Poor Meal Planning Can End Your Marriage

(Image/quickenloans.com)

(Image/quickenloans.com)

“My DH (Darling Husband) makes me want to kill him over dinner. Kill him. I don’t know why 30 minutes that occur exactly the same way each day can drive us to such rage. Marriages would be so much better without dinner.” – A wife, speaking for many

Before my wife and I were married, we sometimes fought about dinner plans.

I thought it was stupid and wasn’t afraid to say so. Like: Just eat food! Who cares?! I thought.

Figuring out what to do for fun, making sure I was getting to class or work, keeping my schedule clear for Cleveland Browns football games—now THOSE were important.

Having a conversation about what we were eating later that night, or God forbid, later in the week? Who in the hell could ever know what they might want? Why would someone subject themselves to that? And why does it matter?

I didn’t care. It’s because I was 21, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, pasta with canned sauce, Hamburger Helper, fast food, pizza, Chinese takeout, and boxed macaroni & cheese weren’t just acceptable—they were awesome.

But she cared. “We can’t eat the same three things every night. People eat dinner, Matt. Eating dinner requires a little thought as to what might be needed from the store to make those meals.”

It all came back to me while reading this comment on an internet message board:

“My H seems to think that dinner is magic and just shows up. No planning, no groceries required, etc. When I ask him on Sunday at 8 a.m. what he wants for dinner, he gets all annoyed. Um, I have to defrost or go to the store. Thanks,” she wrote.

I remember getting annoyed about things like this, too. I’d be watching or reading or playing something, and then my girlfriend/fiancée/wife would have the audacity to ask me what I wanted to eat for dinner.

Sometimes the easy and delicious path of least resistance like ordering pizza would win the day. Other times it wouldn’t because she wanted to, like, eat vegetables and stuff.

On the list of Common Marriage Domestic Disputes I perceive wives to be “right” about that accidentally selfish shitty husbands should come around on if they want to stay married, Dinner was the first one to rear its head in my relationship, and one of the few I actually did a decent job of adjusting to through the years, but maybe that’s only because I have a legitimate passion for cooking.

Dinner is one of those things that starts the long, slow, nearly imperceptible fracturing and eventual breakup of marriages.

It seems like such a harmless and innocuous topic. An argument about dinner? DINNER?! That’s one of those topics boyfriends/fiancés/husbands get pissed about once it transitions from Typical Disagreement to Actual Fight.

Ummm. I LOVE you. LOVE. Stop starting fights over stupid crap like food! Your warped sense of reality is really disturbing!

We do love them, us oblivious guys. But we also think anyone who would FIGHT over what to have for dinner has serious issues. We think we’re cool for giving her a pass. We think we’re loving for staying with her even though this is one of those “batshit-crazy” moments.

Because someone linked to one of my posts in a message board thread, and I clicked on it to discover what it was about, I stumbled on this GBCN (Goodbye Cruel Nest) thread where the original poster asked the community if she was overreacting to a situation with her husband.

The quick-and-dirty version is that she does most of the domestic heavy lifting around the house, mostly taking care of their daughter, and mostly always taking care of housework and dinner prep. For a short time, their routine was interrupted when on Tuesdays, she couldn’t get home until 8:30 p.m. instead of the typical 7 p.m.

When she’d come home and there was no food prepared or thought put into dinner, she asked if he could do that moving forward, and was surprised he hadn’t thought of it on his own. For a few weeks after, he did.

Then, another Tuesday rolled around, and when she got home—no dinner. He forgot, he said.

“It just seems very ‘clueless husband’ to me to be all ‘oh, dinner? you don’t say!’ especially after I have laid out my expectations to him in the past,” she said.

I started reading through the thread.

I was struck once again by how common these Shitty Husband traits seem to be. I thought it was interesting how many wives reported “We’re married to the same husband!” but it didn’t really surprise me because these patterns emerge in divorce story after divorce story to the point where it all starts to look depressingly predictable.

Five different wives (speaking for many!) said essentially the same thing:

“I would be annoyed but that sounds like my husband exactly.”

“I would be mad, but this is totally something my H would do.”

“In short, yes it would drive me crazy, because I’ve seen it happen in my house before. But I’d probably just remind him (‘nag’) over and over in the future.”

“My husband is lovely, but spacey sometimes, so I find it most effective if I articulate expectations.”

“If I don’t spell it out, he’s clueless. He admits this and welcomes a list so he knows what to do. Why stuff that is so simple to us is so difficult for them, I’ll never understand.”

This is hard for wives to understand sometimes, and I don’t know how to explain it, but I’ve tried. I don’t know why it’s so common for men to be oblivious, thoughtless and clueless about things like this.

Probably some combination of parental enabling while growing up and poor boundary enforcement from their partners early in relationships.

Divorce. It’s What’s for Dinner.

Will she REALLY leave you, break up your family, and start a new life because you leave dishes by the sink?

Yep.

And she’ll do the same thing over your failure to help with dinner.

“It would bother me immensely. IMMENSELY.” – A wife, speaking for many

And divorce is so much shittier than meal planning. It really is.

The original author of the dinner post asked whether her anger was justified. Like, borderline-divorce-level pissed.

82% said yes. 93% said yes or maybe.

“The helpless husband act makes me rage. A grown man should be able to use his own brain and realize dinner is a thing that he needs to take care of.” – A wife, speaking for many

When husbands blow off their responsibilities around the house, no matter how innocent the inaction was, nor how irrational they consider their wives to be, they make her feel one of two things: Rage or Like His Mom.

As those experiences pile up, things tend to end badly.

Bad News—You Don’t Get to Dictate What Matters to Other People

I don’t know whether it’s because I was smart, but immature and unwise; or because I was a monumentally huge asshole with zero self-awareness; or because I was actually a dumbass moron, but I used to think my opinions about things were a fair metric for evaluating situations and how I should treat people.

I think I still do this, but tend to recognize it much faster than never, as was the case back then.

My wife was upset about DISHES. How petty! I’m right and she’s wrong, so now I don’t have to care about the thing that’s upsetting her!

My wife was upset about DINNER. Her capacity for love is smaller than mine, therefore SHE is the one who sucks! I know how to really love in marriage and she doesn’t as evidenced by her valuing silly things like meal planning!

The crash back to earth is painful and embarrassing, but I’d encourage everyone to try the life strategy of not automatically assuming you’re right about everything, which forces you to assume the worst about the intellectual and emotional capacity of everyone who disagrees with you.

It’s not a good thing, especially since you’re probably wrong.

My wife wasn’t REALLY upset about the dishes.

“Guys, the point isn’t that [she] and her H could eat a quick dinner. It’s that she cooks on ‘her nights’ (i.e. every night they don’t eat out) and he doesn’t even think of dinner if she doesn’t remind him. It is not on [her] to come up with quick easy meals because her H can’t/won’t cook.” – A wife, speaking for many

My wife wasn’t REALLY upset about the dinner thing.

“I feel like we are giving the H all these excuses for why there was no dinner. We are giving him an excuse that maybe dinner isn’t important to him or not something he cares about.
It doesn’t matter. It was important to [her] that she eat. So even if she came home and he said ‘here honey, I made you a bowl of cereal’ at least it showed that he considered that she may want to eat. He didn’t even consider her needs. She got home and mentioned dinner and he acted like she suggested they paint the living room
Sometimes I make some dinner for my [daughter] and I and I know it won’t last for reheat but I always ask my H when he will be home or I suggest he get something at work because I didn’t make him anything. I always consider his empty stomach.”
– A wife, speaking for many

My wife was upset because when I had numerous opportunities to demonstrate—not even GOOD partnership—but simply EQUAL partnership which would have almost kind of-sort of come close to giving her as much as I was receiving, I didn’t.

