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I went out of my way to make my friend feel special on his birthday but he didn't do anything for me on mine

Tagged as: Friends, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (20 October 2018) 10 Answers - (Newest, 23 October 2018)
A male United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:

It’s really bugging me that I spent my birthday alone.

When my best friend has his birthday, I planned dinner, made sure all his friends were there. I personally took them, paid for him etc. We had a great time.

Recently it was my birthday last week and I did not plan anything as I was struggling a little financially. I text him to perhaps meet up, maybe grab a coffee or drink, go for walk in the park, something simple as I don’t expect anything.

He replies saying he will meet me, he came spoke to me for 20mins and said he has to go and left. I felt so alone, I spent 4 hours alone in the same place. No greetings, no smile no nothing, as if he did it on purpose. Why would a friend you have known for 20years act like that? I did not expect anything but just some company.

I have other friends who didn’t greet me on the day, I assure you I have nooo issues with that, I couldn’t care less. What hurts is the closest person to me that you have known for so long.

How do you know who to invest in to stop feeling alone? I thought if you help others during times of need they will do the same.

In conclusion I felt like I was punished by him by on purposely not mentioning anything because the next day I got a simple, oh I forgot.

I wouldn’t dare do same to anyone else.

View related questions: best friend, text

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (23 October 2018):

Honeypie agony auntJust like with giving gifts, doing "nice/considerate" things for others, I have found that having ABSOLUTELY no expectation of reciprocity works best for me.

It's also makes it THAT much more special when people DO "return the favor".

I get why you got sad about his attitude. That just wasn't nice at all.

And my advice would be to NOT go up and beyond for THIS guy again anytime soon. Maybe he didn't really think about doing things for others, I know MANY in the "younger generation" are not used to manners, etiquette and some are just not as good friends as they THINK they are. Or maybe he presumed that SOMEONE else was taking care of your birthday planning?

DID he know it was your birthday? OR did you assume he knew and sorta ignored it?

I'm not big on birthday bashes. I DO them for my kids - that's it. If we get invited to family members birthdays... I sometimes go... sometimes not. My husband is the same, so that works for us. We STILL do little things to make the day special. He gets a certain cake each year, ALWAYS a MUG (inside joke) but I don't do parties for him, as I know he really wouldn't want it.

It would have been nice of a FRIEND to know you were a bit down in the dumps over the job-loss and not being able to see your GF, but many people are just NOT that considerate and.... many guy don't let people know that they need a pick me up. Don't forget your friend IS NOT a mind-reader.

Learn to do little things for yourself, a self care kind of thing. Us women are much better at that then guys are (generally). And KNOW that it's OK to tell others HEY! I could use some company, don't have much money but do you want to go do something?

And then ALSO remember... when down in the dumps TRY not to JUST focus on the bad. Look for the good stuff, it's there too :)

I hope your job search is going well and that you soon can start saving up for you next b-day.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (23 October 2018):

You are displaying defensiveness in your reply and responses and that is okay, you are hurting and you are trying to hide it.

There is no magic solution, some people will let you down, I have had a few people in my life where their behaviour I just don't understand. But if you become cold and switch off you become something less of who you are.

Why do you think superstars, sportspeople etc stick with people they have known all their lives and if they are the kind who allow the hangers and they lose their fame or money they are left with nothing? Because people can be fickle.

When I was younger I had many friends, they loved the party girl, the fun girl, the up for a laugh, except when I had my baby, when her father left me when she was a baby and I was down and had nothing these 'Friends' disappeared one by one and what was I left with? The few friends who had been friends with me all along.

You made the choice to do that for your friend, no one has disputed it was a lovely gesture. Sadly your friend forgot this, again many do forget the good things you do for them and for some reason seemed peeved off with you, have you asked him why?

The thing is there are two sides to every story and whilst you think you have been there for him and he has no reason to have acted this way he may have a reason why he felt off with you that day, you know what it could have been something entirely different going on in his life, why have you not asked him?? You could have said and could still say 'You seemed a bit different and not yourself when I saw you' or words to that effect, the thing is you are second guessing things if you haven't asked him.

It could be he is just a selfish arse who only cares when it suits him, he could just be a user and as I have said there are people out there who are just that. BUT it could be he had his reasons to be off and to be forgetful.

