Birthday expectations

A poster here wrote such a great description of how special days are used by a passive aggressive man to be sneakily aggressive.
My comment there: Each incident can almost always be explained away; each time coated in teflon and ready for denial and then accusations. This is a brilliant post that lays out the pattern so that the pretense can be stripped away and bared down to the aggression and hostility that these men are driven by.


It was my birthday yesterday.  I approached it with habitual anxiety based on many, many birthdays with my pah and in my family of origin that had caused me distress, but now that I’m alone, it was lovely to spend it with my adult daughters, partners and extended family.  No tension or issues.

Anyone who lives with a PA man will quickly understand that special events are a particular source of tension for them.  Their needs are not the main focus of the day, combined with their need to rebel against any expectations others may have; add the fact that these events are usually more public and it is essential that others think well of them and you can see the challenges that they are up against.  hmmm- there is an expectation that I should think about a gift/party for her so I need to make her suffer for that…

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11 Responses to Birthday expectations

  1. Exodus says:

    Happy Birthday Cathy! Cheers to your new life!

    My birthdays were always a nightmare until I was about 34 or so. Well, that’s not completely true. When I was married to my first husband, I had wonderful birthdays thanks to him. He understood my fear of birthdays and made them all the more special for me.

    Norman’s birthday fell two weeks after we starting dating. I was working 15 hour days at the time and lived an hour from my job. Despite my schedule, I managed to pull together a very special birthday for him complete with gifts, balloons attached to the chairs on my deck and I made a very special gourmet dinner of his favorites. In order to accomplish my surprise party for him, I had to run errands during my work day- some of those errands were back here an hour away I would drive here, drive back go to an appt, drive back again and so forth. I was picking up balloons, buying groceries, getting his gifts and wrapping his gifts. It was very hot that day and my car didn’t have A/C so the balloons were blowing around in the backseat and a bumble bee was in the back with the balloons getting angrier by the minute and although I was nervous about getting stung, I just kept driving. I was so happy and excited and couldn’t wait to get home and set up his surprise party. I didn’t even feel exhausted! Funny how happiness energizes. I managed to make everything perfect. The table on the deck was beautiful, there were candles glowing everywhere, balloons. When he arrived, he smiled but it almost seemed strained as if he was holding back. He didn’t say much, not much at all actually and he wasn’t all that excited about his gifts.

    I excused his reaction because frankly, I had never been around anyone who wasn’t grateful for a party, gifts and dinner. Certainly he had a reasonable explanation for his detached reaction. Although I excused his reaction at the time, it apparently hurt me more than I realized because every special occasion after that, I was painfully reminded of how cold he could be even though I put ALL my heart and soul into making his day special. As the years passed, I became more and more aware of how harmful and hurtful it was to invest emotion and thought into caring for Norman and I hated that I had to become like him- a selfish, thoughtless cold person- in order to protect myself from being hurt.

    After celebrating my birthday our first year together, I realized that something was wrong. It was very obvious that he had absolutely no desire to put forth any extra effort for me. He paid a large sum of money for a book once but the book was torn and and the binding was tattered. He barely wrapped anything and when he did it was horribly sloppy and such an insult. I never knew if he was doing that deliberately to hurt me or if he was just that stupid. A smart man who couldn’t wrap would hire or get someone to do that, right? Every birthday that followed ( as well as every holiday) became less and less special and by 2003, there was no mention at all. Assuming that Norman was just an ignorant moron who had no idea what to do, I tried to help him by giving him hints through the year as to what I would like but he never wrote them down and never remembered. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I would have to buy my own gift, plan my own dinner and cook it and I would have get my own cake. Friends would come in the early years and think he had planned it all for me but after two years of that, I never invited anyone. As always, Norman would show up with a card that he bought at Hallmark on the way home and doodled his chicken scratch ‘ love ya honey’ on the inside. The card wasn’t chosen with any thought unique to me. It was usually just some corporate style card. On the rare occasions that I have mentioned to Norman that it really hurts me that he doesn’t care about my birthday, he blames me and says that the reason he doesn’t do anything is because I do everything for myself or because he can’t do anything to please me. Just like he can’t say anything that doesn’t offend me.

