My partner’s 50th birthday is coming up, but he insists he doesn’t want to do anything to celebrate. I think he’s unhappy about growing older, and maybe he’s reflecting on the difference in our ages (I am 33). He is always giving me little gifts and taking me out and I’d really like to make a fuss of him – and let him know that I won’t stop loving him just because he’s got a few more miles on the clock. But I don’t want to upset him or get it wrong. Do you have any ideas?
Sarah, via email
I most certainly have. Do exactly what he asks. Ignore his birthday.
I’m 63 now and I can confidently state that my 50th was the WORST birthday of my life. Forty was a breeze; 60 a doddle. I know so many people who agree that their half century was, for reasons they don’t fully understand, the most difficult of the lot. I spent mine on a plane to somewhere hot and sunny, sipping G&T and pretending to be excited and happy. In fact I was depressed and sad. It’s stupid, I know, but it’s just how it was.
I have a brother-in-law who was so traumatised at turning 50 that he announced he was going to simply ignore all future such anniversaries, and he asked for his family’s co-operation. So we never send cards to him or make congratulatory phone calls. It’s definitely made him happier. (Interestingly, he now looks decades younger than his age: maybe living in denial has something going for it!).
Point is, this forthcoming 50th is your partner’s watershed, not yours. If his fervent wish is to pretend it’s not happening, then that’s the birthday present you should give him. Find another anniversary for presents, cards and flowers: perhaps the day you met, or went on your first date.
By the way, I don’t believe your 17-year-age gap has anything to do with this. On his big day, he won’t be thinking, “She’s 33 and I’m 50;” he’ll be thinking: “Oh my sweet Lord. How did this happen? I’m 50!”
Give him some space to suffer in.
Richard Madeley's column is published on telegraph.co.uk every Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 11am