But one thing I do think is you should not change who you are based on the actions of others because then you are at risk of becoming bitter and lets face it if his or anyone else acts this way and hand on heart you have done nothing wrong and there is no excuse for how they act the problem lies with them not you!!

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (23 October 2018):

Firstly thank you all for taking the time to reply to my question. I appreciate every single one of your replies.

I will try to address it individually.

Youcannotbeserious:

I did not say i paid for everyone, I paid for him. I just made sure it happened which means calling everyone, making effort, booking a table, and driving them there. This is not about the money - its the thought. You say he doesnt owe me, Surely he owes me respect? Decency to ask how I am? It would of been better if he told me he is busy elsewhere I would not of taken it so personal. Either way, I promise you I will never ever face a day like that ever again.

I also did not tell you that I spent the day with friends (who do not know about my bday) and i had a great time!! It was only when i saw my friend contact me, i thought wow lets go. my mistake.

Anonymous_123:

I understand what your saying, but I have reaped a lot of success in the past 2-3 years and I have never really been that down. A sudden job loss combined with it being my bday, I was not able to do anything, I gf was in her own house as she did not have money to come see me. I have not once complained about her. it is what it is.

If i see someone is not happy, i will try to cheer them up or try to suggest things - I will never tell them thier faults and failures as if that is opportunity to show them who is the better one.

I see what your saying - it will work when i dont care.

but i have people in my family who have become heartless in order to avoid being hurt. it took them 10-20 years and now there is no way back, they live a emotionless life like a robot, work, sleep, see family but not interact, nothing can hurt them because they been through enough. I really dont want to be that person.

Female - anonymous - if he was mortified by not having money, he would not be so harsh and selfish to me.

I DID NOT GO OVERBOARD - calling friends, and taking them to dinner is not overboard?? I did not pay for all.

Next birthday? hahaha this is where i become so hard shelled nothing will affect me - used to be like that before i met my gf.

I dont know why i become soft. I think well nice people in the world are still nice when they pass old age, they didnt become bitter. But I dont have the trait to not get annoyed.

I think I need training on how to spot a jealous/fake friend

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (22 October 2018):

I feel your pain but I also understand - I think - what is going on here, and I would ask you to re-think your giving habits and the motives underlying them.

I say this at the age of 50, having been one of life's "givers" and slowly but surely becoming almost bitter and almost feeling exploited by others.

I think you were giving to your friend, on his birthday, out of genuine kindness. That's no bad thing, it's a good thing. I also think you were hoping to generate reciprocity ie. he do something similar for you. Again, no bad thing but - importantly - often a very difficult thing for life's "givers" to openly ask for.

I don't think you effectively held your friend to ransom by being generous on his birthday and secretly hoping he would reciprocated in kind - I don't think there was a kind of emotional blackmail going on. But I do think you have projected onto this friendship a kind of vision for what you would like friendships and life to be like, and it's simply not shared by this person in the first place - in other words, he's not starting out from the same perspective as you, he is coming to the situation and the friendship with different needs, desires and motives - not necessarily bad, just no the same as yours.

As well as this, because you are naturally a giving person, you find it hard to take back from people. Giving feels safer, because in a rather strange way, you are in control of what is given. To receive is different, it can throw up lots of vulnerabilities, of all different kinds. So, you totally down-played your own birthday to this friend, basically telling him "I don't expect anything". Perhaps you said this because, as a giver, you feel unworthy underneath everything and don't feel like you deserve the same as others and, at the same time, you are secretly hoping that someone will catch onto the idea that, despite what you are saying, you really, really would love if someone intuited that deep down inside you want to feel worthy (even though you currently don't) and you want them to do something special for you.

When this doesn't happen, you get upset because it seems to confirm your current state of feeling unworthy, rather than help you to move on from it, into a space of feeling like a deserving, included, validated being.

That may seem a little deep, but there really is a psychology to giving - it is nowhere near as innocent as it seems.

I really understand how this could have hurt you - it honestly never ceases to amaze me how utterly selfish some people are and I've found it incredibly difficult to work with this over a lifetime.

