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We’re all guilty of saying we want to be surprised when our partner asks what they should get us for Christmas, and then being disappointed when it’s not exactly what we wanted.

A lot of the time, what we really mean when we ask for a surprise is for our partner to know us so well that they don’t even need to be told what to get for us for it to be bang on.

But, people aren’t mind readers, and often we end up disappointed.

Yes, it’s the thought that counts but, let’s be honest, no one wants to experience their Emma Thompson in Love Actually moment.

Still, the chances of disappointment are inevitable throughout the course of a relationship, whether right at the start or later on, when you’ve both played all your best cards.

So how should you react if your partner’s gift ideas absolutely flop this Christmas? asked a relationship expert to find out.

How to react if you don’t like a gift from your partner

‘Firstly, if you receive a gift from your partner that you absolutely despise, it’s important that you say “thank you” and acknowledge their generosity,’ says relationship therapist Stina Sanders.

‘Always remember to appreciate the intention and the thought of the gift.’

The way you respond next will differ depending on the type of relationship you have and how long you’ve known each other.

A new relationship

If you’re in a new relationship, Sanders says, a small white lie wouldn’t hurt.

‘If you don’t have a moral issue with telling small lies to spare the feelings of well-intentioned people, go ahead and say you like it,’ she says.

‘Don’t lie and say you’ll use the gift every day or that you love it.

‘Just say thank you and that you appreciate their kindness.’

If you’re still in the early stages, expectations should be lowered.

If you really don’t like a present bought by your significant other, there’s no harm in telling them for future reference.

Sanders says: ‘You can phrase it like this: “I appreciate your thoughtfulness and effort in getting me this gift, thank you.

“We are still learning about each other, however I do prefer trainers/slippers instead of crocs.

“I am not saying this to hurt your feelings, I just want us to understand each other better as we’re still learning.”’

Long term

With longer-term partners, it might be more reasonable to expect a well-thought-out gift.

If you can’t quite wrap your head around why your partner has chosen this gift for you, it might be a good idea to do some covert questioning first.

Sanders advises: ‘Ask them about the gift and how they thought of it.

‘By asking questions like “I’ve never seen green crocs before, where did you get them? Do you have a pair yourself?” you may determine their logic behind buying it for you.’

If a gift is truly thoughtless, though, it’s worth pointing out.

Sometimes, honesty is the best policy. Sanders advises, phrasing it like this: ‘Thank you for this gift however I’m not really sure this is a gift for me, as tickets to watch a heavy metal concert isn’t to my taste.’

Depending on your relationship with your partner, you can be a little playful with it.

‘If you are close to your partner and both have a great sense of humour,’ says Sanders, ‘tell the truth and laugh about it together.

‘Remember to acknowledge their efforts and to keep it light-hearted, and only do this if you’re sure their feelings won’t be hurt.’

How to avoid being disappointed by future gifts

While being gifted the perfect surprise is a lovely fantasy – and sometimes even a reality – it’s unfair to put so many expectations on our significant others.

If you’re not comfortable simply asking for something that you’d like, try Sanders’ tips for avoiding future disappointments.

Write a wish list

‘It doesn’t necessarily need to be a list, but knowing what you want and letting your partner know a few options in advance can really help them to avoid bad present giving.’

Lead by example

‘When giving your partner an awesome gift that they absolutely love, you can explain what made you think to buy the gift.

‘You could say: “I remember how much you said you loved the outdoors and wanted to go hiking in the mountains, so I thought these hiking boots and trip to Scotland would be a good start to achieving that.”’

Be direct

‘Before you get a cupboard full of unwanted gifts, pull your partner aside and tell them honestly: “I appreciate the thought, but would you be OK with me exchanging these jeans for a darker colour? I really like the style, but I think I look better in a darker wash.”

‘If the gift is truly awful or thoughtless, you can phrase like this: “I feel like a total ass bringing this up and while I’m grateful, I’m a bit thrown by this gift as it’s not to my usual taste/style/humour, and we already spoke about how I don’t like this specific gift.

‘”I know how thoughtful and considerate you are, I was just wanting to understand your thinking behind the gift.”’

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