Entertainment Love and Romance The "Birthday Fight" Every Couple Has Experienced Share PINTEREST Email Print Love and Romance Relationships Sexuality Divorce Teens LGBTQ Friendship By Michelle Brody, PhD Updated November 19, 2018 01 of 06 Birthday = Pressure to Show Your Love Day Illustrations by Emily Tomasik for Stop the Fight! An Illustrated Guide for Couples It’s her birthday. Cue STRESS. You can just imagine the thought bubbles over his head: “Shoot – gotta get her something….but what?” “I better remind myself not to forget” “I hope this is good enough” “Will she even like this?” “Last year didn’t go well, I hope this works this year” “This is all crap – why do I have to do this stuff just to prove I love her?” Your partner's birthday might as well be called “Pressure to Show Your Love Day”. 02 of 06 Lots of Expectations Illustrations by Emily Tomasik for Stop the Fight! An Illustrated Guide for Couples Of course, the movie version of the next day looks like this. There it is, the dream: whatever he gives is just right and whatever she gets totally delights her. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? But, no. More often than not, the “Show Your Love” exchange doesn’t go well and both sides end up unhappy: she feels disappointed or unloved and he feels frustrated with the impossibility of getting it right for her. And it leads to distance or a fight – just the opposite of the point of the day. Why does this happen so much? Because we were all kids once – and we know what birthday magic is….. Your birthday is your special day! Today you are the star! Get ready for EXCITING SURPRISES! The magic doesn’t totally wear off as we get older, so plenty of adults are still looking forward to the surprises that will come on that special day, especially what will come from a partner. But for many partners, the expectation to be the “birthday planner” puts the anvil of expectations on his or her back. 03 of 06 It's Too Easy to Fail! Illustrations by Emily Tomasik for Stop the Fight! An Illustrated Guide for Couples And expectations have impact. When you are expected to give, the giving changes from generosity to obligation. It’s loaded with too much meaning and too much pressure. With all those expectations, it also becomes very easy to fail or to disappoint each other. And the higher the expectations, the more it crowds out space to actually surprise or delight your partner. 04 of 06 Transaction-Like Exchanges Illustrations by Emily Tomasik for Stop the Fight! An Illustrated Guide for Couples Sometimes the birthday girl or boy tries to “help” their partner meet the expectations – suggestions for gifts, lists of what would make the day right. But if the partner delivers the list as requested, then the gift giving becomes just a transaction: I give you this gift because I know you expect it – and where’s the love in that? 05 of 06 Expectation Kills Generosity Illustrations by Emily Tomasik for Stop the Fight! An Illustrated Guide for Couples If the point of your birthday is to cash in on a gift, then sure, make your list. But if the point of being celebrated on your birthday it to feel genuine love from your partner, engaging in a planned transaction doesn’t quite work. Expectations diminishes the joy for both sides – it kills his enjoyment of seeing her be delighted and it drains the meaning of love that she would feel from getting something that he initiated. 06 of 06 Appreciation Inspires Generosity Illustrations by Emily Tomasik for Stop the Fight! An Illustrated Guide for Couples So let’s give each other a break on birthdays this year. Instead of expectations and pressure, give your partner the chance to give you love and generosity in his or her own way. Instead of directions and lists, offer appreciation. It’s more likely to inspire the generosity and love we all want. Michelle Brody, Ph.D. is an executive coach and clinical psychologist with over 20 years of professional experience in mediating conflict in couples, companies and communities around the globe. Adapted from Stop the Fight!: An Illustrated Guide for Couples—How to Break Free from the 12 Most Common Arguments and Build a Relationship That Lasts, copyright © Michelle Brody, 2015. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment.