How do you handle dinner debates with you partner?
March 24, 2020 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Who chooses what to eat for dinner and how much accomdation is needed to for the other's preferences?

My partner and I have somewhat different preferences when it comes to dinner and meal planning. He like simple basic foods and is more of a meat potatoes kids guy. I like a lot more variety in what I eat and in some cases if I've had a late or large lunch might skip dinner altogether.

The caveat here is that my partner doesn't cook. He probably cooked about 5 times in the 6 six years we've been together. It becomes more work for me to make multiple meals or versions of meals, which is the last thing I want to do after a long day at work. In addition, we have a toddler, so I also have to make something for him as well. My partner doesn't cook for him either but he will heat premade food up.

Early on I tried to accommodate his test prefences and scaled back what I liked to eat but after years of this and now juggling a toddler, I've thrown all that out the window. I've adopted a new stance: You'll eat what's cooked for dinner and if you don't like it you can make something else on your own or cook and plan dinner for a change. I feel that as an adult he's perfectly capable of feeding himself, and that I really need to spend that energy on our son, who does need someone to cook for him.

This approach has caused some tension though, because he was used to having more things that he liked, refuses to learn how to cook, complains about leftovers and seems to get frustrated on nights I only cook for our son. Is there a better way to resolve this other than my my way or the highway approach? I'm fine holding my ground (honestly it's be a huge relief) but maybe there's something more tactful?
posted by CosmicSeeker42 to Human Relations (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I think it's sad that your partner makes life choices that make him actively unhappy! But that's on him to fix, not you.

In my house, we eat what the person willing to cook is willing to cook. A certain amount of input is always welcome, and the person-willing-to-cook is accommodating when it means EVERYBODY gets what they want, or a close approximation thereof. But person-willing-to-cook has final say in what gets cooked, and everyone else is welcome to fend for themselves when that is not acceptable.
posted by invincible summer at 11:01 AM on March 24 [46 favorites]

refuses to learn how to cook, complains about leftovers
Is this your toddler or the partner? Actually my toddler loves to help cook and will beg and whine if we don’t let him enough.

The toddler will grow up but it seems the partner is having trouble. You are being more than reasonable and he is acting like a child. This is also a poor behavior to model for the kid.

Dad needs to step up in the kitchen, yesterday. He could also lead to widen his palate. Tell him you’ll let him ease into it by only being responsible for planning and making 2 dinners per week at first. And you’ll be a good sport and do your best to eat whatever he offers.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:04 AM on March 24 [27 favorites]

I'm fine holding my ground (honestly it's be a huge relief)

Then keep it up! You're good.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:06 AM on March 24 [56 favorites]

I was in this situation with a former partner, who disliked entire categories of food (soup, rice based dishes, cookies, etc). I batch-cooked things they liked and things I liked on Sundays (ie. a soup for me and a casserole for them). Then I made a meal plan that incorporated a few things I liked and a few things they liked for the rest of the week, including cooking new items and using the batch-cooked stuff. If they didn't like what I made on the nights where we were scheduled to eat something that I liked better, they could warm up and eat whatever the batch-cooked-entree was. Perhaps a roast or something would work well in your situation. I was ok doing all this domestic work because a) I enjoy cooking as a hobby and b) they did a lot of jobs around the house that I would have found unpleasant. The division of labour felt ok.

That's a pragmatic solution. It sounds like there's a relational/communication component as well. You're right that he's perfectly capable. How is the balance of domestic and childcare work otherwise divided in your household? Does it feel fair? Maybe there is a larger conversation to be had about division of labour. Is your partner hearing you when you say you feel frustrated? Are there other things he has trouble hearing you about, or is this a standalone issue?
posted by unstrungharp at 11:06 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]

I do 99% of the cooking, so it's generally on me to determine what's on the table. I definitely keep my wife's tastes in mind, of course. And, she being the picky eater (and me not wanting to fuss with making two separate dishes) I tend to default to meals I know she will prefer. For instance, I love seafood, but the only fish she will eat is grilled salmon. So, my fish/shellfish eating tends to be whenever we eat out. It's a sacrifice, but it's also no biggie for me.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:07 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

Yeah, adults can take care of themselves. He can step up or he can shut up. You are not a servant and he can either collaborate with you, or make himself a PBJ.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:08 AM on March 24 [30 favorites]

What other chores does Dad do to make up for his total lack of contribution in such a major aspect of childrearing? I mean, he sees partnership as a problem, right?
posted by Dashy at 11:08 AM on March 24 [19 favorites]

You'll eat what's cooked for dinner and if you don't like it you can make something else on your own or cook and plan dinner for a change.

