I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost a year. It’s our first time spending our birthdays with each other. I was planning something for his birthday, but he told me he might go out of town with his friends. I told him it was fine because it’s his birthday and he can spend it how he wants.
But I feel a way about it because he’s made several trips with friends since we’ve been together, and we haven’t had the chance to take one trip together because of conflicting work and school schedules. I feel he should spend his birthday with me. I also feel that if his plans with his friends don’t go through, I’m just his fallback plan.
He says he really wants to spend it with me but wants to travel internationally while he has time off from school. He suggested we could celebrate our birthdays together when mine happens two weeks later. Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Should I just let it go? —Anonymous
I understand your frustration with your boyfriend’s choices, but you have to take some accountability for your own frustration. You made plans for your boyfriend’s birthday without checking with him first.
In fairness to you, most couples do tend to spend their birthdays—and major holidays—together. But instead of assuming that was the case with your boyfriend, you should have told him you wanted to spend the day together before you started making plans. That’s on you.
What’s also on you is that when he told you he made plans with friends, you were disappointed and didn’t say so. You had put some effort into celebrating the day and spending it with him. When he told you he was thinking of spending the day with his friends, instead of pretending that it was OK, you should have said, “Hey, I was hoping to spend the day with you. I’ve been making plans.”
Not speaking up is on you. Because you didn’t say anything, your boyfriend is walking around thinking everything is A-OK. It would be awesome if your boyfriend were a mind reader or more considerate, but he isn’t. So you have to tell him when you’re unhappy if you actually want him to address your unhappiness.
There’s another issue at play. You have made it a priority to spend your time with someone who isn’t doing the same for you. Putting you on the back burner while he spends time with his friends seems to be a regular occurrence. It says a lot about how he feels about you.
I’ll give you a nugget of wisdom that was told to me and has served me well: People make time and space for what’s important to them. Given what you’ve said about your boyfriend in your query, I’m not sure how important you are to him.
I’ll give you another nugget: Don’t make a priority of someone who only makes you an option. You feel like a fallback plan on his birthday because you are.
I’ve had birthdays that I wanted to spend alone or wanted to travel. I also recognized that I was in a relationship and that I would alienate my partner and likely hurt his feelings. One year I spent the entire day alone at the beach, and after the sun went down we had dinner. Another year I had dinner with him and left for vacation the day after my birthday. These are the “sacrifices” committed people make for each other.
Let’s hope that he celebrates your birthday with you in two weeks. In the meantime, tell him that you’re disappointed, you feel like a backup plan and he has been putting his friends first.
Add that you understand he wants to travel during his time off. Suggest that he leave the day after his birthday and make it back in time for yours. You’re not being demanding: You’re asking for what you want as a girlfriend. A more seasoned guy would have expected that response from you up front.
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 email@example.com.
Previously in Ask Demetria: Fiance’s Questioning Your Sexuality Over a New Short, Natural Do Is Truly Hair-Raising