Sunday, February 10, 2013

Query: Friendship Etiquette

I have a question for you about what you can expect from a friend and/or what you should accept from a friend.

I've known this person 22 years, through ups and downs, and some periods of much-needed separation. They personally don't like birthdays, due to family issues dealing with their own. I know this, understand, and even though it's hard for me I purposely don't acknowledge their birthday, because that is their wish. However, I am a person that loves my birthday. I believe it is the one day that a person can expect to be wished well, and darn it sometimes, they need to hear that.

However, when my birthday comes around (February 3, a day they knows by heart) there is no acknowledgement of mine.

Example: If you are familiar with Facebook, it automatically alerts you on a friends birthday. Therefore, you receive good wishes from people even if you haven't talked to them in years, which is still sweet. It is extremely easy to do. However, even though posting all day this person doesn't send you a message.

Later, on your birthday evening, they text you and joke about the Superbowl and still make no mention. (Every few years, the two dates coincide.) What am I supposed to think? Would you be upset by this?

Someone purposely doesn't wish you well on a day when they know that you would appreciate it. This is also a person who has yet to mention your college graduation even though they know just how long and circuitous a journey it was for you. In fact, soon after, when in the presence of someone else congratulating me, they sat silent. I can't help feeling it is a purposeful withholding of what they knew I wanted and would have appreciated. Who does that?

This is the nature of our strange relationship. This person has a way of making me feel unsure of myself and wonder if I have made a big deal out of nothing. In a series of texts sent last night at midnight I was told that I should understand (because of their personal feelings about their birthday) that I am being insensitive and small minded to expect them to acknowledge my birthday. These were sent because after treating me to dinner Friday they got mad when I thanked them for my "belated birthday" dinner. As soon as that came out of my mouth I regretted it because of the look on their face but was that insensitive? To even accidentally "insinuate" that they acknowledged my birthday? Please let me know what you think. Am I wrong in thinking that the average person wouldn't think and act that way?

Thank you.

Update: Thank you everyone for weighing in on this. I know this isn't a healthy relationship and this behavior (at least the graduation thing) isn't new for us. He has the ability to make me feel irrelevant with just a few words and I continue to let him do that. I know what I should do. What I've done many times before...sever the connection but it is extremely hard.  But this isn't healthy and unfortunately, I don't think it ever will be. For anyone that thinks I am making a big thing out of nothing, there is much more to this story, twenty-two years more.


JuliN said...

Ahh, I've learned the hard way that the length of a relationship doesn't equal the quality of one. I think it's unfair to call this a friendship when it isn't reciprocal. It is wonderful that you are mindful of this person's need not to have their birthday acknowledged but you should also get your needs met as well. And a college graduation is a huge accomplishment (not a birthday) and most normal people acknowledge accomplishments like that. Just my 2 cents - I hope things improve with the situation. Be well.

Enie Dub said...

This a tough one......but unfortunately we can only be responsible for our own actions. Although you would like your friend to acknowledge your birthday, it won't happen unless she wants to do this :-(

BTW, I'm having a giveaway on my blog for St Patrick's Day. You or some of your readers may want to swing by and have a look

Gail said...

I agree with both Juli and Enie. If this were me (and I've been in this situation before - possibly we all have) I'd take some time to consider if I like and care for this person enough to continue with the relationship, given how unhappy it makes me feel. Usually the answer is no, and I try to think of that person as an acquaintance rather than a friend from that point on. I like to give people a lot of chances, but at some point, sometimes you have to decide not to be a doormat.

To me, it doesn't sound as if this person is being a very good friend to you; you deserve better.

And: Happy Birthday! Mine is this month too :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't really celebrate my birthday and don't like getting cards and gifts. I would feel obligated to then reciprocate which I feel manipulates me. My long-term friends know that I not a fan of adult birthdays but they still love me and know that is just what I believe. If someone wishes me a happy birthday I smile and say thanks but if they don't I don't even notice and just get on with my day.

lsaspacey said...

Anonymous, thank you for your honest answer. May I ask how do you handle the birthdays of your long-term friends. Would you say happy birthday to them if you were in contact with them on the day?

Kathie said...

As others have said, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship with this individual. In the past few years, I've done just that with two individuals who just don't see "friendship" anyway near the way I do and I was constantly getting annoyed and/or getting my feelings hurt...
NO, it is not typical not to wish a friend a happy birthday (when you know they enjoy the good wishes) or, for that matter, acknowledge AND congratulate on achieving a college degree.

Kay said...

Honestly the birthday thing wouldn't bother me at all. Because the person had problems with her/his biirthday and obviously with other peoples birthdays as well.

But the graduation thing would bother me big time considering this person knew how much it meant to you.

And your words about this person on how they make you FEEL makes me wonder the basis of this friendship at all.

Antoinette said...

Ditto for me on giving someone who hates their own birthday a pass on wishing me a happy birthday -- but the college graduation oversight seems rather ungenerous. Even healthy friendships ebb and flow. Maybe it is time for this one to offer some distance.

barbara said...

she has the right to expect you to make her happy by ignoring anything that makes her unhappy.

you have the right to expect her to make you happy by acknowledging what makes you happy.

she can't or won't do it. is she worth it?

Nursebennett said...

I'm exactly like the anonymous commenter above! We don't make big deals out of birthdays and therefore it doesn't occur to me to make a big fuss about someone else's birthday. It's not a measure of my feelings about any person at all. My friends know I'm this way and they accept it.

lsaspacey said...

Barbara, yes, you said it exactly the way I couldn't. I am not asking for a big fuss (from anyone) just a simple two-word phrase, no more. The denial of that feels like emotional punishment from this particular person, who by the way, is a he,.

Cathe said...

This is such an interesting question, equally interesting responses. For me, a friendship should be equal, you shouldn't always be giving and they shouldn't always be taking. I understand how hard it is to stop being friends after 22 years but I would distance myself so I would not be hurt by this person.

We are all so different and those of us who are more on the sensitive side tend to hurt more.

I would want to have my birthday acknowledged too, even just a text message, it's nice to be remembered on your special day, and it feels good and so easy to do. And I would certainly hope to get a shout out for graduating, that's a huge accomplishment!

Happy belated birthday, I hope you had a wonderful day :)