That's how the world works for adults. Don't budge.
posted by so fucking future at 11:12 AM on March 24 [33 favorites]

Hmm, I think you’re being pretty reasonable. Maybe you could try to accommodate what he likes, say, once a week, maybe on a weekend? And I also think you could ask him to learn to cook one or two meals that he likes and make those once or twice a week on a planned schedule. I’m saying he could make one or two meals because if you’re not used to cooking, it can all be a bit overwhelming. Maybe start with once a week, and if it’s tater tots and hot dogs, you also be okay with the toddler eating it.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:16 AM on March 24

Also your approach isn't causing the tension, his bad attitude and unwillingness to proactively communicate is causing the tension. If he were to lovingly say to you something like:

"hey, I love your cooking so much, and I'm just not that good at it --- I would really appreciate it if we had a couple of set nights a week where we do something I really like. I know how busy you are but it would mean so much to me. I'll do the shopping for it if that helps, and heat something up for the toddler so you're not doing two meals?"'d be all for it. But he's not doing that. He's pouting and being weird and "seeming" frustrated and taking you for granted. That's all on him.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:19 AM on March 24 [16 favorites]

Early on in life, I had one pot, and one microwave bowl. I ate a lot of rice+lentils, pasta and ramen. But hey, I learned how to cook. I wasn't set in stone at age 22. Your partner can also learn to cook.

Currently in our household, we handle cooking based upon who feels more strongly about it, and what they want to cook. My partner is of the mind that cereal or sandwiches for dinner won't kill the kids. I like having dinner each night. So I'm primarily cooking dinner.

If my spouse doesn't want to eat what I make, she doesn't have to eat it. But I'm not making her a second dinner. I feel your policy is perfectly acceptable. I'll note that I do avoid making things my spouse hates (E.g. she dislikes mushrooms, so I no longer make sauteed mushroom sandwiches. She also likes onions/garlic, but they upset her stomach, so I've scaled them back heavily in my cooking). I have made dinners that have been just for me and the kids.

For the kids, At various points we either had a policy of the kids were only getting what's made at dinner and if they weren't hungry, well a missed dinner by choice wouldn't do lasting harm. We'd also done "you must try at least a bite of everything made. After that, you may make yourself PB&J's if you don't like what's made."

So during pre pandemic times, I'd be making the grocery list, and ask my partner if she wanted to cook any recipes, and what day to put it on the menu (based upon schedules, on certain days I won't make X because it takes to long, so we do need to schedule down to the day a meal will be cooked). If she had something she wanted to make, I'd either ask for the URL, or confirm which recipe book it was in to grab the ingredients. Otherwise, I'd put down the meals that I'd make, and occasionally have a "scavenge" day, where everyone takes care of themselves.

I'll note that there are other parts of the household that my spouse feels need to be done a level different from me, so she takes charge of those. I don't feel my spouse is taking advantage of me in this, and don't feel our chore time around the house is just me slaving away in the kitchen. If you do feel that you're doing more than your fair share, this might not be just about the kitchen work.

Your partner can absolutely make sandwhiches for the kids if he "doesn't know how to cook" and you're too busy.
posted by nobeagle at 11:20 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]

Show him this thread. Then tell him this site has a billion recipes and book suggestions, including at least two recent Asks that provided resources for complete beginners. Here’s one for simple easy dishes aka ‘bachelor chow’ that might appeal to his tastes and beginner skills.

To answer your question, I (dad) do 95% of the cooking and meal planning for wife and toddler right now. The difference is, we are all happy with it and enjoy mostly the same stuff.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:22 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

I think I get where his frustration is coming from - it sounds like you just shifted modes, and he's like "woah, what happened, everything was fine". Clearly everything was fine from his perspective but not yours.

So first, have you sat down to talk about the fact that you're overwhelmed and just can't handle all the household work? Is his response generally "I'll do X and X, but you cook" or is it "I'm not doing more AND you cook"?

