Lonely at the table
January 24, 2008 10:11 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my husband to the dinner table?

I am married. I have children. I cook dinner almost every evening. I assumed the role as the one who prepares meals a long time ago. This is OK with me. My husband isn't interested in cooking.

He has a bad habit of not coming to the dinner table when I announce dinner is ready. It peeves me to no end. I don't expect him to snap-to when I ring the dinner bell so to speak, but if he could mosey in within five or so minutes that would be nice.

I've done everything from giving a ten minute warning to explaining in very sincere tones that it hurts my feelings when he delays coming to the table. I took the time to cook a meal; it would be nice if it were appreciated and consumed while still hot.

Lately I've tried to not let it bother me. I've had a "whatever" attitude and me and the kids start eating without him. When I announce dinner is on, he calls out: "I'll be there in a minute" or "I'm coming" up to five or so times if I ask him enough, which I don't usually do, especially lately.

I think it's basic common decency to go to the table when a meal is prepared for you. Am I wrong about this? Why should I have to beg the man to come to the table? When his mother or anyone else prepares a meal he has the courtesy to go to the table. I'm worried that is sends a harmful message to our young children: Daddy doesn't respect Mommy. He's respectful of me and the kids in all other areas.

I don't think he does it to be rude, but in my eyes it is rude. I would understand if he were in the middle of something important. I would understand if he wasn't hungry. Usually he is on the computer or watching the news and he still won't come for at least 10-15 minutes after dinner is on the table. I want him to join us. It's important to me. Sometimes I am so pissed that I could care less if he stayed out there with Chris Matthews until his dinner was stone cold. I feel like I'm becoming Marie Barone.

Any suggestions? What is going on here? Am I overreacting? What am I doing wrong? Should I let it go and just continue to eat without him?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He sounds like he needs a role before dinner. Like, send the kids out to him and tell them to tell daddy 'we're setting the table together!' or 'I want to sit next to dad!'.
posted by parmanparman at 10:19 PM on January 24, 2008

Maybe try telling him dinner is ready 15 minutes before it is actually ready.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:24 PM on January 24, 2008

explaining in very sincere tones that it hurts my feelings when he delays coming to the table

You've talked to him about this, what is his perspective? Does he blow you off, or does he have a reason its hard to come right away (eg, finish what he's watching, etc).

The solution to the problem is going to depend not just on what you want out of your situation, but what he wants too. Here's hoping you guys can find a good compromise!
posted by jpdoane at 10:27 PM on January 24, 2008

What was dinnertime like for him when he was a kid? Did everyone eat together?
posted by Soliloquy at 10:29 PM on January 24, 2008

I like parmanparman's suggestion of giving him a role before dinner. If it was his job to set the table, or if you could give him a dinner making task (honey, can you rinse the lettuce and finish the salad?) then you would have him in the kitchen when dinner's ready.

And, for what it's worth, I would be upset/annoyed/mad too; dinnertime when I was growing up was the main family time for checking in, talking about the news, and talking about school. If my mom or dad was consistently 10-15 minutes late to the table it would have sent a really sad message to the rest of the family.
posted by nerdcore at 10:32 PM on January 24, 2008

I'm not married. Actually, I'm only 19. However I used to do this type of thing ALL the time to my parents while I lived at home (and still do it to them when I'm home on break from school)

I just get really absorbed in what I'm doing. I never mean to be hurtful and I love and respect my parents greatly. Just a bad habit I guess.

You say you have explained to him that it hurts you. But does he know that it's hurting you and annoying you enough to post an anonymous question on a weblog? I would try to explain to him once again, sitting down somewhere with nothing else happening, how much this bothers you. Make sure it really sinks in. If my parents did this to me, I would most likely try to break the habit.

Or you could try this.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:33 PM on January 24, 2008 [5 favorites]

My mother got us kids to tell dad that dinner was ready ... about 30 minutes before dinner would be ready. He'd be late anyway, and too bad if there wasn't much food left for him later. And since everyone else started earlier and naturally ended eating well before he did, he'd be left alone at the table, and sometimes alone to the clean-up too. We kids would clean up the dishes that could be cleaned up (just our own and mom's). The serving dishes would be left to him because his share (or whatever we hadn't swiped from him) was still on them.

To be honest, other than thinking of men as being dinner slowpokes, I never thought anything else of it.

