Do I wish him happy birthday?
December 6, 2014 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of a few years. It’s been a really complicated and painful, but I want to wish him happy birthday. Should I?

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of a few years. It’s been a really complicated break up because we both live in the same area and run into each other frequently. Despite the many unpleasant things that we’ve said to each other and the discomfort inherent in separating both our stuff and our lives, I want to wish him a happy birthday.

There are a few reasons I feel I should do this:

-He’s away from his friends and family for both his birthday and the holiday season
-He’s not taken our break up well
-I want him to know that someone’s thinking of him
-His birthday has always been an emotional time for him due to his complicated family life

However:

-I said I didn’t want to be friends
-He said he was “over me” the other week and we got into a huge fight
-Some of my friends tell me it’s a bad idea

Please help me out. I still have many frustrated feelings about how and why things ended, but I still care about him a lot. What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
No.
posted by slkinsey at 10:15 AM on December 6, 2014 [54 favorites]


No. Let it go.

I have done this with every boyfriend I've ever had and each time I kick myself for not remembering how dumb it is to do.

His life and his wellbeing is his responsibility alone. Give yourselves 6 months to a year before attempting contact again.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:16 AM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you happen to see him and you're talking, wish him a happy birthday. Don't contact him again.

He does not want to be reminded of your breakup on his birthday.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:16 AM on December 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


Don't do it. Your breakup is the last thing he needs to be thinking about on his birthday. If he calls you, kindly wish him a happy birthday but, if you don't hear from him, don't contact him.
posted by myselfasme at 10:17 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


You said you don't want to be friends. Saying Happy Birthday is sending a mixed signal.

You're making this about how you feel. Stop that and let him go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:18 AM on December 6, 2014 [25 favorites]


Every reason that you have for doing this is a 'girlfriend reason'.
Or even a 'friend' reason.
Every reason that you have for NOT doing this is an 'I'm moving on' reason.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2014 [15 favorites]


Also, a tip: you can't fight if you don't talk. Both of you have to participate in a fight for a fight to happen. Honestly, it sounds like you're on a path that leads to getting back together in an unhealthy way. Limiting contact and limiting intimacy will help. Good luck with this.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Probably a bad idea, but if there is a way you can (truly) do it anonymously, then maybe.
posted by bearette at 10:23 AM on December 6, 2014


There are a few reasons I feel I should do this:

It seems harsh, but at the stage your breakup is at (you are not partners and you are not friends), none of these things is your responsibility anymore, and wishing him a happy birthday will just send mixed signals. Maybe next year you can do it without it being all weird, but this is not that. Don't do it.
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Good idea if you want complication and drama. Bad idea if you actually want to be done and move on.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


nope nope nope. It will accomplish absolutely nothing positive.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:25 AM on December 6, 2014


I've got a handful of exes with whom I'm on "happy birthday" terms. Some of these relationships ended painfully, and it took many years of figuring out appropriate distance, before such minor greetings felt "healthy." Others ended comparatively amicably, and a simple, heartfelt, birthday -- or other holiday -- note seemed natural, pretty much immediately.

I'm guessing that your situation falls closer to the former than the latter. And even in the latter cases, it's important to watch one's tone/vibe, to avoid raising hopes or stirring confusion. Based on what you've said, I'm going to add my vote for "nope nope nope."

EDIT: On preview, I see that fingersandtoes beat me to this by mere seconds. I owe them a Coke(tm).
posted by credible hulk at 10:25 AM on December 6, 2014


Do you have any mutual friends you can ask to wish him a happy birthday, so he's not completely ignored but you're not opening doors you don't want to open (and that may be painful for him)?
posted by metasarah at 10:29 AM on December 6, 2014


If you have to ask, the answer is no.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:31 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, let it go. Even if all your reasons to do so are correct, then he still ends up getting a birthday greeting from the one person who hurt him, during an emotionally complicated time, reminding him that he has no one in his life who wants to be with him right now. Reaching out to him does not accomplish anything good for either of you.
posted by jaguar at 10:36 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


No. You guys are broken up, it's not your responsibility to provide him emotional support, nor should you. In fact, why do you have his number still? Delete it.
posted by Verdandi at 10:52 AM on December 6, 2014


No. If you wanted to be friends, okay. If you happen to run into him at Starbucks, okay. Otherwise, no, stick with behavior consistent with your statement to him that you do not want to be friends.

