He didn't forget my birthday, but it feels like it
May 10, 2016 9:04 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend didn't say happy birthday to me, which I'm convincing myself is not that big of a deal, but I don't know why it's annoying me so much. More details inside.

Yesterday was my birthday. I didn't want to celebrate it with a party, so my good friend and her SO made me dinner and dessert, then we went to play games. My boyfriend was included in this as well. The day of my bday, I received texts and calls from family and friends, which I much appreciated and felt very special for them remembering. My boyfriend had yesterday off work, so I know he probably slept in and was playing video games or something, so I didn't expect him to text maybe until late afternoon. Dinner plans were that evening, but I hadn't heard anything from him all day. I called, asked if I could pick him up soon to go to the birthday dinner. Short call. Pick him up, head to friend's house. I wondered if he forgot it was my birthday, so I asked, "Wait, you know today's my birthday right?" and laughed to keep it friendly. I received a kind, "Yep!" And then nothing at all. Rest of the night I just tried to brush it off and have fun.

So, yeah, I don't know, I felt a bit upset and obviously I'm bothered enough by it that I'm writing this question. But I'm also more worried that I'm being upset over nothing. One of those, "are my feelings valid?"

I think most of my irked feelings are the fact that after a few years of dating, he hasn't really done anything special for my birthday. (And special was explicitly defined to him before as just something that would be sentimental--it doesn't have to cost a lot of money. I've mentioned picnics, a favorite movie viewing, star gazing.) I've planned surprise birthday trips, got together his old college friends, and bar crawl parties for him *because* he tells me that's what he wanted for his birthday. And I want to see him happy on that day especially! The times he's done things for my birthday, it's been cooking (fine, I've mentioned that is kind, but I would want to try a certain restaurant I've been talking about trying. But he just really loves cooking.), or surprise parties (but I told him that surprise parties make me anxious and my favorite things are more low-key get togethers.) It's like he doesn't pay attention or just forgets.

And this year, I know he was low on money, so I told him DO NOT buy me anything for my birthday. I said I would really love a sweet card or I a fake coupon to go shopping with me. But nada on my bday. He said he made me a cake but hasn't given me it yet. Maybe his roommate ate it?

Per usual, am I overreacting? If I am not, I plan to just bring up it up as "i wish you said happy birthday to me yesterday, so I was hurt." If I am overreacting, I won't bring it up. I guess I just wanted to know which one it is, I'm having trouble deciding on which is which.
posted by socky bottoms to Human Relations (117 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, for the people who like to go back in people's history, just to address it now in case it come up--since the past couple months he has been able to get more help and social supports by opening up to his family about his depression. I wondered if this was why he might've not said anything about the birthday, but he does many activities willingly now, and had a great time with our friends playing games.
posted by socky bottoms at 9:07 PM on May 10, 2016

Happy Birthday!

You are not overreacting. Your feelings are your feelings and they are certainly valid. You got no special treatment whatsoever from him. I'm sorry, that's a sucky way to feel all day when you're anticipating a nice card or some thoughtful little gesture that shows someone cares. It sounds like he did nothing, and if he did in fact bake you a cake, seems he forgot to give it to you. I too would be hurt and upset.
posted by the webmistress at 9:15 PM on May 10, 2016 [15 favorites]

Best answer: he has been able to get more help and social supports by opening up to his family about his depression

That's not enough. He needs to be in real treatment.

You're not overreacting. He needs to either be making real strides towards getting better and building a real relationship with you or you need to break things off.

You mentioned in the previous question that you were thinking of marrying him. Marriage doesn't make anything better or solve problems. You can't live the rest of your life like this. If you're inexperienced with adult relationships outside of the one with him, be aware that this is not normal. Things can and should be better. I know it's hard to walk away from someone with severe problems, but at a certain point you have to make taking care of yourself the priority, and wanting as much as a, "happy birthday," from a significant other is both normal and absolutely reasonable to expect.
posted by Candleman at 9:15 PM on May 10, 2016 [53 favorites]

after a few years of dating, he hasn't really done anything special for my birthday...

the times he's done things for my birthday, it's been cooking ...or surprise parties

He has done special things for your birthdays, just not the special things you were hoping for. Not that this is any reason for you not to feel hurt by his not wishing you a happy birthday this year. I think that would bother me, too. But it sounds like he's really bad at figuring out what will make you feel valued and recognized, not necessarily that he's not trying or that he doesn't care.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:16 PM on May 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Birthday's can be unimportant to some people if they're brought up in a family that doesn't make a big deal out of them. But social norms dictate that one should acknowledge the birthdays of loved ones. So to not verbally acknowledge yours? Or give a happy birthday card or text or AM call? That breaks the social contract. When your efforts for his birthday make it clear birthdays mean something to you, his total lack of an enthusiastic "happy birthday, babe!" effort is an understandable letdown. I think you should tell him how he made you feel.
posted by cecic at 9:19 PM on May 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: That's not enough. He needs to be in real treatment.

Oh, yeah, I'm fully aware of that. Therapy and meds aren't in the cards right now, but hopefully very soon. Just wanted to update that and mention that he hasn't been stagnant or moving backwards.

But it sounds like he's really bad at figuring out what will make you feel valued and recognized

But the thing is, I've told him explicitly every year what I want (picnics, stargazing, a dinner with a couple friends and games like what my friend did last night.) Should I be texting this to him so he has it in writing? Plan it for him to...plan for me?
Well, it is reassuring to know that so far I'm not overreacting. Phew.

Happy Birthday!

haha, thank you!
posted by socky bottoms at 9:19 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, not even a card? That seems shitty to me. I'd be upset too.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:20 PM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

remembering that you hate surprise parties and want a small gesture aren't too big of things to want. you aren't overreacting. i don't think this guy will do those things for you. only you can decide if spending all this energy figuring out how he receives love and getting little to none of that back is ok with you.
posted by nadawi at 9:20 PM on May 10, 2016 [30 favorites]

Wow, not even a happy birthday? Nope. That's not okay. Talk to him. "It really hurt my feelings that you didn't acknowledge my birthday at all. No text, call, birthday wishes, card or cake. I'm really disappointed about it. Why didn't you wish me a happy birthday?"

Then listen to what he says. If it seems lame and half-assed, if he doesn't get it, if he gets butt-hurt for being called out, you REALLY need to evaluate why you're with him.

It doesn't seem that he's very thoughtful. You've been pretty direct about what you want in the nature of a birthday celebration and he seems to just do whatever it comes into his mind, not to make you happy, but...I got nothing here.

If this is a pattern, it's time to stop cutting bait with him.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:21 PM on May 10, 2016 [40 favorites]

Hugs, from someone whose husband cares, but is really awkward and lazy about special days, so I have to plan them and tell him "this is what we are doing." All other days of the year, he is a fantastic human being, but for special days, I plan them in advance, what I want to do, stay in or go out, and I guess that makes him lazy, but the other 364 days of the year, he is very loving and chill, so you have to be the best judge of your man.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:21 PM on May 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

He should have wished you a happy birthday, notably after you brought up the issue. Quite frankly, I don't know why you are friends with this guy.
posted by My Dad at 9:22 PM on May 10, 2016 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: But, *last thing, I swear, don't strike me down mods!* he really is quite kind and sweet throughout the rest of the year. Shouldn't I be looking at that and not just one day out of the year? (Oh, now reading the comments, what Marie said, so nevermind)
posted by socky bottoms at 9:22 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dude forgot your birthday.

Either that or he doesn't care. Do you really think he would admit to forgetting? Hell no. Of course he said he remembered.

He needs help that you cannot give him. You can't fix him. This little instance is a symptom of a big problem and I think you're better off getting out of this. Even if he's "sweet" it doesn't make up for being a crappy partner and not getting help and working on it.

(This is coming from a person with anxiety and a pretty bad chronic illness that has had episodes of depression. So I get it. But you can't fix him.)
posted by Crystalinne at 9:24 PM on May 10, 2016 [9 favorites]

No, I find that a huge deal. Yeah yeah, not everyone places the same value on birthdays, etc., but it sounds like you've been very clear (a) that birthdays are important to you (b) that you would like him to recognize them, and (c) how to recognize them. He either can't or won't manage this right now.

I'd expect this in maybe the negotiation phase of a relatively new relationship. Not in a long, talking-about-permanent relationship. Sure it might be his depression, but that's no answer - you have a partner who can't be there for you. He's too sick, maybe. Or he's just not that into you, maybe. Either way he isn't functioning in your life the way you want a partner to. And you are entitled to want that and to find it and to have it. Sweet isn't enough. Really, it's not. It's not going to get you as a couple through even harder, lonelier times than this. you want a full partner, a teammate, a considerate person with enough wherewithal to put you first sometimes, on special days, in ways you like. That is a completely reasonable thing to want and something it is possible for you to have. Maybe not with this guy, but definitely possible and worth finding.

In your shoes, I think it would be time for a really serious conversation. And not "I'll try to do better" but "what is the plan, timeline, and actions that are going to make me confident this is getting better." Or explore moving on, since you both need to work on different aspects of life at this moment - you finding an equal partner, him getting better.
posted by Miko at 9:31 PM on May 10, 2016 [21 favorites]

A coworker asked me how old I was yesterday and I said "I'll be 27 tomorrow" (today, Happy Birthday to us!) and she didn't say Happy Birthday. She said "Oh". It was awkward for a second because I expected her to say it and was puzzled for a bit why she didn't. Then I realized we just met and it wasn't my actual birthday and got over it.

