By Rev. Renee

What kind of memories do you have of your birthday and other big days in your life? Have your recent, adult birthdays been nice celebrations with your abusive relatives? What about happy memories from your childhood parties? I can’t even remember mine. The only way I know I had birthday parties as a child is from a few 50-year old photos. The photos are disturbing for me to view, because there is not one in which I am smiling. Even while blowing out the candles or opening presents, my face is sad and upset, or fearful and anxious. In some pictures, I am nervously glancing at my mother, worried about putting on the proper performance to make her proud in front of the relatives.

One common thread among adult children of abusive birth-relatives seems to be plenty of memories of royal command performances for our abusers’ birthdays, and nothing but bad memories, or no memories, of our own. Sadly, many of us don’t even acknowledge our own birthdays anymore, because they carry so many negative associations for us, but just try to get through the day as quickly and as quietly as possible. For many of us, this pathetic state of affairs applies not only to our birthdays, but to our weddings, anniversaries, showers, the births of our children, job promotions, and just about any and every big day in our lives. Our abusers have stolen this joy from us, and replaced it with conditioned avoidance.

When it’s time to celebrate their victim’s big events, abusers have two basic tactics:

1. Using the victim’s happy occasion as an excuse for drama, picking fights, and getting attention for themselves.

2. Ignoring or minimizing the victim’s big event to make her feel unimportant and insignificant.



My birth-mother ruined the surprise for both my bridal and baby showers. She told me about each event beforehand. Concerned, as always, way more about appearances than she was about anyone’s feelings, she didn’t want my husband to bring me to my “surprise” parties straight from the beach, in a tee-shirt and shorts, without my hair and makeup being done. So she just had to warn me, so I could be nicely dressed and not embarrass her by making a bad impression in front of my aunts or her friends. Birth-mother was not hosting my showers, mind you, but she still thought it was her place to ruin the surprises OTHER PEOPLE had planned. My mother-in-law and some friends hosted my showers, and went through a great deal of trouble to surprise me. My husband and friends took great pains for weeks, having secret meetings, making phone calls in the bathroom, and figuring out how to get me there while keeping up the ruse. And both times, my narcissistic mother spoiled it.

I was so disappointed that I knew- especially when she did it to me the second time. If anyone wanted to do something so nice for me, of course I would WANT to be surprised. Because of her, I found myself acting my way through my “grand entrances”, plastering a phony shocked look on my face, and pretending to be surprised, so as not to disappoint or hurt the feelings of those who had gone to so much trouble for me, while hating every minute of my own hypocrisy and worrying that people could see through my uncomfortable act and know that I knew. My birth-mother had forced me to go against one of my most important personal beliefs- honesty- and turned me into a liar. Mommy Darling ruined both my bridal shower and my baby shower- two ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EVENTS for me, that I would never have again, because of what was important to HER, not ME.

A favorite strategy for ruining your happy event is for your abuser to take the spotlight off of you in some way. It just kills narcissists when other people are getting attention. The only way to turn your big day into a positive for the abuser is for her to use it as an occasion to get attention for herself.

An abuser will choose your party, or the days leading up to it, to pick a fight with you or someone else. He will make sure to get loud and abusive and embarrass you so much in front of your guests that you’ll never want to have another party again. My birth-father started a fight at every family get-together, usually with me, but often with others. He would not bat an eye at ruining my birthday, wedding, or anything else, with his belligerence, attempts to control, demands for respect, immature challenges and stare-downs, and poking his targets in the chest as he raged, beet-red, inches from their faces. All this with nary a thought to creating a big, nasty scene at someone else’s nice affair.

Your abuser might get drunk and mean, rude and obnoxious, or maudlin and teary. Or, cleverly, he might not come to your party at all, so that everyone will be asking where he is. Abusers who pull this move will often call up the other relatives before the party to let them know they “won’t be there” because of something you supposedly said or did to offend them. Or they might wait to smear you till after the party, knowing that some family members will call to ask where they were, and they’ll have the perfect opportunity to badmouth or lie about you.

At someone else’s party, an abuser might sit in a corner and pout, causing others to ask her what’s wrong, so she can sigh and say “Oh, nothing….” She might pull a sick act. Or she may wear flamboyant or revealing clothes, flirt with the other women’s husbands, maybe dance wildly or laugh outrageously. He might act the clown, telling one dirty joke after another, being loud and boisterous, and giggling like a fool at his own inappropriate remarks, as if he was on stage doing a comedy show. She may make a big public scene of fawning all over you, and loudly declaring how much she loves you and what a happy day this is for HER. He might be the one making idiotic faces in every photo. Anything and everything no matter how malicious, vulgar or asinine, to be the center of attention, like a frantic, desperate, dancing monkey.

