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10 Gift Ideas for Lovers

Wondering what to get that special someone? Here's some tips from our relationships expert

It is the holiday season, and so we all feel compelled to provide gifts to the ones we love, the ones we don't love, and the ones we feel obligated to love.

See also: Make time for romance during busy holiday season.

Yuletide is also a time when people who are married, living together, in domestic partnership or civil union, or just plain dating, have the chance to really offend and disappoint each other by giving the wrong present. If you have been quaking with fear that this year, you might find yourself in another awkward moment as your loved one struggles mightily to look pleased with the gift you bought, I assure you, I feel your pain and want to help.

While no suggestion is surefire, here are some ideas that might give you a breakthrough holiday.

1. Anything Monogrammed

Monograms show that you were thinking of your love, that this choice wasn't a last-minute, desperate happenstance or a generic offering. With one monogram, you can show that you have your act together; you can plan and deliver a personal, unique gift. If your partner isn't the type who wants his or her name on the back of a T-shirt or workout pants, buy a blanket and put the name of her boat, team, cycle, or camping cabin on it. Put his favorite saying on a set of bar glasses, intertwine your initials on some beach towels (or even better, on a silver bracelet!); anything you personalize will earn you points for creating something that took thought and effort.

2. Almost any Getaway

The gift of a romantic weekend away with you is almost always greeted with a genuinely happy response. It doesn't have to be far away. In fact, it could be a weekend in a downtown hotel, playing tourist in your own city. It could include rides by airplane, car, or train, but getting onboard and going somewhere together — especially to a place you know your partner loves — is exciting! Dress up the gift with a book about the area, a brochure, or the tickets themselves. It doesn't have to be Paris, but if it is—well, you are my kind of lover.

3. Make It Yourself

It is not corny to give something you make yourself, but make sure it doesn't look homemade. Lumpy sweaters and loud scarves are not allowed. But I know a guy who made some fancy reins for his horse-loving fiancée, and she just swooned over them. One female friend made her guy a gorgeous chess set out of action figures. You need not to be talented or clever to pull this off, but if you are, the result is priceless and treasured. One husband I know made a music-backed video of his wife's life, using pictures from her childhood and family vacations. Another friend made his partner a CD to make love to, which contained most of their favorite romantic and sexy songs that both of them have loved over the years. 
4. A Class for Both of You

Have you been talking about learning Spanish? Would you both like to learn how to bake bread, make chocolate, or become bartenders? Give the gift of a shared experience — as long as you are sure your partner would like what you've picked. Doing new things spices up your life together and creates more intimate time for you. So the present of an activity transforms into a double gift: a gift of yourself as well as the experience.

Next: 5 more gifts from the heart. »

5. Something That Reminds You of Your Love

There are a wine-of-the-month club, a flower-of-the-month club, a CD-of-the-month club; in fact, a monthly club probably exists for whatever interests you. These can be pricey, so there's usually a six-month selection that comes every other month. The point is, a subscription is the gift that keeps on giving. Each time during the year when the installment arrives, it makes your partner think of you and the relationship. (I don't think there is a diamond-of-the-month club, but I'm sure many would think that kind of nice, too.)
6. The Finest of Its Kind

It could be the most glorious pen, the most luxurious fur, or, depending on the values of your loved one, faux fur-lined gloves, the most exquisite vase, the best underwater watch, or even the classic heavyweight flannel shirt. Just be sure it is wrapped in a telltale package that says "quality." For example, when a woman sees a blue-and-white gift box from Tiffany, she knows that her partner wanted to get her something swellegant; when a sportsperson sees something from Orvis or REI, he knows that his partner wanted to get him "the best." It's not just any fly-fishing equipment, it's "the best." And therefore, even the smallest item generally provides a thrill.

7. Something That Says "Cuddle"

Give something that says, "I want intimate, comfy moments together"—luxurious bedroom robes, fluffy terry-cloth bath robes, and even warm pajamas, can do the trick, too—especially when accompanied by bath salts, aromatic candles, and other thoughtfully amorous touches. How about a cashmere or merino sweater or throw to snuggle up with on the couch? Perhaps a flannel blanket to put around the two of you at football or soccer games? Or shearling-lined house slippers—maybe some come in "his" and "hers," "his" and "his," or "yours" and "mine"? 

8. The Gift of Touch

A massage—sports massage, deep tissue massage, or hot stone massage—almost always pleases. The exceptions are people who don't like massages (a preference that, try as I might, I cannot fathom). Or give a massage class and take it together. If you have money to burn, give a week at a spa, a three-day getaway at a spa together, or, scaling down, a city-spa day. Be extra savvy and go to a massage school to get a great rate. Schools are usually packed with dynamite students whose prices are low until they get certified. Any or all these gifts would be loved by massage addicts.
9. Support Your Partner's Passion

If your partner loves wine, go to a merchant of fine wines and ask what a connoisseur's favorite experience or gift would be. Maybe you could get him or her a special tour by the owner or manager of a respected vineyard, or perhaps you could find several extremely fine vintage wines to give. Take this approach to any passion, be it woodworking, sailing, riding, or glass-blowing. Any person with a passion is someone who is ultimately easy to buy for, but only if you take the time to research the particular diversion and do it right.

If your partner loves cooking, you have to find out what every chef dreams of. Could it be a first edition of "The Joy of Cooking" or a set of fine knives? If he or she is a golfer, what about finding a way your love can play at one of the great local courses? You could also take a pilgrimage to St. Andrews in Scotland. By honoring your partner's passion, you show you know what matters to him or her. That understanding is in itself a gift.
10. Your Own Time

Give a gift from your heart. If your partner has an unruly dog, show that you have signed Fido up for a dog-obedience class, and offer to take him! If your partner donates one day a week to a children's hospital, show that you have joined and will volunteer, too. If your partner has wanted to clean her garage or redo her deck for years, get it done before the holidays and unveil it then. Alternatively, give your romantic other a due date for when you will have it done. By helping him or her with some necessary or important thing, you touch your loved one's heart with your kindness, consideration, and your gift of self.