    This past year he told a friend of ours that he had big plans for my birthday and she called one day and mentioned my b’day and that Norman had a surprise for me. I laughed ” Yeah right Brenda” I explained to her once again for the 13th year in a row that Norman never did anything for me but she still didn’t believe me. Even after we talked after my birthday I told her that he had done nothing for me and she still didn’t believe me. She believes that I’m the bitter mean and abusive wife that makes up these horror stories about my dear sweet husband. When Norman’s birthday arrived this year, his 50th, she called me to find out if I would bring him to her birthday party. They had the same b’days and she wanted to give him a big 50th b’day bash. It really hurt my feelings that she would go to so much trouble for Norman, the man who abuses and neglects his wife and never does anything for her birthday.I wouldn’t have the nerve to call an abused wife and ask her to plan and attend her husband’s party. I even wondered if she didn’t do it to deliberately hurt me. Anyway, I didn’t go and Norman didn’t go because I didn’t go. I didn’t do anything for him this year..nada. I felt so good in doing nothing but I also felt very sad that once again, I had to become an indifferent and detached woman in order to retain some level of dignity. This is no way to live with anyone. We should never have people in our lives that stifle us and cause trepidation in showing love, affection and happiness.

    Birthdays are horrible for me. There’s no other day in the year that can be used to devalue, degrade and hurt someone more. The reason I always hated birthdays was that on my 8th b’day, my father had promised to come to see me and he never showed up. That morning my mother had given me a box of cookies to take to my class ( that was the standard b’day protocol at my school) to hand out to the kids. I was so nervous that when I went to pick up my cookies, I dropped the box and my gingerbread men broke into pieces. The teacher laughed at me and called me an idiot ( she always did that to me). I couldn’t wait to go home and see my dad. I figured everything would be fine once I saw him but when I got home to my surprise b’day party, I found out my dad wasn’t coming, I locked myself in a closet and would not come out because I was so ashamed that I didn’t have a dad, so ashamed that everyone would know he didn’t love me ( because I was an idiot of course) and then I was too ashamed that everyone saw me upset. I sat in the closet for hours crying and I didn’t want to go back to school. I think my mother enjoyed watching me suffer because she wanted me to hate my father. The trauma from that experience was so ingrained in me that for years I would not leave my house for my b’day. I wouldn’t work, wouldn’t talk to anyone and I would get into my closet and just sit there. It wasn’t until I married my first husband that I was able to tolerate my b’days. He, my best friend and a wonderful therapist helped me work through my trauma. Even after he and I divorced, he worried so about my b’days and would call and make sure I was alright.

    I can’t help but think that marrying a guy like Norman was rooted in my trauma and that I had found a man who would affirm that I’m just a worthless woman by emotionally abandoning me and treating me like I’m nothing special.


  2. newshoes123 says:

    so so so true. Christmas was one particular Holiday that has been the source of great tension for us over the 20 year span. I loved it and dreaded. Loved because I absolutely enjoy watching my kids and the man who used to be my pah open their gifts, loved the cooking, the decorating, etc but there was always something to set off the pah. Whether it was the fact that we had people coming over and he was stressed about making everything perfect which sent me in tailspin or the kids were annoying him, or we would be having too much fun and he would go sulk in his corner. It was aweful… Birthdays were often met with some catastrophy and the poor kids would just prefer to stay home than to do anything for their bdays, which isn’t fair when you’re a kid. Our first wedding anniversary was ruined because of his foul mood, and I had made a wonderful supper, made sure the kids had already eaten and that I had put candles out and flowers and I had defrosted the top layer of our wedding cake, he came in and I said “oh good you’re home – we can eat right away then” – his reply and the Good Lord knows I’ve forgotten part of it (PTSD) him yelling at me: “I just got home, let me time to breathe” and then more yelling and I had no idea what he said after that. I sat there in the kitchen with the supper all ready, crying. Ruined.
    And those are the not so bad ones (except for the anniversary), he would pretend to forget when our anniversary was or say he had no time to shop for Xmas and then dash out on the 24th and buy whatever which I always appreciated but it was never well thought of and thrown together. I would remind him way ahead of time and give him suggestions, and still he would say he didn’t know what to buy me. One year he forgot my bday, I had him get up the next day and take me shopping and I took my time going around all the stores. But it was bitter and I felt let down.

    I’m looking forward to the next Holidays, I hope that they will be calm and joyous. 😀


  3. Jane D. says:

    Each holiday got to be so much work for me. . . my stories sound a lot like everyone else’s.

    In the early years we spent almost every holiday with his family. My family lives out of state; we saw them every other year on Christmas. By the time our daughter was born we didn’t spend every holiday with his family, but spent some with friends.