It wasn’t intentional.

That was always my defense. Accidental neglect.

Accidentally killing people isn’t nearly as horrible as intentionally murdering them, but the result for the innocent victim is always the same.

A husband must learn to see past the dirty dish, and see past the forgotten or neglected dinner.

A husband must learn to anticipate needs, and actively care and empathize enough to take action, no matter how inconvenient.

That’s what it looks like to shovel the coal necessary to keep the train moving.

Unless, of course, he really misses eating those peanut butter & jelly sandwiches alone every night.

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57 thoughts on “Poor Meal Planning Can End Your Marriage

  1. Magpie says:

    My ex would ask me when I can home what I wanted for dinner, then proceed to tell me why each option wasn’t feasible and suggest I should have checked the fridge before asking, finally I would just ask what could be made and why he even bothered with the question. Then he would ask me what time I wanted to eat. I would say, let’s eat at 6:30pm or an hour from now. 6:30 would come and he would start making dinner. He claimed dinner prep, dishes and vacuuming as his tasks and then wouldn’t do them when they needed to be done, needed multiple reminders, but not too many otherwise I hurt his feelings or he’d be passive aggressive about it ie start dinner when I told him I wanted to eat. And if I did them myself he’d throw a temper tantrum about how I was criticizing him. I would actually wash some dishes in the early morning before I left for work and put them away just so I knew there’d be clean dishes to eat on when I got home from work. We really did spend several years where I felt like he was my surly 13 year old child. He told me during the divorce that if I had spent more time being a good wife instead of worrying about not being his mother we would have still been together. That statement was part of the problem. I was damned either way.

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    • Matt says:

      The really terrifying part is that he actually believes it.

      I can’t emphasize enough that this isn’t some grand evil conspiracy on the part of husbands worldwide.

      It’s not so different than the Trump and Clinton supporters who internet-scream at one another in the comments of every online political story.

      The Trump people are CERTAIN they’re correct, and the Clinton people are CERTAIN about something else.

      And the truth lives elsewhere. It’s fascinating.

      Like

    • tatertot says:

      It sounds very much like we were married to the same man.

      Like

  2. My husband is a great guy, but we experience the dinner issue, too. I have come to realize that I am the planner when it comes to meals, and he is not. But he is the laundry-doer, and I am not. I am really, really, really lucky that he makes up for his absent-mindedness about meals in other ways. And he’s lucky I make up for my disinterest in folding socks in other ways.

    I really do think that guys think differently from women. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make relationships a challenge!

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  3. “Divorce, it’s what’s for dinner!”

    Brilliant!! Great blog and as usual, as my eating disorder therapist reminds me…. “it’s never really about food.”

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  4. mewhoami says:

    My first, very short marriage at a young age, faced many struggles due to the fact that we both worked. We always fought over who does which chores, on what days, etc. We were both tired. Neither of us wanted to cook, clean or do laundry. I ended up doing it all and quickly became very bitter toward my husband. He would come home from work, sit down in front of the TV and wait on me (who also just came home from work) to serve him. Our marriage didn’t last. But, I have to disagree with this, “Will she REALLY leave you, break up your family, and start a new life because you leave dishes by the sink?….. Yep.” That’s not why she leaves. It’s a very small part of it, but it’s only the surface. The real reason is due to a combination of things. Not feeling appreciated, feeling used, feeling like a slave, feeling unloved, etc.

    After vowing to never marry again, several years later I did. This time however, he works and I stay home (and work from home). For the past 10 years, I can honestly say that we have *never* had a problem with dividing chores. He wakes up early, works all day, deals with the headaches of working for corporate America, and earns the money we need to live off of. I work too…aside from freelance work which I enjoy, I take care of the house, the laundry and the cooking. Not to mention, I’m home for my son after school to care for him, teach him and enjoy these special years with him. It’s a fair trade off and although our marriage is not perfect, it is SO much better than many others out there and certainly better than my first. Rarely do we argue, simply because we’ve removed most of the reasons that arguments typically stem from. I realize that this situation may not work for every family, but I will say that for a *marriage* it WORKS.

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  5. Hanging in says:

    I think when I started reading your blog several months ago was the first time I had seen the statement (paraphr) about the “great guy” who is a “shitty partner.” My husband is completely atypical.

    I probably should have taken more notice when in our first couple of years of marriage I got tired of picking up his stuff all over the house…his keys, dishes, glasses, magazines, tools, motorcycle parts (I ride as well, so not picking the mechanic types), you name it. He would never put anything where it belonged and then looked to me to know where it was. I finally threatened to put all his crap in a huge box in the middle of our living room. His reply?…”Great, I’ll know where to find things!” Firstly I acquiesced (because he’s a great guy) and opted for a 4 level tray in the kitchen and his side table in the family room where I pile stuff. It hasn’t improved one iota in 25+ years.

    You have once again nailed it with the dinner issues. About 10 years ago, as he was slowing down his career on the way to retirement (full blown now) he suggested he take care of dinner on Fridays as a “treat” for me taking care of it the rest of the week, (laundry? cleaning? shopping? …ad infinitum…) Now this is man who told me when we met that he actually did all his mother’s Christmas baking when she was too ill her final year before passing away. He can read, and hell, I would be happy with eggs and toast… The discussion ended with “I’ll order out on Fridays.” Ugh!

    At the beginning of his “slow down” I also dismissed my cleaning lady of over 10 years when he not only complained of how early she arrived at our house (every two weeks, 7:30 ish) and he was home now and would take over those responsibilities. Yeah…right… he doesn’t even know where the on/off switch is on the vacuum. So now, not only is he home all the time making more of a mess, I don’t have my paid help.

    I believe I have stayed in this relationship for all these years for valid reasons, and that won’t change, but it is certainly cathartic to share some of the challenges and anecdotes…

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  6. Ha! You really nailed it here, Matt. So I am still married but in dire, dire I tell you, circumstances where I cannot even go into the kitchen. It is not entirely hubby’s fault, we have a disabled son and a mother with eating disorders, but it is partially his fault for not backing me up, for handing me all of the responsibility and yet none of the authority. Also, the man is picky himself and a bit of a control freak who will not eat his vegetables and every meal must be compared to his long dead grandmother’s cooking. And yet who walks in every single night demanding to know what’s for dinner? Having absolutely no awareness that one must go to the grocery store, plan, cook, and prepare….in the kitchen.

    I am an unusual and extreme case, but I am telling you, this is a major issue with multiple layers of emotional baggage.

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    • anitvan says:

      I’ll have to take your word for it IB! Meals and meal planning has always been (pretty much exclusively) my domain, but frankly I prefer it that way. I really don’t like others in my kitchen. But, my husband has never failed to say thanks for dinner and often compliments my cooking. He has always been genuinely appreciative of my efforts in this area.

      My daughter, however, drove me round the bend. When I got home from work each afternoon, her first words to me as I came through the door were not “Hi mom” but “What’s for dinner??”. It was a real sore spot for me.

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      • Oh gosh such a grievous subject here, anitvan! I’m laughing a bit, but it is so painfully, awfully true that this issue packs a real whallop.

