The unmerry unbirthdays

The whole birthday, holiday, special day thing seems to bring similar stories from so many of us here. For many years when my now adult kids were little kids, I just stopped having birthdays.  (Yeah, I wish I could have stopped the aging for that bit of time as well!)  Basically my birthday would just come and go and not a word would be said at home.  That’s why my oldest son told me last year it was my fault that he didn’t remember my birthday, because we didn’t celebrate it at all when he was growing up. It’s true, my birthdays were unbirthdays in those years.

I think there were a few times that I tried observing some birthday formalities to make it seem normal to the kids .  I tried to fake normalcy by buying myself a present, cooking myself dinner, and baking or buying myself a cake.  That ended up just making me feel worse. Eventually, it became easier to disconnect from the pain of being ignored by just ignoring the day.  Years would come and go, and no birthdays for me. 

Most of the time that was bearable.  Hurtful, but bearable. 

There were those years here and there when he would run out on an emergency errand ‘the day of’ Mother’s day or my birthday.  That was almost worse.  He’d find the ugliest wilting flowers in the grocery market, a cheesy strange card, and maybe something that looked like it came from the dollar store for a gift.  This was usually under duress to not appear totally uncaring to the kids.  Way to show me what he thought my worth was? 

I knew that if I tried to talk to him about it, he’d instantly become aggrieved, misunderstood, unappreciated, and I’d hear a barrage of accusations about every way that he feels uncared for by me.  Every way that I fell short of being a good wife.  Every way that he sacrificed for me, and how unappreciative I was. That would cause me to feel confused, off kilter,  and I’d end up thinking about everything he ‘tried’ to do for me and the kids.  After being bombarded with that, I usually just let it drop into the Swamp of Deadends.  My feelings about not being cared for on my birthday, Christmas, and other special days were all compartmentalized into a box and shoved in some emotional closet.

Bottom line, my husband doesn’t forget my birthday.  He chooses not to do anything for or about it.

I know this because he’s been reminded, and usually not by me. My daughters would remind him.

Once several years back, his mother heard from one of my daughters that their father didn’t ‘remember’ or celebrate my birthday.  Even his own mother thought that was wrong, so she tried to call and remind him ahead of time that year.  Yeah, so even that didn’t ripple the unbending pond of a passive aggressive.  I think that year he just got so busy, so so so busy that he ‘meant to’ go shopping and plan a dinner, he really did (poor busy tired lamb), but somehow the days just slipped by (even with daily reminders that followed by our daughters). 

So if he was forgetting, it was a selective and intentional forgetting. Forgetting once, twice, or a few times over a few decades could be forgetting. Ignoring it when reminded for over three decades is a purposeful pattern.

This year?  I plan to do something similar to what I did for last Mother’s day when I bought myself beautiful delphiniums to plant, and those inexpensive garden solar lights that I’ve enjoyed all summer.  I’ll think of how I want to spend the day, anything special that I want to eat (probably take out), and do whatever I want.  It’s time.

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9 Responses to The unmerry unbirthdays

  1. Expat says:

    I remember my ex not celebrating anything until later on in our marriage. Granted there were no hugs/kisses/warmth ever but in the end at least he asked what I wanted and bought it – granted I would find the place for him to buy it (cheapest place) and he would buy it at the most expensive place then make me feel like some gold digger.

    The wilting flowers made me laugh. I got some of those. He didn’t know leaving flowers in a car for a day at 30 degree weather would harm them. Or how about the roses that were covered in odd tiny white specks? I threw them away two days later after tiny spiders started hatching.


  2. Exodus says:

    It seems there is either lack of any attention or as Expat describes, ‘ lack of warmth’ associated with anything that would normally trigger thoughtfulness and love in other spouses.

    To be fair, I’m sure there must have been a time or two when Norman asked me what I wanted to do for my B’day or what I wanted but when I thought about it and told him, he would either ignore my request completely or he would act very annoyed and frustrated with having to get it or he would feel that since he earned the money that the least I could do is cook the meal myself since he paid for the food. Sometimes he would even make the excuse that the item wasn’t available. Despite any effort he ever made, I never once felt that I was special or worthy of love.

    When I had my dogs, I felt very connected to them and so when I planned my own party, my own cake and gift, I always labeled my gift from them and I knew that if they were capable of knowing it was my special day they would have loved to do something for me. It sounds pathetic I know and trust me, I often felt very deflated and pathetic. But, my dogs were all I had to lift my spirits and give my life some sense of meaning and purpose.

    Christmas- I used to buy presents all year long to save money since we never could afford to empty our bank accounts all at once. Plus, since I had to buy my own gifts, it was good way to ensure a surprise since I would usually forget what I had bought for myself. I feel ashamed even writing this because it’s so pathetic that I would go to such lengths to create a happy holiday for myself and everyone else. I had three boxes in the attic or closet that contained our gifts- one for Norman, one for me and one for the dogs. I wrapped Norman’s and the dogs and then a few days before Christmas, I would nag Norman to wrap mine. Last year, I didn’t bother nagging. I just wrapped mine myself.

