his/her soul, but you’ll be able to brainstorm related gifts.  Asking shows that you care, and are listening.  It will make her day if you take her to see James Taylor (her favorite singer) instead of some random band that you like on Valentine’s Day.  If you fill her apartment with orange tiger lilies — instead of just grabbing some red roses and a box of chocolates —  you may also score extra thoughtful points.

2. Discover Their Love Language

There’s a popular book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  In it, he explains that we all love differently, and real love means giving to your partner in a way that meets their needs and preferences.  It means getting know them and what makes them feel most loved and happy.  He has five love languages:  Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch.  You can read his book to find out your own love language and have your date take his quiz as well (or just carefully listen and watch them).  If she hates criticism and seems to love compliments, she may need words of affirmation most.  If she thrives on spending time with you, she may need quality time together.  If she lights up when you cook for her or build her a book shelf, she may love acts of service.  You get the idea.  Then you can create your gift around that need.  For example, a gift around acts of service could be a coupon book to shovel out your love interest’s car, clean their house, cook them dinner, do a load of laundry, etc.  For a date who loves physical touch, you could give massages, foot rubs and aromatherapy bubble baths.  A gift for a date who loves words of affirmation would include a long personalized card (or even a poem) with a small, thoughtful gift.

3. Get Motivated to DIY

Dating can feel really impersonal.  I’ve often heard clients say, ‘If he’s online dating, he’s probably seeing a ton of women.’  Your date probably wants to know that he or she is special to you.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”  Your date is getting to know you at a deeper level too, so a good way to reveal your true self is to get creative.  And, when you create a gift for someone, you automatically personalize it and it isn’t cookie cutter.  Make the time to create a music mix, make a scrapbook, write a song or poem, or create a scavenger hunt.  Your date will love how you made something just for them.

4. Stack the Deck & Make a Day of It

We often worry that we will pick the wrong gift, so why not diversify?  At least one thing might hit the jackpot!  I’ve been married 8 years, but my favorite Valentine’s Day was the second one with my husband before we got engaged.  We spent the whole day together.  He worked an overnight job as a social worker and spent a few nights sketching my portrait from a photo he had, with a beautiful card.  He also wrote me a song and surprised me by singing it with his guitar.  He also gave me a diamond heart necklace, and we went to Spa 88 for massages and swam all day.  And it didn’t stop there. We had brunch, went ice skating at Rockefeller Center and got frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity in NYC.  Come to think of it, the date covered most of the love languages.  I still remember it 10 years later!

You can come up with a bunch of free things to do, like a scavenger hunt or a theme day.  Use New York Magazine’s Best of NY 2014 Eating section for a little help! With just a little research, you can keep it inexpensive.  Say something like, ‘Only the best for you.  Today we will sample the city’s best brunch, pizza, cannoli, hot chocolate, burgers — or whatever else your date lists as their favorite food(s).  They will appreciate that you did your research.  A popular complaint I get from single women is that the guy doesn’t plan anything… so really thinking about it can set you apart.

5. Look At Your History & Use Your Relationship as a Map

Granted, you may only have been dating three months, but I’m sure you can figure out something romantic if you really reflect on your time together!  Take your date back to the spot of your first date, make a scrapbook of things you’ve done together, or remind them of all your favorite moments.  Courtship is a magical time that hopefully you’ll always remember, so documenting it in some way could be a gift that you’ll love to share years later.

Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman is a psychologist and writer. She wrote the upcoming, “The Book of Sacred Baths,” being published by Llewellyn and is the author of “Dating from the Inside Out” and “When Mars Women Date.” She has a private practice in Manhattan and does date coaching by phone. Learn more at
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