        “Meals and meal planning has always been (pretty much exclusively) my domain, but frankly I prefer it that way.”

        I know, right? It used to be mine too! I couldn’t even begin to explain all the things that have now gone awry there, but I can say Matt has nailed it.

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      • Donkey says:

        I don’t have kids, but I’m sure their intentional/unintentional shit sandwiches can hurt just as much as those from a spouse/partner. Maybe more, I don’t know.

        I’ve been a shitty daughter to my mom. Say, if a friend invited me over for dinner, I’d express gratitude, and ask if I should bring something, chocolate or wine or whatever. When my mom invites me for dinner, what have I almost always done? Pretty much taken it for granted. I’ve said thank you for dinner, but that’s about it. How often have I brought something? Or how often have I made her dinner? Hardly ever.

        I have a loong way to go when it comes to treating my mother as well as I treat my friends. I can never repay her for everything she did for me growing up (she did choose to have me, so a lot of that is on her). But now as an adult, I can damn well show some better manners and some gratitude.

        I’m working on it though. I’ve brought her flowers a few times as a thank you for help/dinner/whatever. I’m trying to text her every now and then and ask how SHE’s doing, and not just wait for her to call me, or only call her when I need to ask about something.

        I cringe inside writing this. Another thing I’m ashamed of is that I’ve yet to muster up the courage/integrity to completely apologize for my shit sandwiches and to tell her how much I love and appreciate her. My relationship with her is more complicated than those with my friends, and I don’t think I want the kind of relationships I have with my close friends with her, but still.

        I guess I’m a Bill who knows he should be a Jason, and even knows some of the steps in the right direction, but has yet to make the leap.

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        • linds01 says:

          Hey Donkey- wanting you to know I think it’s great your coming to this conclusion, and cheering you on in it. It is so easy to just expect the people who care the most and invest the most in us to just always be there. It’s really hard to see that they really don’t have to do everything they do- they do it because they love us. Really, reading this lifts me up :).

          Like

      • Donkey says:

        (I am taking a few tiny steps though)

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      • Donkey says:

        Thanks Lindbo! :)

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  7. sharon price says:

    >

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  8. Donkey says:

    Matt, you clever man! :) I’m glad you keep blogging about this, from many different angles, because it seems like many wives and husbands have a really hard time understanding each other. Of course that isn’t news to you.

    Once again, I’m looking for some details, if you’re willing. :)

    You said:
    “I remember getting annoyed about things like this, too. I’d be watching or reading or playing something, and then my girlfriend/fiancée/wife would have the audacity to ask me what I wanted to eat for dinner.

    Sometimes the easy and delicious path of least resistance like ordering pizza would win the day. Other times it wouldn’t because she wanted to, like, eat vegetables and stuff.”

    You said
    “My wife was upset about DINNER. Her capacity for love is smaller than mine, therefore SHE is the one who sucks! I know how to really love in marriage and she doesn’t as evidenced by her valuing silly things like meal planning!”

    1. Would it honestly have been just as ok with you to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fast food every night, no matter the consequences to your finances (and health, but I’m guessing you weren’t thinking about that)?

    2. Would you have been happy to deal with the hassle half of the time (smaller hassle than planning and cooking obviosly) of ordering fast food or making the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,and also taking note of when bread and peanut butter and jelly were running low and make plans to go to the store, or would you have expected her to initate most of that too?

    3. Once you started being interested in cooking, having a child and all of it, did you ever look back and think “huh, maybe my wife did have a point about eating proper food and doing some planning?”

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    • Mon says:

      Hi Donkey,

      If I may, I will answer those questions too, because I asked them myself to my now ex and might be of your interest.

      1. Would it honestly have been just as ok with you to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fast food every night, no matter the consequences to your finances (and health, but I’m guessing you weren’t thinking about that)?

      He said for him it was ok. I replied for me it wasn’t, that I wanted to eat different kinds of food, and that vegetables should be present in our meals. And I added: Do you want your child (currently 2 yo) to eat like that every day? Do you think it’d be good for him? He said no. But he wouldn’t do nothing about it, he would leave the work of planning healthy meals every day just for me. Or suggest that we could feed our child on baby jars more often.
      Since we separated (though continued living together) I have taken care of 98% our child’s meals. My ex’s dinners have been instant noodles, or bagged salad, or (once a week or so) some sort of grilled meat or fish. Of the 10-12 times that he has fed our child at home in 4 months, half of them were pizza.
      You get the picture, right?

      2. Would you have been happy to deal with the hassle half of the time (smaller hassle than planning and cooking obviosly) of ordering fast food or making the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,and also taking note of when bread and peanut butter and jelly were running low and make plans to go to the store, or would you have expected her to initate most of that too?

      That would have been my job anyway because I was in charge of doing the whole shopping. I could not even bother him with getting milk or bread on the way home. He always had excuses not to (I had to become the best planner ever so we never run out of anything). And in the last 6 weeks of relationship, he seemed to understand he needed to take some house chores off me, and he prepared meals once a week. Of those 6 weeks, 4 we ate pizza I had just bought in the supermarket before going home. Only twice he cooked proper meals.

      3. Once you started being interested in cooking, having a child and all of it, did you ever look back and think “huh, maybe my wife did have a point about eating proper food and doing some planning?”

      If he has, he’s never said it. But I wouldn’t count on it.

      I know I let him get away with it for too long, and that is my fault. I didn’t set my boundaries clear and that’s my responsibility. But I am also starting to think that relationships fail because one of its members (usually shitty husbands), fail to think of the relationship as a team. The same way in a sports team you have to give your best or the performance of the whole team will be affected, the same happens in marriages. We can all have “bad days”, but if you keep not giving all you’ve got to make things work, if you don’t consider the needs and abilities (or lack of them) of the other team members and support them or help them become better, the team will start loosing matches and will eventually become so bad that some player is gonna leave to find better chances in another more motivated team.

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      • Donkey says:

        Mon, thanks for answering me, you’re more than welcome to! :)

        I must say, I’m quite chagrined reading your story, and all the other stories here of the inequality and disrespect going on in so many relationships.

        It sounds like many people who previously were overburdened/disrespected in their relationships are quite a bit happier and healthier alone, everything considered.

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  9. Kahlua's Mom says:

    Funny to see this post tonight, after I had just told someone that one of the things I love about being single again is not having someone else to take care of for dinner… I even had initiated several conversations with my-ex where he would be responsible for dinner once or twice a week…I didn’t care if he cooked or made a reservation. He never did, not once. Instead, I would say ok, let’s go out and suggest something. He would say, “No, I don’t want (Mexican, Chinese, Sushi)” fill in the blank, he doesn’t want it. Suggest two or three more things, because I don’t give a fuck. Get shot down, whatever it is I suggest. After working hard all day and not even caring about food, this was definitely one of the things that killed the marriage…

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  10. My boyfriend and I are planning on getting married in a few years, and I’ve shared this blog with him because I want our marriage to last, and everything you say makes so much sense. I’m hoping to use your wisdom to avoid divorce, because I’m realistic enough to know its not inevitable, however we may both feel right now. Basically what I’m trying to say is thank you so much for this post and this entire blog, because you’re helping out future couples. Truly

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Linbo says:

