Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Left Alone on a Birthday

DEAR NATALIE: It's my birthday weekend, and instead of taking me out or doing something fun for me, my longtime partner decided to leave town and do his own thing. Obviously, this really hurt me. I'm not sure how to navigate these waters. I'm really angry. I feel like I always put him first, and then when it's my time to have something nice happen for once, he just doesn't seem to care. What do I do? -- Sick of This Pattern

DEAR SICK OF THIS PATTERN: We show people how to treat us. It sounds as though for a long time now you have been the giver in the relationship, and he has been the taker. Guess what? Givers and takers never work well (because one person is always happy and the other is always miserable). This weekend may be a good time to reflect on what it is that YOU want and need from a partner. Make a list of things that have to change in order for the relationship to progress. When your partner returns from his "getaway," show him the list and say, "I am feeling neglected and hurt by what I feel is a pattern of destructive behavior. If the following things do not change, I have to rethink the relationship." If he scoffs at this or tries to fix it for a few days and then reverts to old ways, you have to make a decision. Do you want to be a doormat for the rest of your life, never getting anything in return for your love and devotion, or do you want to find a partner who also gives from the heart? The choice, albeit a hard one, is yours.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Speak what you want, not what you have. Want a new job? Want a promotion? Speak it. The more you tell your contacts about what you are looking for, the more likely you will get it. By putting the word out there, you are allowing someone to come into your life that can change it for the better. It never, ever hurts to say, "This is what I am looking for. Can you help me?" Think big.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)