It is not at all unusual for someone at one of these parties to wind up locked in the bathroom in tears- either you, one of your guests, or even the abuser herself! And, after it’s all over, no one will be talking about what a nice party you had, how your big milestone or achievement deserved to be celebrated, how pretty you looked, how happy they were for you, how great the food was, how beautiful the pictures turned out, what a nice time they had, or how great it was to have the family all together for such a happy occasion. They will be talking about whatever drama the abuser caused. Your day will be ruined, and for the next twenty years, you will cringe every time you remember it.

And it’s not just you. The narcissist will do this to your children too. My birth-parents managed to do something to spoil every nice event in my children’s lives- not just birthdays and holidays, but graduations, school plays, violin concerts, football games, religious events, you name it- until I finally put my foot down, set some boundaries, and stopped including them when they refused to respect our boundaries. I was determined that my children were not going to have the same miserable memories of all their big days that I had. And if that meant not inviting my parents, then so be it.

My birth-mother was famous for buying me gifts that SHE liked, with no consideration at all for what I might have liked or needed. It was always HER taste, never mine. Frilly, girly things SHE wanted to see me wear, especially in front of HER friends, because that was her idea of femininity, even though I was in my forties, short, and chubby, and she knew that I only wore subdued, tailored, professional-looking clothes. Cutesy, corny tchotchkes for my house, that were totally not my style and didn’t fit the décor in any of my rooms. Huge, long, dangly earrings that made me look like a Christmas tree when I wore my eyeglasses, even though she knew I preferred understated studs and small hoops.

This was a “silent” continuation of her constant criticism from my childhood and teen years, when I had never been delicate or “ladylike” enough for her. As a child, I was forced to walk balancing heavy books on my head to improve my posture, and she corrected almost every word out of my mouth to eliminate my Brooklyn accent. When I was a teenager, she still insisted on choosing the clothes I would have to wear around her friends- outdated, ruffly, and more suited to a much younger child, but conforming to her perfectionist ideas of a proper young lady. I was never good enough then, and I still wasn’t good enough. Long after I was married and had children of my own, she was still trying to “improve” me. There was never any care or a moment’s thought put into what I might have wanted or been able to use. It was only what SHE wanted me to have, so that I would live up to HER standards and ideals.

But on HER birthday, it was a whole different ballgame! She made sure that I bought exactly what she wanted. Broad hints, detailed descriptions, even instructing me on precisely which store to go to and where to find the item she wanted. Her list of requirements was endless and incredibly detailed, and she would double-check that I had it memorized: post earrings only since they were easier to get in than wires; watches with “ticking” second hands instead of sweep second hands; bracelets had to be the perfect length to fall on an exact spot on her wrist; purses had to have the correct compartments; necklaces had to reach a precise length on her collarbone and no longer; scarves could not be “overpowering”; blouses had to be button-down and tuck-in only; dresses had to be “shirt-waists” (try finding one of those!- she usually had them made by a dressmaker). The stress of shopping for her was ridiculous. But still I tried, even though, when it was her turn to shop for me, she just grabbed the first thing that caught her eye, whether I was going to like it or not.


Narcissistic as always, our abusers expect us to make a big fuss over their birthdays, and God help us if we don’t. Everyone has to come and pay homage to them while they hold court. They love to brag to their friends about how special you think they are, and how much everybody loves them. There had better be a big party, and you had better spend lots of money on your abuser. You will be expected to wait on her hand and foot, smile subserviently, and bend over backwards to please her, while she sits there like the Queen of Sheba and complains about everything from the food, to the cake, to the gift you so carefully chose for her. Well, you weren’t really expecting any appreciation, now were you?

But when the shoe is on the other foot, and YOUR birthday rolls around, it will be quite a different story. Where’s YOUR big birthday bash? Or YOUR lovely dinner out in a nice restaurant? Where’s YOUR carefully chosen gift, that so much care and thought went into?

In my family, my PARENTS’ birthdays were big deals, but never mine. If anything, mine was just an excuse for another command performance, to force us to have another dinner with them so that my birth-mother could brag to her friends and show off her grandkids.
On HER birthday, Mommy Darling always expected me to invite her over for dinner and cake, and on the milestone birthdays and anniversaries, I was also expected to throw the parties for my parents. I was only 20 when I hosted their 25th anniversary party in my own home, all by myself. I worked full time trying to make ends meet, and could not afford doctor or dentist visits, or a new winter coat, but still I scraped together the money and the time, and went into debt, to entertain 40 people in their honor. My birth-sister, meanwhile, never contributed one dime, or one hour of work, nor was she expected to.

