It's my party and I'll cry if I want to
May 28, 2013 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Relationship frustration, party-planning edition: Help me have a great party even though the circumstances are annoying. Details below the fold.

(This is probably the definition of a first world problem. If you want to tell me that I am a pathetic jerk for being annoyed by this, you're welcome to do so but please know that I agree with you. If you can humor me, please continue.)

My husband and I have been together for almost 10 years, married for almost 4 years. For weeks before my birthday, my husband badgered me about having a party. When asked about having a birthday party, I think I said that I didn't want to have a party because I didn't want to plan a party. I was super stressed out. I had just planned our vacation. Two weeks before my birthday, his sister was getting married which was a few days after a very busy work event. Plus, my birthday is in the middle of May which I realize is a very busy time for most people between Mother's Day, graduations, Memorial Day weekend, etc.

In the interests of doing something for my birthday, I made us brunch reservations at my favorite brunch place and he bought tickets for us to go to a show the night before my birthday. I thought that I would be tired on my birthday so I planned to take it easy and see what I felt like doing. We also had an invitation to go to a cookout at a friend's place. I thought that was more than enough things to do on a weekend. But my husband kept badgering me about having a party.

Husband asked if I wanted to have a party. I said that I didn't want to plan a party. He offered to plan a party for me if I would just invite everyone and order the food and drinks. I pointed out that he said he would plan the party if I would help by planning the party. After he asked me about having a party at least every other day before my birthday, I said to myself that if he asked again, I would just do it because obviously that was what he wanted. A few days before my birthday, he asked if I wanted to have people come over for brunch the day after my birthday, as in the date for which I had made brunch reservations. I gave up and emailed a handful of friends, inviting them to a party in two weeks at our place. Since then, I set up a Facebook invitation and invited about 40 people, maybe 10 of whom have RSVP'd.

Over the weekend, I said that my husband made me plan myself a party. He said, "I can't make you do anything." I explained that he did not literally make me plan myself a party but I felt like I had to because he asked me about it so often. He said that he loved me and just wanted me to be happy and he thought that I wanted a birthday party. I asked why he didn't just say that or alternately, plan the party himself. (In retrospect, I realize that I could have said, "husband, I will swear up and down on a stack of DVDs of The West Wing that I do not want to have a party.") He said we could cancel the party, which I do not want to do. He asked what he could do now to help the situation. I suggested finding a time machine where he could rewind a few weeks and actually listen to the words that came out of my mouth.

So I'm annoyed. Like I said, I don't want to cancel the party but it sounds like it's going to be a small party. I'm worried that it's going to suck. I understand - I gave people two weeks notice. But that makes it hard to get excited about it and invite people over. All I really need to do is order food and beverages and maybe have someone come clean my apartment beforehand. I would ask my husband to do those things but I might as well ask him to perform open-heart surgery on a polar bear in the aforementioned time machine. He suggested moving the party to another venue but the party is less than a week away and as annoying as this all is, having it at our place is one less unknown to deal with. I can't predict who will show up or whether they will have fun but if it's at my place and I spill something on myself, I can grab something else from my closet and keep on keeping on.

More importantly, I had been annoyed with husband before but this is another annoying thing, only unlike previous annoying things, my friends are invited. I am not always clear about what I want and my husband is not the best at picking up hints but when I say, "I do not want to plan a party" and yet end up planning a party, I think he should understand why that would make me feel unhappy. I have conflicting feelings about birthdays. If we had said, let's just plan a party for the middle of June and it won't be related to my birthday, that would have been super. And I feel slightly loser-like having a birthday party two weeks after the fact.

So, now what? How do I magically make a party come together when I'm annoyed that I have to make it come together? What is my husband's problem? Am I a shrew who doesn't realize how lucky she is to have a wonderful husband who just wants her to have a damn birthday party?
posted by kat518 to Human Relations (76 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, your husband was a total jerk here. Here's what I, personally would do now: I would say to husband "I have invited people, and now I am done with all the planning I am willing to do. People will show up here on X date at X time. If you think there should be a clean house and food and something to do at this party, then you are responsible for making that happen. You may consider it a birthday present for me."

And then I would wait. If people show up and what happens is you hang out for a couple hours with no food, well, then have fun. But be done now.
posted by brainmouse at 9:44 AM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]

Just want to clarify that that "well, then have fun" was not intended to be sarcastic. Hang out with your friends for a few hours, and have it be fun. If food is really not going to happen if you won't do it, then ask husband to move it to a time when food is not expected, but make the party fun by enjoying your friend's company. The rest is just bonus.
posted by brainmouse at 9:46 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

At this point, he needs to take over the remaining party responsibilities (what did he think "planning" involved if you did all the invites and food? What else is there?). He needs to order/cook the food, he needs to set up the cleaning, he needs to do all that. If there's no food and the house is messy, oh well. You'll never have to worry about hosting a party again, because no one will ever come over again. I kid, I kid. But seriously, going forward, when your husband wants to "plan" a party where you do all the work, just say no.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:48 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why not just cancel the party? This whole thing sounds like a drain on you and your relationship- just message the people who've RSVPd that something came up and you guys will have to reschedule, and maybe post on the event page before deleting it. If people ask you can say you overdid it with scheduling stuff this time of year, no big deal.
posted by MadamM at 9:50 AM on May 28, 2013 [56 favorites]

The other part of that is to be okay with whatever turns out. Whatever he does probably won't be what you would do and he won't be able to divine what WOULD be okay, even if your standards have been identical for the last 10 years. If he does a crappy job of house cleaning and orders pizza, that's okay. If rolling with whatever happens isn't okay with you, tell him rather precisely what you expect as far as cleanliness and food and if he's not up to it, cancel the party.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:50 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can you send your husband to the store to buy some food/snacks? It doesn't have to be homemade food. Chips and dip and a big bowl of (boozy?) punch are pretty easy, and should be well within your husband's capabilities.

Smaller is better, in terms of ease of party-dealing-with (and 10 folks doesn't sound that small to me, actually.)
posted by leahwrenn at 9:51 AM on May 28, 2013

If your husband is serious about "what can he do" to help the situation, here's what he can do?

He can take on party planning duties from this point forward. He can be the one to clean and prep for the party. He can act as host during the party, leaving you to enjoy yourself with your friends.

For next time, I would say that if you feel pressured to Have A Party, keep in mind that you don't necessarily have to invite 40 people via facebook. Just invite 3 or 4 people you enjoy hanging out with casually over to do something fun that will involve minimal planning. That's what I always do when people bug me about What Are You Doing For Your Birthday. I enjoy that kind of party much more, anyway, and then I'm not worried that I'm going to all this trouble and nobody will come.

I would ask my husband to do those things but I might as well ask him to perform open-heart surgery on a polar bear in the aforementioned time machine.

With all due respect, it sounds like you guys have bigger problems than just a party. I can't tell if we're just getting your side of this, the above is really more venting than helpful information for your question, or this is the actual dynamic of your relationship. But it seems like you're in a place where you feel COMPELLED to do whatever he says even if you don't want to, AND you also feel like he is so unhelpful that he won't contribute to anything at all ever. Which doesn't sound enjoyable at all. Is this a running issue between you guys?
posted by Sara C. at 9:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]

I said to myself that if he asked again, I would just do it because obviously that was what he wanted.

