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The Importance of Communication and Dedication in a Relationship in The Birthday Party, a Short Story by Katherine Brush

Happy Birthday to You, is the song that instantly makes the recipient feel awkward and left wondering what to do while it is being sung. “Do I sing?” “Do I awkwardly sit here?” “Do I take a selfie?” These are the questions the recipient is commonly left with, and unfortunately there are no right answers. Fortunately, Katharine Brush’s short story, The Birthday Party, provides us with a way to approach this: scolding your wife. Katherine’s short story is about a wife who gives her husband a surprise birthday cake at a restaurant. Instead of being grateful like one would expect, the husband scolds her for this act of affection. The husband’s anger toward his wife, demonstrates the importance of communication and dedication in a relationship, because without it, the relationship is broken.

Communication is the keystone of a relationship. In The Birthday Party, the wife and the husband display to the reader what happens when there is no communication in a relationship: surprises turn into possible relationship ending events. The wife’s simple, yet affectionate act of getting her husband a birthday cake, might have ended their marriage due to their lack of communication. While unfortunate, this is a theme of the story which translates into real life relationships. According to YourTango.com’s poll of 100 mental health professionals, lack of communication was the number one reason for divorce. This is because humans are historically social creatures, who’ve relied on advanced forms of communication, specifically speech and emotions, to survive and evolve. And according to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, traits that help a species survive will continue to flourish in future generations. Similarly, the human desire for communication from their mate, ultimately translates into successfully raising child. Fundamentally, mating is the only purpose of a relationship from an evolutionary standpoint. But, humans like to give purpose to their lives. This translates into many humans to choose suboptimal ways to live their lives: choosing a mate for life. Ultimately, changing the original purpose of a relationship.

The change of purpose in a relationship causes the foundation of a relationship to be dedication. When applied properly, dedication to another individual can be an extremely powerful bond that holds a relationship together. Traditionally, that’s what is promised at weddings: “Do you (Person A) take (Person B) to be your lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold, in sickness and in health… keeping yourself solely unto them for as long as you both shall live?” Unfortunately, commitment isn’t as common as it once was in the early 20th century, simply because the documents for a divorce became an extremely to obtain. The husband, from The Birthday Party, might have had divorce in his mind at his birthday. The author never tells the reader what the husband told his wife, but it is safe to assume that he was no longer dedicated to his wife. Their relationship was one sided and coming to an end. This coincides with the USA’s sudden boom in divorces rates post WWII because divorce started to become socially acceptable. The two parties in a relationship were no longer pushed by society to stay together during the hard times. And naturally, our brains are wired to take shortcuts, like breaking one’s promise to their spouse when times get hard: divorcing their spouse.

The two factors that will ultimately determine whether or not a relationship will work are: communication and dedication. Some relationships aren’t meant to work out; that’s a fact of life. But, Katharine Brush is advising those in a relationship to communicate and stay dedicated to each other with “The Birthday Party”. Each party should do their best to stay together and work out their differences because they might have been the one.

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