My responsibility for my birth-mother’s birthdays became painfully apparent to me when I was only 14 years old. That year, my birth-father, her husband, conveniently “forgot” her birthday. Her parents, my grandparents, did not acknowledge it, and neither did her other daughter, my birth-sister. Being a young teenager, busy trying to adapt to the first two weeks of my freshman year of high school, I forgot about it, too. Until she confronted me, and ME ONLY, crying hysterically, that I had not done anything for her birthday, nor had I reminded my father, sister, or grandparents about it. The guilt she heaped on my adolescent shoulders by sobbing about how much I had hurt her, virtually ensured that I would take complete responsibility for her birthdays, AND anniversaries, AND Mother’s Day, for the next several decades, until I finally wised up to the fact that I wasn’t the only game in town.

When it was my turn, however, it was just the opposite, and my birthday was virtually ignored. My birthday was a week before my birth-father’s, so my parents would throw a big shindig for him, and, as an afterthought, just add my name to the cake under his. My birth-father’s birthday was July 5, but he always celebrated it on July 4th so he could throw himself a party with the excuse that it was the Fourth of July. It was a command performance that we were all expected to attend, and did for many years, until my kids were around 8 and10.

When we would get to my parents’ house for the big party, NOTHING would be done. The outdoor furniture wasn’t cleaned, the table wasn’t set, the salad wasn’t made, the ice bucket, coolers, soda, and coffee pot were not set up. Every time we went to my parents’ house for any meal or holiday, they waited for us to get there, and then kept us running in and out and up and down doing all their work for them. Serving and cleaning up would be expected of us as well. We were treated like the unpaid help. I’d be exhausted entertaining my MOTHER’S guests! Eventually I realized that it was much easier and more relaxing to just have the holidays and get-togethers at my own house.

These required-attendance events my parents orchestrated were their opportunity not just to entertain like royalty while we did all the work, but to show off their grandkids, and to pressure me into entertaining their guests on the piano, which was typical of my birth-mother’s compulsion to show off her “perfect little family”. Wow. Free waitressing, free maid service, free cooking, free entertainment, PLUS a gift, and let’s not forget whatever dish or dishes I was assigned to bring- what could be better than that?

Mommy Darling always limited the guest list to her contemporaries, claiming that she “didn’t have room” for my cousins or their kids, only the “older generation”. There was never anyone there our ages, or our kids’ ages. As our children got older, they got more and more bored. July 4th was a big holiday, often a three-day weekend when we didn’t have to work, and my husband and I began wanting to have our own barbeque with our own friends and their children. I didn’t see why my birth-father should be able to prevent us from doing this by tying up the holiday on us every year, especially since it wasn’t even his real birthday, when we, and our kids, could be having fun with friends our own ages. So eventually, we stopped attending his yearly barbeque, started having our own, and had dinner and cake for his birthday on the following weekend, instead.



Most of my cousins and I got married within a few years of each other, my husband and I being the last couple to tie the knot. A decade later, one by one, each of my cousins and their spouses were treated to 10th anniversary parties, lovingly and proudly hosted by their parents, my aunts and uncles. Almost a year before mine and my husband’s tenth anniversary, it apparently began to dawn on my birth-mother that the family might expect her to give us a party as well. So she decided to prepare me in advance not to look forward to any such thing. She coolly informed me that she believed that CHILDREN should be the ones to give their parents parties (naturally- like her child-ME- always had to do!). At the time, my kids were only 8 and 5!

Having been indoctrinated since birth NOT to expect anything from my mother, and to just get over it, I can think of maybe two times in my entire adult life that I ever expressed my hurt, or spoke up with my own expectations, when she was being absurd, unfair, or uncaring. But this time I was so hurt and upset by her selfishness that I knew I had to speak up for my husband and myself. I could not let it pass that she had guilted me into hosting numerous parties for her over the years, and yet, incredibly enough, did not think that she ever had any obligation to reciprocate. Visibly annoyed, I pointed out that I had always hosted all of her parties, and that it was preposterous to expect our little children to throw us a party. I would be the only one, out of all my cousins, who did not have a tenth anniversary party. What was I supposed to tell the relatives who asked me about it- that my mother told me my children should do it?

