My boyfriend had planned a surprise for my seventeenth birthday. He told me about it the day before, and the curiosity was killing me. A professed lover of surprises, I was delighted that he had gone the extra mile to plan something special to celebrate. We had only been dating a few months, and I was impressed by the effort.
That is, until I found out what he had planned.
As I happily climbed into his truck on the morning of my birthday I buckled myself up, rubbed my hands together, and prepared for the fun to start.
“Where are we headed?” I asked gleefully.
“Oh, an amusement park,” I thought to myself. I had been expecting something a little more romantic, but I quickly adjusted my mindset and embraced the idea. I did enjoy a good roller coaster, after all. This would be fun!
“But first we’re going to pick up Liz, Jenny, Noah, and Ben!”
Um, what? His friends were coming along on my birthday surprise? His friends that never made any effort to get to know me? The friends that barely acknowledged my existence? I took a deep breath. “Okay.”
We picked them up and drove the two hours to Six Flags only to find that the entire park was closed for repairs that day. We ended up spending most of the day at one of those massive hunting and fishing stores. Guess who loved hunting and fishing? My boyfriend and his friends. Guess who didn’t? The birthday girl.
I went along with it the whole day, trying to convince myself I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t until we finally broke up months later that I realized that the way he handled my birthday should have been a red flag. If a guy plans my entire birthday celebration around himself and his preferences, is he really someone I want to commit to a long-term relationship with? It should have been a pretty clear sign that he wasn’t ready to put someone else’s needs before his own.
Years later when I started dating the man I would one day marry, I immediately noticed how different he was from that other guy. When planning days that were special to me, like my birthday, he always took into account what I liked best rather than what he liked. He would also try to plan ahead to ensure everything would go well. He would include my friends and make plans that communicated that he noticed and respected my preferences. And he certainly would never keep friends who ignored me! I knew that was the kind of person I wanted to marry and stay with forever: someone who considered me and not just himself.
We’ve been married for awhile now and my husband continues to demonstrate thoughtfulness and consideration for me, not only when he’s making special plans, but every day. I realize the mistake I made years ago in trying to convince myself that my ex’s actions didn’t disappoint me. I’m surer and more confident now in my instincts, and I know that every woman deserves to be treated with kindness and sensitivity by the man she has chosen to be with.