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 but make sure that everyone still thinks I’m wonderful! The saddest part is that I have low expectations, so this wasn’t my fault at all. It was in his head.
My pah was expert at these manipulations. I’ve already commented that he (strangely) seemed to work unexpectedly late on my birthday (he was self-employed for the last decade) although rarely for the rest of the year. Always offering to take me out for a meal-the first time I dressed ready to go and he came home with a ‘headache’ – also rare. Naturally I sympathised and cooked beans. The next year I didn’t bother to dress up but simply started to cook, and when he arrived home very late he expressed great surprise that he thought we were eating out. The third year, he did take me out to a pub where he had been working, saying that the menu looked nice (it wasn’t). We were the only diners and during the following week whilst working there he expressed dismay at the disgusting condition of their kitchen. The following year he again ‘sincerely’ expressed how much he was looking forward to my birthday although nothing was said about going out. During the day I talked to my daughter who asked what we planned- when I said that I really needed to go grocery shopping, she insisted that we call another friend and book a restaurant table, all to pay our own way. Naturally he turned up in the nick of time to come with us and insisted on picking up the tab for everyone. Isn’t he lovely?
Birthdays are also a time when boundary issues come to a head, especially when you have problems with your in-laws. His parents excused themselves from his 40th party (because I had arranged it). I refused to go to his sister’s 50th (see previous post) because they weren’t talking to me- they had sent a joint invitation with a letter telling me they understood that I would be too embarrassed to go! He said he wouldn’t go either but she applied pressure and he agreed to go anyway, at which stage I politely asked him where he would like me to send his possessions, as he needn’t come back! He told her that he had a prior fishing engagement. He wasn’t being loyal, just between a rock and a hard place. For his 50th, his parents and sister tried to arrange a big surprise (to me) party which fell over when I suggested he spend some quality time alone with his parents at the quiet hotel weekend away that I was told about. He didn’t need me, did he? I had a bad feeling about it. The party was cancelled as I guess it would have looked foolish to hold a party without his wife there! He was very angry, and when I discovered the party which he knew about, pointed out that I would have been invited so what was the problem (after being married for 29 years I get ‘invited’?). The culmination was my own 50th, when he hadn’t organised anything but my daughters arranged for us all to go out to a beautiful restaurant. At the end, they pulled out their purses and all had a whip-round at the table to pay for my meal. One was a student. My husband was earning good money and we had been married for 32 years.
This post isn’t meant to be a whinge. It gets it off my chest and if we all compare notes we can learn quicker, surely? And recognise the manipulation more easily. Re-reading all this, I noticed the many lost opportunities to celebrate happy family events. So sad. I learned to take more responsibility for my own enjoyment. Category? ‘Show her she doesn’t matter’. I’ll talk about the PA art of choosing presents another day. Please share experiences!