August 10, 2021 — 11:13 AM
Of the five love languages identified by marriage counselor Gary Chapman, Ph.D., perhaps the most misunderstood is the love language of giving gifts. There’s an unspoken assumption that a person who prefers to receive displays of affection in the form of gifts must be materialistic or shallow—but in reality, that isn’t always the case.
What does it mean to have gift-giving as a love language?
A person who has gifts as their love language feels most loved when their partner gives them tangible items. According to Chapman’s love language theory, a love language is simply a person’s preferred way of receiving affection in a relationship. Gifts is one of the five love languages, alongside words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, and acts of service.
For people with gifts as a love language, the act of giving a gift serves as a gesture of affection and care because it shows the person was thinking about you while you weren’t around and wanted to find a way to make you smile. The gift also becomes a physical token memorializing a moment, experience, or feeling. In other words, it’s less about the specific thing that’s being given and more about what that thing symbolizes.
“The present itself is nice, but it’s really the thought behind it that counts,” relationship coach Julie Nguyen writes at mbg. “The gift becomes an object that helps you remember they were thinking of you, which fills you with love.”
Signs your love language is gifts:
- Words are nice, but a physical representation of love you can hold in your hands feels so much more real and meaningful.
- The process of giving each other sweet, romantic presents is one of your favorite “little things” about being in a relationship.
- You treasure anything a partner gives you, whether it’s the most expensive thing on your wish list or a single flower they plucked off the side of the road.
- It means a lot to you when someone puts in a lot of time or effort into a gift for you.
- You love surprises—they make you feel cherished.
- You feel really loved when someone brings you back a souvenir from a trip they went on without you.
- You’re the type of person who really cares about birthdays, anniversaries, and other gift-giving holidays, and you’d honestly be a little hurt if your partner didn’t go out of their way to get you something really special.
- For special occasions, thoughtful presents are really important to you: You want gifts that have a lot of meaning, personalization, and feeling behind them.
- You can tell the difference between a last-minute, generic gift and one that someone really put some thought into—and that difference matters a lot to you.
- You also love a “just because” gift, i.e., when someone brings you a small present for no real reason other than that they were thinking about you.
- When your partner remembers something you mentioned you wanted ages ago and gets it for you, you feel incredibly seen and loved.
- Little gestures of care and generosity—like when they grab coffee on their way to meet you and bring you one without even asking—feel so sweet and meaningful to you.
- When your date pays for you—whether it’s the movie ticket, the dinner bill, or the car ride home—you take it as a sign that they must really like you.
- You don’t expect your partner to pay for everything, but when they do it, it just makes you feel closer to them—like they’re saying, you’re my person, and I got you.
- In fact, when your partner doesn’t pay for you, it sometimes makes you feel like you’re unimportant to them.
- When your partner gives you one of their most-used pieces of clothing, you live in it—not only because it smells like them but because it was something of theirs that they clearly loved and chose to give it to you anyway.
- Kisses and cuddling are fun, but they aren’t nearly as romantic to you as a meaningful present.
- You’d be more bothered by a partner not getting you anything for your birthday than by them not being available to hang out that often.
- You’re the type of person who never throws away presents—they’re too meaningful to you!
The gifts need to be expensive.
Great relationships start with great sleep.*
The gifts love language isn’t actually about money at all—it’s about the sentimentality behind the process of gift-giving. “People whose love language is receiving gifts enjoy being gifted something that is both physical and meaningful. The key is to give meaningful things that matter to them,” couples’ psychotherapist Fariha Mahmud-Syed, MFT, CFLE, recently told mbg.
The price tag doesn’t matter as much as the level of thoughtfulness, care, and effort behind the present. People with this love language appreciate small tokens of affection—like when their partner picks them up a coffee on their way to meet up—as much as the more expensive gifts.
Some folks with this love language might also love getting spoiled and having a partner who’s willing to splurge on them, but again it’s more about the feeling of being doted on than the actual money.
Gifts people are materialistic.
Some people assume that someone who has gifts as a love language must be materialistic, shallow, or more concerned about things than love. But that’s not necessarily true.
For gifts people, gifts represent love. “The gesture of receiving a gift demonstrates that you are seen, cared for, and prized. You really thrive on the thoughtfulness behind the gesture and treasure nostalgic items,” Nguyen explains.
While some gifts people might be materialistic, it’s not inherent to the love language—someone with physical touch or any other love language might also happen to be materialistic. On the other hand, it’s possible for someone with the gift-giving love language to not really care for physical things very much at all, but gifts from their loved ones may just be the few physical things they actually do cherish.
Gifts people could never date someone who’s “broke.”
Again, the point isn’t that a person with this love language necessarily wants a bunch of expensive gifts, so how wealthy someone is won’t necessarily matter. Small gifts can be just as sweet to receive as bigger gifts, and the most meaningful gifts might not even come with a big price tag anyway—such as a $10 scrapbook that someone clearly spent weeks filling with memories and personalized love notes.
In fact, for a gifts person, the gesture of purchasing a pricey gift or paying for a nice dinner might actually be more meaningful when it’s coming from someone without a lot of financial means—because the fact that they’re willing to splurge on you is all the more symbolic of how much they care, as opposed to a wealthier person who regularly spends a lot of money on everything anyway.
Dating someone whose love language is gifts.
If you’re dating someone whose love language is gifts, remember: This is one of the primary things that shows your partner that you care about them. Things like kisses, spending a lot of time together, or sweet words don’t quite hold as much significance to this person—to feel really loved, they’ll want to know that you’re thinking about them even when you’re not together and to see tangible symbols of your relationship. And gifts are the perfect way to do that.
Nguyen recommends prioritizing both special occasions (put them on the calendar and set reminders a few weeks in advance so you can plan a great gift!) as well as more spontaneous presents every now and then. “It could be as simple as a hand-picked flower from the garden or getting them a cute keychain from a favorite travel destination,” she says. “Those small gestures can celebrate the relationship in a big way.”
Remember: The point is not the price tag. The point is to convey care, a sense of knowing them well, and the fact that you’re thinking about them through what you give.
If gifts is your love language.
Talk to your partner about why you love gifts and what types of gifts are meaningful to you! Remember that nobody is a mindreader, and they may not realize how much you value this form of love until you share it with them. Likewise, don’t expect them to just magically know what kind of things you like!
It may also be helpful to have a conversation about money and the role it does or does not play in what gestures you appreciate. Money is often a source of conflict in relationships and is widely known to be a contributor to divorce, so it’s important to get on the same page with partners about the way you both think about money—especially if you have the gift-giving love language.
Despite the misconceptions, having the gift-giving love language isn’t materialistic or shallow. In fact, people who see gifts as one of the main ways to convey affection may even tend to be more sentimental, attached to nostalgia, and attentive to how much their partner thinks about them. Generosity is important to a healthy relationship, and it has less to do with monetary value than with wanting to give someone you love care, thoughtfulness, and joy.