In our household, I do that vast majority of the cooking, and we fall somewhere in between our preferences. I have some go-to meals that are super easy to prep. If I don't feel like cooking, or am too tired, husband will scavenge or I'll do a super quick freezer meal from a bag. Also, if your husband is a meat and potatoes guy, he doesn't need fancy, involved meals - he can deal with chicken fingers and a baked potato.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:26 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]

My wife makes the menu and does the shopping. She takes requests. I do most of the cooking, but she helps with chopping onions and bell peppers as needed. There are a few dishes that are exclusively hers to do.

When we had two little kids, we often prepared three meals, although the kids meals usually required little more than heating a fish fillet or making a toasted cheese sandwich.

I'm wondering if you could make something you likef and also a single, no-effort, plain item, e.g. baked potato, for part of his dinner.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:29 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

because he was used to having more things that he liked, refuses to learn how to cook, complains about leftovers and seems to get frustrated on nights I only cook for our son

He needs to get entirely over this, and the problem is his to solve, whether that means he learns to assemble 5 meals he likes from prepared food products or goes to therapy. He liked having a personal chef, he felt entitled to having one, and now he's mad he doesn't have one, and that kind of attitude would skirt very close to relationship-ruining for me.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:29 AM on March 24 [21 favorites]

I do most of the cooking (and meal-planning, which is a significant amount of work!) making some effort to take into account my husband's tastes (avoiding the ingredients he really hates, frequently making his favorites), but I cook a wide variety of food. He has a standing invitation to cook dinner, whatever he wants, for the two of us, any time he wants.
posted by BrashTech at 11:33 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

My wife's family eats extremely plain (like, unseasoned chicken breast and lettuce - no dressing), so I end up deciding most of the time. She's usually OK with this, especially since I do literally all the cooking. In cases where she objects, I'll usually offer to make her something easy (e.g., throwing a frozen burger patty in a skillet - this is actually one of her favorite meals) if I can juggle cooking her dish and mine at the same time. If not, she knows she's on her own, and that usually leads to breakfast cereal for dinner. She doesn't mind.

Your partner needs to understand that you're not his employee. He can't dictate the menu without doing some of the work.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:37 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]

The letter writer here:

Since there have been a few questions about our division of labor. I personally feel like I do more of the domestic labor. I could be biased but I do primarily all our child's scheduling and activities, household cleaning, daycare drop of pick-up (however, I'll note that I work close to my child's daycare), and weekend planning with our son. I take him pretty much most places with me and consider things for him do on the weekends. I also do most of the bath times, tetth brushing, story time etc. We have slightly different parenting approaches and I'm really into very hands-on parenting and for better or worse probably a bit more catering to our son than he is. That said, prior to our son there were numerous times where is come home from work, stop by the grocery store and cook us dinner while my partner watched tv. We rent so there's no hard yard work or traditional "male" stuff to do. When there is: i.e building or assembling things I usually do that too since I'm handier and have my own tools.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 11:39 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]

If your partner will reheat premade food, will he boil storebought ravioli? Will he heat up a can of soup or a jar of spaghetti sauce? Will he thaw out frozen meatballs? Will he wash a bag of greens and pour on some dressing from a bottle? Will he run a rice cooker and stick some leftover meat in the microwave?

Probably he already does some of those things sometimes. If he can do even one of them, he can make dinner.

I think if you ask him to start doing those things for the family, one of three things will happen. Maybe it will turn out this really was a confidence gap, and after a while of heating up spaghetti sauce he'll graduate to frying up some meat to add in and start learning to cook for real. Maybe he'll never learn any cooking skills, but he'll at least reliably help out with low-skill meals when you ask him to. Or maybe he'll refuse to do even this low-skill stuff, in which case the problem isn't that he can't cook, the problem is that he's unhelpful.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:40 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]

You don't sound biased at all. It sounds like you're bending over backwards to treat him with kindness and consideration and in return you're getting criticism and entitlement. I'm sure he has good qualities and I'm not trying to rag on him as a person but it sounds like as a partner he is failing to do his part.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:47 AM on March 24 [10 favorites]

That's how the world works for adults.