I'd say it's your husband's loss and not anyone else's.
posted by Xere at 10:34 PM on January 24, 2008

Have you invited him to join in, or just keep you company, while you cook? It's an opportunity for the 2 of you to be together & share your days. With young kids you probably have too little time for that as it is. He's not just ignoring your call to dinner, he's ignoring you. And that can't be good for your relationship.
posted by TDIpod at 10:38 PM on January 24, 2008

My father- in-law did this to my mother-in-law, until the day she died.

Every night we had dinner with them it was the same thing. An ever increasing battle of the unstoppable force meets imovable object. They both always lost. Everyone was stressed out. The food tasted like crap, even though it was actually quite good.

I knew someday his son, my husband might do the same. I vowed to myself to never turn the meal into a battleground. But the only way to do that was to use indifference to his thoughtlessness.

It is passive aggressive behavior. With roots in Man/Child defiance. Why some men do this I don't know.

You have every right to feel the way you do. You have made it clear about how it makes you feel. I can tell you it makes your children sad also.

It is a control issue. You can never win this one.

When my husband started pulling this with me, as I knew he would, I did the following;

I told him once, "Dinner is ready". I served dinner, ate with the kids. Put the food away. If there was any left.

I made no effort to make sure that there was something left for "Daddy".

The first time the look on his face was very funny. He expected me to cook again. Nope. It took awhile, but he came around. Men in this mode are slow learners.

It happens much less often, and the kids at least know to "eat while it is hot".

Perhaps he needs to have an adult dinner , but I found it made no difference whether it was just me or just the kids.

Just do your best not to nag, plead, get mad, complain to the kids or cry. Try not give him a fight over this.

Let him suffer natural consequences.
posted by moonlily at 10:53 PM on January 24, 2008 [22 favorites]

I think it's basic common decency to go to the table when a meal is prepared for you. Am I wrong about this?

No, you're not not wrong. It's the polite and courteous thing to do, which I assume is why he's prompt on those occasions when others have prepared dinner. For better or worse, home is where one lets one's hair down, though.

You've told us a lot about how you feel and what you've said to him, but not what he's said in response or how he explains his behavior. Has he given any concrete explanations? Is he even hungry? Honestly, if he's not interested in eating, then I can see how he might come to resent being expected to come to the table day in and day out, grubbing-down when all he really wants to do is decompress after another shitty day in the paper mine or whatever. (Chris Matthews though? Christ, what an ass.) Are your kids of an age where you adults might eat dinner together later on, once they're tucked in? If not, have you talked about this in the context of your parenting strategies, and the values you jointly want to impress upon the chilluns? Or is he more laissez-faire in the behavior modeling department? Do you have a shared vision of how to parent?

But, your question was "How do I get my husband to the dinner table?" The guaranteed answer is "communication." One way or the other, you need to elicit some responses from him and solve it between yourselves. I worry that this might just be the tip of a larger communication-breakdown iceberg.
posted by mumkin at 10:59 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have experienced a milder yet similar iteration of this scenario with my wife. The cooking for me is a coordination process, getting all the pieces to come together at the same time. When it works I feel so great, "here is this magnificent meal, I , despite all the challenges, made."

When she procrastinates, I feel that my supreme effort is unappreciated. The solution for me is twofold. One is the realization that the supreme effort is it's own reward. No one else will ever appreciate my effort, creativity, and sacrifice to the degree that I do. If I'm cooking for the praise of others, I'm doomed to be chronically disappointed.

The second thing applies to my marriage as a whole. I have to pick my battles. Spousal change comes slowly, if at all. I've drawn a line in the sand about what's important, and let most of the other stuff go. I have to realize what's my problem, versus, what's our problem. For me, the dinner bell scenario is an irritant I can ignore, not a major front at Gettysburg.
posted by Xurando at 11:08 PM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

You have a problem, a big one. When you tell your spouse that their actions hurt your feelings, and they ignore you, and especially when there is no good reason for it, then you have a serious issue in the relationship. Part of me wants to say that at ten minutes after dinner starts pitch his food in the garbage or start passing it around to everyone else, but that is probably only going to make communication worse. In our house no one eats until everyone is seated and if you are not timely getting to the table you will feel some guilt for making everyone else wait with food sitting in front of them. Guilt is a powerful motivator. It sounds too late for that. Perhaps couple's counseling could help with the poor communication.
posted by caddis at 11:44 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

You may decide the "let it go" or "train him subconsciously" advice above is more appropriate. But since I've been spending this week thinking about how I let a problem with a friend grow and grow while I ducked from confronting the issue, here's some opposite advice.