It's not fair of you to send him a mixed signal like this.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:52 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, please don't do this.

Your job and his right now is to move on, with your own separate baggage.
Please don't send him mixed messages, it will only confuse him.

Let's face it, you guys are done. Let it be.

You're a kind person to be concerned about him, but ... this is just a no go.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 10:54 AM on December 6, 2014


In this scenario, wishing him a happy birthday will have exactly the opposite effect. Leaving him alone is the kinder option.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:06 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


No. Definitely not. Sometimes it's better to be alone than to be reminded of the pain of a relationship that's just ended.
posted by conradjones at 11:12 AM on December 6, 2014


No. Nyet. Nope.

You're not thinking clearly. You got in a fight about what exactly last week?

You fought because he said he's over you.

So, your idea of "appropriate" at this point is to shit stir further by inserting yourself into something (his birthday) that is none of your business??

Stop deluding yourself.

Stop talking to this poor guy and let him be. Mind your own business.
posted by jbenben at 11:24 AM on December 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


-He said he was “over me” the other week and we got into a huge fight

Neither of you is "over" the other. If you were over him, it would look like this:

"Happy Birthday!" by asynchronous communication (SMS / email / etc).

You would then move along in your life, regardless of how that message made him feel or what he reads into it. Because that's how you would say "happy birthday" to most other people, yeah?

That it's any more complicated than that, means you are not over him (which is understandable). Basically, you want to say Happy Birthday to him, and you're not ready for what the response may or may not be. Hence why you're asking friends / Internet if it's a good idea. You know it's not a good idea.

Thus, you should not send the message, not because he's not ready to read it, but because you're not ready to send it.
posted by nickrussell at 11:38 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of my exes still sends me birthday cards and Christmas cards. It makes me so angry that he continues to try to claim space in my life (even if just through cards) as he was the one who dumped me and it was an f-ed up cruel breakup. The very last thing I want is a reminder of him on what are supposed to be happy occasions. Please, please leave your ex alone.
posted by cecic at 11:46 AM on December 6, 2014 [16 favorites]


Sounds like maybe you two need to go your separate ways and not continue with friendly contact, based on what you wrote in your question.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:34 PM on December 6, 2014


You are right that it's nice to be remembers on a birthday, but he won't want to be remembered by you on his birthday. Not that there is anything wrong with you, but 1) he'll be reminded of you in ways that are potentially painful; and 2) it will be confusing and send mixed messages about how you are communicating, what this means, etc. Perhaps in the future, but not yet.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:40 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a bit of a pile-on, especially since your friends are also advising against wishing him a happy birthday, and you may think, I'm going to do this anyway, because it feels right to me. If you do, it doesn't make you a bad person, it just isn't a healthy interaction and it would be best to let this birthday go. He will be okay, you will be okay, there will be other birthdays, other boyfriends, and I can almost guarantee that later on you will understand why the line of "No's" is so long.
posted by dawg-proud at 1:02 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


-He’s not taken our break up well
-I want him to know that someone’s thinking of him


Sending him birthday wishes will not make him take your breakup well. And you can't make another person feel something. Not really. You can't make someone happy or sad. The only reason that you would send this birthday wish seems to be to try to manipulate his emotions. To feel better about the relationship. Or to feel loved by someone who is not in a position to love him. Or to feel wistful for what he could have if he was either with you or nice to you. Forget it.

