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Remember that episode of Friends where Monica bought Chandler a $500 watch and he wrote her a rap song? Word. The big problem with this gift exchange? They weren’t considering one another’s love languages. When you give gifts based on someone’s love language, it’s a guaranteed hit every time.
We’ve all been there. On the receiving end of a bad gift, awkwardly pretending we’ve just been given the best present ever. We’ve also all been on the giving end, when we know we’ve completely missed the mark and just want to crawl into a hole and die. I found myself in the latter position just recently—I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into a sentimental present to find the recipient was far more excited over a bougie water bottle another friend had gifted. It still keeps me up at night!
Finding gifts that speak to your partner, friend or family member can be hard, but paying attention to their love language makes it much easier. Introduced by Dr. Gary Chapman, the five love languages each have characteristics that define who we are and how we like to give and receive love. Gifting via love languages is a sure-fire way to ensure the recipient will feel loved, special, and understood.
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Not sure what each love language is all about? Let’s break it down using the example of wine (which I’d argue should officially be named the sixth love language). Depending on your love language, you’d be happiest to hear or experience the following:
- Acts of Service: Can I get you a glass of wine?
- Quality Time: Would you like to have a glass of wine with me?
- Words of Affirmation: I really love the bottle of wine you chose for us.
- Physical Touch: Receiving a *hug or kiss* in exchange for the gift of wine.
- Receiving Gifts: I bought you a bottle of the wine you love.
That said, you don’t want to give others presents based on your own love language—when it comes to gifting, it’s all about them. If Receiving Gifts is their love language, you can’t go wrong, but the others require a little brainstorming before you hit the shops.
What happens if you don’t know another person’s love language? Lee Wilson, Relationship Expert and Coach, suggests asking what their favorite gift was as a child and as an adult. He says the answer is “usually a gift that has meaning behind it,” which will help you determine where their values lie.
Once you’ve worked out your recipient’s love language, read on for a range of gift and stocking-stuffer ideas to get you started on your best gift-giving season yet.
ACTS OF SERVICE
Acts of Service require you to be attentive. You need to notice what the recipient needs and think of ways in which you can lighten their load. A great place to start is to think about something they hate doing or consider a frustrating chore. It shows that you not only care about their needs, but you listen to them, too—extra brownie points!
For big gifts, consider splurge items that might make their daily routine a little easier. Someone who hates sweeping and mopping would be over the moon for a Roomba vaccuum! If your giftee hates grocery shopping or time in the kitchen, give them a gift card for a meal subscription service or grocery delivery group. Lastly, if your friend has just moved or needs help fixing things around the home, hit up TaskRabbit and hire them a handy-man for the day—or grab your tools and volunteer as tribute yourself!
As for smaller stocking stuffers, customized coupon books like this one from Etsy are a great gift for your significant other. Make them specific to your relationship needs to ensure the holiday joy continues well into the New Year.
If you’re gifting a friend who’s beauty-obsessed, buy them their fave products that they hate splurging to replace, so they don’t have to. Chances are your BFF could use a back-up of her Tarte Shape Tape.
Acts of Service and Quality Time can go hand-in-hand if the person appreciates dates or activities that require planning. “Quality time is where things are taken care of ahead of time,” says Coach Lee, adding, “it shows that you value your time together.” For example, a couple’s cooking class. The act of service is knowing they enjoy being in the kitchen and would love to take a class (which you organize and book) and the quality time is you being there with them.
Let’s talk big gifts. If your giftee loves to travel, book a far-off post-pandemic getaway and give them something major to look forward to. You can even gift them a suitcase or travel bag as a pre-gift! If they’re more of a homebody, create a Date Night DIY Basket filled with their favorite snacks, movies or activities. If they prefer the great outdoors to a night in, book a fun experience like a rock climbing class, a bike tour or a long, guided hike.
For stocking stuffers, choose a game that allows you to get to know one another even more closely. We’re Not Really Strangers is a multi-player card game that will have you reminiscing on memories and talking deeply about your relationship, romantic or otherwise.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION:
When was the last time you sat down and actually wrote a card? For someone whose love language is Words of Affirmation, a simple card is so underrated and can go such a long way. So before you just sign and seal your standard holiday message, think about what that person means to you and show your appreciation by writing it down. As Coach Lee says, “It hasn’t cost you anything beyond time and effort.”
In terms of physical gifts, this person loves anything customized, so it feels like you hand-picked it especially for them. You can get nearly anything personalized these days. Whether it’s new AirPods or jewelry, think about getting their perfect gift engraved with their name, initials, or a sweet message. You might also consider a DIY gift, like a journal with pictures and memories of your love and/or friendship story, or a series of handwritten cards for different moods. When the recipient feels sad, for example, they can open up the ‘sad’ card for a sweet and loving message.
For stocking stuffers, get this person the means to write their own words of affirmation! Cute personalized stationary or a journal is always a great idea, and you can even write a few sweet messages in the latter to surprise them.
For many, sex is an important part of a romantic relationship. You’ve probably heard of the term “makeup sex,” the act that can sometimes signal the end of an argument and allow a couple to reconnect physically. But not all lovers partake in makeup sex; for some, just hand-holding or a good hug is enough to reconnect. In the same way, the love language of Physical Touch is not all about sex, and can still include options for non-intimate relationships, friendships and and long-distance couples, too.
For those who do love being intimate, Coach Lee advises couples to be wary when buying gifts like lingerie, as they may come across as selfish. “You should get her lingerie as a gift, but it should not be the only gift,” he says. “It should be given very carefully and when she opens it, say, ‘I think you’d look really beautiful in that.’ And then give her another gift.”
For long-distance couples or friends, vibration bracelets or vibration lamps are an especially cool gift that keeps you connected even when you’re apart. Your bracelet or lamp will light up and vibrate whenever the other person touches it. If it’s good enough for Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, it’s good enough for us!
Another great option is a weighted blanket, which is as close to a real hug as it can get. For stocking stuffers, you could opt for bath bombs or massage oils that allow the giftee to give themselves a relaxing night in alone.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism. The receiver doesn’t necessarily need expensive things, they just like physical tokens that show your thoughtfulness. It’s important to remember that these people don’t just want gifts—they want gifts that are tailored to them.
Subscription boxes are the gift that keeps on giving, so they’re perfect for anyone with this love language. Monthly subscription boxes are a great way to go—just think about what they love. There’s boxes for nearly everything these days! Some examples include: wine, black-owned beauty and skincare, food, flowers, oils, or books.
Otherwise, think about what that person really likes. Are they a traveler? Get them a nice passport case or luggage tag. A fashionista? Maybe a subscription to a clothing rental service like Nuuly. Hone in on their passions and you’ll land on a great gift, big or small.