Hell, that's how the world works for kids age 12 and up. A (physically able) 12-year-old can make themselves a grilled cheese sandwich or pasta with sauce out of a jar or a microwaved baked potato with some cheese or sour cream mashed into it.
posted by praemunire at 11:52 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]

So your division of labour is that you do all the unpaid labour and he doesn’t do any? He can absolutely sort out his own meals
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:53 AM on March 24 [57 favorites]

Just to answer the question.

I have 5 sets of food requirements in my house. 3 adults, 2 kids.

In general I make a meal plan and post it on the fridge. Usually I walk around before I buy groceries and get a bit of feedback, because I want people to enjoy meals so I'll sort of walk around and say "any cravings this week?" And, for example, my little guy will say "tacos" and so maybe I'll plan a meal with tacos, and also pick up lettuce so the low-carbers can have lettuce wraps instead of tortillas.

Overall people eat what I cook. There are occasionally exceptions where for example, I'll make something my spouse sees as too carb-based or something and so he'll eat just the veggies and some canned sardines, or the meal will be too spicy for one of my kids and so usually I have a dish they can load up on instead like rice with leftovers.

But in general, you get what you get and you don't upset...part of that is that I do actively ask and try to make /some/ meals that people like. But no one gets the meals they like all of the time. If they want that, they have to put some effort in.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:58 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

...what does your husband do?
posted by heathrowga at 12:00 PM on March 24 [10 favorites]

Do you have even a teeny balcony that would hold a hibachi? Many a man has reframed his narrow food tastes into a desire to grill. Also some women, I expect, but at least you’d be going with the grain of cultural coding.
posted by clew at 12:04 PM on March 24 [4 favorites]

It's clear that your husband has some growing up to do. You have accommodated his preferences, for which he should be appreciative, but now you can't do that. He can learn some easy, healthy meals - scrambled eggs, toast, salsa; boxed mac-n-cheese, broccoli (from frozen); sliced kielbasa, cut up sweet potatoes, roasted; chicken nuggets, tater tots, coleslaw - for nights when you prefer not to cook. I try to respect reasonable food preferences because some people just hate eggplant or fish. My son eats a wide variety of foods, probably because his Dad and I both eat a wide variety and love vegetables. But he doesn't care for tomatoes, though he'll happily eat the meatballs cooked in tomato. My rule was that I cook 1 meal; if you decide you no longer like that food, there's bread - make toast.

I have no respect for people being picky about leftovers. If it was good yesterday for dinner, it's good for lunch or for tonight's dinner. For many meals, I make extra and freeze it or plan for leftovers because there are plenty of times I don't want to cook.

I'm fine holding my ground (honestly it's be a huge relief). I think this is the heart of the issue, and I think it's the tip of the iceberg. You do way more than your share of the work, the emotional labor, and the parenting. Maybe resentment or plain anger is growing. Tell him to turn off the tv, and come have a glass of wine or cup of tea with you while you cook. He can learn a few cooking skills, you can spend time together; he can be playing with your child. That's family time. Or he can bathe the baby while you cook. That old model of gender-role differences is deservedly dead. Keep expecting him to Step Up; it's way past time.
posted by theora55 at 12:27 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]

Jumping in one last time since this was also asked: What does my partner do?

I'm assuming that this is in relation to household and domestic tasks. He takes out the garbage, will feed and change our son, get him dressed occasionally. He will also come grocery shopping with me but that's a newer development. He'll put away dishes and fill the dishwasher, that's a new development as of about a year ago. He pays his share of the bills.

Its is a lot of emotional labor and that said, this thread is making me realize that that's not really enough...
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 12:27 PM on March 24 [22 favorites]

I am a vegan. My husband is most definitely not[1]. I do all the grocery shopping, all the meal planning, and all the cooking, so the meals we eat at home are vegan. Sounds like I’m setting up a story with some huge conflict, right?

Nope! Because we are grown-ups and we behave respectfully towards each other! I know he’s not much of a tofu guy, so I don’t cook with tofu. If I know he especially enjoyed a particular meal, I’ll make note of that and make it more frequently. I love to take requests! But because I’m the one who puts in the effort, I’m the one who decides what I put on the table for dinner, and he is completely OK with that.

If your husband wants something to change, he can begin a respectful, adult dialogue with you. Otherwise he can shove it.