I'm sorry your bf did not do anything special for you. After years together and you telling him specifically what you'd like, dude doesn't really have an excuse. It's sad when you want something out of a relationship that isn't necessarily a dealbreaker. But after years of being in relationships that the other person didn't put in even 1/4 as much effort as I did, I learned it's important to me.

How important is this to you?
posted by lunastellasol at 9:33 PM on May 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

If your boyfriend forgot, he's thoughtless (given that you've specifically had the birthday conversations with him previously, and it's not like birthdays don't mean anything to him, he's been very explicit about what he wants for HIS.) And if he remembered, - which is what he claimed - then he deliberately decided not to acknowledge it at all BECAUSE he knows it matters to you. So, he's just your garden variety asshole instead. I mean, which one of these guys do you want to be dating, and you're talking about marrying him? Depression doesn't give him a free pass out of this.

You're entitled to be with someone who gives a shit about you, especially when he knows what it means to you. I don't think this guy is it.
posted by Jubey at 9:34 PM on May 10, 2016 [13 favorites]

This is exactly the kind of mundane nicety that depression kills. I mean "mundane" in the day-to-day, not-a-huge-deal-but way that comes up all the time. He may be thinking, "well of course it's your birthday, that's why we're going to dinner at so-and-sos!" But at the end of the day, this is stuff that many people like and expect, and in your case tell them repeatedly year after year.

Especially if the depression is proximate to "low on money." Does he have family that he can borrow money to see a Dr. and get medicated (if that's what's necessary)?
posted by rhizome at 9:35 PM on May 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

It is lame, not in a "he's obviously a dick and a sociopath!!" way but in a "homeboy lacks basic social skills and the emotional intelligence to make people feel valued" kind of way. Typical uneven emotional labor stackup between bf/gf. You can suck it up, try to "teach" him, or leave for someone you don't have to start from square one with.

Depression sucks-- I know, I have it. But on someone's birthday, unless I'm very very seriously can't-get-out-of-bed depressed (which would be a medical emergency for me, not just a "nothing I can do about it" type thing), I am quite capable of saying Happy Birthday and having a discussion with someone about what to do on their day.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:39 PM on May 10, 2016 [25 favorites]

Sorry, I almost forgot. Happy birthday!
posted by Jubey at 9:40 PM on May 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

Just to say it directly: yes his behavior might result from depression but that still doesn't mean you need to be the one to nurse someone through depression, if you are ready for other things in life. Especially because you haven't made a lifetime commitment. I've seen a number of friends sacrifice their own needs to a partner's depression for decades sometimes, and it's not wonderful for anyone. It's true he might really be too sick to do a good job, but also true that you don't have to take that problem onto yourself.
posted by Miko at 9:40 PM on May 10, 2016 [26 favorites]

My boyfriend had yesterday off work, so I know he probably slept in and was playing video games or something, so I didn't expect him to text maybe until late afternoon.

Jesus. I'd be mad too if my SO failed to clear what I'm pretty sure you know is an incredibly low bar. You have every right to be pissed off, especially if you've talked to him plenty about what you need in the past.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:01 PM on May 10, 2016 [21 favorites]

Holy smokes!

I called, asked if I could pick him up soon to go to the birthday dinner. Short call. Pick him up, head to friend's house. I wondered if he forgot it was my birthday, so I asked, "Wait, you know today's my birthday right?" and laughed to keep it friendly. I received a kind, "Yep!" And then nothing at all.

That "yep" was not kind, it was a "I'll acknowledge it but I'm not going to wish you a happy birthday" response. Like a grunt, only upbeat so as to seem kind. Giving people respond with "Happy birthday!"

Throw this fish back into the sea.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:02 PM on May 10, 2016 [51 favorites]

He's depressed, which can make it difficult to deal with the needs of other people. It's also possible that he has misinterpreted your wishes a step too far and thought you didn't want much acknowledgement at all.

Sit down and have a calm, adult conversation. Use 'I' statements. "I felt sad when you didn't wish me a happy birthday because it means a lot to me to hear it. I would like to not feel that way again. How do we do that?"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 PM on May 10, 2016

NB, none of what I said is to invalidate your feelings. Only looking at what will be effective in this situation to get what you want, which doesn't seem to include breaking up with him.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:07 PM on May 10, 2016

So he's not too depressed to go on bar crawls, trips, and get togetherswith his friends on his birthday, but he's too depressed to even say "happy birthday" on yours. And I guess a small token gift from him would be absolutely too much to ask? I don't think you're overreacting at all. I think you're massively underreacting, actually.
posted by hazyjane at 10:20 PM on May 10, 2016 [47 favorites]

All of those things can also be interpreted as self medicating. When I was in the worst throes of depression it was super easy to go out drinking. Less easy to find the energy to maintain relationships, romantic or otherwise.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:37 PM on May 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am not one to make a big deal out of my birthday. To me, it is just another day. I don't expect anything from anyone. I certainly don't want a big dinner or party or gathering of any sort. Because this is my attitude about birthdays, I sometimes forget that many want to make a big deal about their birthday. Sometimes I remember and say, "Happy Birthday".

I am not sure what your bf view of his birthday is, but consider what that is for context about not saying it to you.

Your feelings are certainly valid. If he is just not a big birthday person, either he has to be taught that it is important to you and deal with it, or you have to accept it and not worry about it.

Good luck and Happy Birthday.
posted by AugustWest at 10:39 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

No you are absolutely not over-reacting. Saying happy birthday is the absolute least one human being can do for another. That's like just plain common courtesy for acquaintances. This behavior, in the context of a years-long relationship and not like "getting to know you", is frankly childish and bizarre. If this is actually a symptom of depression then the fact is he is too ill to be in a relationship right now. But I'm more going to bet that is a red herring. This sounds like one of those guys who just coasts on women bending over backwards for him, who knows he doesn't have to give anything back because women are so afraid of looking needy.
posted by bleep at 10:51 PM on May 10, 2016 [12 favorites]

No, I'm sorry. Wishing someone a happy birthday is the easiest thing in the world. I just did it on Facebook to someone I haven't seen in 6 years. This is not ok. Stop being the parent in this relationship and making excuses.

Have you considered using this birthday as an opportunity to look at your relationships and think about what you want and need more generally?
posted by Toddles at 10:56 PM on May 10, 2016 [10 favorites]

Oh and also, Happy Birthday. I don't know you...and easy.
posted by Toddles at 10:58 PM on May 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Happy Birthday!

So when my depression was well-managed I did The Things One Does. Bought presents on time, sent cards, called people on their birthdays. I haven't done this in years. This Christmas I gave out Christmas presents *and* everyone's birthday presents from the last year that had been sitting in a pile on the floor. I called no one on their birthdays, sent no Facebook messages, and am basically an objectively terrible person when it comes to doing this stuff now.

However, if I were actually with someone on their birthday, I could be arsed to say "Happy Birthday" despite my depression and complete inability to give a shit about anything. I would say that what he did was willfully hurtful and getting upset over it sounds completely normal.
posted by xyzzy at 10:59 PM on May 10, 2016 [12 favorites]

That "yep" in response to "You know it's my birthday, right?" That is SO FAR outside the social norms that there had to be something else going on besides just not making an effort.

(Lunasolarstell's comment might be something different. There are lots of cultures in which it is seen as bad luck to wish someone happy birthday in advance. Like, most of Europe, as far as I'm aware. I'm betting that her coworker came from a family where that just.is.not.done. But that can't hold for your boyfriend, and anyway, it WAS your birthday already.)

I'm guessing he either misunderstood your request to do low key things as meaning you didn't really want your birthday acknowledged, or he is being a passive-aagressive asshole for some reason, or he forgot and in the moment was too busy being embarrassed and trying to figure out how to salvage having forgotten to behave normally, hence the imaginary cake.

Depression does not explain an inability to say a simple, "Happy birthday" when someone is in a position to be able to go out for an evening with friends. Depression that cripples you to the extent that you can't wish someone a happy birthday might be plausible if he were lying on the couch at home completely unable to do any activities or interact with people.
posted by lollusc at 11:00 PM on May 10, 2016 [21 favorites]

I've had boyfriends who gave presents and made plans for special occasions and boyfriends who preferred to basically ignore them, and this trait was not really correlated with quality of relationship, or how loving and considerate the boyfriend was. But I did kind of figure out, over time, that if I was feeling upset about an occasion not being celebrated "properly," it was 99% because I was feeling lousy about some other aspect of the relationship, and the special occasion felt really symbolic of that larger problem, or demonstrated it more clearly than daily life did. So I would encourage you to think through whether the problem is really JUST the birthday issue, or if that is standing in for something that's troubling you in the relationship in general.

If the problem is bigger, don't pretend it's just about the birthday, because it won't be fixed if next year he sends you the right text but otherwise nothing changes.

If the problem really is the birthday, you should be REALLY REALLY explicit about what you want him to do. To people who aren't natural celebrators of occasions, the whole thing can seem artificial or fraught or just like one big opportunity to do the wrong thing. Don't just tell him, "I'd like to go out for my birthday with a few close friends." Tell him, a week or two in advance, "I'd like YOU to plan a birthday dinner for me at X restaurant with Y people, and gifts aren't important but I'd like a thoughtful card from you."