    After our daughter was 3ish, Christmas became a lot of work for me. Half the fun of Christmas for kids is with their siblings and my daughter had none. I would work carefully to try to have enough activity for all of us. At the time I thought the extra effort was for our daughter; now I realize I was trying to manage my husband’s bad behavior. There was one Christmas that he was so pouty and awful (and it was only 6:30 am!) that when he got in the shower I grabbed my daughter’s (opened) presents and my daughter, got in the car, and headed to friends without him. We had a pleasant, peaceful time. My daughter remembers this as one of the best Christmases she ever had. He wasn’t as bad in future years, but how crazy is it to escape your husband on Christmas day because his behavior is so awful?

    His birthday in our second year of marriage also stands out. I had worked hard to come up with a gift & outing for him, something that I knew he’d enjoy and have an interest in. He was uninvolved. He was unresponsive during the gift opening and the outing. His reaction surprised me. A few days later I asked what was going on. “I was depressed about my birthday.” he said. “Why?” “I don’t know.” (I don’t know was his stock answer for everything he didn’t want to deal with/wanted to control me over. But I didn’t realize that at the time.) As time went on I realized that EVERY birthday would be that way.

    Celebrating my birthday was a complete joke. Sometimes he’d ask me what I wanted/wanted to do – about two days before my birthday. He frequently brought home flowers or a chocolate bar with a card – but his behavior was never “happy”. Y’all know. It was done grudgingly a lot of years.

    Fast forward to present times. My 50th birthday coincided with a national sporting event. I really wanted a party. It’s a milestone – not everyone makes it this far. A couple of my friends threw me a combined national sporting event/birthday party. It eliminated him COMPLETELY from spoiling this for me. (Although I think he would have spoiled it for me if he could have. He got me the awfullest card – my counselor was appalled. After I showed it to my counselor I shredded it. I guess that was the best he could do that year to make it bad for me. ) There were quite a number of people around so he was on good behavior. He did not have to do anything.

    Like all of you, I used to LOVE the various holidays. Life is to be lived, so why not celebrate? I now have really mixed feelings – I want to love them, but they are so much work, and a lot of the work is trying to structure the day so my husband won’t blow up, pout, etc. I try to structure the days now to exclude him when I can. If I can’t exclude him I plan in something I particularly enjoy so that I’ll have something to look forward to.


    • Exodus says:

      Jane, your comment reminded me that while holidays and other special events are a lot of work, they are a labor of love that most people enjoy doing. I remember about how my grandmother would sew the most beautiful tutus for my ballet recitals and they were not shabby or half-a** by any means. She didn’t have to do that but she wanted to and she loved doing it. My grandfather was so amazed by my g’mother’s talents and he encouraged her, nurtured her and supported her in all her endeavors- perpetual harmony without someone resenting the other one for some dumb reason.

      I used to do so many things and I never let the grass grow under my feet. I was very determined and I had such passion and love for life. Norman does everything half-a** with a bad attitude and he has set the bar so low in our relationship that I can’t even crawl under it. His negativity and resentment have spoiled far too many days of my life. I won’t allow him to do that to me anymore.


      • Jane D. says:

        Exodus – perhaps I should have said “work with minimal fruit”. If you are spending the bulk of your time trying to keep someone from blowing up it feels like a fruitless effort. I think my daughter will remember some good things though.

        And, I guess that’s how I feel about my marriage too – a lot of work for no fruit.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Exodus says:

          Jane, you’re right. We are putting our energy and efforts into managing negativity when we should be in relationships that nurture positive emotions. Negativity and anger has just as much power over our lives as love. It’s up to us to choose what kind of people we want in our lives and what kind of life we want to live. I know that once I’m away from all this negativity, that I will be open to receive good people and will have good experiences in my life. Nothing good will ever come from Norman because he’s mentally ill with a disorder that attracts and perpetuates negativity.

          I was watching a beautiful video of Herb Alpert and his wife sing a song together called, ‘ Come What may’ and I felt such happiness and pure joy in watching them together. I realized that before I met Norman, I was always smiling, my eyes were bright and big and round, and there was no tension in my face at all. As silly as it sounds, I watch that video at least once a day just so I can be reminded of who I used to be and who I can be and what I can have again. If we want to be happy, we have to take responsibility for creating it. I spent way too many years frustrated and angry and depressed because I chose an unhappy person to make me happy.


  4. justanothermindgame says:

    This article vibed with me at every level. Thank you for writing it


  5. Jane Thorne says:

    You touch hearts with your story Cathy. Happy Birthday lovely….for you are loved. ❤


  6. Jane Thorne says:

    My life in pajamas – ❤ for you for sharing. xX


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