[1] I’m happy to buy him whatever he wants at the store and routinely keep dairy milk and butter in the fridge for him. And he knows he is always 100% welcome to cook any kind of animal product if he wants it. Under no circumstances do I expect him to be a vegan because I am. Again, we are grown-ups who are respectful of each other’s decisions.
posted by jesourie at 12:57 PM on March 24 [6 favorites]

We have a preschooler and meals for the most part center around what he'll eat. I'll do minor modifications for my wife/myself but if it's not something she eats she can heat up a TV dinner (or whatever you call them nowadays).
posted by noloveforned at 12:59 PM on March 24

I try to save meals I know my partner doesn't enjoy for times when he's not around, but we generally don't resent the other for preparing foods we enjoy individually. I make myself salads and smoothies and healthy breakfast cookies and don't resent him for not helping me with those things or eating them (he also doesn't really do leftovers so I've had to adjust how much food I buy), he'll spend an afternoon braising and carmelizing or make a ridiculous 12 item sandwich I would never make and he doesn't resent me for not cooking in that style.
My partner can cook and enjoys cooking but is often wiped at the end of the day and will happily eat fast food or hotdogs if I eat separately or won't be home, and this year I've been pregnant and either nauseous or exhausted or unable to eat my normal foods, so we've been in a bit of survival mode for months now. We lean heavily on takeout options (pizza, soup, subs, fish n chips) and premade or very easy foods (gnocchi, frozen pizza, pasta, roasted chicken or prepped veggies, eggs, pancakes, nachos, boxed macaroni) so that neither of us is bearing the burden of cooking full meals from scratch daily, I've tried to do that and meal plan and it just doesn't work well for us (and we have a picky 8 year old who we short-order cook for). He knows I love vegetables so will make extra for me to take for lunches, I know he loves more meat and potatoes so I try to make things like that at least some of the time or get what we need to make that and he's happy to cook it.

He's done more cooking this year, I've done and generally do more cleaning and childcare and we had some arguments throughout this year to get to a more equitable balance where he stops on his way home to buy groceries or pick up takeout, help with kid lunches, and actually look at what's in the fridge and make a shopping list. I was a single parent prior to this so it's been a transition to our blended family and him taking on more kid duties, if he was the bio-dad I'd be expecting him to do all of these things from the beginning. If I were you I'd absolutely stick to your boundaries and also let him know he's going to need to participate in lunch preparation, homework, reading, there's a lot of little things coming up that you don't want to be on the hook for for the next 10+ years. I'd get some frozen pizzas, pierogies, lasagna, frozen garlic bread, boxed macaroni and let him know he can eat with you or stick something in the oven for himself. He can put fries and chicken burgers in the oven, microwave a potato, boil water, etc. He can also help with kid more, he should be helping get kid ready for bed or doing something versus watching tv while you're cooking.
posted by lafemma at 1:20 PM on March 24

Right now your husband is being totally unreasonable, and I wanted to lend further support to your "my way or the highway" approach. Good on you!

My wife and I both take turns being the main meal planner/cook, depending on who is busier at any given time or who is having a craving for something. These days I'm usually the one who places our online grocery order so I'll always check in with her to see if there's anything she wants to eat - if there is, she'll generally provide the recipe and be the one to cook it. We have different tastes - she really likes Asian meals and more "midwestern" things; I like things with lots of vegetables (and ungodly amounts of pizza) - but we strike a balance between respecting each other's preferences and respecting the fact that the person who takes the time to plan and prepare gets the majority vote. She'll make Asian dinners but avoids the sweeter tastes and seafood ingredients I don't deal well with; I'll make big ol' pots of beans and veggies but leave out the mushrooms and celery or else leave them cut large so she can pick around them. It's worked well for us, and has expanded both of our palates as we've each tried lots of things by now that we never would have gone for on our own.

For the record, it's also our policy that the person who cooks is NOT the person who cleans the kitchen afterwards, in case you're looking for something else you can reasonably expect of your husband.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:37 PM on March 24

> He takes out the garbage, will feed and change our son, get him dressed occasionally. He will also come grocery shopping with me but that's a newer development. He'll put away dishes and fill the dishwasher, that's a new development as of about a year ago. He pays his share of the bills.