“What will people think?” had always been my mother’s mantra. Nothing meant more to her than looking good and making a good impression on other people, so of course, NOT giving us a party, and having others be told that she didn’t want to, would have been embarrassing to her. I don’t know why she didn’t think of this before I mentioned it. Maybe she thought she could get away without all the bother, and if anyone asked, I would cover for her by saying that I didn’t really want a party, anyway. Maybe she was counting on me being too embarrassed to admit the truth; that she didn’t care enough about me and my husband to do what all the other parents in the family had done for their married kids. It also might have occurred to her that if she didn’t give us a party, then we wouldn’t be doing it for her anymore, either, and she sure loved HER parties!

So, she did wind up giving us a small affair. But, as usual when my birth-parents were involved, there was a black cloud over what should have been a happy day for my husband and I. Knowing that she had never intended to give us a party, and only did it grudgingly and under protest, because I had turned the tables on her and put her on the spot, made us feel like two cents. As usual, I spent my own anniversary party feeling worthless, not worthy of having a celebration that others would take for granted. Thanking my mother for doing something she didn’t even want to do felt degrading and hypocritical.

That was the last time I hosted a big shindig for her for a very long time. After what she had done, the thought of throwing her another party only reminded me of the hurt and upset she caused on what was supposed to be our big day. Her big events became painful reminders of how selfish and uncaring she was to my husband and me on the ONE occasion that it was OUR TURN to have a big milestone. She and her attitude had taken all the joy out of it for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it for her anymore, and I couldn’t ask my husband to continue helping me honor her, with his money, time, and effort, when the only way she would do something nice for him was if she was backed into a corner.


When my birth-father’s 70th birthday was approaching, my birth-mother pulled me aside for a hush-hush conversation. She claimed that she couldn’t afford a party (this from people who always had new cars, ate out in nice restaurants several times a week, and traveled all over the world), but that he expected one anyway, and was all bent out of shape over it.

Instead of taking the bait and offering to host a party for him, I just shrugged and remained silent. Then she told me that when she had informed him that she didn’t have the money for a party, he said to her “You have daughters, don’t you?” This from a father who never did a thing for me, and didn’t even give me a wedding present! (See the article “The Price Of Independence” on our site).

In other words, he EXPECTED me and my birth-sister to foot the bill and do all the work. Of course, since sis never did a thing, that would mean me. When I asked my mother what her other daughter was going to do, she said she “didn’t know”, which translates to the usual “Absolutely nothing.”

It was one of those Twilight Zone moments so typical in our dealings with our narcissistic abusers. I blinked for a moment as it began to sink in that my parents once again expected me to shoulder the whole burden. Go into debt blowing a load of money I didn’t have, take time off from work and away from my family, shop, decorate, cook, and clean up for days, plaster a phony smile on my face, and play hostess to THEIR friends, all to honor an abuser. MY abuser. Who wouldn’t dream of doing anything nice for me, unless there were strings attached. Who, after all this, wouldn’t even utter a word of thanks, but would just hold court for his friends, with a smug, self-satisfied look on his face, gloating over manipulating me into making him seem, to them, to be “special” and worthy of this big celebration.

For a split second I was thrown for a loop, trying to absorb the unmitigated gall of these people. It was mind-boggling. They HAD to be kidding, right? I mean, his own WIFE wasn’t willing to give him a party. Why would they think I would be willing to?

When I regained my composure, of course I told my mother to forget it. The anniversary parties I had thrown for them in the past were for both of them, but I had never given a party just for him. If he wanted that, then maybe he should have spent the last 40 years of my life being NICE to me. I didn’t owe him anything, and he didn’t deserve to be King for a Day, at least not on my dime.

Not to worry, though. The party happened anyway. The guest of honor just wound up paying for it himself, in a nice restaurant. Despite all the sob stories they might invent, abusers will never suffer or go without what they think is their due. A narcissist is too “special” to allow himself to be deprived of attention or honor. You are Plan A, but there is always a Plan B. To achieve his goal, the narcissist will simply go for the path of least resistance. When he decides he wants something, first he will try to manipulate or force you into doing it, because that would be the easiest way, and if it works, then he won’t have to bother finding some other sucker to do it. But if you refuse, rest assured he will get what he wants anyway, with or without you. So, no need to feel a pang of guilt over turning down his ridiculous demands.