We all like to imagine that our partners are picking up our subtle clues and storing them up to please us with later, and I think there's a kind of misconception that a gift you have to ask for is less meaningful than a "spontaneous" one, but in point of fact people are different. The things that stick in our heads are the ones that seem salient and touch on things we're already interested in. To you, a hint about a birthday wish is salient and memorable, but to a non-celebrator (especially a depressed one), it might just not be retained the same way (I'm sure he has interests that you don't share, and you may not recall everything he says on that topic).

This is not to say that he shouldn't make an effort to meet your stated needs. Just that you might need to state them more explicitly than you think in this area. If you (in an appropriate timeframe before your birthday) tell him exactly what you want him to do (not just what you want, but that you expect him to arrange it) and he STILL makes no effort, that's when there's a problem. Or you could accept that your boyfriend is crap at birthdays and rely on another friend to do the planning instead, and provide him with a clear but more limited set of instructions.

I think it's totally reasonable for you to tell him that it made you sad that he didn't wish you a happy birthday, and you'd like him to be sure to do that next time around, and I do think you should reflect on whether the reason this is upsetting to you is because it's reflective of a larger pattern of your needs not being met, or if you don't feel generally loved and appreciated and listened to. But if he really is considerate the other 364 days of the year, I don't think this on its own is necessarily that big a deal.
posted by unsub at 11:02 PM on May 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

Look, there's organizing gifts and cards and things.

And then there's looking the person you love in the eyes and saying "I'm so glad you were born so I get to know you. Happy birthday."

I think this was a pretty huge miss.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:08 PM on May 10, 2016 [32 favorites]

I have a friend who is super depressed who manages to say happy bday via text. Not hard.

If he knows it would make you happy, he should do it. That's all there is to it.
posted by discopolo at 11:10 PM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry, but "yep"? When you ask that question, the response is, "of course, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!" Saying the words, "happy birthday," to someone on their birthday when they are LITERALLY in front of you and have said, "today is my birthday," is quite sincerely the least a person can do. I have managed this, while depressed, TO STRANGERS. He is together enough to leave the house, he is together enough to string together TWO WORDS to say to your face. "Yep," to me, is passive aggressive and jerky.

Organizing gifts or a party or whatever is one thing. If you're depressed, leaving the house is hard -- I get that; I have been depressed myself. But not saying "happy birthday" to you in that moment is, when you are right in front of him, on your birthday, to my mind, bullshit and totally uncool and you are not wrong to be hurt about it. I am mad about it on your behalf.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU FROM A TOTAL STRANGER. But, seriously: happy birthday!!!!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:27 PM on May 10, 2016 [39 favorites]

In typical AskMeFi fashion, a lot of people here are projecting how they would feel if they were in your situation - which I say in the most lovingkindness of ways since I've done it too. But the point is, only you know yourself and your boyfriend well enough to know if this is an anomaly or not. If it's just normal absent mindedness, it does suck that it's about your birthday but it's kinda understandable (I know very loving people exactly like this, my brother, for one); but if it's oddly clueless then it might be worth investigating. Regardless, if you've realized you want a certain type of acknowledgement for certain types of events (your bday) that's totally okay! Just know that your guy might be the type you need to spell it out for in advance.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:36 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Happy birthday to you!

The thing is, you already spelled it out. You should not need to anything more. He knows you care about birthdays and wishing you a happy birthday is the plain bare minimum he should have done. A mystery cake that may or may not appear? That doesn't work. Especially since it hasn't appeared.
A hug and a kiss and a 'happy birthday' is not something that needs to be organised in advance, it doesn't cost money, and he knows that you appreciate that kind of thing... and he also knew it was your birthday. I can think of no possible good reason why he didn't give you those. I really can't.

I do not think you are being unreasonable, and in your place, I would certainly bring it up, in a calm and clear manner.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:00 AM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Upthread I basically said you should break up with this fellow (or re-evaluate your relationship). I'd like to explain why. For one thing, with our friends, we like to cheer each other up and be friendly. And this involves saying "happy birthday." Now, there may be a practical and clinical reason why your BF, when given the chance, didn't say "happy birthday." So it's not like he has to be punished. On the other hand, all successful relationships exist between equals. It's not fair that you have shoulder the so-called emotional labor of the relationship, even if he is living with clinical depression. You deserve more. You can still be "friends" but reconsider whether or not he is your "boyfriend." I say this because you came here to AskMe with a specific question about "happy birthday." While you can support your friend as he tries to get healthy, it's not your responsibility, unless, of course, you see light at the end of the tunnel, or you are comfortable with not having your own emotional needs met.
posted by My Dad at 12:33 AM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

You're turning this into an annual test, one you know based on a completely consistent history, he is going to fail.

If you know what you want to do for your birthday every year, then plan what you want to do for your birthday every year. If that sounds untenable, date someone else.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:38 AM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Someone had to do it.
posted by celtalitha at 1:52 AM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can keep making excuses for why he doesn't meet your emotional needs, or you can go find someone who meets your needs. Just because you love someone and think they are special doesn't make them the best life partner for you.

I think people get confused because everybody says stuff like, "relationships are work". It's true, they ARE work, but not this KIND of work. The kind of work you do in a committed relationship is work on yourself/ work on your own insides, not work on someone else's behavior.

Once you figure out in your heart what you are worth and what you really need from a relationship, you can start dating with that in mind. If a romantic interest doesn't meet all of your requirements, you can sit down with yourself and figure out if you're willing to sacrifice 'X'.

It seems like you are trying to mold him into a form that he cannot or will not assume.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:57 AM on May 11, 2016 [39 favorites]

Happy birthday! I'm sorry you had a bum experience.

I think your boyfriend's pretty in the wrong here, because you've explicitly told him what you wanted for your birthday. It was spelled out for him and he still didn't do it. It's especially galling in light of your friends planning a really nice evening for you, while he just sat around all day. You didn't just set the bar low, you placed it on the ground in front of his feet with a big red sign saying "PLEASE CLEAR" and he still just sat there.

I have a history of depression and am sympathetic to that, but you still have to contribute to your relationships. You have to at least try. And if you aren't well enough to do the usual relationship-maintenance work, then your contribution needs to be to get yourself well enough so your partner doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting. Or, again, you have to at least try. Do you feel like your boyfriend's making an effort to get better, without your prompting? If not, it's going to always be like this.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:23 AM on May 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

Stevie and I wish you a happy birthday.

I asked, "Wait, you know today's my birthday right?" and laughed to keep it friendly. I received a kind, "Yep!" And then nothing at all. And he said he'd a birthday cake and he didn't.

You're allowed to feel how you feel about anything but oh man, I would have a very serious conversation with this guy and do some thinking about if you really want to stay with him.

If everything else with him is fine, then I'd have a "this was not okay" birthday chat and move on. But if this part of a pattern where you're not being treated the way you'd like, consider cutting your losses and move on.

The Beatles also want to say something.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:25 AM on May 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Happy birthday!

I totally agree with the many comments above about how depression may just make this too much for him right now.

When we started couples counseling, how we'd like to celebrate birthdays was one of the first things we were asked in the intake process. I guess it's a common issue and a marker for how much we want others to celebrate us (if at all.)

It is perfectly reasonable to want more from a partner in this regard, but you do have to let them know what that more looks like. Maybe you ask him to set aside some time next year, a month prior to your birthday, to chat about some things he could do for your birthday?
posted by advicepig at 4:46 AM on May 11, 2016

Best answer: You are describing a child - plays video games all day, needs to be reminded of important events, has you guessing if this is your responsibility or his.

You are growing up. Your boyfriend? It seems not so much.

What kind of life do you want? It doesn't matter how sweet this guy is, maturity is 4/5's of the game once marriage and children are on the table.

As you pass another milestone, this is a significant sign. I was also wondering why you are still friends with this guy! He gets to be considered your intimate partner, but can't remember to call you or get a card on your birthday? Not even a hug when he sees you?

Nope nope nope nope nope.

Girl! You're worth MUCH more than this. How old would someone have to be to take responsibility for their end in a relationship? 15? 18?

How old is your boyfriend? I bet he's old enough.

Now, don't start a fight or break up over this! Do use it as a measurement and data point. Marriage is a lot of work. Someone might be fun to date, but being capable of successful "relationship-ing" into adulthood is another matter. Identify what you want your future to look like and start expecting more from yourself and whoever you are with. People don't change unless they put in the effort. Don't put effort in on his behalf - he needs to carry his own weight. He's not. This is a datapoint.
posted by jbenben at 6:05 AM on May 11, 2016 [22 favorites]

Lots of these answers focus on him. I'd encourage you to focus on you. Your feelings are not unreasonable. I would encourage you to take some time for yourself in the next week to turn off your computer and your phone, go outside for a walk or get a cup of tea and sit on your porch - just get outside, if possible - and sit with your thoughts. Think about what you want - not just now, but in one year, five years, ten years time. What do you want, in your one short moment on earth? Next, evaluate what you have now. Are what you have in life now and what you want in life later compatible? Are they on the same plane? If not, what do you need to do to move from Now to Then?

This is something I started doing around my birthday every year after I turned 30. My life took a weird turn in my 20s and I was spending most of my time thinking far more about others than I ever did about myself, and it had some negative consequences for me.

Remember that you are in the relationship you are in, and expecting change from the other party is a fool's errand. Will you be happy if all of your future birthdays look like this one?

