The perfect gift (that she won't break up with you for)

"It's not you, it's me" is arguably the most clichéd and classic break up line of all time. A top 10 Buzzfeed list entitled "The 10 Worst Things To Say During A Break-Up" includes modern day versions of that line as well as other tried and true excuses like, "I don't want to hurt you." And while there are numerous other break-up lines which follow closely after, one line no one ever should use is, "'Cuz my Christmas gift sucked."

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In a survey released Wednesday by big data firm 1010data about unwanted relationship stress caused by gift giving, it seems that over half of the respondents said their gift recipient argued, cried or complained after getting his/her gift. On a few occasions, respondents noted that they had even ended a relationship as a result of having received the wrong gift.

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If, in fact, you are the boyfriend who gets dumped this Christmas Eve because you failed to buy the woman in your world the "perfect" gift, then here's a bit of advice: Dude, she wasn't worth the paper it was wrapped in.

Gift giving is a big deal on many levels. In no way am I minimizing the importance of taking the time to give the right gift to the right person. In fact, I pride myself on finding the perfect item for the people in my life. Gift giving goes badly when it does not seem the recipient was not thought of at all. It's not that "it's the thought that counts" — it's that you actually have to think.

We all have people in our lives who are hard to satisfy, for whom buying that perfect gift is nearly impossible. There is one woman in my life who is that person for me and year after year, she liked nothing I gave her. Unfortunately, the caveat in getting her the wrong gift is that you also have to be the one to return it. One year, however, I took matter into my own hands: I gave her the credit receipt for the gift I had bought her, and had already returned.

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Assuming she was not going to like it anyway, and that I would end up on a returns line bringing it back, I skipped a step. I bought something, and then got right back on line to return it. And when I explained to her what I had done, placing the receipt in her hand, she actually appreciated it. In some bizarre way, I had thought about her, considered her needs and given her the perfect gift.

Two years ago, as we prepared for Chanukah, my husband let me know the gift he had ordered for me from Amazon might arrive a few days late. That's interesting, I mused aloud, because Amazon didn't sell jewelry (or at least so I thought) and all I wanted was a new pair of earrings. He promised, however, that I would like this gift more than jewelry, and so we waited for the package to arrive and I waited to be disappointed.

Lo and behold, the gift arrived and he was right. At a fraction of the price of earrings, he had bought me something for the kitchen which not only spoke to my personality, but was creative, thoughtful and fun. The cost of the gift didn't matter, because he had clearly considered me when making the purchase. And that gift (a brick of Pink Himalayan salt used for cooking) will forever remain as one of the greatest gifts of all time.


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It's the holiday build-up that causes so much of the problem: The anticipation and pressure of gift giving the starts weeks or even months in advance. It is why people overreact when receiving something that was unexpected or unwanted. Stores advertise holiday sales before snow hits the ground and radio stations play "Jingle Bells" before turkeys are carved. With all of the holiday hype and increased ramp-up, it is no surprise why pressured shoppers can mistakenly buy the wrong gift and why others lose it when receiving a new pair of pajamas.

Meeting and managing expectations is important and often necessary to ensure that gift giving is filled with more joy than stress. There is no harm in consulting your intended recipient before making that big holiday purchase. More often than not, just that conversation shows that you are thinking of the person and making an extra effort to get it right. In addition, letting your special someone know that maybe his/her big ticket item isn't in the budget this year is both an honest and truthful discussion to be had before someone expects diamond studs and gets something else instead.

The point of gift-giving is to show you cared, that you actually thought about the person, and that you made an effort. Keeping all of this in mind may not make every present a homerun, but at least you won't strike out. And if you receive a gift that was not everything you hoped it would be and more, take a deep breath before going ballistic. Surely losing that person over a gift should be more tragic than having to return your new car charger to Best Buy.


Commentary by Miriam L. Wallach, radio host and general manager of The Nachum Segal Network, a 24-hour Internet-radio networking servicing the international Jewish community. A self-proclaimed gym rat and foodie, Miriam and her husband are the proud parents of six children and live on Long Island. Follower her on Twitter @miriamlwallach.