To a narcissist, having someone give a party in his honor is validation- proof positive that he is indeed the special person he thinks he is. So it follows that if anyone else is given a party, then THEY must be special, too. Your abuser can’t have you thinking that you’re special, so don’t get any ideas! And nobody else had better think that you’re special, either. Why, if YOU were “special”, then that would diminish the abuser’s “specialness”, and that is just unacceptable! It might even make you appear to be on an equal footing with the abuser, an especially threatening scenario considering that his entire ability to control you is dependent upon your continuing inferior status.

Abusers do not seek our approval, so what’s in it for them if they do something nice for us? Giving us a party might make others view us as worthy, instead of second-rate, and that would take away from their kingship. Their egos cannot stand for that. They will not “spoil” us by doing something nice for us.

They do not want to give the impression that we matter. The message they are sending is the same life-long message they have always sent- that we are not worthy of their time, effort, or attention. Your abuser isn’t here to build you up. On the contrary, his whole purpose in life is to put you down, and keep you down. Nothing we do, none of our milestones, and none of our accomplishments is worth celebrating. That would be contrary to our abuser’s relentless goal of never letting us forget that we’re nothing, a piece of garbage. We have to know our place and not get too big for our britches. Abusers do not stoop to honor their victims. That would be like the queen throwing a party to honor the downstairs chambermaid.

My birth-mother was always lazy, both of my birth-parents were extremely cheap, and neither one of them cared a whit about me or my feelings. On the very rare occasions that my birth-parents did anything nice for me, it was only because there was no way to avoid it and they had no choice. Doing something nice for me was never something they would do willingly. The idea of making me happy or giving me some pleasure, much less throwing a party in my honor, would not even have computed in their brains. The last thing they wanted to do was make me feel GOOD about myself. What was I even thinking to expect such a thing?

But it never mattered if I was exhausted from having young kids and a full time job and had very little money. Doing for them was always expected of me. Abusers think you OWE it to them. It was inconceivable that I might not treat them like royalty. They EXPECTED to be honored. They expected to have a big fuss made over them. Failure to do this would result in an explosion of rage and retaliation all out of proportion to the offense- except to a narcissist, who believes that putting anything or anyone before her is the worst crime you could commit, and deserving of extreme punishment.

No one else can have anything going on in their lives that is more important or takes precedence over whatever is going on in the narcissist’s life. No one else matters but her. In fact, not spending her birthday with her one year was the reason that my birth-mother finally disowned me.


My older son played varsity football in his senior year of high school, and Homecoming Day fell on his grandmother’s birthday. His brother was also a student at the same school, and my husband was an alumnus. We were all looking forward to a wonderful time.

It was an all-day affair. There was the Homecoming parade in the morning, my son was playing in the game in the afternoon, and then he was going to the homecoming dance that night.

It was one of the biggest days of our son’s high school career. My husband, myself and our other son planned to support him and celebrate with him, attend the game, cheer and take pictures of the parade, and of him and his friends going to the dance. Because of this, we were unable to celebrate my birth-mother’s birthday on the exact day on which it fell, but we could have celebrated it on the next day, or the next week.

However, instead of being reasonable, feeling happy for my family, and thinking of someone other than herself for a change, my mother reacted by getting insulted, and stopped speaking to me. She told me that if we didn’t celebrate her birthday with her, from that day forward, she would pretend that I lived 250 miles away (Odd number for her to choose, since that is exactly how far away my birth-sister, her OTHER daughter, had moved, and God knows SHE wasn’t going to come home for mom’s birthday. A little resentment there, perhaps?)

Backing me into a corner on this was not a wise move on my birth-mother’s part. This was a huge day in my son’s life, and I was determined that he was going to enjoy it without my mother’s usual black cloud ruining his big event, like she always managed to ruin all of mine. He was never going to play football again in his life! Imagine forcing me to make a choice between my child and her! Needless to say, she lost, and I chose my son. I simply could not believe how selfish, immature and babyish she was, like a spoiled little brat, and how she didn’t care one iota about her grandson and his feelings.

That was the last time we ever spoke to each other. She disowned me over this. And as for me, I had finally had enough, so I decided to leave well enough alone and stay disowned. It was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.


My family and I refused to go to my parents’ 50th Anniversary and my birth-father’s 80th birthday. Things had deteriorated significantly by then and we were just done with all the drama. I couldn’t see myself being such a hypocrite, buying them gifts, and choking on wishing him a Happy Birthday, and both of them a Happy Anniversary, just to put on a show in front of their friends. I was fed up with being used so that they could impress other people. Their marriage had been 50 years of hell, and I could not imagine what there was to celebrate.

