I am a 40-year-old female with a 40-year-old boyfriend, and this will be our third year as a couple. I do make more money than he does, but we are both doing okay financially. Every year, my birthday is about a month before my boyfriend’s.
For his birthday, I plan a nice dinner out (get reservations and a babysitter) and then get him a thoughtful gift. He enjoys sports and concerts, so it’s always tickets to a game or a concert in a nearby city, bought months beforehand. I will also line up and pay for dinner and a hotel, making it kind of like two birthday celebrations.
However, on my birthday, I assume he forgets in the morning because he says nothing, but then comes home and asks me where I want to eat. So obviously, it has to be a place that doesn’t take reservations and does take kids. Then he gives me a small gift (flowers and a necklace from Amazon in year one, a fuzzy robe and blanket in year two) and calls it good.
So, after my birthday this year when we ate out last minute and I received a similar gift, I decided to sell the concert tickets and just do a similar birthday celebration for him. I asked him where he wanted to eat the night of his birthday, took him out to eat there (no kids), and gave him a small gift (a new wallet and tie).
He looked confused when opening his gift, and now he says he’s really disappointed we are not taking a fun little trip together for his birthday like we normally do. I said I’m tired of putting more time, effort, and significantly more money into his birthday when he barely seems to remember mine. AITA?
OP responded to some comments:
NTA (Not the A@%hole). But you need to have an actual conversation with him. I can’t imagine being upset over something like this for a few years and never telling my partner or talking to them about what’s upsetting me.
I guess I’ve never had a conversation about gifts because the real issue here is the lack of thought/effort. And that’s a conversation we have had sooo many times but I’m not seeing any change. I did think maybe an action would help him understand more, but now I feel like it was just petty on my part.
What was his response after you let him know you weere tired of putting in more effort?
It started an argument on his birthday. He says to me “I’m never good enough for you” and thus I ruined his birthday.
This probably isn't what you want to hear, but I'd like to suggest giving extremely specific examples of what it means to put more thought and effort into the relationship. Some people, often men but not always, don't know what your idea of thought or effort looks like, even though it should be obvious based on the way you express yourself and the way you show thought and effort.
Saying you want change but not providing examples of what that looks like simply won't yield the results you're looking for most of the time. However, if you give specific examples, and then he still doesn't do it at all or complains about feeling like he's forced to do something, that will tell you all you need to know about your relationship.
I, myself, am somebody who can often be at a loss because my idea of showing that I care is not always the same as theirs. If someone tells me what they're thinking of when they consider effort in a relationship, that allows me to understand their perspective in a way that, in the past, gives me a guidebook for showing my love. '
Because I do actually love that person, I hear what they tell me and act accordingly. On the opposite side, if I am not receiving love in the way that I need to be, I have had success being very clear about the kinds of things that I mean when I say I want thought and effort.
It sucks to have to tell somebody or spell it out for them, and if you want somebody in your life who's going to intuit that or give enough of a sh%t to try, then you're entitled to that. But sometimes people really just need to understand the framework. I don't know—good luck. Hope it works out for you, whatever that means.
Yes, I agree with this. I’ve told him exactly- I need hugs, I need to hear you are here to support me, I need you to take initiative to plan things with me. Thank you for your advice.
What do you think? Should OP have just had a conversation with her boyfriend?