Birthday expectations

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!

6 thoughts on “Birthday expectations

  1. 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.



  2. Reblogged this on my life in pajamas and commented:
    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.


  3. Here’s my experience: Married to my now ex pa-abuser for 11 yrs. For at least the past 6 yrs, he never acknowledged our anniversary. Our framed marriage certificate/license hung on the hallway wall for most of that time. We walked by it dozens of times daily. So on the day, nothing was ever said, no plans made. I said nothing either…I guess I didn’t want him to know how it hurt me. So I pretended not to notice. And nothing was ever said.
    I wish now that I had mentioned our anniversaries. Gone out to dinner and paid for it myself. But that’s really just dreaming. He didn’t want anything like that “expected” of him. And whenever I suggested we ever go out, he declined. It always had to be his idea.
    There were other times – my last birthday with him, he made me a beautiful handwritten card. At the bottom
    it read, “your present is coming”. 2 wks later we split up. I guess that was my present.


  4. Cathy, I believe that we were slowly conditioned in our relationships to expect less and less as our needs were never met. Eventually, we just quit expecting anything and shut down because it’s safer than getting hurt over and over again. This happens to people and animals in any type of abusive relationship.

    I don’t agree that we should instruct our husbands to behave a certain way. There’s absolutely no dignity in doing so. The shame that resulted from reminding my husband of our anniversary or birthday or anything else was more harmful in the long run since it only resulted in a shallow display of behavior that further affirmed that I was pathetic woman who had to beg for respect, love and honor.

    I’ve had to remind myself that one of the reasons Norman kept repeating was because I allowed him to by staying and playing a role in all his drama and chaos. People keep doing what works for them. Our logical minds may tell us that we don’t like our circumstances but there must be something that we were getting out of the relationship that caused us to stay so long. I’m still trying to figure out why I stayed so long- most likely there were several contributing factors including age, low self esteem, being partners in business/self employed and a terrible fear of going from bad to even worse. I lost everything including myself.


  5. This is so true and accurate! My husband too is a perfect example of a passive-aggressive person. Their behaviour is so subtle and outwardly nice that it took me years to understand what was really going on.
    My birthdays too go uncelebrated and half-forgotten. He has never organised a party and any attempt on my behalf to organise a special day is sabotaged by sudden illness, a work emergency, the immediate need to see to his sheep or some other excuse.
    I have given up trying to celebrate anything; it avoids conflict but it also means that he wins in every respect and my life is miserable.
    Thank you so much for sharing your insights and analysis. It really helps me to understand that this is not normal.

    Liked by 1 person

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