Birthdays, anniversaries, and bad husbands!

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I adore my longtime boyfriend and the happy life we have built together. There is, however, a recurring issue over which we cyclically disagree: his birthday.

While never truly enjoying getting older, I have always enjoyed celebrating my own birthday — what a wonderful excuse to see loved ones and share a good time over food and/or drinks! My boyfriend, however, sees his birthday in an entirely different light.

Sharing a life with him, I am privy to some of the horror stories that were his birthdays growing up. To be blunt, they weren’t great. But that life is decades behind him.

We, an out and proud gay couple, have been blessed with many friends who have become as dear to us as any blood kin could ever be. They have regularly expressed their desire to celebrate his birthday over the years. Sadly, my boyfriend will often lie to them (or expect me to do so!) about his exact birthday, claiming the date has already passed.

I think this behavior is selfish. I’ve had plenty of bad birthdays, even with people I love, but I would never think to use that as a feeble excuse to justify deceit. What’s more, I’m crushed that we have so many wonderful people in our lives who want to celebrate this wonderful man, and he takes offense!

He claims the effort and energy of showing appreciation over gifts or muddling through small talk (which, to be fair, isn’t his forte) just makes the day about everyone else and all the more difficult to bear.

I don’t know how to justify this mentality to myself or others. I’ve suggested he talk to a professional about it, but to me it seems he’s simply hellbent on denying our loved ones the chance to celebrate him and show their happiness that he was born. Instead, he’s chosen contempt!

Please, help! What is the kind and gracious approach to show him the error of his ways? How do I stop these faux pas that are cavalier at best, and cruel at worst?

GENTLE READER: And demonstrate your love and appreciation by forcing him to endure an event he finds unpleasant?

It is possible that in addition to his bad memories, he has seen too much of people using birthdays as a self-centered test for others to prove their devotion, usually concluding that they failed. But that hardly matters. The important part is that the gentleman does not enjoy these parties. Are you seriously suggesting that he seek therapy for this?

Miss Manners hopes you and his friends will find ways to show him appreciation that he actually enjoys. (c) MISS MANNERS

Oh my.

This letter writer is so wrong!! I agree with Miss Manners. If his significant other doesn’t want to celebrate, it should be his call! And the letter writer should go along with the white lies, like, “Oh, sorry, you missed it. His birthday was a week ago, but we just stayed home and chillaxed,” instead of, “Yes, today’s his birthday! Now go tell him how happy he should be!”

Ugh.

I’m a big believer in letting the birthday celebrant call the shots. It’s their birthday!

Sharing a life with him, I am privy to some of the horror stories that were his birthdays growing up. To be blunt, they weren’t great. But that life is decades behind him.

Wow! That’s… very dismissive. I think Miss Manners should’ve urged this letter writer to research trauma. But Miss Manners is really more into etiquette than psychology. This letter writer needs to research trauma and learn about how it stays with you and replays in your mind like no time has passed. If the only devastation linked to it is that someone hate birthdays, then God bless. It can be worse. I’m glad the letter writer’s significant other isn’t impaired by more than his birthday aversion.

I would never think to use [past bad birthdays] as a feeble excuse to justify deceit.

I’d use it as an excuse to justify deceit! I’m a big believer in lying if:

  • You’re protecting your own personal information (like your birthday),
  • You’re being tactful (like if your best friend is about to walk down the aisle and chooses that exact moment to ask if her wedding dress makes her look fat),
  • You’re keeping someone’s confidences,
  • etc.

Hmm. Let’s see what Dear Abby is up to today!

DEAR ABBY: I was married in a double wedding with my twin brother. Fast-forward: My husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary in three months. My brother and his wife divorced 10 years ago. Our three adult children want us to have a big anniversary celebration, as do my husband and I. My brother says that since it would have been his anniversary too, I’m being selfish and insensitive to his feelings. Our mother agrees! Both said if we have a party, they will not attend.

I think they are the ones being selfish. My husband and I have had our share of hardships, but we worked and talked through them. I feel we deserve this celebration not only for us, but also our kids and friends. Your thoughts? — SILVER ANNIVERSARY IN ARIZONA

DEAR SILVER: You are neither selfish nor insensitive. Celebrate your 25th anniversary (congratulations, by the way) in any fashion or at any time you and your family choose. It is regrettable that your self-centered twin brother and overly indulgent mother adopted the attitude they have and attempted to make the occasion all about him, but the choice was theirs. Graciously accept their refusal to attend, have the party and enjoy every minute of it. (c) DEAR ABBY

I was in the letter writer’s corner until this happened:

My husband and I have had our share of hardships, but we worked and talked through them.

That’s not fair. Her twin brother might have tried just as hard at his marriage, but if his wife made no effort at all, then his hands would’ve been tied. You can’t guarantee the success of a wedding on one person’s efforts. The letter writer seems rather braggy about it, and I suspect therein lies the problem. “I’ve worked hard at my marriage, but you got divorced! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Or, perhaps the brother didn’t work as hard, but he had a good reason for it. Like, maybe he discovered his wife was a mafia kingpin, and so he ran screaming from the marriage. Who could blame him? At any rate, the letter writer should be less smug.

My brother says that since it would have been his anniversary too, I’m being selfish and insensitive to his feelings. Our mother agrees!