    Excellent writing, as per the uush. The only problem I have with the subject matter is that I would likely be the husband in this scenario. I’m chronically single, so meal planning doesn’t happen very often. I probably go to the grocery store 4 or 5 days out of the week to pick up one or two items that I need when I decide I am hungry. Not very efficient, I know- but I have chronic-single-person- mind. I don’t have to worry about anyone or anything else except myself…it’s secretly kind of sucky… I may get industrious every once in a while and pre-cook the weeks protein or something, or will actually cook a nice meal on the weekends, but for the most part I will eat soup, or a sandwich or throw together a salad and that’s it. Tortillas are both my best friend and worst enemy.
    I sound like a horrible woman, because we are supposed to be the organizers and the ones always on top of everything, but sometimes I feel like I should be wearing a stained wife beater and drinking a beer.
    What I really think it is, and this isn’t an excuse, is that men are allowed to be lazy . They are not taught what it means to participate in the running of the household. Noone has ever expected that of them. I know this has been addressed before, but it’s probably worth saying again- that men need to learn to take on that role. The trouble happens when they don’t realize there are a ton of things that they are neglecting that the wife is overseeing. They don’t even know those things exists, and sometimes they don’t really want to know.
    I would probably be guilty of the same thing if I got married anytime soon. I’d either need to learn quick, have a very understanding husband, or just wait til I’m in my 50’s then crap like that wont matter anyway.
    Crap like that wont matter then, will it?

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    • Shrub says:

      Yes, it does. When I think back to my young self in my 20’s, ever hopeful, we just need to work things out, I tell myself, “get out before the kids come.” I didn’t. I am in my 50’s now and very sad. There’s never a time or age when it won’t matter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Thanks, Shrub. I am still highly idealistic and want to believe “love conquers all”. But I know (intellectually at least) that love needs to be tempered with boundaries and self respect. When that affection is all gone you need to be able to live with what is left. I’m sorry things are such a struggle. Hoping for small pieces of joy for you throughout your day.

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    • Donkey says:

      Linbo, is that a real picture of you? How nice to see the sweet face that comes with your sweet personality. :)

      “I sound like a horrible woman, because we are supposed to be the organizers and the ones always on top of everything, but sometimes I feel like I should be wearing a stained wife beater and drinking a beer.”

      I believe I understand quite well the conditioning and pressure, but really, there’s no reason why women should be more organized and on top of everything than men. If they can organize armies and battles, they can run 50 % of a household. ;)

      I don’t think this lack of staying on top of meals and everything makes you unqualified for marriage/partnership. Like becomingcliche said further up, her man is absent minded when he comes to meals, but he does the laundry. :)If it more or less evens out, why not. Maybe your man could cook and shop and you could do dishes and laundry. Or maybe you can both decide you don’t want to be organized when it comes to food, and budget for eating out and such, if that’s feasible. :)

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      • linds01 says:

        Hi Donkey!
        Yep- that’s me. It came with the word press app. I may actually try to use the blog site,too. Thank you for your kind words. They make me feel all warm and fuzzy :).
        I do wonder sometimes if I meet the womanly expectations… But you’re right, it should be about partnership meaning- everything that needs to get done should be divided equally.
        It’s still a shocking reminder to hear how in 2016 men still don’t take responsibility for thier basic living needs. That’s the woman’s responsibilty.
        I don’t really think it is intentional sexism, I just think that most of them were not taught what was required to take a shower in a clean tub, or to be able to sit on the carpet without being afraid, or to eat dinner, and still be able to see the counter tops afterwards.
        I am not a neat freak by any means, so I’m not thinking that men need to be spectacular at being neat and organized. It really is just taking responsibilty for daily living, and most men are completely ignorant that there is actual work and effort involved in that.
        If they can’t put forth effort in that, then will they make the effort for other things in the relationship, like communication, ect?

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      • linds01 says:

        Donkey, Matt, Drew, Anitvan,- At the risk of being a shameless promoter of self, I published a very short post on WordPress. I think I may try to keep it up. I’d love if you guys visited. I tried to invite you, but it was saying everyone’s url address was invalid. My guess is, it didn’t know what it was talking about.
        Anyway- That is all. Hope everyone is having a great Friday.
        :)

        Liked by 1 person

  12. jenrath says:

    This is my life. Wow you hit the nail on the head. I don’t get it… We need to eat dinner. The kids need to eat dinner. I compromise and cook or order out a lot… I’d say he averages cooking three times per month. We both work. Mac and cheese. Frozen pizza. Pancakes. Repeat.

    When I tell him that it’s not only the making dinner but the communication of who is making dinner I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall. I either get the deer in the headlights look or the ” You’re being totally irrational” look. It makes me feel crazy.

    We have been through three (!) marriage counselors. The last one told him ” Just ask her if you should make dinner!” He asked once. When he stopped asking I asked why and he said ” You mean I’m supposed to ask every night?” Ugh.

    To some it sounds funny. In reality it’s sad because neither of us are ever going to get it. I’ve tried to let it go… But I feel disrespected and taken advantage of every single time it happens.

    Like

    • linds01 says:

      JennyR,
      Hi there. You said “To some it sounds funny. In reality it’s sad because neither us are ever going to get it. Ive tried to let it go…But, I feel disrespected and taken advantage of every single time it happens.”
      I want to apologize if my comment sounded flippant. I am admittedly very ignorant to the realities of marriage, and still want a good, working lifetime intimate partner relationship.
      I know that is not the reality for most people. It takes work from both parties.
      I know this isn’t just about the cooking, just like it isn’t just about the dishes by the sink. It is about the disrespect. And it’s a stubborn, negligent disrespect that makes it seem like you are talking to a brick wall. I am not married, but I do run into cases of this in men at times and I can barely stand to be in the same room with that for 10 minutes. I expect that the hurt, pain, and just the shear frustration of either accepting “Shit sandwiches” or having to chose to leave is enough to wear anyone thin.
      I don’t know if you have been around to read the comments related to boundaries and refusing shit sandwiches. Check out “Is your spouse hurting you on purpose” both for the post content and the comment stream. There may be a lot of extraneous comments , but there is a lot of worthwhile stuff, too.
      To sum it up- we (Women) have to set boundaries. We have to do it early and we have to be willing to enforce them.
      We have to be willing to say “I need you to be an equal partner. I need you to learn how to listen and respect what I am telling you, whether you agree with it or not, or I cant be in this partnership.”
      Maybe Gottmanfan will chime in, but I think she would tell you to enforce those boundaries- say by either you or he moving to another room just to make that separation a little more of a reality.
      Or, maybe something more fitting. If you don’t want to cook, fine. I will cook, but I am only shopping, cooking and cleaning for myself.
      Or charge him for meals. (I would probably do something like that! lol :)
      There are a lot of good resources as well. I think Jack Ito is someone who is really good on boundaries. (I honestly haven’t read enough in regards to this, but plan to.)
      Anyway. I want you to know that I do get your frustration, and I don’t think its funny. It’s a real thing. I hope something here is helpful.