At the same time, there is almost a child-like quality to the way you gave to this friend, secretly hoping to receive something similar. In adult life, a general rule I've learned - and which I find really hard to reinforce but which works - is to wait and see what the other person gives and to figure out their motives for doing so, and to respond in kind, never over-stepping the mark. It may sound contradictory, but by withholding your giving, you can then get a better measure of whether your giving will be effective or whether you are basically just projecting a fantasy onto life of what you would like it to be like (in a child-like way), setting yourself up for disappointment a lot of the time.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is ultimately a lovely thing that you did, and I wish I had a friend like you. I'm saying it can be a fine art, figuring out how to balance giving and taking. I think you need to reign in your giving and assert your taking. Practice asking for things in small ways, from a position of assertiveness rather than a place of unworthiness. Assertiveness is key, and if you look into your character more, you may find that there were times when you were not encouraged to assert yourself and that this has led you to become overly giving instead. A psychologist friend once said to me "abused people always feel they need to provide". I think that's a bit of an extreme, blanket statement, but there is maybe a less dramatic view to be had - that people who lack assertiveness end up giving and not receiving.

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A male reader, TylerSage United States +, writes (22 October 2018):

TylerSage agony auntIt's clear you're a very considerate person. The average man doesn't go out of their way for others usually because they care mostly about themselves at any given time.

The main problem here is the fact that you believed that your good deed would result in getting it back from this particular person. You pretty much set yourself up for your own disappointment. The next time you decide to do something like that for someone NEVER expect anything in return, just do it because you wanted to, full stop.

As for your friend we can all see he doesn't care as much about one of the few special days you celebrate in your life. Plus you suspect that he did it one purpose which makes it sit even worse. Slowly start backing away from him and start searching for people who can make you feel wanted and happy.

I'm not saying he's a bad person, I'm saying that you may be starting to realise that this person isn't worth your time or energy. Some friendships go stale. Work on truly appreciating your own company and respecting yourself and the right people will come along. Quantity doesn't mean much, but quality means everything.

You speak a lot about feeling alone. Outside the fact that many people can feel this way just to be safe try some tests online for BPD it's a condition rooted in feeling abandoned or rejected by others. If you don't have that condition, you just need to put greater effort into finding new friends.

All the best.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (21 October 2018):

If you really want a great birthday, plan to pamper yourself in the future. Friends should be spontaneous about celebrating your birthday. It's nothing really to be expected. It's the surprise that we cherish; but it's not something we should expect. Never should we do things out of kindness, and expect any reward for it.

You know what you like, and you can't forget your own birthday. Start a little birthday-fund for yourself; and stash a little cash to celebrate your day. You can invite someone special if you want; but just doing things you really like to do is just as nice. Visit your favorite relatives, take mom and/or date out for a celebration-lunch or dinner. Shop and get yourself a nice purse, new shoes, or a lovely outfit. Have a spa-day! Invite some girlfriends over for the weekend before your birthday; and do girly-stuff together. You're not a kid anymore; so birthdays are more special to you than anybody else.

If you like celebrating the birthdays of friends and family; consider that "your thing." It's up to others, if they wish to do that; but there are way too many birthdays in your own family and circle of friends to remember them all. Someone will get overlooked. Note you only remember his, not everybody's! He neither expected nor asked for it. You volunteered!

Your friend may have been forgetful, or even a lousy friend; but don't measure the depth of love and devotion by remembering birthdays.

The value of friendship is based on love, loyalty, and trust. Some people are bad when it comes to expressing sentiments; but they're by your side during the best and worst of times. If they're not; then blame yourself for over-estimating their value in friendship. You just may be more of a loyal and devoted friend that your friends. It's how it is sometimes. Some people are good at party-planning and setting-up celebrations; while others suck at it!

I can afford to do a lot of things some of my friends can't. I won't put that burden on their shoulders; and I don't put a lot of concern behind mine, or anyone's birthdays! As a courtesy, they are programmed as reminders on my phone calendar and other devices. They may get a call or a card.

I don't always go out of my way for birthdays; but if I do, it's for my immediate kin. I might remember to send a gift-basket, Godiva chocolates, or lovely bottle of wine; but it's not a habit. I've had birthdays come and go; maybe they forget, but sent their belated-wishes. I don't care. That's maturity! Otherwise, I know how much we all love each other!

Feeling sorry for yourself will pass. God-willing, may you have many more birthdays! I personally wish you a belated happy birthday! If it means so much to you, I hope you find friends who realize it in the future.

