TBS Newsbot

Your relationship will survive rubbish christmas gifts (unless you’re a dude)

One recent study measured the damage that good and bad gifts do to a relationship. Surprisingly, the worse your gifts are, the better they are.



It’s almost Christmas, and for many, buying presents is a gruelling mountain we’re yet to consider climbing. Admittedly, I’ve spent most of my adult life carefully cultivating my Grinch-ish personality. Birthdays, weddings, whatevers, I’m the guy you can absolutely rely on to not get you a gift. Conversely, I don’t expect anything from you. It’s a fine system that has cost me many friends along the way, but meh. 

However, Christmas is a time where the societal pressure is too great. It’s what we’ve based our religion on. Fat dude, presents, family squabbles, sunburn. Happy Birthday, Jesus. Call it confirmation bias, but psychological research believes gift giving to be a no-win situation. Numerous studies believe that only couples do good gifts, and thusly, do good for the relationship. Aunty June’s jock/sock combination might be practical, but considering your jocks are identical to everyone else, she might be better served in not bothering.

With all that being said (just in time for Christmas) comes another study, one that measures the damage a poorly chosen gift does to a relationship. To forever solidify the difference between the genders, the University of British Columbia decided to test men and women separately. Good going guys.

Data Pool A: Giving gifts to strangers

Alrighty. To test their theories, the aforesaid dorks set up two tests. In the first experiment, subjects were opposite with a stranger of the opposite sex. After about four minutes, they were asked to select a gift for this person. Plot twist: Before the test, each participant jotted down which gifts they’d most like to receive. Then, half the participants were told the other person had chosen their top choice, and the other half their last choice. Simply put, people thought they got what they wanted, others didn’t.
When it went awry (as it certainly did), the difference between the genders became clear. Per the study: “…men who got the gifts they wanted perceived themselves as more similar to the gift-giver, suggesting the better gift would have the expected positive effect on the relationship. Women, though, seemed to be relatively unaffected by whether the present was good or bad.”

Verdict: Don’t give gifts.

Data Pool B: Gift giving in an established relationship

This time, the participants were already in existing relationships. Beyond that, the test was the same as the first, except this time, the participants were also asked how long they expected their relationship to last after the gift. Lolwut.

Per the study: “…again, men who received poor gifts, on average, perceived less similarity with their partners and thought their future together was significantly shorter – as you’d expect. But this time women who received the poor gift from their partners actually saw greater perceived similarity and thought that their relationship would continue for longer than those who had received the good gift.”

Verdict: Wait, what?

Well, the researchers went on to explain that those women felt a threat to their relationship (i.e. from the poor gift), the more they tried to protect against this threat. Therefore, the bad gift was good, please don’t leave me for Christmas. Whereas in the first experiment, they didn’t care, because they didn’t know those people. 

So, what’s the verdict?

Well, according to the surmisals of those who ran the test: “…the real lesson is that women are more motivated than men to marshal psychological defence mechanisms to protect against the damaging effects of poor gifts. Over the long-term the story is likely to be the same for both sexes: bad gifts damage relationships by chipping away at their heart; the feeling that in this big, bad world you’ve found someone who really understands you, and knows what you like.”

I still think the whole no gift thing is preferable.