I’d totally buy that if not for the aforementioned quote. I think the letter writer is being selfish and insensitive to her brother’s feelings. If she could be more tactful and sympathetic, then her brother would be more likely to celebrate with her. But if you go around saying stuff like, “My marriage succeeded, but your marriage failed!” then people aren’t going to want to buy you cake for your anniversary.

Hmm… let’s see what Annie Lane is up to!

Dear Annie: Please tell me, how do I deal with my husband’s depression and phone addiction? It’s starting to hurt my self-esteem, leaving me feeling as if I’m incapable of making him happy.

He has never been medically diagnosed but says depression runs in his family. His mom and all of his siblings have been diagnosed and take antidepressants. He can easily switch from being a fun-loving husband to a very crabby one in less than a minute. I constantly feel like I’m walking on eggshells because I don’t know if what I’m going to say next might trigger him.

Sometimes it could be something as small as my not wanting fish for dinner. Then he gets upset and doesn’t talk to me for days. Days! I ask him what’s wrong, and he says he needs his space from me and our girls; hence, he escapes into his phone or video games.

He spends countless hours on his phone. He hides in the restroom with his phone. He wakes up and goes to bed with his phone.

I try to be the fun girl I used to be. I schedule camping trips and little outings to give us something fun to look forward to as a family. I try to run my household as smoothly and neatly as possible by adopting a minimalist lifestyle so he can unwind from a long day at work and not come home to a chaotic household, and he simply resorts to his phone once again.

I’m emotionally drained. I don’t fit in his virtual world, and when he’s not on the phone, he’s depressed. — Living with Grumpy

Dear Living with Grumpy: You are doing a wonderful job trying to create a loving, adventurous and nurturing household — all while living with a man who is unhappy and needs professional help for his depression. It can be hard to tell whether too much video game and phone time is making him depressed, or if his depression is making him self-medicate by withdrawing from the family with his phone, video gaming and temper. Regardless of which came first, he needs professional help.

Try to focus on your daughters and yourself while he gets treatment. Don’t allow his sadness to take away your joy. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

This is exactly what I mean about how one spouse can’t carry the weight of a marriage. She’s doing everything, but he’s being a baby. He’s taking advantage of her all over the place, and it’s disgusting. He needs to man-up and work with her to improve things. Instead, he’s in constant victim mode. Dude, your wife wasn’t in the mood for fish. Learn to cope. I have spoken.

And that’s the best-case scenario! Goodness! The worst-case scenario is that he’s on his phone all the time because he has a mistress. Or several.

You are doing a wonderful job trying to create a loving, adventurous and nurturing household — all while living with a man who is unhappy and needs professional help for his depression.

Oh, Annie Lane! This isn’t his depression talking. He’s taking her for a ride because he can. He likes the status quo and has no qualms about taking advantage of his wife’s giving nature. I seriously almost want to deck this guy. I sense a lot of passive aggression. But to blame his bad attitude on depression  makes depressed people everywhere look bad. Geez.

The letter writer needs to rethink the marriage. If she can get him to counseling, then great. But that seems like a big if.

6 thoughts on “Birthdays, anniversaries, and bad husbands!

  1. That first LW, ugh! I had perfectly normal, nice, fun birthday celebrations as a kid/college student/young adult. And I still got to a point where I don’t like celebrating my birthday so I skip it. I deliberately don’t post it on Facebook. Like that’s nice that my friends want to celebrate my birthday. I do not want that. I don’t get why this is such a difficult concept for LW to accept that not everyone wants to celebrate in the same way. Also, this LW is so smug. “to show him the error of his ways?” ugghhh

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow lots to unpick here! I have always hated my birthday but felt compelled to do something because I felt it was expected of me, then made myself ill from stressing about it to the point where I cancel. To be forced into a celebration would be absolute torture!
    I think the couple in the second story have every right to celebrate their anniversary but as we don’t know the full picture it’s hard to say whether she’s being insensitive to her brother or not. It sounds like a massive overreaction from him and their mother to me, but perhaps that’s because of something she’s not telling us, like his wife was an evil cow or ran off with his best friend!
    For the last one, I have to disagree with you I’m afraid. Depression manifests in different ways and I’ve been there where you can do nothing and just withdraw into your comforts (phone is a classic). From the outside it looks like laziness but when it’s happening to you, you have no energy to fight it. I’m happy that the letter writer is concerned for him, I think he does need help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good points, all! Thanks for your insights!! It’s helpful to me to have different views because the whole reason I blog about advice columns is to try to develop better discernment!! It’s kind of weird because I was raised in a way that sort of blocked any form of emotional development, if that makes sense? I guess ’cause there was a lot of emotional abuse and extreme intensity in my household!! I was never able to see anything clearly in an emotional way (or in other ways!). So I always blog about advice columns to sort of… how to put it… think things through in a clear way, and to practice such? I see your points here!! You could be right!!

      Interestingly, with the second letter, the commentary at the syndicate was mixed. Half of the commenters agreed with me, and the other half agreed with your possibility that the brother and mom were overreacting for no good reason. And yeah, it’s always frustrating when more info isn’t given to, like, create a better picture!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, for sure!! If I could have one wish, it would be for letter writers to give more info! Or maybe to win a million dollars! 😀 It would be a tossup!

        Like

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