I think this is where things started to go wrong. You failed to make clear what you wanted and now you resent him for failing to provide it.

(In retrospect, I realize that I could have said, "husband, I will swear up and down on a stack of DVDs of The West Wing that I do not want to have a party.")

This shouldn't be a parenthetical; this is the answer to your question.

Cancel the party.
posted by juliplease at 9:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]

Personally, I'd just roll with it, but my friends are mostly okay with messy houses or we have a BBQ in the backyard, and I don't mind kicking things to the edge of the yard and calling it dammit if I have no energy.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. Plan a party.
2. Don't tell your husband where or when it is.
posted by xingcat at 9:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Why not just cancel the party?

I think this would also be a totally acceptable option. I've had this happen before with facebook-invite level social events that I was interested in attending, and I've never felt put out by that.
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

As another thought- if you walk him through this (now call Acme cleaning to get here the day before. Now call Yummy Chinese Food and Whole Foods and order X & Y) he'll know how to do it in the future to your specs.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:54 AM on May 28, 2013

So why don't you want to cancel the party? I would have no trouble doing that. To husband: "I decided to cancel the party. What I really want for my birthday is a romantic birthday brunch with the two of us and to hang out together, do something spontaneous. I don't want a party.."
posted by biscuits at 9:54 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Now that I'm reading the other answers, I'm leaning toward cancelling the party, too. That will be so much easier than trying to get your husband to do all the party work.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:56 AM on May 28, 2013

Just cancel the party. And next time, swear on the stack of West Wing DVDs that you don't want a party.
posted by sweetkid at 9:57 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

I get where he was coming from. He really wanted to do something that he thought you would enjoy. He thought you'd enjoy a party to celebrate your birthday probably because it is what HE would want if he were you. It is sort of like going to all kinds of effort to make someone your favourite eggplant dish without ever really considering that they don't like eggplant and that they aren't hungry. Heart in the right place, but man did they ever go at it in the worst way.

I also totally get where you are coming from too. You felt you were clear in your NOT wanting a party and you feel badgered in to it. Plus, it is on terms that you don't like (ie. 2 weeks after your birthday). You aren't feeling listened to, you don't feel your choices and preferences are being heard, let alone respected.

Frankly, I'd cancel it and re-schedule a party for mid-June (not related to your birthday) like you mentioned, and then go with that. I'd also have a talk with your husband just to clarify, yes, you understand he nagged you about a party because he thought it would be something you enjoyed, and you appreciate that he wanted to do something nice for you, but you really feel like he wasn't listening to you every time you explained why you didn't want one and could he please take your "That isn't what I want" answers at face value next time.

Also, either you want something or you don't. You're allowed to not want something. You don't have to give in. Moving forward I wouldn't create rules within yourself to give in to people's repeated demands if they ask once more/x number of times/a certain way. Remember the guy in Austin Powers who would tell the truth if he was asked three times? That was pretty silly, wasn't it...
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:57 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

You don't sound like a shrew.

Husbands aren't generally considered wonderful if they don't listen to their partners. And if they just want their wives to have a party then organising it themselves tends to score higher up the wonderful scale.

You sound in your next to last paragraph like you have already identified that you need to assert yourself more to make your wishes plain, and this does come through pretty clearly in your story. So think about ways you can do this, there is lots of self help on asserting yourself, some even in AskMe.

Perhaps not so loud in your story but something to consider (obviously I could be reading this wrong). It sounds like you feel you are having to take responsibility for a lot of things and that maybe you feel your husband doesn't take as much responsbility as he should, concerning this incident but also more widely perhaps? Maybe you are not generally bothered by this or maybe you are, but it certainly seems like something that could conflict with the party case where you end up taking responsibility for something that is ostensibly for you but you are not interested in doing in the first place. If this is not a general problem you can work on it by making yourself clearer, but if you want him to take responsibility for more stuff then that's a deeper issue.

Cancel the party. It sounds like you spend the whole thing worrying that it sucks, as well as stressing right up to it.
posted by biffa at 9:57 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Moving past the fact that you should just cancel this party that you didn't want to have in the first place:

I see a lot of communication issues between you and your husband. It's probably not just you. It's probably not just him. Ending up in a situation where you are planning a party that you don't want to even have is clearly not ideal, right? Nor something that you want to have in the future?

Can you two sit down and have a "state of the relationship" talk about this rather big breakdown on both your parts? If not, is it time for couple's therapy?
posted by muddgirl at 9:58 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Am I a shrew who doesn't realize how lucky she is to have a wonderful husband who just wants her to have a damn birthday party?

I would normally be the first to say this, but in your case I think this isn't it AT ALL. You are a very busy, stressed out person, who now has to take on more stress because you didn't express yourself strongly enough and your husband practically manipulated you into throwing yourself a party. And you have a husband, who for whatever reason wants to have a party, but can't/won't admit it's for himself, not you, and can't/won't be an adult and make some simple plans.

I'd cancel this thing, it sounds like you have more than enough going on. Also, no one will mind a cancellation but some people will mind going to a party that sucks.

And then, when you're less busy, I'd ask your husband why he wants a birthday party but won't admit it, and discuss how you can plan that for his birthday.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:00 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

Woah. Deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out.

Imagine that you exist in a state of honesty and realism about yourself and the people around you. Drop as much internalized bullshit as you can, for the next 60 seconds. Okay, now ask yourself this question:

Do you want to have a birthday party for yourself?

If the answer is [YES] then do it. Don't half-ass it. Make it the best damn last minute small sized thrown together birthday party you can. Make it the birthday party you deserve. Delegate tasks to your husband, throw money if any is available at the issues, get a caterer and a spangly dress that makes you feel fabulous.

If the answer is [NO] then seriously, I swear to god, there is not a problem if you cancel the party right now. Just send a notice to everybody you'd invited saying sorry, you realized a party wasn't going to be feasible at this juncture. Nobody with even a modicum of sense would be upset at you for canceling. Then relax, because you can spend all the party-arranging energy on something you really want. Maybe you want to go on a trip somewhere, or cook something new and exciting, or go see a theater show? Treat yourself, as they say.

The thing is, your husband is in the wrong, but you also seem to be mixing your annoyance about this with some other problems, and it's all overlaid with a feeling of social expectations and drama. My inclination is to remove the central cluster of drama-causation, namely, the party, but maybe you are the sort of person who really loves loves parties, in which case you deserve to have something you love love for your birthday, even if your husband is an ass about it. But clearly, he can't be trusted to be responsible for the party in a way that is to your liking, so either assign him really discrete tasks, or cut him out of the process entirely. (Maybe pick out what he should wear, and assign him duties during the party too.) It's possible that he knows you better than you know yourself, and has been trying to avoid birthday-you all depressed and lonely, in a sort of hamfisted way. My own way would be to assume the best of him, but a sort of misguided, dumb best, and proceed accordingly.

Whatever you do, try to avoid getting into any sort of pernicious back-and-forth about who annoyed who into doing or not doing what. Make a decision and stick to it. He's your husband, but you have free will; don't let yourself be made to do anything you don't want to do.

And really? Parties arranged by hosts who don't really want to be having said parties are generally a waste of time. I absolutely love smaller casual gatherings (15 people is like my maximum party size preference) but I would hate to know that my host felt pushed into having me.
posted by Mizu at 10:01 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

Actually, you can cancel the party if you want.

