Do you know those girls? You know, the ones who wait quietly to see if their husband will remember their anniversary (or birthday or fill in other big important event here). She sits quietly simmering ready to pounce on him for forgetting something she has been thinking about and waiting on for days or weeks. And then he forgets, she pounces, foot tapping, arms crossed, face red . . . HOW DARE HE FORGET????
But . . . she remembered. She knew that he would probably forget. She knew that if he remembered he would do something nice for her. So, why play the game. Why not just remind him a few days in advance or even that morning? The way I see it, I would rather have a lovely anniversary that I reminded him about that he went and did something special for, than an anger-filled anniversary that I could have prevented with a few simple reminders.
I think some girls like catching their men in the act of showing that they don't care as much as the girls do. I think that is malarkey. Some guys just don't remember dates. It isn't a big deal if you don't let it be one. Isn't being with someone about more than his memory? If you remind him and he does something special, should that act feel marred in some way because you had to remind him it was coming up?
See I don't think so. What do you think?
I can understand both points of view on this issue, so let's look at it from a few different directions.
First I'd like to examine this poor guy you describe, the one with a terrible memory for dates. Perhaps a simple test or two could help diagnose what is going on. Pick one of his special interests. Is he into hunting? Ask him when hunting season begins. Or maybe he is a baseball or football fan. What are the chances he knows what time of year the playoffs start? I'll go way out on a limb and predict he'll be able to answer those questions easily. More than that, I bet those topics will be on his mind as those dates approach. He will remember those dates are coming up soon.
This isn't about his interests, though. You asked about those special occasions most of us like to acknowledge, like birthdays and anniversaries. Okay, take that same husband and ask him the date of your anniversary. Maybe a few truly hapless souls out there won't know (and if this applies to you ... GO FIND OUT!) but almost all husbands will be able to dredge up that date from memory. The same goes for your birthday; he knows it. So why is it so common for those dates to approach unnoticed in the minds of so many husbands?
The answer seems to be that all those irate wives have a point; many women actually do care about special occasions more than their men do. Who knows why this is; the Mars versus Venus phenomenon comes into effect here. He doesn't remember because he simply doesn't attach the same degree of importance to birthdays and anniversaries that you do.
I argue, though, that a lack of excitement about anniversaries does not indicate a lack of caring about you or your marriage. Many guys are deeply in love with their wives but still rank anniversaries right up there on the Ho Hum scale. If you want a guy like this to make a big deal out of the occasion, you must realize he will be doing so primarily for your benefit. You are asking him to do something nice for you. I agree with Twisted Cindy in the sense that it is unreasonable to expect hubby to "care" about your anniversary the same way you do. You might as well ask him to share your enthusiasm for clothes shopping or home decorating. Like it or not, some interests tend to be split along gender lines.
Of course, the guys also benefit from the celebrations. Many times he will end up enjoying the dinner (or party / trip / whatever) and these occasions can be important for creating those special memories that bond the two of you even closer together. Will he realize this ahead of time, though, and be as excited as you? Many guys will tend not to be.
Is it reasonable to expect that our partner "should just know what I want"? This is a common lament. Somehow it feels less romantic, less special to receive a nice turn if we have to ask for it. This can apply not only to gift giving occasions, but also "knowing" what restaurant we would like to go to tonight, what feels good in bed, and so on.
To me, this boils down into "the first time" versus "all the other times." It is silly to expect your partner to be a mind reader the first time a particular issue comes up. Let's say you have been married eleven months. Your first anniversary is coming up and you are excited about it. This is a big deal to you. You go out and buy him a moderately expensive gift and you have hopes that he will make reservations at an appropriately swanky restaurant, or perhaps you are even hoping for a weekend out of town. This is so obviously a big occasion that you don't discuss it with him; you trust him to realize this on his own.
In many cases that would be a mistake. How can you expect the two of you to be on the same page if you haven't talked about it? Here is my first guideline: When it is the first time, talk about your expectations. Work out a common ground between the two of you so both partners know what is expected of them and what they can expect from the other. It might seem less romantic, but you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you expect him to (a) be a mind reader, or (b) have exactly the same likes and dislikes as you.
Then there is the issue of recurring occasions. Is it reasonable to expect him to remember from the second time onward? Yes, but only if you have discussed your desire for him to remember and he has agreed to take on that responsibility. That is my second guideline: The issue of remembering special occasions on an ongoing basis is a separate topic and should be discussed explicitly. This remembering doesn't seem all that important to Twisted Cindy, and that's fine for her. Go ahead and remind him, hopefully when there is still time to make suitably lavish arrangements. Other women, though, feel special when their husband cares enough to remember on his own. That is an understandable desire and a reasonable thing to request from your partner -- to request, not simply to expect without ever discussing it. Ask him to put the dates in his day timer if he has to, or put a big calendar in his workshop. If you explain how important it is to you and he is truly a caring husband, he will find a way.
This is similar to Dismaying Story #28: Care, Give, Repeat. This was about a woman who wants her husband to put a little effort into making special occasions special. In this case they had the explicit discussion; she asked him to remember a few specific occasions. It was a matter of explaining to him how important the issue was to her and asking him to give her the gift of caring and remembering.
What if you go through all that and he STILL doesn't remember your anniversary? I think a certain amount of toe tapping and arm crossing would be in order. She would be justified in feeling disappointed because he didn't live up to his end of the bargain.
Finally, TC suggests that some women might want an excuse to give their man a hard time. This can happen, and tends to be tied into low self-esteem. The cycle goes like this:
- I feel bad about myself, so I fear I will be treated badly. I am constantly examining his behavior, looking to see if he is doing so.
- When something upsetting happens, I feel personally attacked. I am certain part of the cause is that others perceive me as unworthy. So I attack, feeling completely justified in "defending myself."
- He is still here after the argument. He may have even apologized. This proves I have nothing to worry about, at least for the moment. My fear is temporarily fed and I have been reassured.
- Before long, however, my typical self-doubt thought patterns re-assert themselves and the cycle is ready to start anew.
This pattern is destructive to your relationship and in some cases can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. He feels badly about your attacks and may react poorly. He might sulk or be less anxious to attend to your needs, passively objecting to the attacks. You resent his behavior, feel that he is treating you badly, and on you go. Such a pattern can even end in divorce.
I doubt, however, that this is the most common reason why women choose not to remind their husbands about upcoming special occasions. The simpler and more likely explanation is that many women expect men to care about the occasions in the same way they do. A more reasonable approach seems to be to recognize your differences and discuss your desires explicitly.
All the best,
Do you have a different opinion about this issue? As always, I welcome your emails and comments.