      Like

    • Linbo says:

      JennyR,
      Hi there. You said “To some it sounds funny. In reality it’s sad because neither us are ever going to get it. Ive tried to let it go…But, I feel disrespected and taken advantage of every single time it happens.”
      I want to apologize if my comment sounded flippant. I am admittedly very ignorant to the realities of marriage, and still want a good, working lifetime intimate partner relationship.
      I know that is not the reality for most people. It takes work from both parties.
      I know this isn’t just about the cooking, just like it isn’t just about the dishes by the sink. It is about the disrespect. And it’s a stubborn, negligent disrespect that makes it seem like you are talking to a brick wall. I am not married, but I do run into cases of this in men at times and I can barely stand to be in the same room with that for 10 minutes. I expect that the hurt, pain, and just the shear frustration of either accepting “Shit sandwiches” or having to chose to leave is enough to wear anyone thin.
      I don’t know if you have been around to read the comments related to boundaries and refusing shit sandwiches. Check out “Is your spouse hurting you on purpose” both for the post content and the comment stream. There may be a lot of extraneous comments , but there is a lot of worthwhile stuff, too.
      To sum it up- we (Women) have to set boundaries. We have to do it early and we have to be willing to enforce them.
      We have to be willing to say “I need you to be an equal partner. I need you to learn how to listen and respect what I am telling you, whether you agree with it or not, or I cant be in this partnership.”
      Maybe Gottmanfan will chime in, but I think she would tell you to enforce those boundaries- say by either you or he moving to another room just to make that separation a little more of a reality.
      Or, maybe something more fitting. If you don’t want to cook, fine. I will cook, but I am only shopping, cooking and cleaning for myself.
      Or charge him for meals. (I would probably do something like that! lol :)
      There are a lot of good resources as well. I think Jack Ito is someone who is really good on boundaries. (I honestly haven’t read enough in regards to this, but plan to.)
      Anyway. I want you to know that I do get your frustration, and I don’t think its funny. It’s a real thing. I hope something here is helpful.

      Like

    • Lissy says:

      How old are your kids? I don’t know if this will work for you, but when mine were old enough, I assigned each of us a night. We wrote it on a whiteboard, and they were required to put what they were making and if they needed me to buy something for the meal. I helped the youngest make a ziti each week for a month or so, and then he was able to do it himself. (Yes, we ate the same thing on his night) Then, when everyone came to me each night and asked when dinner would be ready, I would say, “I don’t know-whose night is it? Go ask them.” Then they would have to go ask that person. You can assign your husband a night, too. (Secret hint-stop on the way home and get yourself something to eat, and just let the kids nag him. You can stay out of it because you are not hungry and not tempted to “fix” the situation. Make “no last minute takeout” a rule.

      At first they hated it. In some ways, the results have been somewhat of a surprise. Having 4 other people complain because they didn’t like the meal or were tired of the same thing each Thursday was eye opening for some of them. They had to take into account everyone’s likes/dislikes/allergies. Having to cook a dinner even though they were tired or busy was a good life lesson. Negotiating-can you cook on Wednesday because I have a game, and I will cook on your day? Last minute planning-rock hard frozen ground beef takes a long time to defrost if you forget to plan ahead and take it out of the freezer ahead of time. I was pleasantly surprised by how some would look for recipes to try, or would get creative and fry up what we had lying around. They also learned how much things cost-sorry, we can’t afford to have a $20 roast each week. Then one started playing with the white board. Things like dodo legs, poison noodles, and grasshopper lips now show up…

      Like

  13. Erika says:

    Dear Matt,
    I wasn’t married but my boyfriend was exactly like this with everything. Dirty dishes, laundry, dinner. Just everything!
    I literally begged him and told him that everytime he ignores what I ask him to do, it hurts me and makes me feel unimportant…
    He didn’t take it serious. And if anybody asks him why we broke up he’ll say, he wouldn’t know. It took him by surprise!
    Truth is, I literally said “if you carry on like this I will leave you eventually!” and even though I said this not just once, for him the break up was out of the blue…

    We’ve been separated for over six month. I am not sad about the break up just about the time I wasted on him. But I still can’t get over the anger especially because I hear from mutual friends that he still sees himself as the victim.
    I wanted to get married and have children. But getting married and have children with a shitty partner is not worth it and cruel for the kids. I told myself, I rather be alone with no kids than stuck with this idiot and bound to him and his family forever.

    My best friend who I know for over 16 years forwarded me your famous blog post about the dishes and I was close to tears when I read it. You are the very first man who learned from his mistakes and got perception… I wish you would travel around the world like a itinerant preacher to spread the word. :-)

    Matt, if you ever make it to Switzerland please let me know. I really would like to buy you a few beers. ^_^

    I love reading your blog.

    Cheers,
    Erika

    Like

  14. I remember this from my last marriage. I’d get home – late – and have to decide what dinner would be for me and the two kids. AND HE WAS A STAY AT HOME DAD. And my food would get criticized, and “why don’t we just eat out, it’s not THAT expensive.” It is if you don’t work….ugh. (And of course there was the shopping and the cleaning and the entire bedtime routine and everything else.)

    Fast forward to now and I plan what *I* want to eat, and I make enough for him to share, and he thanks me. And he always offers to help. And he makes different food for his boys when they’re over, because I “fired” them from eating dinner. (See, in typical kid fashion, they wanted to complain about the food being “yucky” and such. Not at MY table, kids, not at my table. Your only reaction to someone preparing a meal is gratitude. If you don’t have that, YOU LEAVE. PERIOD.)

    I actually love to cook – it’s a way I nurture myself, and probably the hubs, too.

    Like

    • Oh, I forgot about the laundry.

      When things were bad with my ex, one day he decided to do the laundry. He told me to “tell all your online friends that I did FOUR loads of laundry today.” (He was convinced I was slamming him to a secret online community…which probably wasn’t far from the truth….)

      I went upstairs to head to bed,and found that yes, he actually HAD washed FOUR loads. And dried them. And DUMPED THEM ALL ON THE BED. So if I wanted to sleep, I had to fold and put away all four loads.

      And he completely did NOT understand, at ALL, how this DID NOT HELP.

      Like

  15. […] Muhahua! I’ve actually been having a few days  of cackling gallows humor over Matt’s  post, “Poor Meal Planning Can Ruin Your Marriage.” […]

    Like

  16. Fromscratchmom says:

    Matt, I think the question of what do you want for dinner may mean different things to different women. It could be a need for external processing. He’s her companion in life and she needs him to be a talented sounding board. It could be that they’ve embraced so-called modern notions of equality and he needs to step up and own it like it matters to him because otherwise he’s sabotaging everything by just being too dense to know that eating is a basic necessity of life and therefore meal planning and preparation is a basic life skill that every adult human must master and must do on a regular basis. It could be that she needs cooperative effort and growth in this area because on the whole our culture fails and fails hard to teach basic food knowledge to children as they grow up, but when eating family meals is neglected, sabotaged or abused rather than being a basic building block of family time and bonding it will always be a great hardship in one way or another. In my marriage where we embraced a division of labor and roles, a marriage for which I’m still waiting on legal closure to get out of 19 and a half years into it and over 8 months into him and his mistress and their fab new adulterous lifestyle we definitely had major family dinner issues almost from the earliest days. Here’s a common scenario that was repeated many times somewhere in the middle years although there were versions and variations earlier and later.

    Husband: Hey, I know, we should have family meals. That would be a good thing.

    Me, in my head, flabbergasted, should I be sarcastic? Glad? Cooperative? Running for the hills, knowing he’s going to play games with my heart and use the whole thing to try to destroy me?

    me: OK

    Within 12 hours or less:

    Me working hard all day to overcome my chronic fatigue and my organizational difficulties on top of constant interference from the needs of young children and one of them a special needs child and on top of the downward spiral of trying to run a generally chaotic unsupported, unloved family and household to plan and prepare a meal and a time and place to have a sit-down meal, quite likely stretching all that effort over the entire day from the moment he left till the moment he returned.

    Husband: oh I had to eat a late lunch. I can’t eat now. (Disappears to his hiding place for anywhere from three to seven hours.)