If it's within a few days of the party (this upcoming weekend) just send a quick note to everyone saying, "Sorry, we're cancelling this weekend, I'm feeling under the weather and I think a quiet weekend is what I need, we'll re-schedule soon."

It's not untrue, and you can revert to your original plan.

That will show your husband that you are a person who can assert herself and get what she wants.

In the future, be very clear and specific if you're asked what you want. And stick to it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:04 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

MadamM's excuse sounds rock solid. I'd dodge it and have a party later in the summer and celebrate fireflies or something.

In the future, I've found 'handing over a ridiculously detailed checklist' to be pretty okay in situations like this.

You're not a shrew. It sounds really frustrating and annoying. But it also sounds like he might be in over his head in this sort of realm and maybe that's just something he's always going to be in over his head about. It might help to think of some area where he sort of bails you out in life -- I find that sort of thing comforting when I'm like, 'why am I always the person who has to remember to change the cat box?' knowing that I'm never the person who remembers to take the garbage out.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:05 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

After he asked me about having a party at least every other day before my birthday, I said to myself that if he asked again, I would just do it because obviously that was what he wanted

You made a choice to do what your husband wanted rather than what you wanted on your birthday. Next time, stand your ground. As for this party, go ahead and cancel it.
posted by amro at 10:09 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do Not throw a party that you don't want to will suck for everyone.
And tell your husband to stop railroading you.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:09 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mizu's wors speak my mind.
posted by BenPens at 10:10 AM on May 28, 2013

Oh my god, just cancel. I am so irritated on your behalf.

He offered to plan a party for me if I would just invite everyone and order the food and drinks.

Offer to make him dinner if he would just prepare all the ingredients, cook it, serve it, and clean up afterwards.
posted by elizardbits at 10:10 AM on May 28, 2013 [29 favorites]

Cancel the party! Who needs the stress? Or, alternatively, crowd source food and drink and tell your guests to bring it like a pot luck.
posted by spunweb at 10:11 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know, this reads more to me as not about the party but about you and your husband not communicating.

Cancel the party or go through with it, that's not the important thing. The important thing is that, afterwards, the two of you sit down and respectfully figure out why this caused so much heartache and how you can avoid it in the future. Both of you need to get better.

The answer isn't "I'm bad at communicating and that's just how I am and my husband should deal with it."
posted by royalsong at 10:12 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sounds like an ask/guess problem to me. Your husband ASKED whether you wanted to have a party. You replied that you didn't want to PLAN a party, which is not the same as saying you don't want to HAVE a party, although your husband probably should have picked up on your reluctance and sought to understand your position better. Then you GUESSED that your husband really wanted to have a party and that you would have to be the one to plan it, and you acted on that guess.

I don't think that one of you is clearly in the right and the other is in the wrong, although you can probably find Mefites to argue either side. I think the best course of action at this point is to do your best to enjoy the party and spend some time reading previous Metafilter discussions of ask and guess culture. It's possible for ask and guess partners to get along in a relationship, but they both have to do some work to compensate for the culture gap.
posted by Orinda at 10:18 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

What about going the route of the British Royals: request to celebrate the Queen's Birthday which is scheduled for a convenient time of year in the late May to June spectrum instead of on her actual birthday.

I've been in your position before in terms of having to have supposedly fun events during times of stress and exhaustion. Sometimes I've ended up having fun but most of the time I've ended up more stressed and more exhausted. I think it is okay to cancel the party and reschedule for a later, more convenient date. I also think that it is okay to tell you husband that he needs to actually plan and execute the party. I also think it is okay for you to step back and let him do this - even if he messes things up completely. If you want to give it a higher chance of success, give him a short list of things that need to happen before a party can break out (order food, order drinks, get the place cleaned, achieve cake with candles, invite guests, etc)

If you want an excuse to cancel at the last minute: plumbing issues are always understandable.

Happy Birthday. I wish I could stop by on the actual day and drop you off a gift certificate for take out and a small cake so you can celebrate by relaxing.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:19 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your friends don't want to be at a party the hosts aren't happy to be having - would you? Toss in an undercurrent of "spouse A is trying to hide her irritation with spouse B" and you've got a bad time all around. Cancel the party, spare everyone the awkwardness, and perhaps look into couples counseling to help the two of you communicate better.

(From what you describe, it sounds to me like your husband's problem is that HE wants to have a party but doesn't want to be the one to plan it. Acting like it's for your benefit feels pretty hollow ... but obviously there are lots of ways of interpreting this situation, which again is why I think couples counseling sounds like a useful tool for you both).
posted by DingoMutt at 10:21 AM on May 28, 2013

I am not always clear about what I want and my husband is not the best at picking up hints but when I say, "I do not want to plan a party" and yet end up planning a party, I think he should understand why that would make me feel unhappy.

As a slight aside from the actual question, this is what I see as the real issue that is causing conflict in this particular situation and will continue to cause conflict in many other areas unless the two of you can address and solve it to your mutual satisfaction.

You need to be super unfaffingly clear about what you do and do not want, as though you were writing an operational manual for your life that could be understood by future civilizations researching 21st century human interaction. He needs to understand that there will be situations in which you are being clear and firm about your needs (and he should feel free to do the same with the understanding that you will treat this the way you want him to treat your needs), and that his constant badgering is as unwelcome to you as your waffling may be to him.
posted by elizardbits at 10:23 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Much good advice here, but: If I liked all the people I invited, I'd consider actually having the party and having fun (that works better with a smaller party). But if the "planning" fiasco makes that impossible, then no. In any case, figure out what his problem is.
posted by lathrop at 10:25 AM on May 28, 2013

Orinda is probably right that this is an ask/guess issue, but your husband seems to be kind of attached to making you feel bad. He's not sorry, so I think holding out for him to be sorry is counterproductive.

Cancel. Life's too short for this crap.

Pick a friend and go to the spa or a ball game or whatever your actual idea of fun is. I'm not normally this petty, but I wouldn't want to spend my fun time with someone who's first reaction to "this makes me feel bad" is "that's not MY fault."
posted by Lyn Never at 10:26 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Think about the end game at this point. Is it a canceled party? If so, I agree you can do that easily enough.

Is it a fun party with minimal planning? If so, invest enough time to give your husband a detailed checklist with actual boxes for checking (a honey-do list if you will) and tell him after that he is on his own and should use his discretion. Be gracious, because this is your marriage you're talking about.

I would include:
- have the house cleaned by x at y phone # the day before
- have house cleaned the day after
- get dips and chips and fruit salad from whole foods - day before
- get sparkling water and beer and wine from Costco - day before
- ice - day of
- cooler - no later than the day before
- send reminder email to people who rsvp'd yes, maybe, and did not RSVP
- buy disposable plates, cups, flatware, napkins - at least the day before
- figure out music situation

Try and salvage this and have a good time with your friends. Work on communication issues for next time.
posted by semacd at 10:33 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cancel the party. If you don't you'll likely end up resentful and angry over something that goes wrong or over the amount of work you had to do to pull it off. Stuff happens, parties get canceled: your friends will understand.

Clearly (and probably rightly so) you feel like the weight of this effort is on you. Your husband badgered you about having a party and finally you gave in and accepted the task of planning and hosting a party. And you're already resenting him for it. And I probably would, too. But it doesn't help you or your marriage to get stuck in a pattern of poor communication and resentment.