Best of luck to you.
posted by sockermom at 6:12 AM on May 11, 2016 [17 favorites]

Oh, also, I will trot the old Ask Cliche Pony out (such a centered and kind and beautiful pony!) and suggest therapy for you. Therapy helped me learn how to understand and make use of my feelings in productive ways. It can be a really good thing for determining what to do with one's emotions.
posted by sockermom at 6:17 AM on May 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

My SO didn't wish me a Happy Birthday many years ago (the first year we were living together) and I waited until about mid-day and then kinda' freaked out irrationally. After I calmed down I explained that this was something that was important to me, more than presents and pretty much anything else, an acknowledgement of my one special day from my partner. To be honest I'm not a big celebrator of my birthday, but I like having "a day" that's mine, not for anything special, but mine nonetheless. Once I'd explained it, he understood & has been great every year since.
It sounds like you've already explained it (without overreacting), and he still doesn't make the smallest of efforts.
Honestly, how many years more of this do you want? Like sockermom above, I'd suggest therapy for you; you're worth more & should believe it.
posted by Laura in Canada at 6:30 AM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Happy belated birthday!

I agree with everyone who says you are totally entitled to your feelings. Also, it doesn't seem from what you've described that you are with someone who is helping you grow, or participating in your development. Is that really what you want? The best part of being with someone, for me, is sharing and contributing to each other's lives. Your relationship sounds pretty one-sided to me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:45 AM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do we even know whether or not he actually forgot your birthday? Maybe it feels like he did, because he did.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:46 AM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Woah! I didn't expect this many comments! Thanks everyone for weighing in. Reading some comments, I could feel myself teetering between getting angry at my boyfriend and then getting defensive since you all only know this one slice of him that I've posted about. I don't think I'm going to break up with him. I am going to think on if this is a bigger pattern of outside birthday events.

I did talk to him about it last night. I was surprisingly calm, just said that it hurt my feelings and I wished he said happy birthday or got me a card. He started tearing up, saying he had no idea and felt so bad. (He can be pretty sensitive so I wasn't surprised by the tearing up.) He thought that because we were going to dinner and games, it didn't cross his mind, that the event counted as a happy birthday. I didn't really dig into it more since it was 2am last night.

I also asked about the cake, but he refused to give it to me. He said he realized he got a flavor I didn't like (I said it's fine! I like all the cake.) and that it was very lumpy and he could do better. And also he started getting teary because he wanted to buy me something nice, but money is tight, so he wanted to give me a special cake. Sweet of him. But I also told him last night, "But remember? I said that I knew you didn't have the means right now, so a note or a card with some sweet words would mean a lot." All he could say over and over again was that he was sorry and I was right to be mad.

anyways, I'm not mad at him anymore. I know there are life circumstances he can't really control, like a job (besides this job that has him work super sporadically, he is a couple months unemployed and hasn't been able to find another job.) and his depression. I find it so hard to be mad at him when he is depressed, and he has no insurance to get medications or go to therapy. There are some days I admit to myself though that I want to date an adult again, but he has been one before, it's just this depression and situation I'm convinced.

Also, thanks so much for all the birthday wishes!!
posted by socky bottoms at 6:49 AM on May 11, 2016

Happy Birthday.

My partner remembered my birthday this year and got me a card and ordered me take out by surprise. It was great. Mind you this person had had a C-Section 3 days prior. It's an incredibly low bar to say happy birthday.
posted by French Fry at 7:03 AM on May 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: It doesn't cost money to give a loved one attention on their special day. He should have sent you texts and called throughout the day to tell you you are special. I don't think he deserves a pass because of his depression, sorry.

And happy birthday! :-)
posted by Dragonness at 7:04 AM on May 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

So, there are two options here that make sense to me.

1. He's being passive-aggressive.

2. He's taking you for granted.

If it's 1, you need to confront him about him and get him to express his anger or resentment openly so you can work it out. Or, if you can't work it out, leave.

If it's 2, you need to be less helpful and less of a caretaker and start going out and meeting more guys. Keep him on his toes a little. Remind him that other people see the good in you and want to snatch you up if he's not able to treat you well.

Also, re: your update- That allegedly lumpy cake REALLY sounds totally imaginary.

Does he have a problem with lying? Lying like that is a huge red flag. Is he one of those people who make excuses even when the rock-solid proof they messed up is right in front of their face? Once one excuse runs out, does he pull out another excuse on top of it? Does he do that in other contexts? I've known people like that, it's absolutely exhausting.
posted by quincunx at 7:05 AM on May 11, 2016 [15 favorites]

I am going to think on if this is a bigger pattern of outside birthday events.

From what you describe, the pattern appears to be this:

You accommodate his needs, whether he's articulated them or you've noticed/anticipated them.

You also express your needs very well - and then pull back when your needs tweak his sensitiveness and he gets emotional.

And he does a poor job of meeting your needs - but a good job of letting his emotional response to your expression of them become a more pressing matter than meeting them.

"I said that ... a note or a card with some sweet words would mean a lot." All he could say over and over again was that he was sorry and I was right to be mad.

Did he write down sweet words for you? Did he wish you a happy birthday?! No, he said "you're right to be mad, because I suck, and it's all about me. Even your birthday is about me."

Also, there never was a cake.

You deserve better. But until you believe that and speak/act as though you believe it, you will not get it.
posted by headnsouth at 7:09 AM on May 11, 2016 [82 favorites]

That cake story really does sound like BS. The whole conversation sounds like emotional quicksand with a little splash of gas lighting.

I second the recommendation of therapy for you. You are doing so. Much. Relationship maintenance here. Too much. You keep telling us how calm and kind you are when you have these conversations - even when there's a problem, you're trying to manage it for him. He may never get better. You clearly have dreams of a full life. Therapy can help you navigate your choices and learn to take care of yourself even when others aren't taking care of you. Good luck.
posted by Miko at 7:15 AM on May 11, 2016 [14 favorites]

After your update, I think you should definitely seek therapy. You are worth more than this guy.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:22 AM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

> He said he realized he got a flavor I didn't like (I said it's fine! I like all the cake.) and that it was very lumpy

That's a very nice alternative version of the Cheese Shop sketch, I'll hand him that. But by this point, I'm afraid that the cake is, as they say, a lie.
I'm sorry. Please realise that you deserve to be treated better.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:25 AM on May 11, 2016 [15 favorites]

I'm not sure his response is satisfactory. I don't doubt he's sorry, I don't doubt he's having a hard time in life, I don't doubt he feels bad, and I don't doubt his tears were real. But I doubt he's going to do anything to make up for this, or to prevent similar situations from happening. I'd guess he now considers the matter closed, and it sounds like you do too. But I don't think it is. I don't think it should be.

Is this a pattern? He disappoints you somehow, you tell him about your disappointment, he feels bad, you feel bad, and nothing changes? Being sad and sorry doesn't make anything better on its own. And responding with sadness can be form a of manipulation; it's often not intentional or malicious, especially when someone's suffering from depression, but the effect is still there even if the intent isn't. He's taking your disappointment and refocusing it on him, he's sorry and he sucks, oh he feels so bad. You have the right to feel bad too! It's your party!

I mentioned in my previous comment that, while I'm sympathetic to the limits depression can place on a person, it doesn't excuse him from trying. Even if he can't afford treatment right now, he can work on self-care and he can work on learning how to emotionally support himself and you, rather than you having to do all the work.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:29 AM on May 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

Just a data point: I don't have social anxiety. Except for when it comes to saying Happy Birthday. I have no idea why. But there you go. It becomes so much about doing it right that I freeze up and tend to fail most people's birthdays, including the people closest to me. (I've mostly grown out of this, but it still randomly raises its head.)
posted by Vaike at 7:29 AM on May 11, 2016

In the last question, you said he had insurance but he was afraid to ask his bosses for the information for fear of making him mad. It sounds like the same job. That also sounded like as much BS as the also probably BS cake story. You don't have to have money to get some kind of help (though it certainly makes things easier), and he seems pretty actively resistant to getting help, but pretty down with making you feel terrible for how bad he feels. You can't fix him on your own, and he's breaking you down.

My moment of clarity was calling a suicide hotline for someone else and winding up getting advice that I myself needed to get the hell away from that dumpster fire. Please remember that even if he is ill, you are also a person who needs to be able to stay safe. Please go to some counseling through your school. Let us know how things turn out.
posted by hollyholly at 7:29 AM on May 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

Happy birthday!!

I think you've got some great advice here.

And if that's not enough, maybe consider that if your bf is more than capable of playing video games on his day off rather than merely wishing you a happy birthday, not to mention saying he made you a cake which he never gave you, but all kinds of bullshit excuses as to why not instead, I think there is no reason for you to not tell him "the cake is a lie" and act accordingly.
posted by moody cow at 7:38 AM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

That cake never existed.

Untreated mental illness is a dealbreaker. Therapy and meds aren't in the cards right now--why not? Is he aware of sliding-scale and free options?

As mentioned above, he's at best taking you for granted. I know you say this is just one slice of him, but it's a pretty significant slice. If I had a pie that was great except for one slice that was covered with mold and ants, I'd throw the pie out and get one that wouldn't make me feel bad.
posted by witchen at 7:45 AM on May 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

I know there are life circumstances he can't really control, like a job (besides this job that has him work super sporadically, he is a couple months unemployed and hasn't been able to find another job.) and his depression.