I have no idea why they even invited us since they were barely speaking to us at the time. Most folks wouldn’t be at all surprised if people they were on the outs with didn’t come to their parties, but my birth-mother, always on the alert for an opportunity to milk something for sympathy and attention, claimed to be “hurt” when we didn’t show up. Poor, poor Isabel. What a terrible humiliation. And bad, bad Renee. How could I be so mean?

But this time, I don’t think my mother got very far with her pity ploy. Interestingly enough, only a handful of people went to either event, because by now, nobody else could stand my parents, or their control and histrionics, either. After a lifetime of selfishness, thoughtlessness, creating public scenes, and mistreating others, it looked like my parents had finally run out of sympathetic shoulders to cry on. Other people were tiring of their unending drama, and starting to realize that my parents were getting what they deserved. Nobody was willing to put up with them anymore, and most of our relatives were very understanding and supportive of our decision to stay away. In their senior years, when they should have been surrounded by loving family and friends for their big events, instead, my parents were finally reaping what they had sown throughout their entire lives.


For most of my life, it made me very uncomfortable to celebrate my birthday. It meant nothing to me except hurt and painful memories. It brought back my P.T.S.D. symptoms, the anxiety, and the stress. It was nothing but a big negative in my mind. There were no positive associations at all. All I wanted to do was hide under a rock until it was all over.

I have heard the same story from many Adult Children of abusers. It makes me angry to think that our abusers have stolen this from us. This applies not just to birthdays, but to anniversaries, weddings, the births of our children, holidays, and every other happy milestone in our lives that our abusers would just love to spoil. It’s just not right. Why should we allow them to take our birthdays from us? Or any other happy occasion? There is no reason to give them that much power.

The only way to take our birthdays and other big days back is to make up our minds to celebrate in new and better ways, with our own happy traditions, and to exclude our abusers. Just don’t invite them. If you do, instead of eager anticipation, looking forward to a nice time, and enjoying yourself, you will spend the entire evening, as well as the weeks leading up to your big event, dreading the moment when they will turn your lovely celebration into an embarrassing, upsetting debacle. Even if you have resigned yourself to putting up with yet another birthday disaster, surely you owe it to your spouse, your children, and your other guests to be able to come and enjoy a nice, relaxed evening without all the hostility and histrionics.

You’re not inviting anyone else whose company you don’t enjoy, are you? Or anyone else who wouldn’t wish you well and want the best for you? Or anyone else who can’t control themselves? Then why would you set yourself up for it, by including the one person you know will ruin everything?

Maybe we can take a page from the wise parents who give their children a “kid’s” party with their friends, and a separate “family” party, with the old folks who can’t take 3 hours in a room full of screaming kids. We can separate the sheep from the goats- have a quick coffee-and-cake with our parents, and then the “real” party, or at least a nice dinner out, with our friends and loved ones. Or we can eliminate our abusers altogether, and start fresh, making new memories to replace the old. Make no apologies, just do it. If you feel as if you must give a reason to your friends or family, simply explain that “Dad has trouble controlling himself, so we’re going to have a nice evening without having to worry about his behavior”.

Only after having a few year’s worth of birthdays with NO ABUSERS in attendance, will we be able to condition ourselves to start associating our happy occasions with GOOD things, and good things only. Over time, we can retrain ourselves to view happy occasions in a different light, and to associate them with the positive instead of the negative.

In addition to not including our abusers in our celebrations, we have to give ourselves permission to stay away from their big events as well, and above all, to not allow ourselves to be guilted into throwing them the parties which will only bring us heartache, stress and exhaustion, without a shred of gratitude. Just because they expect it, does not mean we have to do it. Before you agree to do anything for a narcissist, ask yourself if the shoe was on the other foot, would the narcissist do the same thing for you? An essential step in our own recovery is refusing to have any more one-way relationships. We must learn to say no, to avoid abusers and their drama, and to keep them at arm’s length if that’s what it takes to protect ourselves.

It was only after I realized that my own young children, who only associated birthdays with positive, fun memories, WANTED to celebrate Mommy’s birthday as well as their own, that I began to force myself to acknowledge my own birthday, and to allow others to do for me what I never thought I deserved. By the grace of God, and nurtured by the love of my husband and my own children, I began to be able to come out of my birthday-avoidance shell. It is still not entirely comfortable for me, and sometimes I am filled with a feeling of impending doom, like if I relax and celebrate my birthday, something terrible is going to happen. But it is getting better with time, and as the years pass, I’m enjoying my birthday, and the loving efforts of my family, more and more.