    Mother’s day was even worse because Norman would buy a card that had a picture of a dog that wasn’t even the same breed as our dog and then sign all the pet’s name to it. I guess what hurts the most is that I always made everything thoughtful and special for Norman. I usually made him a card that was uniquely him. I would write poetry or quote a special verse unique to his personality.

    At times when I would finally break down and or blow up and express my hurt and remind him of all I would do for him and his family and how he was so cold and unconcerned about me, he would make the most ugly and hateful and arrogant excuses about how he could be as thoughtful as me if he sat on his ass all day and did nothing.

    I’m sort of experiencing a bit of a crisis at the moment regarding codependency. Yesterday I was listening to the audio book, ‘ Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie on youtube. It’s available on there to listen to for free. Anyway, the first woman’s story was the one that I could relate to the most and it was like hearing my own story. Although I have been well aware of my own codependency and had read this book several years ago, hearing that story really stunned me and left me feeling so
    defective and damaged. At different times in my healing, I’ve gained more wisdom from a different perspective about my childhood and how it damaged me. I have made great strides in healing my codependency through the years but living with Norman was the final challenge and I failed miserably.

    For those who are not familiar with this book or for those who may need a refresher course in codependency, here’s the link:


  3. Bronze says:

    Oh the birthday and christmas thing…. How can it be so hard for these men to show they care? I got a bunch of flowers for my birthday AFTER we were separated. From them on, that was brought up as ”well, I got you those flowers”. He drove 60 kms during work to give them to me personally and would say – you would never do that for me. Um, well, no I usually plan your birthdays ahead so I don’t have to buy something at the last minute and deliver it and I would have taken that time off! I spent my birthdays with my friends while he would stay at home. Once I tried to take the family out to dinner but by the end of the meal he was simmering about something and barked that ”NOBODY IS HAVING ANY CAKE” and we had to leave the restuarant. Suffice to say I could go on and on about not gifts, gifts that seem like he bought them for someone else because they bear no resemblance to my tastes or likes, outright ruining days with his behaviour. I don’t get it at all. It’s such a simple way to connect to somebody and show appreciation and yet they can’t even manage that. Their selfishness is all encompassing. And their non-efforts that they want admiration and praise for or we are the mean ones, is just outright childish.


  4. AlonewithGod says:

    We all know that expectations just set us up for getting hurt and disappointed, right?? The holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. are no different. Expect nothing from these losers. The special day is just a prime chance for them to passively stick it to us. My ex grudgingly gave me a Christmas present in January but he didn’t even use his own money to buy it.
    I had come into a bit of cash and could have kept it a secret from him, but I didn’t. I decided to do the right thing and honor him. So I gave him half. Not bragging on myself, it was money I never expected anyway. And he used part of it for my gift. We had previously agreed to not buy each other Christmas gifts — it was a way for me to protect myself from disappointment. No expectation, no disappointment.
    A couple of wks later, he gave me an accessory for the original gift. I remember I was sitting in bed using my laptop and he tosses it onto the bed. It was a very strange scenario. Like he didn’t want to get it for me, but felt obligated. So he threw it. And said, “this completes my Christmas present to you”. He didn’t smile; there was no connection with me – it would have been such a great opportunity to connect, for closeness – I agree with Bronze on that. But I smiled, picked it up and said, “thank you so much. I love it”.
    Was very happy to receive a gift. Expecting it to come with love is useless. Not gonna happen.
    The only thing I learned to expect from my ex was abuse.


  5. justanothermindgame says:

    I can so relate to this. Every year, the ex would have a big fight or sulk just during my birthday or his – just so that both days would be ruined and I would be in tears. Happy giving and receiving was never part of the bargain. This becomes more ironic when I remember him telling that his parents never celebrated a single birthday of his. They had celebrated his sister’s birthday once. But never his. I remember his sister showed me some photographs of that birthday and pointing out her brother. She casually mentioned he was upset that it wasn’t his birthday. The whole family’s so screwed-ball about birthdays.


  6. marsocmom says:

    This year I had the best birthday I can remember. It was a Saturday, a day he worked until 6:30, so my friend took me out for pizza at 5:00 when she got off work. It was a really nice relaxing time and it felt like a special treat. After that, I came home and cooked him dinner. He said we could go out for my birthday “some other time,” because he was tired. (Has some other time come yet? We all know the answer to that.)

    Her birthday was two weeks before mine, We both worked that day until 5:00, so I took her out for pizza since her husband works on Saturdays, too. In a way, we both got a double birthday treat. No gifts, no gushy cards, just a fun dinner out with a friend you can talk to. And no husband with whom you are forced to either make inane conversation with or listen to a recap of the week’s sporting news. Perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. newshoes123 says:

    It’s way past time my dear are you kidding… I took myself shopping one birthday because he forgot, took his cc and bought myself something expensive 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks a lot for the blog post. Really looking forward to reading more.


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