By your account though he's actually not managing his depression much at all. Which, hey, that is what happens when you're depressed but there's a difference between "Oh this is something that just happened" and "This is something he's just not ready/able to deal with yet" and you need to decide how you feel about that.

When my guy was less able to deal with his emotions, our conversations would turn into these sorts of things. I'd say "Hey you hurt my feelings, let's talk about this" and he's turn into a tearful mess so much so that we were talking about HIS feelings and not mine. He didn't do it on purpose, but it was a suboptimal way of managing the situation and just showed how not-emotionally-okay he was.

He's in therapy, on meds and doing as ton better which is great and I'm glad I waited it out with him. But part of what I did was tell him "You are not managing this which means there's no reason I shouldn't assume that [this feeling-hurting behavior] isn't going to continue. What is your plan?" Not everyone wants to have that sort of relationship, but to me it was pretty clear that my expectations were reasonable, his responses were not, and I could tolerate that short term but not long term and I made and set boundaries.

This guy did not handle things. This guy is not managing his life well. This means that you. as part of his life, are not really getting the attention you'd like, attention that is not unreasonable. I'd at least start paying attention to the patterns in your relationship and see if this is how you want it to work going forward.
posted by jessamyn at 7:49 AM on May 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

Birthdays ARE a big deal, to me at least. It's the only day that's just yours, not a big holiday that everybody celebrates. At minimum, I want an acknowledgement, two small words "Happy Birthday!" That's really all it takes. If he can't be bothered to say that little bit, especially after being reminded, he's not worth it.
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:53 AM on May 11, 2016

Response by poster: "you need to be less helpful and less of a caretaker and start going out and meeting more guys. Keep him on his toes a little."

Wait... Isn't that cheating...

Also, clarifying someone else's comments, he lost that job that was mentioned in the previous question. Current stuff doesn't provide insurance.
Also, I did actually ask if the cake was a lie! It just sounded so weird and unlike him. He insisted it wasn't, he actually brought up the cake in front of my friends, which I know he would never do if it was a lie. He just...really made a super ugly cake I guess. Sigh.

AGH it's so hard to really not think of the depression as an excuse. My mom usually says the typical "relationships are work" and that I should be extra supportive in this hard time. Ok. Done for real. No more comments from me.
posted by socky bottoms at 7:54 AM on May 11, 2016

it took me years, and two long term boyfriends, to figure out that when someone repeats behaviors that hurt you, and then make a huge crying production about how they're so sorry, and then repeats those those behavior some more - the crying isn't about you, it isn't about them being sensitive, it isn't because you've asked for too much, it isn't because they're sorry - it's because they've learned it as a way to get out of responsibilities. you will mother him through this entire relationship, constantly lifting him up, and consistently being let down.

you might want to read through the emotional labor thread over the next little while, paying special attention to the conversation that centers around greeting cards (and "I was going to stop and get you flowers but I didn't"), just to see the struggles other (mostly) women have had with their (mostly male) partners and to have a vocabulary to discuss how some of these things impact you and your relationship.
posted by nadawi at 7:55 AM on May 11, 2016 [42 favorites]

Ok, still. Not asking your boss for insurance information sounds like BS regardless.
posted by hollyholly at 8:00 AM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

No, he just doubled down on a lie that he thought would get him out of trouble. Really. If he couldn't go to the effort of making you a nice card (which you specifically asked for--he had training wheels and a ramp!) I'm pretty sure he wouldn't put energy and resources into making a cake, then throw it away or "forget" it (which was it?) because of some imperfection.

Relationships are work, but they are work when you work together against a problem. He's not working with you. He's dragging you down. There are many, many wonderful men out there who will work with you. The right relationship will seem easy and clear in a way that this one just isn't.
posted by witchen at 8:02 AM on May 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

My mom usually says the typical "relationships are work"

yah and he's not doing any of it.
posted by French Fry at 8:02 AM on May 11, 2016 [53 favorites]

He just...really made a super ugly cake I guess.

The cake is fictional until the cake shows up. He wants some sort of cheevos for whatever part of this he did and can not seem to get to the point where the actual goal state, sometimes, is not just trying but accomplishing. Failure is fine for stuff that is really hard (and with the understanding that with depression everything is hard sometimes) but he seems to be in some sort of shame spiral so that whether or not the cake exists he wants credit for having done something even though you wound up with no cake and no birthday acknowledgement.

Sure, relationships are work. They should be work for both people. You're getting excuses and no results. Sometimes there's a mismatch between a person's efforts and their accomplishments. sure, but if that's the way things consistently work then the other person in the relationship needs to pick up the slack and that's usually an unfulfilling way to be in a relationship.
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2016 [12 favorites]

> My mom usually says the typical "relationships are work"

Well, they are. But the work should be done on both ends, not just on yours. And relationships should also make you happy.
Very often, women especially are told to do all the heavy lifting in relationships. Is that fair? Is that how you want to live? What if he stays like this? Because that's more than likely, since he is not doing anything in order to improve his situation.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

relationships are work, but generally they shouldn't be ~hard~ work. my husband and i both have issues with anxiety and depression, but we still tell each other happy birthday, in times of financial stress we try to figure out how to do little special things for each other. depression isn't a 'get out of all responsibilities forever' card, unless his is really that bad - and if his is that bad, you are harming him by buoying him up because he doesn't need to be in a relationship and does need to be in intensive treatment.

i would recommend you get a counselor of your own to get a better look at your situation.
posted by nadawi at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If it's 2, you need to be less helpful and less of a caretaker and start going out and meeting more guys. Keep him on his toes a little. Remind him that other people see the good in you and want to snatch you up if he's not able to treat you well.

Wait... Isn't that cheating...

To speak to another man in public? No, hon. What quincunx is suggesting is that you expand your world so that both you and Mopey McVideogames over there remember that a whole bunch of people are out there, most of whom can muster up better for their SO than a lie-cake and "yep." Maybe it lights a fire under M McV's ass, maybe it just shakes you out of making excuses for his overwhelming underwhelmingness as a partner.

If your partner thinks that you being out in the world and being aware of other men is cheating, that suggests that he knows he's literally the worst possible partner for you. Ask me how I know. If you think that being out in the world and being aware of other men will inevitably lead to cheating, then that suggests YOU know he's literally the worst possible partner for you. Again. Ask me how I know.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:10 AM on May 11, 2016 [33 favorites]

Okay, yeah, the cake is a lie here. He maybe wanted to. But it doesn't exist and never did. "I made you a cake you wouldn't like" is horseshit of the highest order.

It's one thing to flake with depression. It happens. It's another to just double down on stupid lies. Call him on it in no uncertain terms.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:14 AM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

You are fighting so hard to not hear what everyone here is telling you. Why?
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:14 AM on May 11, 2016 [29 favorites]

The way you framed this, I think this is some cluelessness and genuine confusion on his part. He remembered that it was your birthday and participated in the celebration of your birthday, but isn't really picking up on how the custom works and is floundering.

Saying the actual words "happy birthday" directly to the person is a specific sort of pleasantry that is treated almost like a tiny little magical spell in our culture.

Like most people, I absorbed this custom, I find it sweet and meaningful to experience, and I enjoy the chance to wish both friends and strangers a happy birthday. But I can drum up some sympathy for someone who, oddly, just never internalized this. I do think you need to lay out that "yes, it's important to me that you literally say those words out loud to me, set a calendar reminder or whatever to make it a habit."
posted by desuetude at 8:14 AM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

(and lest people think I'm dismissing his depression by calling him Mopey McVideogames, I'll just say that I've had depression for ~25 years. There have been times I was a complete disaster of a human. I understand depression. When I was depressed, I too was an overwhelmingly underwhelming partner, who should have been dumped. He may be depressed. But he is also a Mopey McVideogames.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:18 AM on May 11, 2016 [17 favorites]

i don't think after your very explicit requests and instructions that there is any way he is confused or clueless. you also don't actually have any evidence that he remembered it was your birthday - you called to ask if you could pick him up, you reminded him it was your birthday. the only active thing he did to celebrate was put on pants, get in the car, and stay at the place you brought him.
posted by nadawi at 8:19 AM on May 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

Should I be texting this to him so he has it in writing? Plan it for him to...plan for me?

To me, if you find yourself repeatedly told by a partner that you weren't clear enough about your preferences, that you said something different, or find yourself wishing that you could record your conversations to prove once and for all what was actually said, it speaks to how engaged and willing the partner really is. It's also a hallmark of gaslighting behavior.
posted by dreamphone at 8:21 AM on May 11, 2016 [16 favorites]

All (yes, all) of your feelings are valid. Also, happy birthday!

I'll try not to repeat too much of what's above, but here's what I got:

A passive-aggressive, one syllable acknowledgement of your birthday is impressively callous, clinical depression or no.

When you tried to talk about it like grownups, he felt bad and apologized, but in a way that made YOUR valid hurt feelings about him basically ignoring your birthday about how bad HE now feels at being called out on his screw up.

This is a classic derailment tactic. Rather than take this painful conversation to heart and try to figure out what steps he can take to do right by you in the future, he decided it'd be easier to wallow in his feelings for awhile and avoid any self-reflection. Again, depression or no, he's not even pretending to step up as an equal partner here.

I tried to get through your post without projecting too much, but alas, I could not. This sounds sadly similar to a dynamic I had with my first LTR. I actually had to place a moratorium on directionless self-pity whenever we had discussions about interpersonal conflicts because it was not constructive in the least and didn't solve the problem.

