A while back I dated a guy for about two years, he was the best "gift giving" guy I've ever met in my life. We lived quite far from each other so there was a lot of traveling involved, but every time we got together he would always go out of his way to make me feel special. He'd plan activities I've never done before, always took me to new places and gave me the greatest gifts ever. Never anything elaborate, no jewelry or anything expensive, just silly little thoughtful things such as a pair of gel foot warmers for a surprise snowboarding trip or a romantic mixed CD with songs that reminded me of the places we'd been at. The greatest thing about it all was that all the gifts were selfless, he never expected anything in return and it always made him happy to see my reaction to his little surprises.

I was doing some research yesterday about valentines gifts and all the do's and don'ts, I realized that many people are completely baffled at how much is too much or how often is ok or not. To me it sounds like a silly question because I guess I've been lucky enough to experience some great selfless gift giving, but seems that not everybody has a clear idea about the concept. In one forum I found a guy that actually had a set formula for successful relationship gift giving: After 2 or 3 months of dating he'd give her the first gift, something small and cheap, then he'd follow with flowers (any bouquet with random colors) and then one gift about every 5 to 8 months. Probably the one thing he's got wrong are the words "cheap" and "random" as I believe that it's more about the thought and the surprise element and not the cost, timing or obligation.

So here's my main thoughts on the subject:

- Gifts should not be about when, why or what I receive in exchange, if you simply find something (any silly trinket) that your better half would love, why not buy it? They'll be thrilled to know that you can actually pick something special for them and that you got it with absolutely no further interest other than to make them smile. This clears up the "how often" issue too, it should never be planned, spontaneity is the key here.

- The price should never be an issue either, I think the focus should be on finding out, or knowing, that whatever the gift is, the other person is absolutely going to love it!

- Flowers? Hhmm, I think flowers have become a little cliché. Some women absolutely love flowers, some hate them. Some women love roses, some prefer more low key flowers and others would flip over the hand-picked stuff. I'd suggest you find this out first and hey, if they like them, you can give them flowers as often as you wish. The only issue I personally find with flowers is that they're such an easy successful gift that you can easily get trapped into what I call the "flowers always make you happy routine".

- The surprise element overweighs the "how often" issue, if you feel like it or come across something they'd like, just go for it.

- What you give is probably more important than how often. People seem to have this concept that when it comes to relationships it's always about giving pricey material things, that's probably why they worry so much about the "how often", they're really just worried about their budget! Gifts can be gestures, from doing the dishes to a short surprise road trip, ordering out so she doesn't have cook, a little alarm clock to help him get up earlier in the morning or taking her car in for a wash or an oil change.

- If you feel obligated to go out and buy a gift because either it's been too long or you had a fight, then you're doing it for all the wrong reasons!

- I'd say the more obligated gift times are anniversaries, valentines, birthdays and special holidays… these can sometimes be a little stressful as most people believe that they really need to out-do themselves when it comes to gifts. This is exactly why you must always go simple if you're a gift giver. When you fall into buying expensive gifts to fix fights, get attention, buy love or even sex, these special dates will bring so much more pressure for you to go that extra mile.

All in all, it's not about how often, how much is too much or too little. Motive is probably the key issue when it comes to giving your special someone a gift. The one thing I loved about my ex-boyfriend's gifts was simply the fact that he knew me so well that he could pick up the most silly gift and he'd know that it would either make me laugh like crazy or I'd really love it! Knowing that you can make your better half smile or be happy with a simple gesture is the greatest feeling, if that makes you happy too then I believe it's a win-win situation.

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