You say you told him once in sincere tones. I'm curious what you said exactly, and what he said back. It sounds like he may not grasp, or you may not have communicated, the magnitude of this issue. That is, unless you think he would deliberately choose, every day, to indicate that he does not respect you. Communication has a few parts -- facts occurred, you had some thoughts about what occurred and gave some meaning to the situation (does non-attendance mean "he disrespects my contribution" or "he's mildly allergic to the cat so he avoids the kitchen" or "he's addicted to the computer" or...?), you had some feelings about that meaning, and you have one suggestion about what he could do to make things better. There are entire books about this (and they all have similar titles: Crucial Conversations, Difficult Conversations, Fierce Conversations). The other thing I'd be sure to address is that it sounds like part of your frustration is that you know he knows it's important to you, or even that he agreed to do something that he's now not doing. If you had talked about it before, and came to an agreement about it, and he's not doing what he said he'd do, then why not? All these things are worth talking about, though gently. I mean, what's his side of the story? I'm sure he doesn't want there to be resentment building and building, so both of you have an interest in coming to a better understanding than the place you're at now.

Before you do this, of course, you have to check in with yourself: is this my real issue? or is this something I'm fixating on to distract myself from something totally different (say, the fear of losing a parent), or a cover that really represents something else totally different but in the same arena (say, not liking staying home all the time, or that he seems disconnected in other ways too)? Good luck!
posted by salvia at 11:45 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

It is disrespectful, annyoing, rude and a bad example for your children. But check your timing. If he really is watching Chris Matthews, can you not have dinner ready at the time the show is over? The 15 minutes he's spending doing something "unimportant" might really be important to him. If he gets to the table on time at mom's it's because he doesn't have the freedom to be doing his own thing when he's at someone else's house.
posted by sageleaf at 12:05 AM on January 25, 2008

What's he doing that delays him? Maybe you could avoid all this drama by just buying a DVR or something.
posted by hjo3 at 12:11 AM on January 25, 2008

...to explaining in very sincere tones that it hurts my feelings when he delays coming to the table.

So there's no question: he's being highly disrespectful, he knows it, and you should act accordingly. The question is, how?

If you think he's intentionally doing it to aggravate you, you should seek couples counseling, because it's likely one of many things he's doing to aggravate you intentionally...or you believe he's doing it on purpose, but he's not, or he is but not to the degree you believe. Whether it's his fault or yours or both, counseling can help.

If you think he's doing it because he's being immature (his mother never made him come to the table, so he doesn't think he should have to do it for you) or selfish, then do what his mother should have done: if he's not at the table in the first two minutes, he gets no dinner from you. That's what you do with your kids, right?

Finally, what is he doing when you call him? Watching TV? Using the computer? Reading? Is it usualy the same thing? It's entirely possible that he's a bit addicted to that thing. Instead of getting him to come to dinner, get him to stop the thing: go there a few minutes before dinner's ready, and ask him to stop doing that thing and come help you do something. If he refuses, see the previous two paragraphs.
posted by davejay at 2:02 AM on January 25, 2008

Oh, more:

I'm worried that is sends a harmful message to our young children: Daddy doesn't respect Mommy. He's respectful of me and the kids in all other areas.

Well, your kids probably also feel that he doesn't want to spend time with them. I'd worry more about that (although your concern about them seeing it as disrespectful to you is also valid.)
posted by davejay at 2:07 AM on January 25, 2008

If he doesn't appreciate your cooking, then stop cooking for him.
posted by chrisch at 2:45 AM on January 25, 2008

Hey, do like my folks did when I was a kid and wouldn't eat....dump his plate on his head. Maybe embarrassing him in front of his kids will do it.
posted by notsnot at 3:07 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think I would try setting up a pre-dinner situation that was also sort of a decompress-time that would be a warm spot in the day for both of you.

Ask the kids to play in their room 'til dinner (of course, I understand that the ages of this kids might hinder this), pour each of you a glass of wine, put on some music, and get him involved in the preparation process, peeling the vegetables, chopping, stirring, whatever. Conversation during this time will not be about bills and household or work problems, but light and fun things. This shouldn't be a period that is utilized to organize yourselves with respect to everyday cares and worries, but the "exhale" period of the day.

Then, relaxed and bonded (over joining together to create the meal, over sharing a little wine and your funny/interesting stories of the day, etc.), it's time to enjoy the good food and company of your kids at the table. You may have to insist on it as a week-long experiment; you'll probably have to be patient if he is impatient with it at first; you'll have to be careful not to let it slip into planning/organizing-zone... but if it becomes a habit, it will be such a great and wonderful habit!

