Where Is the Line Between Being Demanding and Expressing Needs?

My birthday passed and the guy I am dating called me to say happy birthday. I spent the day with friends and enjoyed myself because he was away with his son. No big deal. However, when he came back, I had hoped (expected) we would do something to celebrate. A dinner, maybe flowers or a small present. When he did none of those things, I calmly brought it up and told him what would make me feel loved. I’m confused about his response because he said that me having expectations makes him not want to do anything at all. That buying flowers would be inauthentic to who he is.

It was my intention to communicate how I feel loved and to not build resentment...can’t get mad at him for not reading my mind. So where is the line between being a demanding woman who places expectations that make a man feel belittled and communicating needs so her partner can love her in ways she receives love?

Alexandra

Dump him, Alexandra.

If there were a dozen different ways he could have handled this, he chose the absolute worst one – the one that invalidated your feelings, the one that missed the point, the one that doesn’t do anything to fix the problem, but only solidifies and enflames it.

If there were a dozen different ways he could have handled this, he chose the absolute worst one – the one that invalidated your feelings.

You’re not a demanding woman to tell the guy you’re seeing that your birthday is special and it would be nice to be acknowledged. He’s just an insensitive asshole for doubling down on his do-nothing stance.

The only nuggets of truth to glean from this are that, as you said, men are not mind-readers, and that the more unrealistic your expectations, the more it makes men not want to give. Which would be valuable if you were the one who handled this wrong. You were not. Let go of the selfish gaslighting man and find a guy who either picks up on your emotional cues naturally, or, at the least, is open to learning how to please you when you express yourself.

That is literally the very least you should expect from a man. Don’t quit until you find it.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Elizabeth

    I love this response, Evan!! There ARE men who do this naturally (I have one) and there are men who will learn (I raised one). I will repeat the last, most important part of your response for the OP and all other readers: That is literally the very least you should expect from a man. Don’t quit until you find it.

  2. 2
    Donna

    My gosh yes, and perfectly said, Evan…..”or at the least, is open to learning how to please you when you express yourself.”  Sounds like this guys just thought he had a free pass to getting laid.

  3. 3
    Kat

    Absolutely dump him! Not only is he gaslighting and invalidating your feelings as EMK has said here, this guy is showing you his true colors. You’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. It’s not like you were demanding an expensive gift; just a small token acknowledging your birthday, and perhaps a dinner at the very least. The most recent guy I dated pulled a similar scenario- in the end, he just wasn’t capable of reciprocating emotional needs in a relationship. He’s a taker. You deserve so much better. Remember that being with someone should feel easy and fluid; you shouldn’t feel unfulfilled, doubtful, and feel like something is missing.

  4. 4
    Clare

    I experienced something similar with a guy I dated about 4 years ago.

    I got a text for my birthday (and he wasn’t away). I didn’t bring it up with him because this told me everything I needed to know. Sure enough when, a week or two later, he broke plans with me to stay out drinking with his friends and then called me at 2 am to offer a drunken and defensive apology, it was easy to dump him. By then I was checked out.

    There are two things you’ve got to look at here, Alexandra. The first is that, by doing nothing for your birthday (which pretty much everyone on the planet knows is a no-no when you are dating someone and hoping it goes well), he is managing down your expectations. You refer to him as “the guy I’m dating” and not “my boyfriend.” I’m guessing that is deliberate on his part. He is letting you know through this birthday incident that he is not ready for a relationship. Crazy I know, but this is how many guys communicate.

    The second thing you have to look at is that this is a microcosm of what you can expect from spending more time with him. If he showed any sign of being able to see it from your point of view, I would say there would be hope. But he did not.  He defended what was not really a defensible action, instead of apologising for it. Also, from your letter, it seems as if you expressed yourself gently and respectfully. And he snapped at you and made you feel wrong ON TOP of doing nothing for your birthday. This is not a guy who knows how to communicate or is very interested in your feelings. A relationship with him will be pretty miserable in the long term if it is like this now.

    Oh, and one final thing. I had to *laugh* at the “you having expectations makes me not want to do anything” argument. It must be the oldest one in the book. It’s simply another way of saying, I don’t want to do what you want, I want to do what suits me, in its purest form. Again, at that point, it comes back to what Evan was saying. If your expectations were unrealistic or excessive, the man would have a point. But expecting a token for one’s birthday is neither of those things.

  5. 5
    Stacy

    Yuck. This loser needs to be dumped yesterday.

  6. 6
    GoWiththeFlow

    Okay, I have to say I read this “. . .he said that me having expectations makes him not want to do anything at all” and literally, LOL’d.  Has he tried that line out on his boss when s/he inquires about when project will be complete?  “Now that you’ve asked, I don’t feel like working on it anymore.”  Or told his son that when the kid asks what’s for dinner?  “Well now that you’ve told me you’re hungry, I’m not motivated to feed you.”

    Life is full of role expectations. They aren’t a bad thing.  What’s important, is to know what they are.  Then you know what you need to do, or if the expectations are to onerous, you can decline and make your case for why you are declining.

    1. 6.1
      Clare

      GWTF,

      Yes exactly! I find myself chuckling in the same way when men and woman complain about being “pressured” and shut down when their partners make reasonable requests.

      These are the same men and women who have high-flying corporate jobs where clients and bosses literally want something yesterday. And somehow, these dear souls are able to cope with the pressure. But let their partner ask, after five years together, where the relationship is headed and they crumble.

      It really comes down to this: it’s only pressure if it’s something you don’t want to do or don’t see the necessity to do.

    2. 6.2
      Emily, the original

      GoWiththeFlow,

      or if the expectations are to onerous, you can decline and make your case for why you are declining.

      She owned her part in it. She told him what her needs were instead of pouting and sulking. He certainly had the right to decline, but this guy took it one step further and implied that her having needs and asking for what she wanted were the reasons he did nothing! He threw it back on her, when the real reason was he just didn’t want to do anything. Fine, but he just should have said that. OWN it. So he’s selfish and manipulative.

  7. 7
    Motunrayo

    Best response Evan. Thank you for the insight.

  8. 8
    Jessica

    I once had been dating a guy 10 months that said he didn’t know how to buy a birthday cake for me. It was too complicated. We were having dinner out with friends. He said I needed to buy a cake and bring it or else they would be very disappointed. Soul crushing but just another thing that I was accepting at the time. Took 5 more months to dump him. Reflection + Evan’s books. 1year to find the love of my life. And 3.5 years later, we are getting married in 2 weeks!!! Thanks Evan!

    1. 8.1
      SparklingEmerald

      Congratulations on your upcoming wedding !

    2. 8.2
      Stacy

      Jessica,Awesome news and congrats!

  9. 9
    Kelly

    OP,

    He sounds like a man child with the whole “expectations” thing making him want to resist even more. It’s amazing what we women will put up with sometimes if there’s a glimmer of hope for a relationship. This one is a no-go. He’d probably give a purely platonic friend of his more birthday attention than he gave you. And this is still the courting phase, I’m guessing, since you note you are seeing each other? It’ll probably get worse, not better.

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