Other than the bill paying and diaper changing, those are all jobs you can expect your toddler to be doing in a few years. Your partner needs to take on adult responsibilities.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:02 PM on March 24 [25 favorites]

You are being unfair - but not towards him, towards yourself. You have had an unfair share of the work in this relationship, which was sustainable when it was the two of you. Now that there's a third, it has become obvious that you've been wildly unfair to yourself. There's no dinner debate here, there's a grown man who wants to get to keep being lazy and complaining. Hold the line, and make a list of the other chores he now gets to start doing to re-balance the relationship. Because this is flatly unsustainable.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:26 PM on March 24 [22 favorites]

Your question is "How do you handle dinner debates with you partner?"

My answer: We don't 'debate' dinner because we're both grown adults who understand that we're both doing the best we can do.

My spouse has an odd variety of things he'd prefer to not eat. Because I don't have a toddler to also feed, I generally avoid the things my spouse prefers to not eat. Or I make the meal so that additions I want to eat are optional for him.

I do 90% of the meal-planning, BUT I have no qualms about saying "You're in charge of Wednesday's dinner. Add what you need to the grocery list." Or: "I had a big lunch, can you find something to eat." or "I'm making this tonight - I know you're not a fan. Can you find something else to eat; here are a few ideas."

If your husband won't take on some of the meal labor, then he doesn't get a say. He can figure out how to make a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich or he can get a stash of frozen meals or canned soups.

Him carrying on and complaining cannot be tolerated, and it will lead to resentment. I strongly recommend an adult conversation where you sit with him and explain that there are three people in this house. That you can no longer make meals that only please him. Please tell him that you are hurt and disrespected when he refuses to eat leftovers and when he makes you feel as though you need to be his short-order cook (and maid).

His passive-aggressive complaining is Not Good. I hope you continue to hold your ground. But I also hope that he can get a bit more on board with this. Be sure he actually comprehends that you have thoughts and feelings on this subject, because it seems like he thinks only his feelings matter. (admittedly, I'm reading a bit into this based on your last post about him.)

I hope you'll read some of the emotional labor threads mentioned above. Per some comments on those threads, "emotional labor" isn't the best term; I like "mental labor" better. This article should be read by your husband. And this one is also great. It helps put into words all of the things you're probably thinking.

I really hope you can get on top of this - it sounds like an unhealthy environment. I wish you all the best!
posted by hydra77 at 3:50 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]

My husband does the cooking and grocery shopping (I do most of the cleaning and laundry and organising).
I love the Chinese food I make (which he's never learnt to cook). He loves meat, noodles and potatoes. He uses too many convenience products. The kids have their preferences.
I haven't eaten a stir fry at home for the last half year. And honestly, it would be nice to eat my own food, made from scratch, but not so much that I'd want to cook it myself.

My husband says he wants our suggestions for what to cook for dinner, because making that decision on his own every single day bums him out. He tries to accommodate our suggestions from his repertoire of meals. Sometimes it's not something I like, so I only nibble a little bit and maybe grab a sandwich later (kids follow the same rules. If you don't lile it, you know where the fridge is.)

And that's it. Dramafree. I'm grateful someone's there to cook for me every single day, I'm not going to complain about it! One day I'll get a hankering for my kind of food badly enough that I'll volunteer to cook, and we'll both be happy to get a little change.

Same goes for him. He didn't like the way I was washing his shirts, so he just does them himself now. With a shrug, not an attitude.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:04 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]

Responding less to the original ask and more about how to rebalance chores in your household. I think these two chore inventories might help you. The idea is that you both take them separately and then get together to talk about the results.

This one is about what you have discussed/assumptions with regard to chores and how you each feel about it:

This one is about perceived labor and how you feel about it:

The fact that he is coming grocery shopping and loading the dishwasher is a positive sign. Good luck.
posted by purple_bird at 4:20 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]

I like more variety and am more adventurous in my meals than my partner, although my cooking abilities are nothing special and I'm a lazy cook. My partner keeps it real simple with minimal prep and cleanup. This often means at any given meal each of us prefers to eat something different.

If I want something more exotic than a sandwich, it's on me to prepare it, and my partner might choose to have some or might choose to make a sandwich. I'm happy when my partner likes the food I make, and my partner is happy to fend for himself when my food is not to his taste.

