Love & Relationships

How To Handle The Ex Who Always Calls To Wish You A Happy Birthday

My ex-boyfriend calls me every year to wish me a happy birthday.

I can't remember a birthday that didn't include him since I was twelve. We've known each other since we were kids, and without fail, I know that a birthday will not pass without me hearing from him. In most years, he's been the first person I hear from, and at first, it was nostalgic and reminded me of when we were together.

He was always the first voice I heard on my birthday, and he had this Sagittarius way of making this Aries day feel like the national holiday they were always supposed to be, just like my dad always did; I still remember the first birthday present he ever bought me. It was a Ne-Yo CD, and I listened to it so much after he bought it that it wouldn't stop skipping.

We dated for five years, but we were young, so when we broke up, while it was difficult to adjust to the new normal, our continuing to keep in touch on birthdays made us feel connected in some way. It's become so normal that when I talk to my friends on my birthday, they'll ask, "Did _____ call you today?" And my response is always, "Yeah, he did."

Whether I was single, in a relationship, or dating a guy he could not stand, he was calling (and some years texting) no matter what.

Were there times when I 100% thought, is this healthy? Is he only calling so he can keep tabs on me? Should I be accepting calls and FaceTime from a man I'm no longer with on my favorite day of the year?


When trying to decide if communicating with him was healthy at all, I went through a range of emotions and asked myself various questions: Do I want to still hear from him because it feels good to know he still cares? Is the need to hear from him rooted in ego, and if so, have I not done enough self-work? Would I be okay with dating a man who called his ex every year?

But none of the answers to those questions made my decision any more straightforward for me.

The truth is that I answer his birthday calls, and I wish him a happy birthday in return yearly because, on some level, we still love each other, and anyone who tells you they no longer love their ex is lying to you.

When you really love someone, you will always love them. Is love the same? Not always, but I think we look at love and connection as this black-and-white thing, and the truth is most relationships are complex. There was a time in my life when I looked at this man and felt all the romantic love in the world, and couldn't imagine a life without him in it as my partner.

I thought we'd get married, have babies, and that his hands were the safest place in the world for me and my heart to live in.

But as you age, you realize that love isn't enough and life isn't like the movies.

You can love someone who deeply loves you and still know that you don't need to be together. Now I look at him and love him so much that I want him to have the best life possible, even if that life doesn't include me, and I know he feels the same way. Our love has transitioned from a romantic love to a love that cheers for one another from the sidelines of our lives.

But does that mean that because I'm no longer in love with him, I don't want to hear from him on my birthday? No, because it still matters to me - he still matters to me.

Now, don't hold me to this as my final opinion on the situation because, in one, two, or ten years, I could be happily married and tell you that we haven't spoken to one another on our birthdays in years. But I could also tell you that even with a happy marriage, I still maintain a healthy relationship with my ex with boundaries. The truth is I don't know. Only time will tell.

What I can tell you is that as a Black woman navigating this world, often feeling like no one gives a damn about us, having someone who has loved me since I was a child continue to reach out to me on my favorite day in the year, doesn't feel like something wrong, it feels like the care that I deserve.

Not all exes are created equal, and not all couples who were once together hate each other. We went through a period where we couldn't stand one another, but we'd both tell you that that was due to resentment of things not working out.

Ex Etiquette: How To Handle an Ex That Calls or Texts You ‘Happy Birthday’


If you're open to maintaining communication with an ex, ask yourself these questions.

Delmaine Donson/Getty Images

Now, my ex isn't your ex, and I understand that there are men out there who will use your birthday as a way to find their way back into your life, heart, and bed with a text message. If you're still maintaining communication with your ex with boundaries, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Is this a person genuinely caring about me, or was this a relationship that brought out the worst in me?

It's imperative to ask this question because you don't ever need to hear from someone who broke you. Breaking up with someone is one thing, but continuing to keep in touch with a person who intentionally broke your spirit, heart, and self-esteem is never acceptable.

2. Why do I want to keep in touch? Is it because I want to get back together?

Keeping the lines of communication open with an ex in the hopes of rekindling the relationship can lead to heartbreak all over again. If the two of you have made a conscious choice to stay in touch with boundaries, you should know why that is, and if your goal is to reconcile, you need to make sure you're on the same page.

3. How do you feel about your ex as a person?

Is this a person that you'd have in your life if you never dated? Are they kind-hearted, genuine, and, overall, good people? These are questions that you should ask yourself because love can blind you, and you want to make sure that you're entertaining a person worth your time, even as a friend.

4. Is this relationship impacting my ability to find someone new?

While I'm all for healthy communication with an ex, you don't want to block new blessings by holding up entirely too much space in your life with an old partner. Make space for the new love that you deserve at all times.

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Stacey and Dalen Spratt

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.

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