Additionally, the "here is exactly what I need from you under these conditions"-"okay cool but I'll magically not remember any of this when the time comes" cycle is also a wretchedly familiar one to me. He is capable of remembering things; the fact that he's either not remembering or not prioritizing your needs when they're spelled out in black and white is telling.

Refusing to seek help for his depression while simultaneously refusing to engage with relationship maintenance is a big red flag. It shows he'd rather be stagnant than work for something better.

I'm nthing nadawi's advice to check out the emotional labor thread. Very illuminating.

To answer your question, no, you're not overreacting. But it sounds like this birthday snub is just the tip of the iceberg here, as evidenced by the length and voracity of this AskMeFi thread.

P.S. If the cake was really THAT big a failure, data point of one, but I still wouldn't have thrown it away. I would have saved the ugly cake, been like "hey darling, about that cake..." and shown my partner the ugly cake, we'd both have a good laugh about it, and THEN we throw it away.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:36 AM on May 11, 2016 [19 favorites]

What he should have said, at minimum, should have been along the lines of "aw honey I'm sorry I screwed up, I'm going to make it up to you tonight. I love you! Happy one-day-later birthday! Pizza?" Not whatever self-centered drama he gave instead.

Everyone makes mistakes. He was rude and thoughtless about your birthday - that's a thing you could forgive, if you thought it wasn't indicative of how he is. But this whiny gaslighting? Ugh.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:38 AM on May 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Happy Birthday!

While you're checking out the emotional labor thread, do a search for "I was going to get you flowers but I didn't" and just substitute cake for flowers.
posted by WesterbergHigh at 8:49 AM on May 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Coming at this from the POV of someone who is a partner to a man with non-medically treated/not formally diagnosed depression and anxiety, I have more sympathy for your boyfriend (and for you) because to some extent I have Been Here, and it is Tough (feel free to look at my post history for some insights from other Mefites).

One of the best pieces of advice I've gleaned from the many many AskMe threads about depression and from partners of people with depression is this: depression sucks and depression lies, but depression isn't an excuse to act like an asshole to the people you love. Now, only you can determine how much your boyfriend is acting like an asshole, but I counsel you to try your best to step back from this and really ask yourself if you're being treated well. Like, imagine this is a friend of yours asking for advice: what would you tell her?

From your comments, it sounds like your boyfriend is in a really difficult place right now. He reminds me a lot of my partner, whose depression and anxiety to some extent come from a history of abuse (the constant apologising for the tiniest perceived wrongdoing is very familiar). However, I acknowledge that my sympathy for your boyfriend (and for other depressed partners who have treated me badly in the past) stems from some co-dependency issues I have myself. I am "fixer" who is drawn to people who are in trouble because I get something out of helping them, and I imagine you're probably nodding along to this to some extent.

Bottom line is: depression is not an excuse but dealing with this without acknowledging the depression won't help, so don't do it.

So, my advice:
- if you can afford it, get into therapy for yourself, asap
- stop expecting him to act like a neurotypical person, and this goes both ways - be ready to be kind and sympathetic when he struggles, but at the same time don't put pressure on him to meet impossible (right now) demands
- read that emotional labor thread linked above and seek out resources for people living with mentally ill partners - they will be helpful
- start going out on your own (or keep doing that), make friendships undefined by this relationship, take a class, start jogging, whatever it takes for you to carve out a place for yourself in your life
- learn to step back and see the red flags. Like, literally have a mantra in your head for the times when you need to be objective. A good thing I do is I write an AskMe post about whatever is going on in my head, then I imagine what the posters might say

I hope this rambly mess has been helpful. <3 Happy belated birthday and I hope things get easier for the both of you.
posted by fight or flight at 9:07 AM on May 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also. Here is the thing about a lumpy cake. A lot of batters look lumpy when you stir them, especially box cakes, and those lumps usually become holes in the baked cake. How does he know the cake was actually lumpy? Unless a) he cut a piece, which is against the birthday-cake-having rules in our culture and cannot be hidden, or b) he is such a careful baker that he prepared an extra ramekin of cake batter to bake and sample first?

I don't mean to be Cake Detective. I'm just hoping that this will stick with you, and you'll consider it, as you consider what you ought to do. I'm not asking you to be cruel to this man, just to be kind to yourself, and to limit your exposure to people who are not in fact kind to you.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:15 AM on May 11, 2016 [15 favorites]

The tears are a deflection, the cake 100% was a lie. C'mon.

It's OK. But just keep it in mind that he's escalating and compounding mistakes rather than taking responsibility, telling the truth, saying sorry without making you feel badly for him.

Children have a hard time seeing past their own needs. Datapoint.
posted by jbenben at 9:35 AM on May 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

I actually had to place a moratorium on directionless self-pity whenever we had discussions about interpersonal conflicts because it was not constructive in the least and didn't solve the problem.

As a ballbusting bitch, same. In five years you'll be beating your head against the wall.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:44 AM on May 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

Take the whole birthday aspect out of it-you clearly and specifically communicated to him something that you need in your relationship and you gave him several options on filling that need (ones that you are certain he is capable of) and he didn't care to make the minimal effort to give you what you need. It doesn't matter what it is, what matters is you have needs that are just as valid as his and he doesn't see them as important and just isn't going to make the effort unless he feels like it.

That's not a good relationship, where one person always takes and the other person always gives and frankly nothing you can do will change that dynamic. Crying and saying he sucks is manipulative and not any sort of a real apology. You deserve way way better than this. As hard as it will be, you need to move on because he's not ready to be the partner you deserve.

(And Happy Birthday! You have some great friends who love and understand you, that's a treasure.)
posted by hollygoheavy at 9:49 AM on May 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

I hate to pile on but I have to say this: You deserve better! You deserve to have your birthday be about celebrating you in whatever way you prefer not tending to him, dealing with his emotions and making sure he's in a good place. You deserve better from a partner than a "yep" when you have to prod him for a happy birthday wish.

Everyone has issues; his suck, but you handed him a puck, a stick and an open net and he didn't even bother to take a shot. You deserve better. When you have relationship talks do you put effort into remaining calm? Does he? Who plans your date nights out? Who calls or texts first most days? Who says "I love you" first when you're hanging out? Who was the last person to do something nice for the other just because? I'm going to guess I know the answer to these questions. You deserve better.
posted by GilvearSt at 9:52 AM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is a conversation I just had with my husband, who hates birthdays:

Me: Let me ask you, if someone said to you, "hey, it's my birthday today!", how would you respond to them?
Him: I'd probably just go "Oh yeah! Happy birthday. Congrats on getting old."

Look, when I was depressed and dealing with a lot of untreated anxiety, there were a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of social cues I missed. Usually I would realize hours later, and spend the evening beating myself up with my failures ("Aaaack, I was suppoed to say, 'MY NAME IS SARAH, nice to meet you,' instead of just 'Nice to meet you'!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaccccccckkkkkk."). But I don't think even I would have missed a cue so obvious as "Hey, it's my birthday today".

If he's missing a cue like that, he needs professional help. His lying about the cake to get out of an uncomfortable situation is also anxious behavior; I used to do it too. He also needs professional help for that.
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:03 AM on May 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My take on this is that your boyfriend's behavior, from start to finish, was the result of a prolonged shame spiral.

Due to factors that might be related to his depression, he dropped the ball and didn't do anything to prepare for your birthday. He didn't get a card, he didn't make a cake that was up to his standards (if he made one at all), etc. He felt like shit, slept in, and then had a video game session to numb his feelings. So when you told him that it was your birthday, he was already feeling like a huge failure, and went the defensive, "yep, of course I know" route.

When you confronted him about all of this later, you were basically verbalizing all the stuff he already felt ashamed about. I also don't do well when people point out things that I know I've done wrong, but I'm learning to take it in a spirit of constructive humility, and that is something your boyfriend could work on too.

This is all just my interpretation. I don't think your boyfriend was deliberately callous. I just think shame about a bad situation made it actively and progressively worse. Perfectionism can definitely play a role in how debilitating the shame spiral becomes, so that could be a factor too.

This is not to say that you should tolerate this kind of treatment. Just my take on what might be going on.
posted by delight at 10:22 AM on May 11, 2016 [12 favorites]

Wait ... Isn't that cheating...

We tend to think of "cheating" as meaning one particular kind of breach of trust in relationships. But it struck me from reading your update regarding your discussion with your boyfriend that I think he is cheating. Trying to get credit for a gift he didn't actually deliver seems like cheating. Trying to redirect a discussion about how he could be a better partner into you comforting him seems like cheating.

Playing video games all day until your girlfriend picks you up to drive you to her birthday dinner and not even verbally wishing her happy birthday but also acting like, no, I didn't forget I just don't care that much even though you've expressed several ways how this is a big deal for you ... well, it seems like a breach of trust.

Do you ever feel cheated by his behavior outside of the context of your birthday?
posted by ewok_academy at 10:24 AM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'll agree with others in the thread: be aware this sounds quite a bit like perfectionist and/or avoidance-out-of-shame behavior.

I say this because it sounds very cookie-cutter to how I would find myself functioning sometimes, in a past era. Presuppose I really want to do well. Now, I have a reasonable goal (hurdle) to jump over; I wait until the last minute, yet time keeps running, and then here I am at the hurdle: I do everything I can to just-make-it-work, except actually doing it, including making excuses, promising better things next time without delivering, and self-victimizing under confrontation, with no reparations made after.

