What’s the worst gift you ever received for Valentine’s Day? One reader response to our social media request was hard to beat: a ThighMaster.Can any gift, by definition, be “bad” coming from our paramour? That depends on three things, sayslicensed psychotherapist Gina Jarrell, and not one of them concerns the gift itself. It depends on:
1. The giver
2. The relationship
3. The expectation
The right giver means the gift can never be really wrong. “I look at my relationship like the icing on my cake — he brings out the best in me,” says Jarrell.
Signs that you have the right kind of relationship include having someone who supports your goals, uplifts you and scaffolds your growing happiness.
If you’re in a relationship with a person who buys you a two-week Mediterranean cruise but attempts to control or belittle you, it’s the wrong gift — because it’s the wrong giver.
“I work with people all the time who express feeling depression and anxiety when they have to talk to the person they are in a relationship with. If you have to have anti-anxiety drugs or alcohol just to deal with this person, it’s not the right person. You should be able to be your authentic self — good, bad and ugly — in a relationship,” states Jarrell.
Jarrell calls it the hangover from the chemical cocktail of lust — internal biological warfare that can handily be confused with true love, only to fizzle out later with an aftertaste of regret.
“The chemical cocktail our brains release when we are around somebody we are attracted to, especially if we end up having sex with them, is similar to the effects of OxyContin or some other drug,” Jarrell explains.
Science also proves the ‘Pepe Le Pew’ Syndrome, what might send a French skunk in hot initial pursuit of a fickle feline, only after “l’amour” to find Penelope is psychotically attached, and he’s ready to move on.
When a man wants to have sex, a basic primal instinct, he is completely confused.
“His brain is releasing chemicals that cause him to not think very clearly.”
A woman, however, has clarity near clairvoyance, possibly even weighing consequences.
“After, the man (and chemical cocktail) relaxes — and the woman’s chemistry leaves her more prone to confusion, giddiness and attachment” — a compelling reason to stop and think before giving yourself as a gift. “Self awareness is key: Ask — Do I really love this person or am I reacting to a lot of fizz that might fizzle?”
Fanatic pheromones are hallmark of the romance phase of relationships. An essential progression is the move from chemical fog into steadfast, mature love.
Signs of mature love, says Jarrell, are high levels of consideration for the other person.
“Thinking outside of yourself and showing compassion are signs of mature love.”
Mature love generally results in gifts that say: I know you like no one else knows you.
“If my boyfriend knew I hated Thai food and said to me, ‘Let’s meet for Thai!’ I’d know something wasn’t right.”
Expressions of mature love are generally not expensive and are not confined to a single day. Sometimes when people are really in love, the notion is simple: I made you a cup of coffee this morning. I didn’t use all of the hot water. I started your car. I toasted the loaf ends of the bread for myself and left the middle for you.