Etiquette For Exes: How To Handle The 'Happy Birthday' Text

by Jessica Schirripa

When your ex uses your birthday as an excuse to reach out, is it really because he or she genuinely wants to wish you a happy birthday, or is it an opportunity to reopen the floodgates and come back into your life?

It shouldn’t matter.

It's all about how you choose to handle it.

Allow me to paint the picture.

It’s been six months since your broken-hearted meltdown, your hair is finally recovering from the bleaching process and spontaneous decision to get blunt bangs and you have yet to speak to the culprit since the dramatic last goodbye.

But your birthday (or any other holiday, for that matter) is coming up, and you are already anticipating the return.

Whether it's a text or email, it's best to respond short and abrupt, if you even choose to engage at all.

Don’t take the bait and allow yourself to fall into the bear trap.

Remember that you are just starting to appreciate yourself again.

As a firm believer in "The No Contact Rule" when it comes to break-up behavior, the book references this tactic:

These occasions become opportunities to ensure that you haven’t been forgotten and to place yourself front and center in their mind. Really, is a card or a message going to make this person change or regret missing you, race back into your life and sweep you off your feet?

It’s a total catch-22 because a part of you will be sad if he or she doesn't, but you'll be even angrier if he or she does.

What is a guy or gal to do?

I think if we stop analyzing the whys and just keep moving forward, we will maintain control and avoid the temptation of pain revisited.

After all, it’s your birthday!

It should be a happy day full of celebration, rather than a day spent questioning the meaning behind the well-wishes.

But if you’re wondering if your ex possibly caught “When Harry Met Sally” on TV and is now feeling some type of way about you again, know that's never the case.

My most recent birthday was time for yet another epiphany.

The messages were pouring in, and I was feeling special as anyone should.

However, this year also brought more “t-EX-t messages” than ever before.

Something was in the air.

It could have been my relaxed attitude toward confidently entering the last year of my 20s, but then it happened.

He got to me.

“Happy Birthday, Jess,” he wrote.

My immediate reaction was, “Don’t you f*cking say my name!”

The next phase of emotions included calming myself down and laughing at my own idiocy for going right back to that place.

We always give our exes more credit and power than they deserve.

Do they want to bury the hatchet?

Is it because we have so much history?

If I reply positively, will they no longer feel the guilt?

Is this closure?


Stop asking questions.

This person’s feelings should no longer have control over you.

The words were simply a gesture, and unless this is an attempt to rekindle a flame, there is no need to conjure up some false story in your head to justify his or her “undying devotion.”

Most often than not, it was basic protocol or a vapid plan of attack for an ulterior motive.

I often go back and forth with feeling compelled to acknowledge my ex's sentiment.

But remember that birthdays only last for one day.

The effects of misplaced expectations and unhealthy habits last far longer.

Continue to invest your energy into a positive attitude that will help you to move forward.