    (OR, husband makes a disparaging comment or twenty about one of a thousand different foods that he normally eats just fine but apparently doesn’t like in this little window of time because that is an integral part of his eating-as-a-family-tradition from way back that meals require negatives and defensiveness brought out in offensiveness. Husband may or may not swallow his meal in three to five bites that he must not have had time to chew and in five minutes or less run from the table to hide and leave me single parenting our children again.

    Me: struggling through till the kids are fed and can be dismissed from the table and later crying silently on the bathroom floor

    Twenty years later: me having struggled through, having finally let go of every negative to try to work through a marriage as a permanent commitment because that matters and because people are not meant to be disposable, here I am, dumped anyway.

    And you can imagine how difficult and dysfunctional my kids became about meals and meal etiquette with that scenario playing out repeatedly over the years and a whole bunch of me just feeding them in front of the tv more than anywhere else even though family prayer, followed by family meal and family conversation every single day was one of the solid and good things I grew up with. Strangely it was even the one and only thing the serial cheater I had been married to at 19 did right. That ungodly excuse for a husband praised my cooking to the high heavens and ate with gusto. (Not to brag but most people do like my cooking. And though I know I shouldn’t be prideful or vain about it, I did really feel destroyed whenever I’d hear all of my husband’s complaints every single time I fed him, and kind of when I’d have a kitchen fail too.)

    But the funny thing is that since the King of negativity left, my daughters have grown by leaps and bounds in their relationships with each other and with me. Being rid of a man who was emotionally and spiritually abusive really has played out as better for them than living with his constant chaos, dysfunction, and sin. God is so good to us. I know the girls will someday be able to (and actually will) overcome every dysfunctional habit and pattern about meals and mealtimes.

    Like

  17. cls says:

    This. Is. Everything.

    Like

  18. Emilia says:

    Its literally like men enjoy being seen as completely pathetic children.
    I love how this relates to your very real and accurate post of, ‘She Thinks She Is Your Mother and Doesn’t Wanna Sex You’.
    If I ever marry a man I will make it damn hard for him to expect me to do everything.

    My father know works from home and refuses to do things around the house and its really bad role modeling for my brother, you at home, you help out! Men need to care more!

    Like

  19. WHY can’t I get the father of my child to read your page? He won’t even listen to an excerpt if I read it aloud to him. He’s claimed that I’m “bothering him” and asks “why I do this to him constantly” every time I ask him what he wants for dinner. I do ALL the cooking, sometimes I run out of ideas so I turn to him for them. He’s spent 30 years eating on this planet yet he has never given me a single idea. Ugghhhh

    Like

  20. GenePavlovsky says:

    My dad also watches TV, while mom cooks, she doesn’t really ask him what he wants to eat, she just plans and executes, luckily he’s not picky and enjoys everything she makes. I don’t know how she deals with that but she rarely complains on that topic.
    I, on the other hand, enjoyed cooking since long time ago. When I started living independetly, I always cooked for myself. I’ve had some girlfriends who barely ever cooked, I didn’t think about complaining. Now when I met my current wife, and we started living together (as friends at first), she could barely cook. She told me whenever she cooks for her friends, they complain about how bad is her cooking. All because her mom raised her with idea of “I don’t want my daughter to become a housewife, so I don’t want to teach her to cook”.
    So I just involved her in my cooking – asked her to help washing, chopping etc. She loves to eat, and apparently it was fun cooking together (maybe power of love?). Quickly, she got interested in cooking herself. Sometimes when I got so busy with a motorcycle rebuild, she would ride bicycle to the farmers market, bring back ingredients and cook for us. These days, sometimes I cook, sometimes she cooks, many times we cook together (as chef and assistant, and vice versa).
    Reading this article was very interesting, and I can definitely see the pattern mentioned in the article, in the comments, and among my acquaintances. And it’s not just husband and wife, like one commenter said, it can be a child taking parent’s cooking for granted. We’re raising a daughter (1-year old) and I’m already thinking about parental choices we’ll have to make regarding involving her in cooking.
    What I want to recommend to all the wives, mothers (and to be fair, husbands and fathers, since it’s not always women who don’t cook / plan meals): don’t nag to your partner/children etc. Just tell him/her, that everybody has a job, we live in 21st century, there’s no such thing as “woman’s duty to cook etc.”. People want to eat, they should help. Cooking actually can be fun. Involve your partner in cooking first. You can plan the meals at first if your partner can’t do it. Just ask them to help you prep the ingredients. Explain about food, explain about cooking. If your partner has some favorite cuisine, get a book on that topic, read it and make it fun and educational. If they get hooked, they will start suggesting their own meal ideas, or at least you will not feel alone in the kitchen while other people are on the couch watching TV. And about children, I think it’s nice to get them involved in household things from early age. Make it fun and educational and they will keep helping you cook for a while. At least that’s what I read in some parenting books, and figured it sounds about right. Personally I got interested in cooking because my grandma used to make killer pizzas, but we could visit her around once a month, I just called her on the phone and made her explain to me how to cook it – pretty soon my parents told me my pizza bets hers. Anyway maybe this advice is not helpful to everybody, but can’t hurt to try?

    Like

    • Emilia says:

      I like this idea, as long as you come down hard on the person actually contributing and helping in a very real way, start simple but important then move to important and uses brain.
      For some people involving a extra pair of hands can be frustrating and the person can be not very helpful and do it wrong due to not thinking its serious/not caring.

      Like

      • GenePavlovsky says:

        Good point, I forgot to mention that. My mom has a very dominant personality and is very particular about how some things should be done, where everything should be in the kitchen (and elsewhere) etc. Sometimes she asks for help in the kitchen, but more often than not she would be bothered by somebody else in there, because most likely they will do something not exactly as she expects. And that kind of attitude, of course, doesn’t motivate anybody to get into cooking together.
        So, when I will introduce my daughter to cooking, I should take care about not getting frustrated about her less-than-perfect results (and then who knows, someday she might cook much better than me).

        Like

      • GenePavlovsky says:

        I believe you meant to say “don’t come down hard”, right?

        Like

  21. rougedmount says:

    the problem between men and women starts when a man believes his partner should take over the role of mother. this makes her resentful and ends up in her removing her sexual interest in the man who acts like a child. i think it takes a long time for some men to grow up. some men learn the hard way. some men don’t understand things are serious, until he is staring at a empty room and eating KD. the only thing that changes is a woman’s tolerance for how he acts. how many times she will repeat herself before she accepts he is not listening. won’t listen. actively ignores. mothers of boys have to make them understand how relationships work before they leave the house. drive across the country with them and talk at them so that even if they don;t say anything they’ve heard it, so that when his partner says it to him, it won’t be the first time he’s heard it.

    Like

  22. dawnkinster says:

    Wow. Are you sure you weren’t in my house? Dinner is my #1 issue.