I don't think you're a shrew, but I also don't think your husband is a monster. Your husband wants you to have a nice birthday, but isn't able or willing to consider that your idea of a nice birthday differs from his. He may also have some antiquated/sexist assumptions along the lines of, "women enjoy planning parties" or, "women are naturally better at organizing social events" or just plain, "if I plan the party, it'll suck, so Kat should take charge so it can be awesome."

So, yes, you're lucky that your husband wants you to have a nice birthday, and also your husband is showing a major lack of empathy here. The two of you need to address the communication issues, personality differences, and assumptions that got you into this mess.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:35 AM on May 28, 2013

I'm with Orinda on this one. Your husband asked you a yes/no question. But your answer was that you don't want to PLAN a party. I interpret that to mean that you do want a party, but that you didn't want to have to plan it. Later though, you said you could have sworn "up and down on a stack of DVDs of The West Wing that I do not want to have a party." So I'm still confused. And you admit, "I'm not always clear about what I want." And yet YOU'RE the one who is annoyed and asking what your husband's problem is. I say, accept your half of the blame in the miscommunication, call it even, let him do the rest of the planning, and by the time your friends come over it'll be history and a non-issue.
posted by see_change at 10:49 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is not about the party, and what you do about the party doesn't really matter. If it were me, I'd go ahead and have the party, because as this point that's probably the easiest thing to do. And I'd plan it myself, because that'd probably be easier than coaching my husband on how to do it. But if you feel like you'll just be super-resentful the whole time and not enjoy yourself then yes, cancel it. That would not be a big deal.

But the important part is that you two learn from this experience . It sounds like you've got some Ask/Guess stuff going on. It also sounds like you are pretty stressed out, a little controlling, and have a bit of a martyr thing happening (probably because you feel stressed, and feel like he's not helpful but the opposite). I am guessing your husband wants you to be happy, feels ineffectual to help make that happen, and is feeling a little trapped and resentful too. It definitely sounds like there's some learned helplessness here: like, he can't do things to your standards, and so you do them yourself, which probably has worked (in a dysfunctional way) for both of you to date, and that's what really needs to change so you can both respect and feel good about each other.

So I would say: resolve this issue however you want. Once it's resolved let your resentment go, and have a proper conversation. Go through the whole situation in a "when you did x, I felt y" kind of way, with the goal of figuring out how to handle yourselves better in future --better communication, with both of you owning your own feelings and stating them clearly-- and making sure nothing like this ever happens again. That may require you to step back and stop trying to do everything yourself, and it may include him stepping up and doing more.

Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 11:00 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I gave up and emailed a handful of friends, inviting them to a party in two weeks at our place. Since then, I set up a Facebook invitation and invited about 40 people, maybe 10 of whom have RSVP'd.

By the way, as I said above, I really do sympathize with your frustration, and I think your husband should have backed off, but how did you end up with forty people? You barely wanted to do it at all, and forty people, to me, is a boatload of people and a huge endeavor. I'm stressed out just thinking about it. How did you get from 'no thanks, don't want to do this' to doing this huge thing by yourself?

You could have come in a little lower end and it certainly would have dialed down the stress a notch, maybe even right on down to 'order some pizzas, a few bottles of chianti, send the husband for a bakery cake' and you get to have a pleasant evening of low stress with a few other couples. Obviously 'having a party' means different things to different people but wow, that's a high bar for a thing you never really wanted to do.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:03 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think everyone else has given you pretty good advice so far, so I just wanted to add two small things in case you decide to go through with the party: if you do have the party, then there's no need to feel like a loser because it's two weeks after your real birthday. Adults have lives and busy schedules. I've been to at least two birthday parties this year that were a couple weeks later than the actual person's birthday, and I thought absolutely nothing of it. Honestly, once the day has come and gone on Facebook, I forget when most of my friends' birthdays are altogether.

And secondly, 10 people sounds like a nice number of people. That's a good number for sitting outside in your yard with a beer and chatting while the sun goes down, or sitting around in your living room, eating cheese and laughing about things. I personally like low-key parties best where I actually get the chance to talk to interesting people. When there aren't a lot of people there, it's easier to join random conversations.

I guess what I'm saying is, that you can have the party, or cancel it if you don't want to have it, but don't cancel it because you're assuming it's going to be awful and you're going to look like a loser, because you won't.
posted by colfax at 11:10 AM on May 28, 2013

I've read some of your previous questions and I'm kind of scratching my head. You complain about taking care of your husband when he's sick for a week with a cold. You complain about your sister-in-law getting married because she likes to bake and she got engaged after just a year. You don't have anything to look forward to in life and you're not happy. You seem to judge people a lot and make things their fault. Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not really sure if that's because you aren't happy in your marriage, if you're just a grouchy person by nature, if this just happens every few months, or... what. It's hard to tell.

But it seems like a recurring problem where something that seems pretty minor or unrelated to your life (a birthday party you don't feel like going to, someone else's engagement) is a huge deal for you that makes you very unhappy. Maybe you're just really unhappy in life and these things trigger you? Maybe there's a larger issue you're not dealing with?

I mean, in the case of this party, you have so many options: cancel it, have it on a small scale, make your husband a list, ask your friends to go potluck, reschedule for later, go out of town for the weekend, hire a dancing troupe of polar bears... but the option you've chosen is to be really pissed at your husband for wanting you to have a party and analyze minutely every detail of his "badgering" of you.

I don't want to be blame-y here (and you are not "a shrew" or anything like that), but... why are you feeling so bad about this? You're not a "pathetic jerk", but maybe that kind of thing is the problem? You seem to have a lot of negative self-talk any time you feel bad about something.

tl;dr: You seem flummoxed by pretty simple situations and really grouchy when people aren't doing anything that terrible. Is something else going on?
posted by 3491again at 11:21 AM on May 28, 2013 [17 favorites]

yea this whole thing has little to do with the party itself, and focuses on a bigger issue of communications styles. Additionally, you're doing a really good job up there of making this all about what a bad person you are, which makes me wonder if you also shouldn't examine your motivations for this kind of self dialogue.

Neither of you is 100% right, or 100% wrong in this case, and I'm not willing (based on just your side of the story here) to dismiss you as a shrew or your husband as a rude ogre, either. Dude is probably just trying to decode the sort of situation where he's guessed wrongly before and faced opprobrium for it.

You both talked past each other because you were each so invested into hearing what YOU wanted to hear, to actually hear what the other person was saying. This is a really common failing in intimate relationships, btw. Lord knows I've done it.

Here's a pro tip: most of us really, truly suck at mind reading, yet somehow, infuriatingly, we always seem to expect our life partners to excel at it. Why is that?

Whether you realise it or not, the tone and framing of your post indicates that you may tend to play the role of a people-pleaser, a martyr, and be somewhat passive-aggressive. So, learn how to say no kindly and firmly, and be gracious about it. And, here's the important piece: You need to learn how to do this without playing the "I'm-such-a-bad-person-for-doing-this and now EVERYONE will hate me for ruining things..." shame game. Women, (myself included) have been heavily socialized in our culture to model this kind of bullshit apologist roleplaying, and it is crazymaking to the extreme. You do not need it. I'm not saying you have to be a hardass punk grrrrrl about it either, but please learn how to say no and (here's the important part) MEAN. IT.

