An underwhelming birthday

Hi Meredith,

I'm in a relationship with a man who has trouble sharing his feelings. We started dating years ago, but I broke it off because I did not feel he loved me enough. I dated someone else after we broke up, but a year later he came back apologizing and promising me he had changed. He'd stopped drinking and lost a huge amount of weight. Things were looking up. We got back together, got engaged more than two years years ago, and moved in together – but over the last year, his attention has started to fade again.

My birthday was the other day and he left the house without saying anything (he did leave a birthday card on the counter the night before). I received a "happy birthday" text mid-day. Nothing else. At 5 p.m. I texted him that I was going out with my girlfriends. He asked where we would be going and said he could stop by after seeing his kids. I had dinner with my children and then met up with my friends. He showed up late – still no hug, no kiss, nothing. No present, no mentioning of it either.

When we got home, he did not talk to me and left our bed to sleep on the couch. I was so disappointed that he would treat me so poorly. I asked him to talk about what's going on but he just keeps insulting me. I find his poor treatment on my birthday significant. Am I being overly sensitive? Have I placed too much importance on the birthday?

– Sensitive?


Here's the thing about birthdays: You can't expect a partner to know how you want to celebrate. Some people expect a big present, while others are psyched about a card and text. You say he has trouble sharing his feelings, but you need to work on making your expectations clear. Even I can't guess what you wanted for the occasion. Jewelry? A dinner date? You have to spell it out.

The real concern here is the fading attention – and the insults. You might have been satisfied with a card and text if things at home were better, but it sounds like you're unhappy and that he might be, too. You were looking for a birthday acknowledgment that would undo the distance you've been feeling at home, but it doesn't work at way.

You need to tell him you're worried that the relationship isn't what it was a year ago. It's a more difficult conversation, but it's necessary.

– Meredith

Readers? Is this about the birthday?