    Like

  23. DontEvenKnowWhoIamAnymore says:

    I have just begun to read this blog, and holy shit does it speak to me. I have been with my husband for about 6 years, married for about three. It is his second marriage, and my first marriage (he is in his mid-30s, I am in my late 20s). He got married for the first time extremely young (18) and has two really fucking amazing kids who are in their approaching their mid-to-late-teens, meaning high school graduation and thoughts about college, etc., are all starting to crop up. He has primary physical custody, and does not get along with their mother, who is admittedly an extremely fucked-up person, manipulative, and uses the kids when it suits her and treats them like pawns. Believe me, I am not the “I am just going to hate your ex because she is your ex!!!!!!!” type. In fact, I have seen my friends who are now married or partnered in similarly blended situations where the stepparent and the biological parent actually have a relationship (mostly centered around wanting the best for the kids who didn’t have a choice in their parents’ lives and relationships but suffer the same, if not more fallout and share none of the blame), and some who even go on vacation with each other! Now, I don’t NEED to be BFF’s with my husband’s ex. We don’t have a lot in common. But I am the type that would much rather have, at a minimum, a friendly and respectful acquaintanceship with my husband’s ex-wife. This has never been possible – not because I did not want to try, but because 1.) My husband’s ex-wife refuses to acknowledge my existence 2.) My husband does not make any demands of her to co-parent effectively with him, urge her to communicate with me or himself in an effective and respectful manner 3.) (my share of the blame) – I have never reached out to her on my own to try to bridge the very sore gap that exists. I have expressed a deep desire to do so to my husband, but he firmly believes that it will do nothing but cause everyone more pain. He may be right, and as it stands, it is currently harder to justify doing something that I know will pain my husband and possibly bring him more grief and struggle and problems with his ex-wife because of my desire to be Ms. Fix-it. So I stay silent.

    It should be noted that I do not have, and do not wish to have any children of my own. Children are fucking great, and I happen to think my husband’s children are two of the coolest, smartest, funniest, and achingly earnest people I have ever met – which is kind of a wonder, considering everything they have been through (not just with the divorce and the challenges of their parents being so young and ill-equipped to have them when they did). I have a toddler niece and nephew who I ADORE, and who I try to be intentionally involved with in a consistent in loving way. It seems backwards to so many people that I have such a passion for children and issues that affect children, yet don’t want any of my own. For me, it is not difficult to understand if you are someone who really believes it takes an entire village to raise healthy, loved, well rounded, intelligent, and provided for children. I started college funds for my niece and nephew because I can afford to, and since I do not live close to my brother and sister, it is critically important to me to be able to show them and their children that I love them in all the best ways I am able. Yes, like most, I tend to love the children closest to me in a deeper and more consuming way than those who are not close to me – but I DO fiercely believe that everyone owes it to ALL children who did not ask to be thrown into this crazy and shitty world to step up and do what they can with what they have, even if they are technically not “our responsibility” as our own flesh and blood or legally adopted children. I am not saying all this to demonstrate “oh look at how great I am!” – I just need all you strangers on the internet to understand what my deepest-held values are :-P

    All this being said – I am struggling mightily in my marriage. Sure, teenagers are exceedingly difficult in their own ways, and this isn’t unique to my family or any family. Throw on top of it that their father is the age that most people start becoming dads for the first time, or who have toddlers, and it gets interesting. Throw on top of there a stepmother who isn’t even technically old enough to have given birth to either of them, and it gets even more interesting.

    We have primary custody. We both work full FULL time, in two different but equally demanding careers. I am fortunate enough to work for my dream institution (an east-coast Ivy league) and even MORE fortunate that this position will allow me to achieve, totally free, the advanced degree I have always dreamed of getting. It will also allow my stepchildren, as our dependents, to attend college tuition-free. It provides stellar health insurance and benefits for families that are rarely seen anymore. I take none of it for granted. It is a minor miracle these days to be able to have a satisfying career that also allows you the ability and gives you the support to maintain a healthy family.

    My husband and I, being as young as we are and in the generation we are in, have both experienced frequent job changes before really finding or settling into something that can both adequately provide for our family and not make us want to gouge our eyes out every single day. When I first met my husband, he had been working in a kind of dream role of a career for the previous five years or so. And then, a couple months after we met and started realizing UH OH WE ARE FALLING IN LOVE, boom – he was laid off (thanks financial crisis!) I have been let go/laid off exactly one time in my career, and even though it was amicable and I maintained the full support and recommendation from my boss, man, did it suck. Most people who are laid off did not really have any fault in it. I felt for my (then-new boyfriend) when he was laid off from his fulfilling, stable job. It hit him hard, as he struggles with depression and mental health issues anyway, this was a big blow to him. We continued to date and get more serious, even as three months unemployed turned into six months, which turned into a year, which turned into 18 months, which turned into him running out of unemployment extensions and being forced out of his apartment with his children and to his parent’s house for a period of months while he got back on his feet. Nothing about this scenario is outwardly shameful, because this is the story of countless people who suffered through the financial crisis. What bothered my then, and still bothers me now (I’ll get to why in a bit), is that during that entire 18 months, before things became so dire that he lost his home that he lived in with his children, there was almost ZERO urgency displayed in finding a new job. Having suffered depression myself, I understand how much of a motivation killer it can absolutely be. But this is an intelligent, college educated, father of two adolescents who depend on him. Instead of looking for jobs and income in that year and half, he took that time to be “on break” and explore his more creative interests (but never really following through on even much of those). It was a strange time, as I fell hard for him and love/loved him fiercely and more deeply even as his behavior became a bigger and bigger concern for me. I was barely in my mid-20s. I loved him, and wanted to help him. Maybe even more than that, I wanted to help his children, who I had come to love fiercely as well. I have been let go from jobs, but I have never been, thankfully, unemployed. While some of that is luck, the rest of it is my deep commitment to being able to provide for myself and the people I love the most. I will go to any length to be able to provide, and it is unacceptable to me not to be constantly vigilant and proactive about this. Money doesn’t buy happiness and I’ve never had personal goals for great wealth, but love on its own also does not put food on the table. You NEED the practical along with the magical.

    My husband did eventually change careers and find employment doing something vastly outside of his previous career, but that he is very much suited to and even enjoys doing, because he is good at it. I was and am ecstatic for him. However, this new career (in mortgages and banking) DOES tend to be, depending on where and who you work for, financially risky. You can make a LOT of money, or no money. Last summer, my husband left a toxic and abusive work situation (will my full support) to less abusive but far more financially risky position. It became apparent over the ensuing months that the position would be financially unsustainable for our family, and he would need to seek something that offered a more stable comp package. I was not shy or indirect about this. I handle all of the bills and financial planning in our household, so I KNEW what we needed to live. It wasn’t a secret. He is a big boy, and perhaps my initial mistake was thinking that he would listen to me when I said we were dangerously close to not being able to pay rent, that we were racking up our (in my name so only MY credit was affected) credit cards in order to pay bills and buy food. We had to borrow thousands from his parents, which he did against my wishes and without consulting me, to keep afloat. All the while, he is not earning anything, and not making any moves or steps to find a position in which he is earning. This goes on for about a year, and brings us to the present – he FINALLY got up, used his contacts, and put some energy into looking for a stable position AFTER I started having meltdown after meltdown because of all the stress this was putting on me. Did I also mention that the non-paying position he was working in during this time was primarily work-from-home? And during this time, while his is technically working for this company, but being paid nothing, and working from home – I am still doing 60-75% of the domestic load. Picking up after 3 people constantly, one of whom is an adult and supposed to be my partner, the other two children who I adore, but whose mother I am not. Meal planning for 80% of the family meals. 100% of the grocery planning and shopping. To his credit, he did start taking on the responsibility of the kids doctor’s appointments and school appointments – even though he would frequently put it off until his own daughter was yelling at him that she needed to see a doctor/dentist and he stopped putting it off. I used to swoop in and just do it myself, because it felt like my choices were not really choices: Either put ANOTHER thing on my plate that SHOULD BE THEIR PARENTS’ RESPONSIBILITY and keep the peace in my own home, giving me a respite from their yelling & demands, or let it fall to my husband, letting the chips fall where they may, risking that the kids might not get the attention appointments they need in a timely fashion, and having to be OK with the ensuing fights and drama that take place in the home I almost exclusively manage, and the home that, for almost an entire year, I was also keeping almost entirely financially afloat.