Part of this habit stems from depression, part of it from wanting to be 'everything to everyone.' I don't think at all it's that he doesn't love you, or isn't otherwise suitable for you: you know best on that part, and I think you've made your case for what's otherwise a lovely relationship, so I consider this outside the realm of commentary for me. It's not what you were asking. I just want to encourage you to, yes, look at this as a patterning that needs to be dealt with - not by you - but by him, from within - as something that he needs to get better with before even considering moving into another dimension of mature commitment.
posted by a good beginning at 11:05 AM on May 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

When people say, "I wish I knew then what I know now" ~ that is an expression of regret. The regret of how we'd do it differently. What most of us would do differently, relationship-wise, is to value ourselves and our precious, precious time. Years wasted with the wrong person, years of regret and pain that could have been avoided. If you think the pile on here is to be mean to you OR to your boyfriend, you are wrong. It's just lots of people who have Been There Done That. Think of us as friends rallying behind you, because we are. Know your worth, socky bottoms!

If you think he's an otherwise fantastic guy (metaphorically slam dunks the ball for you emotionally 75% of the time), then this can be communicated about and made to be better in the future. If this is a pattern of disappointment, I am here to tell you, you can do better. Cake that was too lumpy? That sounds made up to me, but maybe not. However, "Yep" alone is grounds for dismissal in my book. That's all you have to say to me, the love of your life, on my birthday?...Yep?
posted by Grlnxtdr at 11:25 AM on May 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

As a note, I'm not saying that you should simply break up with him (though you should recognize that you may need to if things don't turn around), but that if you're going to last as a couple, you two need to figure out a way for him to get better. I have the wasted years that Grknxtdr mentioned with a partner that was depressed and wouldn't respond to gentle nudging and prodding to get help. It was the intervention style "if you don't get help we're through" conversation (and promise of support) that got them into therapy, onto medication, and on an exercise plan.

And while I can't guarantee magical success or anything, treating the depression enabled them to break out of the trap of low paying retail work and go after, land, and maintain a professional job.
posted by Candleman at 12:25 PM on May 11, 2016

If he has lost his job and has no/limited income then he should be eligible for Medicaid. Losing a job also counts as a "qualifying event" that qualifies someone to apply for Obamacare outside of the application period.

The only way he wouldn't qualify for insurance is if you live in a state that has not expanded Medicaid AND his current income is between 100 and 138% of the poverty line.
posted by bearette at 1:47 PM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh Hai me, fifteen years ago. Happy Belated Birthday! Today is my birthday and I am spending a twelve hour day at work because going home to be ignored by my husband of 15 years on my birthday is really painful, year after year, so sitting at my desk doing busy work is preferable to having yet another milestone be ignored - even better, my family planned a party for me and our child's birthday (as well as the mother's day that was just ignored) for the upcoming weekend and he suddenly has the energy to go out with his friends that day instead.

You are teaching your SO how to treat you, and right now you are teaching him to not think of you, ever. Don't be me; this ISN'T going to get better and he will probably enmesh you more and more into his life, making it difficult for you to leave and have a life of your own. I made the mistake of making myself smaller and smaller in our relationship, never really pushing my own needs (the tears! the shame! the all-about-him! whenever I tried to set reasonable expectations) until I stopped asking anything of him at all and now I have no partner except on paper.

And my experience with Depression is that it is a real disease, that requires a LOT of work to overcome. But it CAN be overcome, even by people with few resources or little money (mindfulness and daily exercise for one are free, and meds can often be had via subsidies, and there is therapy on a sliding scale - if perhaps not as often as someone would want). But "I have depression" is also a convenient excuse for people who want to hide their character flaws, like being a selfish asshole, with the socially acceptable label of "Person with Depression" like it is a "get out of jail free" card. Good luck, and I hope this is a year of positive transformation for you.
posted by saucysault at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2016 [25 favorites]

Last year for my birthday my wife made me a cherry cheesecake (my favorite!) from scratch.

This year she told me six days before my birthday that she didn't love me "like a husband" anymore and she was going to move out. On my birthday - still living with me - she gave me a frozen Sara Lee cheesecake and a can of cherry pie filling. And she wrote in my birthday card "I hope you have a fun day" and didn't even sign it. She also had four of my kids sign the card, but not the fifth one.

So, yeah, I know how you feel. It sucks.
posted by tacodave at 3:40 PM on May 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm going to give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt: he really did make you a cake and he's an anxious and mired in depression. And that sucks, and is hard for him, and is hard for you. I'm married to a person who has struggled with depression and it's really hard!

I will say that there's some weird contradictory messages you're giving him, too: you know he doesn't have money to spend but you want to be taken out to eat or be given a coupon to go shopping with him? Also he's definitely made a big deal about your birthday in the past but it wasn't quite the right kind of big deal. I have a feeling that's all making this a little more fraught for him at a time when things are already difficult. I know that when I was younger, and my communication wasn't as good, I was sometimes guilty of doing something I think of as...setting up relationship tests. Invisible little hoops I needed my husband to jump through unasked in order for him to prove that he loved me. And so I'd consider if there might be a little bit of that here, which can make relationships more fighty. "Love languages" are hella cheesy but also helpful sometimes.

That being said, he should have said happy birthday. Only you can say, I think, if this is a one-off or if it's a general pattern of behavior and worth bailing on the relationship for.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:44 PM on May 11, 2016

So he got butt-hurt and teary over being called out. The cake thing, honestly, does that even sound like a thing? No.

The medical insurance... You know he's eligible for FREE insurance right? He went on the exchange and signed up when he lost his job...right? He's also looked into local clinics. Generic prescriptions for anxiety and depression meds are about $10 a month. He can afford that small sum right? Hell, you'd pay for him to go to minute clinic and a three month's supply of Fuckitol since even out of pocket it would only be around $60.

He makes excuses. You make excuses. You're feeling taken for granted.

The crying thing is textbook manipulation.

Now I'm really angry for you.

Happy freaking birthday!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:10 PM on May 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Happy Birthday! I think your friends sound sweet and fun. What's their take on this situation? Have you shared his actions with them and asked their opinion? I ask because I remember being in a kind of sad relationship where I withheld details from my good friends, out of what I thought was a "they won't understand" kind of self protection, but what I know now was just embarrassment and a reluctance to face the reality that my relationship mainly sucked. Anyway. About the cake: I wonder if he intended to bake you a cake, but depression, malaise, video games, weird passive aggression about you wanting stuff and him feeling incapable, etc, stopped him.
I just baked a birthday cake yesterday. Baking a cake takes time, motivation and some expense. There's also a bit of pressure because you want the cake to be good enough. So given what I know about your guy, I just really doubt he had the motivation to bake a cake. It's almost impossible to imagine a scenario where he wouldn't text you, but he would bake a cake. And if he did bake it, it would have been a bit of an accomplishment and he absolutely would have given it to you. A "lumpy" cake beats nothing. I wonder if you're honest with yourself about these lies, if you'll be able to see the situation in a little bit more realistic light. I'm sorry, I feel like that's an awfully shitty thing to tell you on your birthday! But at least I'm not your boyfriend.
posted by areaperson at 7:15 PM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

I was at one point in a really stressful relationship when i was also pretty depressed. Her birthday and valentines day were the most stressful things in the world.

he times he's done things for my birthday, it's been cooking (fine, I've mentioned that is kind, but I would want to try a certain restaurant I've been talking about trying. But he just really loves cooking.), or surprise parties (but I told him that surprise parties make me anxious and my favorite things are more low-key get togethers.) It's like he doesn't pay attention or just forgets.

Stuff like this happened and just made it more stressful. The thing was, i had tried to pay attention and had either misremembered, gotten conflicting information over time, or just tried to do the nicest sounding thing i could think of. And then the cake that was the flavor she hated went in the garbage, or whatever.

So yea, after a few years it was just too much stress and i was too depressed to even engage with it or want to expend the emotional energy. If it was going to be a shitmess anyways, why even put forward the effort beforehand if i'm just going to feel like shit afterwards? Why not just skip to the second part?

I'm not trying to make you sympathetic towards him at all, i'm just saying what my thought process was at the time.

The truth was, by the time it got to this point i just wasn't even really in to it anymore. I had fallen out of love, and was basically just still doing it because i was convinced it was a me problem i needed to work on and not that i was just done. The thing is, when i did give a shit, i went out of my way to really do something even if i felt like garbage at the time and was completely nihilistic and numb to the world. When i stopped, it was because i wasn't romantically in gear anymore, not because of depression. It wasn't just that i wasn't in a position to be a good partner, my heart was also just not in it anymore.

I wish i had realized that sooner. And i've brought that up every time a friend has brought up a similar situation.

I'm also on team "the cake never existed". My proverbial cake never existed either, more than once.

Ugh. i was trash.
posted by emptythought at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

He didn't forget my birthday, but it feels like it

I have to think it feels worse than if he'd forgotten. Forgetting it is an accident that can be swiftly remedied, if desired. Your guy knew full well that it was your birthday... but whatever is going on for him took precedence over a feeling of even baseline, fellow-human empathy for you. Please do not be too quick to dismiss or stifle the part of you that feels unsettled by this.

All he could say over and over again was that he was sorry and I was right to be mad.

