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Husband forgets anniversary, but who is to blame?

DEAR READERS: I’ve briefly stepped away from my column to work on a new writing project. This week, I’m rerunning topical Q&A's from 10 years ago. Today’s topic is: ”Celebrations.” I’ll be back with brand-new columns next week.

DEAR AMY: I forgot my 18th wedding anniversary. I completely forgot. I discovered my sin when I opened the coffee cabinet that evening and found a ”happy anniversary” note my wife had left in front of the coffee can. I was devastated. My wife was already in bed asleep. I did notice that she was acting coolly toward me that evening. I asked her what was up, and she said nothing was wrong. Doesn’t she share some of the blame here? One of us has to be the first to say, ”Happy anniversary.” She was in a position to do something about it, but was waiting for me to make the move. I know it’s a husband’s job to not pass up an opportunity to make a woman feel special, but isn’t this a 50-50 partnership? Doesn’t she owe me the same apology I gave her?

Anxious Anniversary

DEAR ANXIOUS: Your letter provoked much discussion in my household, as I’m sure it will in many others. The consensus is that you are right to take responsibility for your own forgetfulness. You are also right that your wife handled this poorly. My insight into a woman’s (or any spouse’s) motivation on the anniversary is that, on some level, she is eager to relive and replay the joy and drama of her engagement day, which is so often orchestrated and initiated by a man (or whomever initiated the engagement and proposal in the first place).

This might be why a wife waits for her husband to remember the day. Regardless, when you asked your wife what was wrong, she should have told you. You can understand that she felt hurt and also a little embarrassed that this landmark day slipped your mind — but she also tossed away an opportunity to perhaps experience the joy of remembering your wedding day together. This is not your responsibility alone — nor is it a man’s unique duty to make his wife feel special. (April 2009)

DEAR AMY: My 19-year-old cousin graduated from high school this spring. She had a rough road through adolescence and a hard time with high school, but she finally graduated. I am proud that she persevered. Her graduation party, however, was not a pleasant affair. She barely acknowledged her adult guests, and left the party with her friends to ”take a walk.” What she really did was go to a park with her friends to get high. Her mother (my aunt) not only condoned it, but was amused in relaying this news to guests at the party. When the kids came back they were, of course, famished; inhaling all the food they could find, laughing, cursing and carrying on. Again, her mother joked about them having ”the munchies.” I was disgusted by the behavior of both the parent and the child. Should I speak to my aunt? My gift to the graduate involved tickets to an event that I planned to take my cousin to. Now I don’t even want to go with her. Should I just give her the tickets to take someone else?

Disappointed Cousin

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: It’s fairly obvious why your cousin has struggled so much. It would be very challenging to rise above such neglectful and enabling parenting. If you are close, you should raise this issue — not to express your disgust, but rather your concern. Be prepared that whatever you say, it might have little impact. What I love about your gift is that gifts such as yours — gifts of experiences, rather than material goods — give you and the recipient the opportunity to share something.

By all means continue with your plans. It won’t kill you to spend a few hours with your cousin, and the experience and connection might influence both of you in a positive way. Don’t judge her while you’re with her. (June 2009)

DEAR READERS: Are you curious about my background and life outside of the confines of this space? Read my two memoirs: ”The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town that Raised Them,” and ”Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things,” available wherever books are sold or borrowed. You can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram: @AskingAmy; on Facebook at Facebook.com/ADickinsondaily. (You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: ASKAMY@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or ”like” her on Facebook.) 

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