I'm not trying to be nasty, I am trying to point out where you could have easily and gracefully taken control of the situation by making a simple decision and owning it, instead of doing the OMG I MUST BE EVERYTHING TO ALL PEOPLE!!! You are the only one with control and agency over your life, so go claim it.

Things can be so much saner when you learn how to communicate your wants/needs/desires clearly. And I'm betting you'll find that it smooths things out with your husband as well, because he'll not always be trying to second-guess and decode what you're trying to tell him.

If you really, truly, do not want to have a party, then DON'T. I promise, pinky-swears-from-the-internet style, that exactly zero people will hate you for cancelling.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:31 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

Ugh. The people saying "give him a detailed checklist" are missing the point.

The mental effort that goes into planning is still effort. He's a grown man. He should probably be able to figure out that he needs to scrub the toilet, put out clean hand towels, buy some sodas, pick up the living room, order a veggie platter, etc. I don't think working on an guest list together is too much to ask, but thats probably it.

And by the way, if he is oblivious to those sorts of things Kat, you should make this a teaching experience for him. Make him write out the list and pull it out the next time he wants to actually plan a party. Its really not polar-bear-cardiac-surgery. If you're always the one doing these sorts of things he will always be dependent on you to do them. Demystify this sort of "women's work" to him.
posted by fontophilic at 11:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

All I really need to do is order food and beverages and maybe have someone come clean my apartment beforehand. I would ask my husband to do those things but I might as well ask him to perform open-heart surgery on a polar bear in the aforementioned time machine.

Can you clarify this? I mean, your husband is an adult, correct? Sorry -- I know that's flip, but I mean, if something were to happen to you, he would presumably figure out how to manage the day-to-day tasks of life (cleaning the apartment, ordering food) on his own, so I don't understand how you can't trust him to manage those basic tasks here.
posted by Asparagus at 11:46 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am not always clear about what I want and my husband is not the best at picking up hints but when I say, "I do not want to plan a party" and yet end up planning a party, I think he should understand why that would make me feel unhappy.

Get better at being clear about what you want. It's (still!) unclear to me whether you meant "I DO want a party, but I don't want to plan it," or "I DON'T want a party, ESPECIALLY if I have to plan it." And this is further complicated by this statement:

I have conflicting feelings about birthdays. If we had said, let's just plan a party for the middle of June and it won't be related to my birthday, that would have been super.

Suddenly you're a-okay with planning a party. Are you projecting your conflicted feelings about your birthday onto your husband? Are they more conflicted this year because you're already stressed from other things?

As for giving him a detailed checklist, you don't have to do that. BUT: If you tell him, "I do want a party, but I am super-tired from XYZ and I would love it if you could plan the whole thing," then you have to actually let him plan the whole thing and not be annoyed if he forgets things or does it differently. You have to be willing to roll with it.

Cancel it. Text: "Hello all! Thank you all for the lovely birthday wishes. Unfortunately something has come up and we have to cancel the party, but we are looking forward to hosting you all later this summer! We will be in touch with a new date and time for Summer Sangria Fest 2013. Sorry for the late notice. xoxo"

Talk to your husband. Tell him you got overwhelmed and really actually didn't want the party in the first place, that you've been feeling weird and tired and stressed and you're looking forward to brunch. Tell him you want to get better at using your words. Tell him you need him to help you out with this by listening to your "no" and maybe asking some more pointed questions so it's more clear.

In the future if you have already said no and you mean it, back yourself up. Don't cave, use your words. Tell him you're tired, overwhelmed, looking forward to a quiet brunch with him. Tell him you feel weird about birthdays and would rather have a summer party in a month or so when you're less stressed. Tell him, "I love your face off, but enough with the party already. We're going for brunch, remember?"

If you're not sticking up for yourself because you run into a fight-or-flight instinct in these situations, I recommend picking up Hold Me Tight: 7 Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.
posted by heatherann at 12:10 PM on May 28, 2013

Thanks, all, for the feedback. At this point, I'm inclined to go for it and have a party. I would like to see those who said they can make it. I have a new dress. I can get a rad manicure and buy food I like. Then even if people don't show, I'll have food I like and a rad manicure.

Re: my husband and previous party planning attempts - the night before my birthday party last year, I asked my husband if he wanted to go to the grocery store with me to buy party stuff and he said no, he could get stuff tomorrow. On the day of the party, I gave him a shopping list with 15 items and went to yoga, thinking I could get whatever he didn't pick up after yoga. I called him after yoga and he had gotten 5 of the 15 items. One of the items he picked up was a harder-to-find item but I had hoped to be picking up maybe one or two things after yoga instead of 10 things. This time, I was planning to just place a grocery order with Peapod so we could both drink beer while people descend on our home with groceries.

Also, after last year's party, people said, your husband did such a nice job planning a party for you! While I don't want "credit" for party-planning, that kind of sucked.

I think I feel frustrated because while I'm not clear often, I hope that people will listen when I am, especially people to whom I am married. I said - very clearly, in my opinion - I did not want to plan a party. If all of my friends just happened to be in one place on a summer evening and there were also ice cream sandwiches and beer and I could join them, that would be scrumptious. Sometimes I enjoy party planning but this just feels like work when I've been doing a lot of work lately. It's like a Jim Gaffigan bit where he was talking about people giving gifts and saying, "If you don't like it, you can return it." "So you gave me an errand to do?"

I feel caught in between a rock and a hard place. He's a grown man. I shouldn't have to make him a list of things I would like him to do (should I?) but if I don't, things don't get done. I also feel like it's weird that the woman my father is seeing tells him what to get her for Christmas - he can't pick out a gift for her? But then she actually wears the necklace he gets her so maybe that's not a bad idea.

I talked to him last night and said, we need to work on our communication skills because while you did not literally make me plan a party for myself, I felt forced to do it. We talked for a bit. I also feel frustrated because he used to be better at guessing. It feels like sometimes we're on the same page but other times, he's in a different library, listening to a book on tape. Sometimes that's a feature, not a bug, but sometimes it's the other way around.
posted by kat518 at 12:38 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

but if I don't, things don't get done.

One of the things I'm still learning about being in a relationship (and I've been practicing with the same person for over 10 years!) is that I can't do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome.

Your husband doesn't help you plan parties. OK, you have a couple options: (1) Keep expecting him to magically change into a different person, (2) manage your own expectations of his behavior, (3) leave.

For most things, (2) really is the best option. In the case of your husband, yes, it sounds like either you need to be very explicit with what you want from him, or you need to let it go. Is it the end of the world if things don't get done? Usually, no.

also feel like it's weird that the woman my father is seeing tells him what to get her for Christmas - he can't pick out a gift for her?

Yeah, it sounds like your dad's girlfriend is great at managing expectations. This is a skill you can learn.
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

He's a grown man. I shouldn't have to make him a list of things I would like him to do (should I?) but if I don't, things don't get done.

So... don't.

Let things not get done.

I mean, "things" here is ice cream sandwiches and beer.

If for some reason there is a disaster and everything is wrong, well, you were the one who didn't want to have a party, so it shouldn't be any great disappointment that he got Spaten instead of Gaffel Kolsch or forgot the brand of ice cream sandwiches you like. Or that you actually ended up having a bunch of pizzas delivered.