You also want to feel better about things, too. So, don't act like this is some altruistic act on your part. He'll see right through that.

Let it go. If you see him randomly, it is kind and appropriate to say, "Hey, today is your birthday right? Happy birthday. Have a great day." But otherwise, nope.
posted by amanda at 1:05 PM on December 6, 2014


Don't be a dick. You said you didn't want to be friends and now you want to do a friendly thing. That's really confusing and, ultimately, the opposite of friendly. It's cool you broke up with him. That's your right. But you broke up with him. Leave him the hell alone. This isn't a healthy non-relationship where you get mad at him for saying he's over you.

So stop contacting him. Stop acknowledging him. If you don't want to be friends, don't be friends. Let him move on...and let yourself move on.
posted by inturnaround at 1:10 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


-He’s away from his friends and family for both his birthday and the holiday season
-He’s not taken our break up well
-I want him to know that someone’s thinking of him
-His birthday has always been an emotional time for him due to his complicated family life


None of this is your problem. Not any more.

-I said I didn’t want to be friends
-He said he was “over me” the other week and we got into a huge fight

Yeah, this is confusing mixed messaging and, in any case, I don't think he wants to hear from you. Espcially if he's recently angry with you, and he has other complex feelings going on.

I still have many frustrated feelings about how and why things ended, but I still care about him a lot.


I know it's coming from a place of kindness. But it really feels like you want to do this to make yourself feel better, not him. Don't get in touch. Maybe next year, when you both have some distance from the messy breakup.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:18 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


No. Leave him be. You broke up with him.

Stop engaging with him, cut him out as much as you can, and if you do see him, nod and keep moving.

Breakups are messy and frustrating. My friend and I have a joke. Just as you think you've said it all, covered it all and are ready to move on, there's always, "AND ANOTHER THING!"

There will always be another thing. Getting closure is a myth. Go no contact as much as you can.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:35 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Absolutely NOT.
posted by dbiedny at 3:11 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


If I had an ex who knew that I don't do well on my birthday, and she told me that she didn't want to be friends, and she contacted me to wish me a happy birthday on my first birthday after the break-up? It would feel incredibly patronizing and condescending, like she called me out of obligation, despite not wanting to be my friend. It wouldn't be a mixed signal, it would be quite clearly a signal of pity, and it would make my birthday worse.

If you actually want him to have a happy birthday, the best way to increase the chances of that happening would be to refrain from contacting him to wish him a happy birthday.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:22 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


You want to break up with him. You don't want to be friends. You want to wish him a happy birthday. This is all about what you want, none of it is about what he wants. He's told you he's over you - let the poor guy's birthday at least to be about something he wants - to move on and start making some happy memories without you.
posted by Jubey at 4:57 PM on December 6, 2014


No. Too soon. It's adding insult to injury.

It's possible that next year or the year after that, you two might be a place where it would be nice to say "remembering that it's your birthday and thinking of you," but that time is not now.
posted by desuetude at 6:08 PM on December 6, 2014


It might help you to read through this thread where I asked why the hell my ex was sending me birthday wishes.

So, from the other side, noooo no no no, and no.

It was not appreciated, did not make me feel anything good, would not purchase from again F------
posted by Dynex at 6:27 PM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I would be pissed off if i was the guy in this situation, with all the parameters that you listed, and got that text on my birthday. I would not believe it was sent out of the kindness of your heart, but rather as some sort of "I can tap one little button on my phone and make you feel like shit" sort of malicious thing.

I see, reading the other comments, that i'm not the only one who feels this way or has experienced this sort of thing and hated it.

