Where Logic Meets Love

Frustrated with Your Spouse? Change the Situation

Sunday, October 16, 2011

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Frustrated with Your Spouse? Change the Situation | Faith Permeating Life

I love uncovering new life lessons, particularly when it comes to my marriage. The last time I shared a boldface marriage lesson it was about having things done for you vs. your way. Here's another one that hit me recently:

When your partner does something repeatedly that annoys you, see if there's a way to change the situation instead of trying to change your partner.

Mike is in charge of cooking in our family. It makes sense for us because he enjoys cooking and is good at it: he's worked in food prep and food service for a long time and now works as a restaurant manager. He's also very good at whipping up a meal out of whatever we have on hand, whereas my detail-oriented brain has to follow a precise recipe or I freak out.

He took over the cooking and grocery shopping entirely when I got mono last year, which is also when he was working part time. Now, however, he has a full-time, 50-hour-a-week job, which leaves less time for meal planning and grocery shopping. Then we started subscribing to a CSA, which meant we got a lot of unfamiliar vegetables that Mike wasn't used to cooking with and didn't have time to look up recipes for.

The upshot of all this was that there started to be more nights than before that I would get home and Mike would not only not have dinner made, but not have any ideas of what he was going to make for dinner. Then he'd ask me what we should have, and my reaction was deer-in-the-headlights followed by anxiety and frustration.

It was also causing Mike to ask to go out to eat more often so he wouldn't have to come up with a meal. This was annoying to me because we have a budget for eating out that we try to make last the whole month, but we'd end up using it up in the first two weeks and then he'd try to negotiate borrowing from other budgets or using leftover money from a previous month so we could go out again.

And we kept throwing away vegetables that went bad before they got used. I was getting increasingly frustrated because Mike kept saying, "I need to look up recipes for these vegetables" and then not doing it, and I didn't feel like I should be finding recipes for him when dinner is his area of responsibility. I had told him I was willing to help if he asked me for help, but I wasn't going to do it for him.

Finally, the other night, after a meal of green beans and rice, he finally asked for my help finding recipes. Then the next morning, I read this article from 'Becca about how she plans meals even though her partner does the cooking. A lightbulb went off, I texted Mike, and he said he would be perfectly happy to follow a plan that was put in front of him.

It's an approach that plays to both of our strengths: I am good at planning, doing Internet searching, and making lists. Mike likes grocery shopping and cooking, whereas I hate both.

Previously the idea of planning meals stressed me out because I hate cooking, but now that I've realized I can separate planning from doing, it makes a lot of sense. I'm actually kind of excited about the whole thing: doing research, making up a grocery list, knowing ahead of time what we're going to have.

I'll need to develop a good system for myself to figure out what's on hand every week, but I think I'll be able to get it to a point where I can get things planned pretty quickly every Sunday. If anyone has tips or helpful websites to share, please do!

I'm glad I hit upon this solution because the path we were on, and my nagging, wasn't making Mike any more likely to plan meals, it was just causing me more and more frustration and him more and more anxiety. It's so much easier to change a situation than to change another person!


  1. I'm so glad my article helped!

    One thing that helps me in planning (guess I'll add it to my article!) is having two lists posted on the freezer door: One says what we have in the freezer, so that I can think about it without holding the freezer door open and wasting energy or making myself cold (I hate being cold!) while digging around in there. The other says what highly perishable ingredients we have--whether they're in the refrigerator, fruit bowl, or wherever--so I can prioritize using up those things.

    Keeping both lists accurate is challenging. Both of us tend to forget to erase items when we use them up, because we're busy cooking! So I double-check if I feel at all skeptical that we still have that food or that there's enough left for the meal I'm planning.

  2. @'Becca
    Thanks for the tip! I have a feeling we wouldn't keep our lists very updated either, but it's something to try.

    I looked up a lot of suggestions online, and the system I like the most is pretty simple: we'll have a standard set of categories (e.g., pasta, crockpot meal, Mexican) and then I just have to pick a meal for each category every week based on what veggies we want to use up, write down all the ingredients, and transfer the ones we don't have on hand onto a grocery list. We'll see how it goes :)


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