[Two Pronged] My loving husband doesn't celebrate anniversaries, birthdays
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Mr. Baer and Dr. Holmes,
My husband and I have been together for 7 years, two years as a married couple. He is everything a woman could ever ask for – loving husband and father, prioritizes his family, and provides for my child and my needs. I shouldn't be seeking help on this for some might say my concern is too petty but I still feel disappointed that he does not celebrate occasions that call for it.
It started on my birthday last year. I thought we would go out for dinner but he came home late and said that it's just a birthday and I could just let it pass. I felt disappointed and did not talk to him about how I felt. When I passed a licensure examination, I was thinking we could probably celebrate but then still, he opted to stay home and eat dinner there. Again, I was disappointed so this time, I asked him how come we do not celebrate occasions like these. His response was, "birthdays, anniversaries, getting awards... these are just ordinary situations".
Yesterday was our 2nd wedding anniversary; he just came from a month-long US trip a day before that (so probably he was still tired? had jet lag?) and again, we did not make any sort of celebration. He came home tired, greeted and kissed me, ate dinner, then immediately fell asleep. I was awake the entire night thinking something was missing.
I love my husband so dearly but this is something. Is it just me or he needs to take an extra effort making me feel I'm exceptionally loved on some days? Oh by the way, the morning after our anniversary, he cooked breakfast and seriously had no idea why I wasn't talking to him. When I mentioned about our wedding anniversary, he replied "but it feels like our anniversary everyday."
So your husband (let’s call him Al) is a loving husband and father and furthermore a good provider, but he steadfastly refuses to recognize and celebrate occasions that are important to you like birthdays and anniversaries.
In any relationship between two individuals, a certain adjustment is necessary to achieve a balance that satisfies both parties, otherwise the relationship may become strained or even end. This extends across all the elements of the relationship (finances, religion, whether to have children, how to raise them, education, sex, who cooks, who washes up, how to handle in-laws etc etc). Compromises are easily made over the minor things but more important differences of opinion require more careful treatment. For example, a mother might want her partner to spend more time with the children at the weekend whereas the husband has a regular golf date at the weekend with college friends.
Negotiations can be easy or fraught depending on, inter alia, the current balance of the relationship, the mutual respect between the partners and their willingness to listen to the other’s point of view. In this context, it is difficult to understand why Al, supposedly an ideal husband and father, steadfastly refuses to pay any heed to your desire to celebrate special occasions.
Possibly, it is due to something in his childhood; but we have no means of knowing. What you can do is to sit down with him and discuss it. You have radically different views and the subject is well worth ventilating because it bothers you enough to write us. And in an otherwise good marriage, there should be enough trust and love to listen to one’s partner’s viewpoint and try to reach a compromise.
If, however, he proves unreasonably unyielding, you may wish to reconsider your definition of a loving husband.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. At first, I agreed with Mr Baer that compromise was necessary or it would be best to end the marriage but that was because we tend to have the same take-no-prisoners approach to our own love lives.
However, from reading your letter, it seems that you want to keep the relationship and are even willing to believe it may be your fault (it isn’t). But even if it isn’t, and it seems reasonable when all you want is his “taking extra effort” on some days, this hasn’t stopped you from loving him and having no doubt you want the marriage to continue.
Thus, in the spirit of (only) you doing the compromising, let me share some videos and studies which back up your decision.
First, there is Dhaar Mann, whose videos show that, if the wife is willing to push back, a husband’s position about celebrations might change.
Then there are several studies. Here’s one proving it may be easy for Al to comply with your wishes if he had even just one session of relationship awareness which, hopefully, he can be convinced to attend.
There are fewer studies – but they exist! —which would encourage you to cut Al even more slack. One shows that bad events have greater power and more impact than good ones, since they are processed more thoroughly. This could be why you angst over Al’s refusal to celebrate your special days (selfish prick!) instead of his being a loving husband. “Bad is Stronger than Good” as a general principle across a broad range of psychological phenomena and knowing this, you might remind yourself to focus on the good rather than this one fault of his that drives you up the wall.
I am sorry I have not given you a reason for his behavior (I agree with Mr Baer that this is probably childhood-driven) but I hope my giving you a different perspective not in convincing him to change, but in being more gracious abut this lack, has also been helpful for you.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.