The best "happy birthday" you could give him on his birthday is not talking to him at all in any way, so that he can hopefully not think about you at all and have a good time.
posted by emptythought at 7:32 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Everything I want to say has been said more eloquently and succinctly as this point. But since I've composed this, to reiterate:

-I said I didn’t want to be friends
-He said he was “over me” the other week and we got into a huge fight


If you actually told him you don't want to be friends...think about why you *do* want to send him an e-mail. Is it because you think your motives are impassively altruistic, you want to add to the goodness in the universe, and you're only doing what you'd want any stranger on the street to have, you just happen to know how to help him better? (This is what I used to tell myself in the same situation, down to initiating the breakup and him having a complicated family life. And, of course, I specifically cared about him and wished him well.) If that's so, go volunteer or something on his birthday. Go give a homeless person some money or a candy bar. Donate to a cause you both believe in. Add joy to the universe in ways which won't take away from your, or his, emotional well-being.

Why did him saying he was "over you" cause you to get into a huge fight? You're broken up, and in fact you initiated it, so him saying he's over you (if that is true) is actually a step forward for both of you, as painful as it is to hear. (And as unnecessary. His feelings or lack thereof for you are not something you need to be discussing together.) If it bothers you enough to fight about, you're not healed enough to be friends, which it sounds like you understand.

Believe me, I understand where you're coming from! I wrote my ex for years and used to even send him birthday and Christmas presents, all personally and carefully selected and some of them kind of expensive. It was because I wasn't over him, either romantically or as someone who used to be my best friend. If I'd stopped trying to fool myself about it, I would have realized that although I told myself the gifts/messages were to altruistically make his life better and that they didn't come with strings, in my heart I actually wanted a certain reaction from him. I wanted him to feel a certain way when he got them; I wanted him to respond a certain way. I felt awful when I didn't hear back from him and I felt awful when he responded, even if it was in the ways I was longing to hear. I thought it was an expression of independence, that I could move on and distantly see the relationship for the good it brought me, but in my case it actually drew me closer and deeper in.

So, this is me, not you. My ex's birthday is tomorrow, it's been over four years, and I'll probably write him again, but I don't need him to care or respond anymore. Only you can decide whether this would be good for you or him, but I do think you should think very, very carefully about doing so.
posted by spelunkingplato at 7:44 PM on December 6, 2014


Everyone else has said no, and I will say no.

I'm still fairly friendly with my ex -- we'll help each other out on occasion, trade happy birthdays/merry Christmases/etc. (sometimes small gifts -- less so now but more in the first couple of years) and definitely chat when we see each other socially. But the reasons for our breakup sound very different from yours.

He's not your problem now. If he doesn't have friends nearby to wish him a happy birthday, that's not your responsibility anymore. You said you didn't want to be friends. If that's true -- are you in a habit of wishing people who are not friends a happy birthday? I know the disentangling can be hard and all of it can even take years sometimes, but it's best not to do this now.

I get all of this is complicated and I really feel for you, but it's not a good idea this year. Maybe if you reconnect at some point in the future on friendly terms, then yeah. Otherwise, let it go.
posted by darksong at 8:42 PM on December 6, 2014


A friend gave me this great rule of thumb: if you're not sure, don't do it now. If you still get the urge to say something a year from now, then you can consider it then. It's not to say that you can NEVER send him birthday/holiday/random greetings in the future, just definitely not right now. I'm sorry this has been so stressful: I know it comes from a good place in you, and I know how it feels like there's no comfortable answer.
posted by smorgasbord at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2014


No, especially if that would mean reaching out. If you happened to run into him somewhere the day after, you could tell him belated - but really, I wouldn't even recommend that, because you're opening up the "it was an awful birthday because we're not together" can of worms.

If he's having a lot of difficulty with this, do the kind thing and stay the heck away so he can heal, because every time he sees you is ripping the scab off.
posted by stormyteal at 12:22 PM on December 7, 2014


No. Nope. Negative. Do not do this.
posted by Lexica at 7:52 PM on December 7, 2014


Leave him alone this time around. Maybe next year or the year after.
posted by Pechorin at 6:22 AM on December 8, 2014


No
posted by SassHat at 1:38 PM on December 8, 2014


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