Frustrated with Your Spouse? Change the Situation
Sunday, October 16, 2011Tweet
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!