Has this ever happened to you? Your girlfriend of a few months greets you after work with a big bouquet of flowers, a candlelight dinner and a red velvet box containing something gold, expensive, and far too intimate for your current relationship level. Bewildered, you ask her what this is all about, and she replies, "Come on, honey, you know. I think our special day deserves a celebration, don't you?"
At this point, your heart stops beating and you realize, with considerable dismay, that this is obviously some important milestone in your relationship, a milestone so momentous that you forgot about it completely. You know that you have to tread very carefully here, and so you fly through your memory banks with the speed of a cutting-edge computer. Her birthday, your birthday, Valentine's Day? Christmas? You're not married, it can't be an anniversary. Nothing seems right and you clear your throat nervously before carefully asking "Our special day?"
She responds in one of two ways: if you're unlucky, she'll run sobbing from the room, lock herself in the bathroom for three hours and make a dramatic scene of packing her overnight bag and going back to her place for the night. If fortune is smiling on you, however, she'll merely smile patronizingly at you for being a thick-headed man and say "Oh, you big silly. It's our anniversary."
"Anniversary of what?" you ask, thinking back to the day you met, or your first date, both of which took place four and a half months ago and hardly qualify as anniversary-worthy - but you could see how she might be going there. "Anniversary of when we met?"
"No, silly, that was three weeks ago." She says. "Remember the first time we went to visit your parents? And over dinner your mother asked if we were serious or not? Well today is the fourth month anniversary of the day you told your mother we might be getting serious." She plants a big kiss on your cheek. "Happy anniversary, sweetie."
You go through the rest of the evening trying to get into the romantic spirit of it, but all you can think of is... "Huh?"
If this sounds like you, you're not alone.
Why are women like this? Why is a wedding anniversary, or the third anniversary of the day you met, or the seventh week anniversary of the first time you saw a movie together, so incredibly important to women? Why don't women just appreciate your ongoing relationship, why do they need these constant reminders of past events? And why do they get so crushed if you don't view anniversaries the way they do.
There are a couple of possible explanations for this. First, for a lot of women, a successful relationship has taken the place of a rewarding career - it is something they pined for, worked at achieving, worried over, spent considerable time, effort and money to maintain and something that, in the end, they're not at all confident will be around forever. They see landing a man, and luring him into an exclusive, committed relationship, the way Lance Armstrong views the Tour de France - a long, grueling competition with worthy adversaries, bad luck lurking around every corner, and a huge champagne-fueled celebration at the end of it. These women feel victorious when they finally walk down the aisle, or when they experience those first few indications that this relationship may become serious, and that's why they have to keep reminding themselves of these little triumphs every so often when the "routine" of a relationship isn't rewarding enough anymore.
It's a sad fact - many women are not really interested in the "relationship" the way men are. Women want to be wanted, women want acknowledgment that they've "won" over other women, or that they've "won out" over a man's so-called natural aversion to monogamy. Women seem to need the thrill of victory over and over again, and aren't content with the day-to-day comforts of monogamous bliss. That's why so many women get bored with a man once he falls deeply in love with them - they don't want a lifelong, constant source of mutual love and respect, they want the next conquest, they want to bring down the next man, they want to feel the eyes of another man lust for them and pursue them and give in to them. Once they have him, they get bored and move on again, and on it goes. But while they're in these serial monogamous relationships, the signposts of their success, the Anniversaries, are all-important and not to be trifled with.
This was the day I got you to admit you loved me, this was the day you threw out your ex-girlfriend's phone number, and this was the day I made you overcome your fear of commitment and ask me to move in with you - I'm always going to remember these days, and so will you. These are our anniversaries, and don't you ever forget it.
Often, too, women are unsure of themselves and of the relationship. They are so unsure of their man's love (especially if he balks at marriage), they are so terrified by the rampant adultery that seems to plague committed relationships, and so focused on their appearance that they think gaining ten pounds will mean the end of their love that they cling to "proof" of the success of their relationship, or happier times. If she isn't feeling romance in her everyday life, if she feels threatened by thinner, prettier women, if she senses her man is lukewarm on commitment and is drifting towards other women, she takes comfort in the outward signs of approval that she experienced at the beginning of the relationship, and wants to relive them as a way of making herself feel better and encouraging her man to rekindle his romantic behavior towards her. If she can remind him of the breathless, giddy, love-drunk way he felt that first night they made love or the first time he talked about having a baby with her, then maybe he'll feel that way again now.
Sometimes, too, married or committed men make the mistake of thinking that marrying a woman was all he ever needed to do to show his love for her, and that from that day onward romantic gestures, candlelight dinners, flowers, jewelry or old-fashioned dates are not necessary, that she should just "know" he loves her and not fuss about things like candy hearts and valentines. While it's true that men show their love mostly by fidelity and support, devotion, protection, by providing for the family and being a steady friend and faithful lover- and not by stuffed animals - it's important to understand that some women need a few more overt gestures from time to time, and may be making a big deal out of anniversaries as a way of telling you so. That's why it's doubly painful if you forget, or if you make it clear that this day means nothing to you at all - you've forgotten a special day and you've proven that you're not attuned to what she needs and wants anymore. No wonder it makes some women so sad.
Sometimes the desire to acknowledge anniversaries is fairly benign. For some women, lonely throughout life and longing for a stable, happy relationship, the anniversary of some special event means that the event was so meaningful to her, so important in psychological way, that she feels a special delight in reliving the event. Some people view anniversaries the way they celebrate their child's birthday every year, as a special reminder that something wonderful happened on this day. And sometimes people like to celebrate "milestone" numbers, like five, ten, twenty-five etc as some sort of testament to their success at being married. Both men and women like to celebrate these kinds of anniversaries, and doing so is just a charming, romantic thing to do.
Anniversaries should be special, they should be relatively rare and meaningful in themselves without artificial "romance" being infused into them. They should never be about conquest or victory in a relationship, or a way to bolster self esteem. Celebrating the day you got married, once a year, is a nice, romantic thing, to do but you will only dilute the meaning of "special days" if you insist on celebrating "monthaversaries" or the anniversary of the first time he let you leave a toothbrush at his place. Realize that a gentle touch is always better than a forced hand, and that your life and your relationship has to be about more than days circled on a calendar or memories of times past. And remember too that there's often more going on when she insists on celebrating special days than you might initially think.
So what do you do if your girlfriend wants to celebrate the fourth month anniversary of the day you said you might be getting serious? That's up to you. Figure out why she's doing it, and if you love her, give her a real anniversary to celebrate every year.