Connect Love

How to Train Your Significant Other to Shop for You

Rebecca Cohen  |  December 24, 2019

This holiday season, don’t waste time returning or exchanging unwanted gifts. Enjoy them instead.

Have you found yourself channeling your inner Rachel Green this gift-giving season? (AKA, returning everything you’re getting?) Yeah, we’ve been there. Especially when it comes to gifts from our significant others. For real, we do not need another piece of heart-shaped jewelry. 

You can stop practicing your Oscar-worthy “I love it!” face. Here’s how to train your partner to shop so that you love what you’re opening from your S.O. It all starts with loving and open communication.

The Gift of (Shopping) Gab

We know: Talking about money is hard. And talking about money other people spend on us can be even harder, says Sarah Newcomb, Director of Behavioral Science at Morningstar, Inc. But it helps to understand how your partner likes to give — and what they like to receive. Maybe one of you might like to give lavish gifts, while the other feels uncomfortable when a partner spends a lot of money on them. 

To find out, Newcomb suggests asking leading questions like…

1. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? What made it so special?

2. What’s the best gift you’ve ever given? Why did you love giving it?

3. Do you enjoy spending  money on loved ones during the holidays? If so, what is it about giving gifts that brings you joy? If not, what is it that feels uncomfortable to you, or causes stress or pain?

4. Is there an amount that feels reasonable/unreasonable to you to spend? Is the amount you like to spend on others different from the amount you would want them to spend on you? (This could lead to an agreement on a limit for spending on each other that feels good to both people.)

5. When you give a gift, do you like to have a “wish list” from the receiver to guide you, or would you rather be the one to choose what to give? What about when receiving a gift? Would you prefer someone shop using a list of things you really want, or do you like to receive gifts that they thought of themselves?

6. If a person exchanges a gift you gave to them, does that hurt or offend you? Why or why not?

We know you didn’t expect to have a therapy session on top of all of the other holiday stressors you’re facing, but talking about giving while considering money, emotions, and values will help pave the way for years of better gift giving and receiving, Newcomb says. Not only can you expect more gifts you’ll love, but you’ll be more likely to do the same for your S.O. 

The art of dropping hints

Short of handing your honey a shopping list, there are strategies to train your partner to be the gift-giver of your dreams. If you want to keep it subtle, you’ll have to learn how to drop hints.

Trae Bodge, Smart Shopping Expert at, suggests this approach: “When you see something online you like, say to them ‘Oh, look! I love these earrings’ to plant seeds so when they are making a choice in the store, they remember that conversation,” 

If your hints weren’t taken and you still find yourself gathering gift receipts, take it one step further. When partners are stuck, they — and especially men — will ask your friends for suggestions. So, make sure your friends know what you love. Keep them updated on your favorite brands or items you’re wishing you had, so when they get that “help me!” text, they’ll know exactly how to respond. 

Is your S.O. still not getting the hint? When your partner hints that they’re struggling to find the perfect gift, simply tell them that you really enjoy shopping for yourself and would absolutely love a gift card to one of your favorite stores. 

And if that approach doesn’t work, it’s time for radical honesty. Next time you’re less than thrilled with what they put under the tree, try saying, “Thank you so much, but I don’t really love this. I prefer things by this other designer. Is it okay if I exchange this for something I like more?” 

Honesty is the best gift of all 

There’s really no use in settling for gifts you don’t love, and there’s no harm in being honest.  If you don’t wear or use the item they spent time picking out, you will hurt them more in the long run than you would just being honest in the moment.

Offer to go shopping together to exchange the gift. It’s a great way to show your partner what you love — and help ensure that you don’t run into gift mishaps again in the future. 

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