This is a really casual thing, but you keep making it a bigger thing by embroidering it with unspoken expectations and resentments.
posted by Sara C. at 12:51 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

He's a grown man. I shouldn't have to make him a list of things I would like him to do

On the other hand, my guy could easily say this about things I don't do right. Like, how hard IS it to buy the right kind of epoxy for fixing broken taillights? Why is it so hard for me to figure out what kinds of oil and oil filters to buy for each of our ancient cars when he's kind enough to change them and save me $40 and an afternoon?

Fortunately, he's just bowed to the reality that he has to be really, REALLY clear with me if he's going to try to delegate.

As epoxy is to me, foods are to him. (What- it sticks things, right?:: what- it's food, right?)
posted by small_ruminant at 1:01 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I said - very clearly, in my opinion - I did not want to plan a party.

... and then you went and sent a facebook invite to 40 people. When someone's actions are saying something different than their words, most people believe the actions.
posted by Asparagus at 1:02 PM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]

Fortunately, he's just bowed to the reality that he has to be really, REALLY clear with me if he's going to try to delegate.

I think delegating like this often doesn't work. If there's a larger task that needs to be accomplished, and one of the participants is being delegated Part A because they're not technically capable of doing Part B, you're just asking for problems.

I think it's probably better in situations like this to hand off the entire Plan My Party task. You say "ten people are coming. I want ice cream sandwiches and beer, but people will be driving so there should also be other food." And, I dunno, weigh in on whether there should be a birthday cake, maybe. The rest is his.

If he wants to do pre-prepared everything and serve super simple foods that he understands and can reasonably acquire in a way that works, let him do that. If he wants to be running around cramming things into closets and shutting the doors of the messy rooms, let him do that.
posted by Sara C. at 1:09 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with Sara C., but if there is something that's really important to you, you are going to HAVE to tell him, even if it's something he should have known. (For instance: no CHOCOLATE cake, or I really want you to arrange for the housecleaners to be there the day before the party.)
posted by small_ruminant at 1:39 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Goodness. I feel you. This would drive me crazy too. There's a lot in your original question and follow-up that could be picked up apart. Obviously you and your husband need to work better at effectively communicating with each other.

Sometimes I enjoy party planning but this just feels like work when I've been doing a lot of work lately. It's like a Jim Gaffigan bit where he was talking about people giving gifts and saying, "If you don't like it, you can return it." "So you gave me an errand to do?"

Yeah ... sometimes I get into that same place mentally. You like to do things and be active, in the social, family, and work spheres, no? You're not anti-party in general but this is not this year's birthday dream. You're feeling put upon these days.

When even nice gestures start to rub me the wrong way, it's a sign that I need to check in with myself about my inner world. When I am in a good place, the not particularly well thought out gestures don't bug me so much. When I am struggling -- when I need a break from the stress, or when I am depressed -- I start to take nice gestures in a bad way. Now - I kinda think your husband wasn't really paying attention to your needs here even if you could have communicated them more clearly, but I don't know if that will help you right now to focus on that. I think you should focus on what would make you feel good. Not to improve the situation or manage the party-planning or whatever. I mean - what would make you feel good right now? What do you need that will make you feel good that you can give yourself? Do that.

You've got time to work on the communication issues with your husband. But give yourself some love first. Top up that tank.
posted by stowaway at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

You've said a couple of times that you told your husband that you didn't want to plan a party, when asked by him if you wanted a party. Maybe start your better communicating by answering the question asked. "Yes, I do want a party. But history tells me you are terrible at planning the kind of party I would like and so, since I don't want to do that myself this year, there will be no party." Instead it sounds like you're saying "I don't want to plan one (but I do kind of want one so I'll just leave that there and let you 'plan' it which I know you THINK you know how to do but man oh man do you not know how to plan FOR SHIT)."

I mean, I get it. I'm a planner. I like social stuff. My boyfriend is not really into throwing parties and if he did it for me, bless his heart, I'd be running around beforehand "fixing" things not up to my insane standards, so if he asked me if I wanted a party I'd book a plane to write "OH HELL NO" in giant letters above his head to make sure it's super clear and no one is disappointed. If I wanted a party I'd plan it myself. If I don't want to plan something, there's no party. He makes up for it in a million other ways.
posted by marylynn at 2:03 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

If all of my friends just happened to be in one place on a summer evening and there were also ice cream sandwiches and beer and I could join them, that would be scrumptious.

OH MY GOD, Mom, is that you? Because I swear I have this fight with my mother every year on her birthday (and mother's day, and MY birthday, which, don't even ask).

Every time an occasion rolls around, my mom has an ideal, wonderful, most pleasing idea for how she would like to celebrate, which she keeps SECRETLY HIDDEN IN HER BRAIN and will not reveal for love or fucking money. And then she hints, and passive-aggressively demurs, and then is invariably displeased by whatever celebration we end up having.

If you want your husband to invite all your friends over for beer and ice cream sandwiches on a summer weekend, and you tell him that exact thing, in all those exact words, I would bet a hundred dollars that that becomes your birthday party. But you have to tell him! Because he can't know! Because he isn't actually inside your head!
posted by like_a_friend at 2:56 PM on May 28, 2013 [20 favorites]

Your husband nagged and whined you into having a party. That teaches him that if he is persistent, he gets what he wants - a party. Now you're annoyed. I'd be annoyed, too, but I recommend you take action. Read the Shamu article. Learn to be better at telling him, Really, I don't want a birthday party.(your feelings) I think *you* want to have a party.(try to recognize his feelings) Here's what I can do to meet you 1/2way - schedule a better date, do invites. You have to organize food, drink, and a housecleaner. You can be better at telling him what you want. Despite movies, books, and tv, it's actually pretty romantic to be able to say to someone I want ice cream sandwiches and beer at a beach, and I don't want to organize any part of it. at all. because if somebody does that for you, it means they really listened, and that's awesome.

Your stated question How do I magically make a party come together when I'm annoyed that I have to make it come together? What is my husband's problem? Am I a shrew who doesn't realize how lucky she is to have a wonderful husband who just wants her to have a damn birthday party? You're just cranky. It's likely that you'll enjoy having friends over and getting birthday love. Maybe think of the best possible reasons why he's really lovable, and tell him he's forgiven, whether he wanted to be forgiven or not.
posted by theora55 at 3:17 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

@like_a_friend I'm pretty sure I'm not your mother and I did tell my husband that I did not want to plan a party though he was welcome to plan one. As I mentioned in my question, he responded by asking me to invite everyone and obtain food and drinks, which I pointed out was basically asking me to plan a party. If you would like to send me $100, that would help with the party-planning budget.
posted by kat518 at 3:37 PM on May 28, 2013

So you did in fact say to him, in these words: "Husband, I would like for you to gather my friends, buy ice cream sandwiches and beer for all of us, and tell me where and when to join you."

Because if you were in fact that clear, told him precisely what you wanted your party to be, and told him you wanted him to do all of the things to make your request happen, that is a very different story from:

I did tell my husband that I did not want to plan a party though he was welcome to plan one

The first one tells him what you want, so that he can do it.

