My boyfriend planned a surprise birthday celebration for me lasting over the course of three days. The first night, only two of the 10 friends that RSVP’d showed up. On my actual birthday, none of my friends showed up. On the last day, four of my friends showed up. Everyone else in attendance was a friend of my boyfriend. My boyfriend was pissed at the lack of participation. I was pissed because the event was planned a whole month in advance with RSVPs, and hardly anyone showed up. Feeling like these people are not really my friends. What to do? —Anonymous
Eek! I’m sorry to hear that you were disappointed, and I hope you were able to have an awesome birthday even though your friends did not live up to your expectations. And were very rude by RSVP’ing and not showing up to the festivities. Sometimes it’s a challenge to focus less on the no-shows than on the people who did come out, but I hope that you were able to appreciate the people who showed up for you and expressed that to them.
I can’t say for sure whether your “friends” who didn’t attend—whether or not they RSVP’d—are actually friends. The ones who RSVP’d and didn’t show? It’s definitely poor manners and, depending on the plans, a waste of money. But that’s not necessarily a reason to end a friendship. And, in fairness, they may have reasons for why they didn’t show.
That these no-shows received an invite to a surprise event indicates that they have been a regular presence in your life, and your boyfriend has met them, or at least heard about them often, to reach out to them. Given that they’ve been around or been spoken of fondly, it is likely that there was a solid friendship is place. So I’m wondering what happened in these relationships that so many of your friends would choose to skip multiple opportunities to celebrate with you.
In fairness, a multiday celebration for an adult while not on vacation is asking a lot. To be frank, it’s bordering on obnoxious. Expenses for multiple nights in a row definitely add up, and even if your guy picked up the tab for everything, it’s still a big time commitment. Your friends have interests, obligations and personal relationships that don’t revolve around you.
I’m sure your boyfriend had great intentions and wanted to make you feel extra special on your birthday. I applaud his giving spirit. But asking people to dedicate three nights for a birthday event, even if it’s a milestone year, is asking a lot.
Let’s roll around some other excuses—not valid reasons, necessarily—for why so many of your friends may have skipped out. If you tell me that one or two people flaked, I understand. But the majority of the group? It sounds as if something more is going on.
Is it possible that they don’t like your boyfriend? I have a friend who constantly complains to our circle about how her boyfriend is cheating on her, is inconsistent and generally disrespectful. For whatever reason, she chooses to stay in the relationship. But she gets mad at us sometimes for not being nicer to her boyfriend when he comes around.
We speak, but none of us goes out of our way to be buddies with him and make him feel welcome. When he comes around, sometimes we’re in a hurry to leave. It’s hard for me to watch my friend be treated badly and not speak up. Could your friends feel the same way about your guy?
I also wonder how available you’ve been to your friends since entering a relationship. Some women make a habit of letting their lives revolve completely around their partner when they enter a relationship. They don’t return calls and texts, they cancel plans at the last minute, and when they do come around, it’s only because their partner had something to do and they’re using their friends as a holdover until they can get back to their mate. Is that you?
Those are the more popular reasons for why you might find yourself outside the circle of trust. There could be others. What I know for sure is, your friends aren’t happy about something, and they’ve used your birthday celebration to passive-aggressively protest.
You’re obviously hurt by their actions, but before you have an emotional reaction to dismiss all of them, give each one a call and find out what’s going on. Say that you’re hurt and ask if you’ve done something to offend them that would make them skip your birthday. You may be surprised at the feedback you receive and how having open communication can resolve lingering issues and hurt feelings.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “He Lied About Erasing Our Sex Tape and Was Surprised When I Got Mad”