    Things really came to a head a couple of months ago when my husband discovered that my stepdaughter was struggling with severe depression, self-harm, and serious suicidal ideation. We had to check her into an inpatient facility for almost two weeks, and she spent the next six weeks in an outpatient program that she just completed. This, as you can imagine, absolutely wrecked me and her father emotionally. We have both tried to be strong. Despite all of our issues and my complaints, my husband is a truly wonderfully loving man. He is a loving, connected, intelligent father. He never WANTS to hurt anyone. There really isn’t a spiteful bone in his body, especially when it comes to those he loves. He is scary, genius level smart, passionate about social issues (as am I), and a wonderful conversation partner. He is also exceedingly and abnormally handsome and very sexually gifted. I love him with a love I know will never leave me – but I am starting to think that even if that is true, even if I will always love him, I don’t know if I will be able to remain married to him for the rest of my life. There is so, so much that he has put on me (and then has the audacity to accuse me of putting too much on myself – but HELLO, as an ADULT, if I see something that needs to be taken care of by an ADULT in and ADULT manner, and it isn’t being taken care of, I AM GOING TO DO IT BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT RESPONSIBLE ADULTS DO.) As a result, I have so, SO much resentment built up.

    I have already replayed our entire relationship in my head thousands of times. I am far from blameless in regards to how things are and have turned out currently. I should have paid far more attention to my gut from the beginning. I should have asserted my boundaries, or ANY boundaries, way earlier, and way often. I can be forgiving to a fault – I didn’t see my husband’s actions when he was laid off when we first met as part of a larger picture and piece of who he was as a person, because I believe we are more than the bad things that happen to us. But I had a right back then, and have even more of a right NOW, to be concerned, disappointed, distrustful, angry, and sad at his history and tendency towards inaction and shutting down when it is MOST critical that he lead and act. I am so tired of leading. I am so tired of fixing. When my stepdaughter was going through her mental health crisis, I was, as most people are, wholly unequipped and unsure of how to best care for her and the rest of my family. I was distraught beyond belief. My husband was emotionally crippled for a period of weeks, during which I served as the whipping boy for all of the trauma he was experiencing. I can UNDERSTAND this, but it is hard to ACCEPT, because I also had seriously a seriously compromised ability to emotionally self-modulate.

    When I look at my husband, our marriage, and my family, in many ways I am proud of where we are versus where we came from. We both grew up poor, to uneducated parents of addicts. We both managed to earn college degrees and fight tooth and nail to enter and stay in the middle class, to be able to provide a safe, comfortable home for his children and decent education. Neither of us are addicts, or struggle with infidelity. I spend so much time making excuses for my husband, shaming myself for feeling the way that I do, that I feel like I’ve just completely lost myself. I am almost always just a little bit miserable. I fight like hell to do the right thing and the best thing for my family. I try to care for myself in any way I can fit it in. The real issue isn’t that the work is hard, or constant, or that I don’t value my own needs or wants – I do – but that my husband doesn’t seem to understand that his CHOICE to bring two children into the world, get a divorce, and then choose to remarry, was never going to be choices that made his life easier. I certainly didn’t get married because I thought it would make my life easier or a constant stream of unicorn sex rainbows. I resent my husband because there are at least 3 people in his life who depend on him to do the right thing, to be an adult, and because it is hard, because it is frequently inconvenient, or because his previous partner(s) have never expected more of him, he doesn’t have any urgency to do what he needs to do. I love him, and the last thing I want to do is leave him. The last thing I want to do is abandon his children who I have come to love so, so much, and whose well-being, health, and happiness are a top priority to me. The last thing I want to do is yank out the social, emotional, and financial support and opportunities they have with us a family unit. They have already had that happen to them once. I could not bear the idea of doing it to them again.

    I know this post was long, but ANY advice or even supportive words would be appreciated, because I feel so broken down, and so alone.

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    • GenePavlovsky says:

      Oh boy that was a long read! I’m somewhat similar to your husband, I was irresponsible for 2 years while my wife paid the bills, even though our daughter was coming along. I don’t know how she managed to stay in this relationship for 2 years, either way it’s definitely taken it’s tool. Just as I turned 33 (always thought it’s the magical age to get off the couch and start doing shit!)I was lucky to find a nice job, and our financial problems are solved for the time being. Of course the stress from the life before will still need a bunch of time to dissipate. But hopefully our marriage can take it. I don’t know what exactly made me get up and start acting like an adult. But I sure wish the same thing will happen to your husband.
      Keep your hopes up, and I wish you luck.

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  24. Amanda says:

    For me, it’s my spouse’s superiority complex with “Who makes better money, who’s got the better job”. Yea, you know what? who cares when I have to work EVERY DAY. Also, that “you wouldn’t be living in this place for cheap if it wasn’t for my mom”. WOW.

    I have been off and on work taking up seasonal jobs as they are simply far easier to actually GET, and I was working fulltime hours, but since it is “only temporary”, he still treated me like I was unemployed!

    Basically, after a long day on the days he is 100% free of ANY obligations, the FIRST thing he asks is “tea please!” like WTF. Also, “I’m staaarving, I didn’t eat alll daaay”. BOO HOO. How can a grown man be “starved” if left alone with a freaking kitchen 5 feet away from the damn computer!?

    oh, and he thinks he is father material apparently…HA!

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  25. K says:

    What if your wife is a stay at home mom (and the youngest kid is 14), and every day when you get home from work you cook for your kids and yourself while she sits in bed watching TV? Is that fair?

    Like

  26. Matthew says:

    My wife is a stay at home mom, we have 2 children a boy and girl and my mother stays with us. My mother and I are both diabetic (she is late stages). My wife and I “share” the cooking and meal prepping. On my days I prepare lunches like for example a tomato soup and sandwich combo throwing in celery and carrot sticks usually followed with a orange or other fist sized fruit. For dinners It could be any combo of things but a fine example would be a tender whole chicken oven roasted with a vegetable rice stir fry followed by a treat such as a scoop of maple walnut ice cream. When my wife cooks she will wait until the meal is already late then wander for another half hour trying to think of what to make. When she is left to her own devices for lunch she will boil some wieners slap it on some dry bread and serve it up as hot dogs. For the dinner meal time she will do the same. If it is her turn to cook and I am taking a nap as on occasion I do she will make me nothing even if I tell her to wake me she will just let it pass and I will then need to cook later for myself. When told what we want she will fumble it up so bad no one will eat it (it has gotten to the point we think she does it on purpose – she never eats those meals).

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  27. […] always know that leaving dirty dishes by the sink, or being extra-polite to strangers, or doing a bad job of executing household tasks like meal planning can end our […]

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  28. Suzanne says:

    My DH has the audacity to tell me that he is hungry and wants food. I cook when I can and invite him when he is around. A wife can cook what she wants to eat when she wants to. I am in the habit of cooking several portions to have leftovers for myself and feed my DH if he wants to eat. He is bad at cooking, and he appreciates anything I make. Each adult should learn how to fend for oneself. This works for us.

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