Don't kill your own joy, it's never too late to celebrate with yourself. I've done it dozens of times myself; and nobody knows how to make my birthday more special than myself. Oops...except the lady who made it happen in the first place! My precious Mama!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (21 October 2018):

Hi

Maybe your friend didn't forget but he couldn't have possibly afforded to reciprocate what you did for him on his birthday. So, to try and minimise his embarrassment he pretended to forget. The equivalent of sweeping it (your birthday)under the carpet, because, although YOU were ok with just a small gesture from him, maybe HE was mortified about the discrepancy.

Don't go overboard with generosity on people's birthdays. Although it must have felt lovely to do something like that for someone, you have now placed a great burden on him to do the same (even though you say you don't want it, he would feel it) and he probably can't afford it, or maybe even doesn't want to. Organising things can be a pain to people if that's not their thing.

You say you don't expect anything of the kind from him, but because you splashed out and made an effort, you DO expect SOMETHING. Don't put any kind of pressure on other people, or expectations. It's not fair on them and it's often disappointing. Do things for others (not over the top) just for the sheer pleasure of doing it and leave it at that. I can imagine that this would hurt, but going over the top on him, has I think contributed towards it.

I have a friend who I really like and come Christmas I want to buy him a really nice present, because I would enjoy doing that. But I don't, because he doesn't have much money and so he would feel awful if I were to splash out. So I buy him a gift that is smaller and doesn't match how I feel, but it matches what he can reciprocate.

On his next birthday, tone it down a lot. Put in the effort that he put in. Maybe that's what he's comfortable with.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (21 October 2018):

If he didn’t say happy bday it doesn’t matter. But I know he knew because of the way he was so negative, made me feel like total garbage. Yes I will distance myself but I thought if you treat people good they will do the same. So is jealousy taking over

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A female reader, Anonymous 123 Italy +, writes (21 October 2018):

Anonymous 123 agony auntI think the problem with our generation is that we place our happiness in other people's hands. We don't look at making ourselves happy, we don't look at comforting ourselves, at being our own best friend; we rely on others to do that.

You went out of your way to give your friend a fabulous day on his birthday. That was entirely your decision but the problem arose when you thought and wanted him to do the same or something similar for you. The question is, why are you doing things with any expectations at all? Do it only if it makes you happy, without any conditions, and then forget about it.

Maybe birthdays are just not as important for your friend, maybe he forgot, maybe he was preoccupied with something else. Maybe he just didn't care. Yes there are people like that. It was my anniversary a few days ago and I was at my husband's house in the evening, with his mother and brother. I come from a family where everyone's very vocal, affectionate etc whereas his are the opposite. Not only did no one at his house bother wishing us, at one point when I gently pointed out that it was our anniversary (I thought they had forgotten), his brother just stared at us and smiled and then got up and walked away while his mother just nodded and said, "yes I remember". I was amazed at how strange they are but then, that's how it is.

Not everyone we meet is like us. Some are even downright uncouth, don't-care and odd. But then you also learn with experience on how to deal with such people.

All I'll say to you is that, don't take your friend's behaviour personally. He is not responsible for making your happy. I know it hurts... It's bound to... But keep in mind that no matter how much you help others in their times of need, they will NOT do the same. Count yourself lucky if they do even 10% of what you did. That's how the world works. Even if you help a hundred people, maybe just one or two would be really obliged and grateful and look at returning the favour. The rest will conveniently forget.

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A female reader, Youcannotbeserious United Kingdom + , writes (21 October 2018):

Youcannotbeserious agony auntYou can't buy friendship. Just because YOU decided to treat your friend for his birthday (paying for everyone seems a bit over the top and extravagant, considering you were struggling financially on your own birthday), does not mean he owes you the same.

Also, did you think to say to him, "Heh, it's my birthday. It would be nice to grab a quick drink"? He FORGOT your birthday. People DO forget people's birthdays, regardless of how long they have known them. I have done this myself in the past with people I am quite close to. It does not mean I forget the person involved, just the date of their birthday.

I have to ask, why do you attach so much importance to a birthday? From your profile, it wasn't even a "special" birthday. Most people just see it as another day. If they do something, it's just a bonus.

You are seeing your friend forgetting your birthday as some sort of personal slight on you whereas it sounds like it was just a simple case of forgetfulness. Perhaps you need to widen your social circle so you don't feel so lonely when he has other things going on in his life.

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