In my experience, any major event with The Narcissist was stress inducing… holidays, anniversaries, and most definitely birthdays.
Over the years that we spent together the impending doom of this birthday month became something that created so much stress and anxiety for me. It became one of the many hoops that I had to jump through in my life with The Narcissist… a way to prove to him that I loved him and I deserved him… another excuse he could come up with to prove that I wasn’t good enough… another thing he could hold over my head and use to bring out the guilt he needed to manipulate me.
I am the type of person who has always been more about the quality of time spent on my own birthday and less about the extravaganza or the gifts. My favorite birthday’s over the years are the ones where I stayed at home with my family eating Chinese food take out and my favorite cake from the local bakery. Before meeting The Narcissist, the most spoiled birthday event I ever had was when my most favorite uncle sent me a dozen hot pink roses and a Tiffany necklace on my sweet 16th. (He said that every girl deserves the special princess treatment on her 16th birthday!)
Enter The Narcissist and everything became a spectacle. He was famous for love bombing me in a variety of ways including sending me elaborate flower arrangements to the office “just because.” He used his OCD research behaviors to find out about absolutely every and any event that was going on or new and cool gizmo or gadget to buy. He had elaborate themed cakes and cake pops made just for my birthday where we usually just sat home by ourselves. He would buy me expensive gifts that he claimed were super thoughtful and had all of this rationale behind them when really they were just ways of making me more into the version of me that he wanted… or ways to push his likes onto me. He set the bar very high and made the entire birthday planning into a nightmare for me.
On his first birthday that we spent together as a married couple I learned this lesson. I had just moved to the other side of the world to live with him. I didn’t have a car, a private bank account, or even any idea how or where to go to get things like cake and presents in this new country I was still trying to figure out. I attempted to plan something that I thought was thoughtful and loving and celebratory of his life… and it all blew up in my face. I ended up being berated because The Narcissist informed me that his family never celebrated his birthday when he was a kid, and he never had birthday parties, and he was never made to feel special, and that his birthday really felt more depressing to him than anything else. Then all his frustration shifted to how I was just continuing the legacy of him having crappy birthdays and that he shouldn’t be surprised and blah blah blah. He even threw in a few jabs about how his ex-wife had done much more thoughtful things to celebrate his birthday. Basically I was now the one to blame for a lifetime of crappy birthdays… and trust me I was punished for it.
On another birthday, my most favorite uncle (the one mentioned above) had the audacity to die a few days before The Narcissist’s birthday. The Narcissist was beyond frustrated that his entire birthday week was spent flying to America, attending wakes and funerals, and spending lots of time with my family. You can read about the torture and abuse that ensued from that event here.
From there I pretty much exhausted myself each time his birthday came around attempting to make it special and perfect and make this one day make up for ~25 years of apparent crappy birthdays and somehow I still never lived up to his expectations. It certainly wasn’t easy considering that The Narcissist bought himself any and everything he wanted all of the time. He had pre-ordered every major thing he ever wanted months in advance. He researched every single event and usually got us tickets months in advance. I had to be on my A-game like 6 months before his birthday hit to actually plan a gift or event that he hadn’t already purchased.
In the end, it didn’t matter if I got him in the front row for one of his favorite bands, or had a dozen gluten free, dairy free cupcakes from the hot new bakery in the city, or if I elaborately set up our entire kitchen to look like a party thrown by Gatsby himself (one of the Narc’s movie idols)… there was always something that wasn’t enough… wasn’t thoughtful enough… was something he would have done differently…. etc. etc.
He would often sit there and quiz me… wanting to know why I made a choice to get him that thing, or what my process was for researching, or how I made the decision to do x,y,or z. He would need to understand how I landed on the decision that this was the best thing to do for his birthday. He would exhaust me with questions and discussion and eventually come to the conclusion that I just haphazardly threw something together and didn’t really care about him or love him at all (and clearly didn’t put as much thought or effort into his birthdays as he put into mine.)
Almost as soon as his birthday was over and I had survived whatever chaos ensued the panic attack for Valentine’s day would set in…. and this was my life with The Narcissist… constant eggshells, constant stress, constant jumping through hoops. Today I get exhausted even just remembering it.