If I'm feeling lazy, my partner is happy to make me a sandwich and I'm happy to have something to eat. It helps that each of us buys the groceries we like on our own so each of us has what we want. We each take personal responsibility for making sure we are individually fed even if it means eating what the person who is willing to prepare food makes and not what we may want to eat personally. We have no dependents.

It wasn't always this way or this easy but through extensive communication, understanding, and acceptance over time we have come to realize that my partner is never going to be someone who enjoys preparing food and cleaning up, and the important thing is that each of us is fed and having balanced meals. Once we realized that as long as each of us being fed and taking individual responsibility to do so and accepting whatever choices the other person is making, the disagreement and tension over meals went away.

You're getting great advice above and this is just what works in our household for reference.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 5:07 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]

A lot of people have already covered some great points (another vote here for standing your ground), but I just wanted to chime in that there's nothing that says couples have to eat the same thing every night anyway. My husband and I eat dinner together on weekends, but on weekdays we're both responsible for ourselves, and we each have our easy go-tos. This means that when one of us does cook on the weekends, it's less of a big deal if it's not the other one's favorite, because they already ate something they really like during the week.

(I realize this doesn't take into account cooking for your son, but it sounds like you're already doing that 100% of the time and he just eats what you eat?)
posted by catabananza at 9:16 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]

Hey, I am divorced from someone just like your husband. Not because of these things, but because he cheated. However, it is so nice to cook whatever I want now without having to consider the needs of a picky eater and lazy partner. I love cooking now! It's one of my favorite things to do, cooking while listening to music and having a glass of wine or a cocktail? Heaven. In my opinion, your partner needs to step up. Good luck to you.
posted by poppunkcat at 5:19 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

Batch cook for him so he has stuff he can heat up, but don't do it so much that he always has it there.

Don't let his dismay at not having stuff he likes to eat turn into anxiety for you. He's not a delicate consumptive seven-year-old who is losing weight. You can always ask him not to complain in your hearing, because it's not your problem that he can't cook and any help or sympathy you give him is out of kindness. By complaining he makes your burden greater, and he should be aware of that. Practice good emotional boundaries and watch out for being a rescuer or being over-controlling.

Delegate as much of the batch cooking to him as you can, as in, "The roast is out of the oven and you know where the tupperware is!" He may even be able to do some simple cooking, or part of the cooking if you find out what part of cooking it is that he can't or won't do. Figure out what the simplest versions of the things he likes are. He might be quite happy to learn to cook if it means pulling six potatoes out of a bag and putting them on the rack in the oven without washing, pulling a roast out of the packaging and putting it into a roasting pan, putting a lid on the pan, popping it in the oven beside the potatoes, turning the oven on to 350* and setting a timer for 60 minutes, than if you start by bringing the roast to room temperature and mincing garlic for the rub. A lot of meat and potatoes people like really vile dry food just as much as delectable juicy and spiced just right food, and the only additional fancy touch he may want to learn is to poke holes in the potatoes with a knife before they go in so they don't explode in the oven from the steam.

While withdrawing support for the cooking, increase support somewhere else, as he may want you to cook for him because acts of service is his love language and he only feels loved if he is cooked for.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:41 AM on March 25

I may be morbidly and inappropriately curious, OP, but what exactly is "his fair share" of the bills?

One of my friends is in a marriage very similar to yours, i.e. she does 95% of the unpaid domestic and parenting labor in the house and seems to believe that her husband occasionally taking the kid to gymnastics class is "really helpful" and "he's trying really hard!" They share the bills 50-50, despite him making more than twice as much as she does. AND she pays for health insurance for the whole family. But they both consider this arrangement to be fair. It would be rude for me to say anything but I do know I am gobsmacked at how thoroughly, and on how many levels, he's taking flagrant advantage of her. He keeps a far larger share of his income for himself than she gets to, and in addition he gets a free housekeeper, chef, and nanny! I hope it's not the case with you. :(
posted by MiraK at 7:48 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]

“He pays his share of the bills”!?

Really, as a guy, I’d say he’d need to be paying absolutely all of the bills, and providing a permanent home rather than a rental for your family, and showering you with gifts before you could even think of calling that any kind of even deal between you. And even then only if you were ok about it.

He’s unbelievably lucky that you haven’t just upped sticks and found a decent guy, but he doesn’t realise it.
posted by tillsbury at 12:41 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]

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