The second one tells him what you DON'T want, and leaves him to guess at the rest, making him resentful, and then he just tells you to do it since you won't tell him what you want.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:17 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Upon reflection: I guess if asking him for a specific type of food/drink/venue falls under "mental planning work kat does not want to do," then I'm off base with my replies. In that case, listen to the fine folks telling you to stick to your guns and stop planning this party you don't want to plan, and cancel it.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:38 PM on May 28, 2013

I wonder if this is partially a Love Languages disconnect (I don't think any self-help relationship book will "fix" a relationship but it can be a handy shorthand) Do you feel un-loved and un-cherished because you perceive that he's not putting in the time and effort to anticipate ("guess at") your desires? Love Languages might be a good way to frame a conversation about these incidents.
posted by muddgirl at 5:08 PM on May 28, 2013

Looking at the categories of Love Languages might also help you think of ways that he may be trying to demonstrate love for you, but maybe you're not recognizing (and vice versa) and y'all can define compromises that make you both feel more loved/cared for.
posted by muddgirl at 5:09 PM on May 28, 2013

@muddgirl, that sounds really helpful. I know and appreciate that my husband does a lot of things for me that I probably don't recognize adequately as much as I do things for him.

@like_a_friend, I appreciate the distinction in telling him what I affirmatively want vs what I do not want. He's tricky though because while I do not like telling him, I want this pair of shoes from this store in this color for my birthday, he doesn't like getting that specific thing either. But we can definitely work together more on a middle ground. I could have said, let's have dinner out at one of these restaurants on one of these dates with whoever on this list of friends is free. That's more work for me in the short term but it might pay off in the long run.
posted by kat518 at 7:05 PM on May 28, 2013

I just reread your question, and I think there's a critical moment where he said "what can I do to make this better" and you said "go back in a time machine and behave differently."

I get that by that point the ship had sailed and you were feeling fed up. I also get that we don't always behave perfectly, and you're recounting what you said, not justifying it or saying it was awesome.

But even so, that was a terrible answer to his question, and it puts him in a position where there's literally nothing he can do to fix this. And so regardless of what happens next --you have the party, you cancel the party-- he is a bad guy and you get to be resentful. And maybe it gets added to a list of ways in which he sucks and has failed you.

I have been there. I know that if you're stressy and beleaguered, it can be really hard to think of a way out. But that's a path to failure, resentment, unhappiness. You owe it to both of you to come up with a better answer. Basically what I'm saying here is that you want your marriage to be happy, and so does your husband. So work with him to figure out how you can both make that happen. Let him help you fix this.
posted by Susan PG at 8:23 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

These communication issues do sound frustrating, but at the end of the day, I don't think you can entirely blame him when, as you point out, you could have just said "no" more clearly, and at some point you consciously made a decision to say "yes." Yet I sense that blaming him is at least kinda what you want to do?

I'm not trying to come down harshly here, but the combination of not simply refusing to do something but then blaming someone else for the fact that you're doing it is not ideal. (I was going to say it's "textbook passive aggressive," but I'm not sure there's a textbook on that, and I don't think you mean to be aggressive.) You say you felt "forced," but did you literally feel that there would be some retribution from him if you refused? I mean, forced how?

My suspicion, and maybe I'm totally wrong, is that you were so annoyed at him not hearing you (which I can very much understand would be SUPER annoying) that you decided to SHOW him what you were saying and PROVE to him that YES you really would be unhappy, so now you want him to see just how unhappy you are, and feel responsible, so that he'll listen to you more closely next time. I've done that kind of thing, so i understand, but at this point, do you really want your birthday party planning to be Exhibit A in proving a party makes you unhappy?

Yeah it sucks to have to say "earth to husband, come in husband, I don't want a party, do you read me?" to get him to hear you, but adulthood (in the platonic ideal where we all go to bed on time, eat sensibly, and fund our retirement accounts) is about having bottom line responsibility for making sure our own wants and needs get met, and communicating in a way for that to happen. Could you have said, "hey, what's all this stuff about a party? i really don't want to have one, but it seems really important to you? Is it so important to you that you want me to do it even though I personally don't want to?"

At a certain point, in my opinion, all of us who are people-pleasers and permission-seekers (I'm not trying to label you but to exclude people who err on the side of being steamrollers) have to reach the point where if someone isn't hearing us, we don't change up our view, doubt ourselves, or give in, but to the contrary, assume the conversation has been decided in our favor and that they'll come to see our view soon enough. I mean, yes, he wasn't listening to you and that sucks.But how did not listening translate into you doing what he wanted? It should be that not listening = he never addresses your objections = nothing happens, no?
posted by salvia at 8:24 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

I completely understand that at no point was there any gun to my head regarding having a birthday party. But I really did feel like my husband would continue asking me about having a party until I planned one.

It was a surprise when my husband proposed though he was acting a little weirdly beforehand. I actually said to a friend regarding his insistence that I plan myself a party that maybe he had some big announcement that he wanted to make in front of my friends. I realize that must sound ridiculous but that was one of the things I came up with when I couldn't come up with a satisfactory answer to why he really wanted me to plan myself a party.

Regarding my time machine suggestion, I recognize that was not productive but the next best answer that I could come up with was "I don't know." Even if I did cancel the party now, I would still feel hurt that when I said god knows how many times "this is not what I want," he heard something completely different. I can get over being hurt and am trying to figure out what I need to do differently to avoid getting hurt like that again.
posted by kat518 at 9:17 PM on May 28, 2013

This question keeps getting more confusing to me. I'm trying to figure out how/why you couldn't ask him to plan the party. If you had said, "Hey yeah! Actually a party would be really nice but I've been stressed and really don't feel like making any of the arrangements. Would you mind sending out an invite and make sure we have food and drinks?" ... Would he (or did he) actually say, "Nope sorry, can't do that!" ??

How is the division of household chores generally? Does he do any of the cooking / grocery shopping / cleaning, or is that all on your shoulders? Frankly your question reads like you're resentful and even a little contemptuous of him and I think there must be must much bigger than a birthday party going on.
posted by Asparagus at 9:25 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your husband is clearly incapable of figuring out "buy these 15 things before the dead last minute," ( old is he again?!), then he's clearly not up to handling planning a party on any level. If both of you want a party, you don't want to plan it, and he will bungle it....then either there's no party, or the both of you give someone else (friend? relative?) money and have THEM do it. You apparently can't expect him to do it without serious babysitting and nagging--well, have him ask some other trusted person to buy the food and whatever else you don't want to do, or call a professional. That sounds like the only way you guys get a party without him flaking and you having to do all the work.

Or, y'know, just have everyone go to a restaurant. That works too.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:34 PM on May 28, 2013

So he was bizarrely insistent. Why not say "wow are you insistent! is there some surprise I'm not supposed to know about? sweetie, i really do not want a party. it seems important to you for some reason i don't understand, but if you do want to have a party, you're going to have to level with me and you're going to have to plan it yourself. otherwise, pleeease stop asking me."

Your previous questions have a lot of relevant context. Are you guys in counseling? It might really help.
posted by salvia at 10:38 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ok. I'm not giving up on the party. This is your question: "Help me have a great party even though the circumstances are annoying." I think you're on to something with the ice cream sandwiches and beer and peapod. You can have a great party with your friends if you:

- Lower expectations - if "only" ten friends come, it can still be a low-key but awesome party. It sounds perfect to me.
- Order everything but the beer from peapod. You can even do this from an app on your phone. If you wanted to get crazy - and this sounds like a fun activity in and of itself - you could order a bunch of delicious flavors of your favorite ice cream, and a bunch of small, soft cookies (here's a list of the best store bought cookies for ice cream sandwiches), and you and hubby can assemble ice cream sandwiches the day before. Make a game of it. I do this for parties occasionally and they are a hit and very easy to make.
- Send hubby for the beer the day before.