Fwiw, if he really had made the "special cake," I seriously doubt he'd be asserting and repeating that you're right to be mad. He'd be saying that he was sorry and he knows he blew it, but that his heart was in the right place and you shouldn't be mad because you have nothing to worry about when it comes to his love and caring for you and/or his intentions to make things right -- not just the birthday, but making sure you feel appreciated and cared for overall. In my opinion, if (IF) he had truly had the impulse to make you a cake, he would've made sure he found some other way to get that impulse expressed to you. His behavior simply isn't consistent with the cake story... and he's banking on your desire to buy it, which is one of the worst feelings I know.

And I want to see him happy on that day especially!

He does not feel this way about you. I'm sorry. He did not feel the need or desire to even say the words "Happy Birthday!" to you. Only you can decide that the tradeoffs are worth accepting how much your happiness matters to him. You've already been through two years like this, and, as yet another depressed person here, I feel wholly comfortable saying that depression does not invalidate the truth of "when people show you who they are, believe them." Two years means that this is not truly an anomaly; you are seeing who he is, and how he takes care of himself and you, and how he behaves when he's learned that he has caused you hurt, and how entitled he feels to all the efforts you put into his happiness (including but not limited to his birthday celebrations) (and what his conscience tells him about making even a gesture of reciprocation), and how he deals with feelings of shame/perfectionism/failure, and how he chooses to deploy the energy he does have (as you said, "he does many activities willingly now, and had a great time with our friends playing games"), and what you can expect from him--how much you can rely on him--when other hard times inevitably come.

There are some days I admit to myself though that I want to date an adult again, but he has been one before, it's just this depression and situation I'm convinced.

Right now there are two people working to convince you of this: you and him. How loud does a little voice inside you need to be in order to compete with the force of all that convincing? What if things haven't measurably improved in two months, is that enough? Two more years? Two decades? Depression is a jackass and an albatross and a black hole, and I genuinely feel for him, but feeding the disease an innocent bystander does not help cure him, and it IS a test of his character--no matter what he is going through--that he is so seemingly willing to let you suffer this much. At the very least, I hope you'll make it clear that you can't be the only one fighting his depression and that the current state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. There is help, lots of it, that is not dependent upon his insurance status, and it is totally, 100% reasonable for you to expect that he marshal as much energy as he possibly can toward this fight -- and at least some crumbs for his partner, who is wholly deserving of love and support and delight and a happy, hopeful present and future.

Wishing you the very best until your next birthday, and beyond.
posted by argonauta at 2:34 AM on May 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

He says he can't get help for depression because he has no insurance. He has no insurance because he has no job. He has no job because he is depressed. So how long do you think this "difficult time" that you have to do all the relationship work during is going to last? It sounds indefinite....

I also thought it was interesting that you said he couldn't have lied about the cake because he said it in front of your friends. You can believe he would lie to you, but not to your friends? What does that say about your level of trust in him?

Think about the situation he was in when you asked him "you remembered it was my birthday, right?" That question is along the lines of "do these jeans make me look fat?" - there is only one correct answer. And if you're put on the spot, and you're ashamed and embarrassed because you just realized you did nothing for your girlfriend on her birthday, maybe you sputter something awkward like "...yep!"

Sad on your behalf. Hope you find a better situation for yourself soon.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:36 AM on May 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you're not quite ready to break up or even have a Serious Conversation and you want to think about things some more, check this book out of your local library: Codependent No More. Don't worry about whether you think the label applies to you or whether you like the title. Just give it a read and see if anything in there resonates with the ways you're thinking and feeling right now. I recommend this book and its sister book Beyond Codependency a lot, because they really helped me work through a similar crisis in my life and I draw on what I learned through them every day.
posted by Miko at 5:58 AM on May 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

I have to think it feels worse than if he'd forgotten. Forgetting it is an accident that can be swiftly remedied, if desired. Your guy knew full well that it was your birthday... but whatever is going on for him took precedence over a feeling of even baseline, fellow-human empathy for you. Please do not be too quick to dismiss or stifle the part of you that feels unsettled by this.

To sort of TL;DR what i said above, and because i really feel this one bears repeating... I don't believe he forgot your birthday. He knew it was your birthday, and he resented it. It's one thing to not get some special thing or do some grand gesture, but to just lie in a lump and not say anything is different.

I feel pretty strongly about this reading your original post and your updates, having been this way, and having known friends who were depressed and acted in this way.

That ones just worth reflecting on for a bit. "I really don't feel up to doing anything, i'm sorry, but happy birthday and i hope you have fun/i might be up for doing something later/later in the week" does not take really any effort and is something i would have done when i gave a shit even when i was a slug. And really, if he had put that out there and obviously cared, you would both know that it could turn in to just hanging out together and not doing any Big Thing.

Saying nothing isn't inaction. It's an action, and it's a statement.
posted by emptythought at 1:20 PM on May 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not sure if anyone is reading anymore, but again, wanted to thank everyone for their responses (and break my word from earlier before). They gave me lots to think about, and a couple gave me new perspectives that maybe I could've been more clear about it to him or created lower expectations for him. (Although, I don't really think they're all that bad, considering all the crazy things one could ask for on their birthday.)

An update, he baked a *new* cake yesterday, asked me to come over and have some. I was just not in the mood, it was very late, so I said next time. Now it's been silence, except for a comment that makes me think he may be mad that I'm still upset. At this point, I feel a little bit dead inside to it all. I don't know where I'm going from here, hopefully we'll come up with some solution--or not one at all.
posted by socky bottoms at 4:42 PM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Read the book I linked.
posted by Miko at 4:48 PM on May 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

Thank you for the update. I'd be feeling pretty "dead to it all" too. Fwiw, I think your expectations sound very reasonable and that you communicated them well. I'd be glad to chat on memail if you ever need to vent. Again, happy birthday!
posted by areaperson at 5:28 PM on May 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

The problem is not that your expectations were too high. It was also not that you didn't tell him clearly enough what you wanted. I am sorry that was a takeaway for you. From this outsider's perspective, I am not really getting those messages from the comments at all, but I think sometimes when we are in a situation like you are in it is easy to hear the one or two voices in a crowd that are telling you that you should make yourself smaller.

And you are allowed to say no, you do not want to go over to his place late for cake days after your birthday. You did fine. I am glad you took care of yourself there and did what was best for you, not what was best for him.

And if he acts upset or jerky with you about this - about you saying no thanks to going to his place late at night to eat the cake he finally prepared (way too late) - well. I don't know. I don't know. This is all just sounding so familiar to me, and not in a good way. I once dated a guy like this, and it ruined me. It broke me. I've spent years trying to glue myself back together and I am still very much not ok in many ways. Don't let it break you.

Take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 6:28 PM on May 12, 2016 [19 favorites]

except for a comment that makes me think he may be mad that I'm still upset

This is a bullshit defense. He's pouting because his half-assed makeup attempt was rightfully seen as half-assed. From the sounds of it, maybe he needs a bit of a Come-to-Jesus conversation about the state he's in. Not accusatory, but just as concern for the survival of the relationship. It sounds like you two are coming from way different worlds, but it shows you care and are giving things a chance to grow.
posted by rhizome at 7:01 PM on May 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

I came back to this thread to see if you'd checked in. Again, I see sockermom echoing what I'm thinking, all of it, but this made me need to comment again:

I once dated a guy like this, and it ruined me. It broke me. I've spent years trying to glue myself back together and I am still very much not ok in many ways. Don't let it break you.

Take care of yourself.

Maybe you think because the relationship issues that you have aren't "physical abuse" or other more obvious types of abuse, that you can stick it out because you love him & he is depressed. But, you don't want to look back on your life in 5 years or more and think "Wow, have I really been unhappy for this many years? Is this where my life has gone?". Imagine nothing changing (because it doesn't sound like it will) & looking at this thread a few years from now.
Of course I/we can't judge your real relationship from outside it/ the internet, but, again as sockermom also mentions above, some of what you say you're taking away from this is not what I'm reading from this thread.

I wish you the best.
posted by Laura in Canada at 7:06 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

They gave me lots to think about, and a couple gave me new perspectives that maybe I could've been more clear about it to him or created lower expectations for him. (Although, I don't really think they're all that bad, considering all the crazy things one could ask for on their birthday.)

Why should you have to lower your expectations? It's one thing if you ask your boyfriend to plan a gigantic celebration costing serious money but your expectations sounded pretty normal inside of a relationship. They were say "happy birthday" to you. Send you a text at some point during the day. Buy or make a card or have a picnic or watch a movie. Those are not the sort of expectations that need to be lowered. What exactly does lower than that look like? If things continue down this path what sort of birthday do you think you'll have next year if you lower your expectations? What will your birthday look like two years from now? How many years before you're lucky if he just shows up?
posted by GilvearSt at 8:17 AM on May 13, 2016 [13 favorites]

You're right. You "could've been more clear about it to him or created lower expectations for him". You sure could have. But do you want to live the rest of your life like that? Because he's not indicating that life with him will ever be any different. It's not just the depression.
posted by hollyholly at 11:41 AM on May 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

So he's figured out that if he gets teary when you call him on his shitty, selfish behavior, you'll back off. And he thought that his mere presence at a get-together arranged by your friend *was* his birthday contribution, and wouldn't even USE HIS WORDS to wish you a happy birthday?? Your expectations literally could not be any lower, and yet he can't manage to meet them. Come on. You deserve much, much better. This guy is not boyfriend material, and has no business being in a relationship. Move. the fuck. on.
posted by CanyonWren at 9:45 AM on May 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

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