Et voila. Fun party. Anything else is gravy.

I would have your husband send the reminder emails. You don't want to have to do that for your own party and it's totally unnecessary.

You don't have to say the word 'birthday' EVER. I hate my own birthday parties so I understand there can be an annoying expectation that you have a good time etc. It's just a party with your friends so you can enjoy being together around the time of your party.

If you feel like going crazy, you can shop for sweet retro party accoutrements at Sweet Lulu. Full disclosure, I spent $100 there this winter.

In the meantime and for afterwards, those suggestions about looking into "ask v. guess" and "love languages" seem worth investing in. This party should not have been such an issue, so try and figure out what caused it all and something - anything - you can do to improve your communication styles as a couple. Assume the best intentions from both sides. It really does sound like your husband wants you to be happy.
posted by semacd at 2:10 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

@asparagus I suggested that he plan the party. He asked if I could invite people and take care of the food and drinks. I still don't know what else he thinks is involved in having a party. Maybe he was going to make goodie bags.

@semacd I like those ideas! I also found a place that will deliver alcohol. And there's a market near our place that makes amazing homemade ice cream -super fatty and incredible :-)
posted by kat518 at 4:14 AM on May 29, 2013

Hmm, well in that case I don't know what to tell you. If he seriously responds to you asking him to go to the store to pick up food and drinks by saying, "No! You do it!" ... then, well, you are married to a child. I'm sorry.

You could (a) try putting your foot down more firmly and see if he's able to step up to the plate and become a team player in this relationship (and I would N-th counseling for this route), (b) accept that you're married to a child, or (c) go find an adult to be married to.
posted by Asparagus at 10:04 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

@asparagus I suggested that he plan the party. He asked if I could invite people and take care of the food and drinks. I still don't know what else he thinks is involved in having a party. Maybe he was going to make goodie bags.

I don't understand this. Why didn't you ask what else he thought was involved in having a party? Goodie bags for adults isn't usually my first guess. Food and drinks is a big part of the planning, as is the inviting, and I'm not sure why you didn't mention that when you guys discussed this.

Honestly I don't understand why there would still be mysteries about what you think his intentions were re: planning the party.
posted by sweetkid at 10:15 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

He asked if I could invite people and take care of the food and drinks.

One thing I've noticed in a lot of your descriptions of the dynamic is that you "end up" doing things that he was supposed to do. Or you take on more of a leadership/boss-lady role, where you are asking him to accompany you to the store to buy food for a party.

Maybe your husband has a history of putting his foot down and refusing to do things, but my hunch is that he's just sort of passive about it, and then you do it anyway. Or you don't like the stress of wondering whether he'll do it, and whether it'll be to your standards, so you just do it yourself without involving him beyond a whispered, "hey do you wanna maybe kinda?" which is easy for him to passively just sort of not hear.

It also seems weird to me -- as a single woman who has never deferred to a guy on domestic matters -- that when you want him to do something, the slightest unenthusiastic response causes you to assume his answer is EFF NO WOMAN ARE YOU CRAZY, and when he passively kinda sorta suggests that you do something, you feel like you are now compelled to do that thing to the hilt. This dynamic doesn't seem healthy.
posted by Sara C. at 10:19 AM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

"I suggested that he plan the party. He asked if I could invite people and take care of the food and drinks. I still don't know what else he thinks is involved in having a party."

Then don't "think" you know, ASK him, point blank: "Sweetie, I just asked you to please plan the party. You just told me to take care of what I personally consider to be all of the major party planning tasks. What exactly do you think should go into planning a party?" Then tell him what your *specific* list of expectations is for planning a party, from ordering food, to booking the housekeeper, to doing the invites, and whatever else you think is vital to the plan for a decent outcome. And then, if he can't manage to offload all the anxiety-inducing steps in the process in such a way as to alleviate your stress and make the party happen while you relax, then the obvious answer is to go ahead and cancel, because it's really not worth it to say "Oh for god's sake, just let me do it..." and then go through the party in a seething ball of resentment. (I've done this before; it sucks, don't be me).

This is how these sorts of conversations have to go in order for you not to be somehow expecting him to read your mind, or conversely you to be attempting to read his mind. You are explicitly doing that right there in that pullquote by saying "I don't know what else he thinks..." If you don't know THEN ASK HIM. Don't keep trying to guess, because you'll almost invariably guess wrongly, and then you'll be even more frustrated.

You're obviously from a background where you have been socialized to not directly confront people with explicit requests because it's either viewed as impolite or greedy or I don't know what. I see this theme all over your follow-ups. I totally get it; I'm from a passive non-confrontational background too. Hell my parents NEVER discussed any sort of interpersonal relationships communication stuff in front of me; it was all framed as "family dirty laundry, we don't talk about that". I was raised never to create conflicts around money like for example: "dude where's my rent money?" or to directly ask for raises or promotions because it was "too confrontational / too risky", and I have been treated as a financial doormat by roommates and employers for most of my life as a result.

I think the main difference here is that I'm nearly 45 years old, and I've been through several LTRs that I did a lot of damage in through lack of effective communication. It took me almost twenty years of my adult life to stop the passive-aggressive hinting around at what I wanted and wishing and hoping people would understand what I wanted, then being resentful of the outcome when things didn't go like that lovely little script I'd written out in my head. It didn't help that I was a major control freak on top of it AND held grudges AND misconstrued any attempts at constructive criticism as someone telling me what a horrible person I was.

I can tell that a lot of us in this thread who are trying to explain how these communications breakdowns work have actually been through these exact conversations basically word for word... with colleagues, with family, with friends and with our partners. We've all learned (typically the hard way) that doing the same thing over and over and over again only leads to fraught, resentful, defensive communication, not to peaceful resolution, and no amount of wishing it would change will ever make it so.

I'll say it again. You do not live inside your husband's head. He does not live inside yours. When you aren't sure what on earth he's thinking, or if you are projecting some layer of "well you suck at [whatever] so of course I can't expect you to do it right this time..." then tell him. Exactly. What. You. Want. Done. It's not about whether he's an adult or not. It's about whether your expectations and his are in alignment. And I can tell you from all the wailing and gnashing of teeth in your answers, they certainly are not. So align your expectations, or be willing to meet halfway if he feels they are unreasonable. But you only get there by explicitly stating what your expectations are, in each and every situation. Ask for what you want.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:20 AM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Hi all, just wanted to thank you for your input. There are a lot of things here to think about once I'm done thinking about having a party. I started making a list of things to do before the party, then thought to myself, I should have made this list weeks ago and handed it to my husband. So I asked him to make a list too and we can compare them tonight.
posted by kat518 at 11:49 AM on May 29, 2013

But I really did feel like my husband would continue asking me about having a party until I planned one.

It was a surprise when my husband proposed though he was acting a little weirdly beforehand.

I'm not sure what proposing has to do with it. What in the world would he announce at this party? He's having a baby?
posted by yohko at 8:47 PM on May 29, 2013

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