If none of the suggestions mentioned here work, though, then I can only think of a couple of things that may be at the root of it: either he desperately needs his alone-time each day, and this is the only period that he can carve out for himself (and he doesn't know how to express this to you), or it's a sort of passive aggressive punishment of you for something unexpressed (and even possibly unknown to him).

I really, really understand needing the alone-time, though, if that's the problem - and if that's literally the only period that he can find to have a few moments to himself, it may turn out that it's better for all of you if you allow him that time and then work together to create great, alternative family-together time to make up for it. I don't know.

At any rate, my idea of spending that before-dinner time together, mostly just you two, relaxing with a drink (if you even do drink - but if not, you know, skip that part) preparing the meal and chatting together isn't a pie-in-the-sky idea. My parents always did it that way, and my husband and I often do this (though our situation is much different - no kids, no particular "set" meal time, often odd hours).
posted by taz at 3:27 AM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

have you told him how much it hurts your feelings that he won't come to dinner? men can be crushingly oblivious to such things.

and does he know that it's not just a matter of hurting your feelings, but that you want to create dinners together for your kids' sake? you might position it as a parenting issue more than a spousal issue (although it's both).

i would give him a half-hour heads-up before dinner, then another in fifteen minutes so he has time to wrap up whatever he's doing and disengage.

good luck! i would also feel insulted, btw, so you're not alone.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:34 AM on January 25, 2008

Wow, I can't understand behavior like this. I look forward to everyone eating together, and when I get home from work, I sit around the kitchen helping out where I can until dinner is ready. Our kids always seem to be starving, so they too don't waste any time making sure they are at the table.

I really like the idea of including him in the process of dinner, if not the cooking. Making a salad, setting the table, corking the wine (uncorking?), or putting ice in the glasses. Whatever needs to be done while you bring the whole dinner together will get him in the general area and not involved in other tasks that might delay him.

Are you giving him an ETA for dinner? If I on occasion need to do something before dinner, my wife gives me her best guess about when dinner will be ready so I can either not do something or make sure I am done on time.
posted by genefinder at 5:25 AM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

I also think that sageleaf's comment about timing might be pretty important. If dinner is always at about the same time every day (say, 5:15), perhaps moving it back to 5:30 is a way to deal with this. If he's watching the news, maybe he wants to finish what he's started.

If it isn't at the same time every day, maybe you can work to make it at the same time every day so that he knows ahead of time when dinner is, and what time he has to start wrapping things up so that he can be on time for dinner.

Does he not like eating with the family, or does he interact happily, but only once he gets to the table? If so, perhaps there should be some consequence for being late, stated ahead of time. Not a withholding of something else, which is likely inappropriate, but perhaps something such as "If you don't make it on time for dinner, you don't get dinner." You are making dinner for him as a favor, so I think you are well within your rights to deny him that favor if he does not appreciate it.

But check into timing first. Ask him "You never come to dinner on time, what times are best to get you to the table at the start of dinner?"
posted by that girl at 5:40 AM on January 25, 2008

I would do several things: first, I would print out this question and show it to him. Ask him what suggestion he thinks would work best for him. Second, you might try physically dragging him to the dinner table. He might get the hint. Third, you and your children could take your plates into where he is at and eat on the floor. But you have to be careful with that because he might want to make it a habit.
posted by bobber at 5:46 AM on January 25, 2008

Make sure that you only buy ingredients for meals in this week's grocery trip: no frozen dinners or snacks. Make dinner as usual and call him. When the slowest person at the table is done, take all the food you prepared, pack it up and take it down the street to the first soup kitchen/homeless person you see. He comes in the kitchen late saying "Where's dinner?" and you tell him dinner is over. He looks in the cabinets and finds only raw vegetables, uncooked pasta and frozen meat. Maybe going hungry a couple of nights will help him change his ways.
posted by ND¢ at 5:51 AM on January 25, 2008

I agree that he should be there, just wanted to throw in my point of view. I don't have kids, and I usually do all the cooking, but I am the boy. Often, dinner time is w/i 1-2 hours of the time I get home from work. Generally, it "should" be closer to 30 mins or so after. However, I NEED NEED NEED me time after work to chill and get my bearings. Maybe I watch some youtube videos, maybe I make some geeky gadget, whatever. If I'm actually *doing* something though, like writing or building or designing, then a part of my brain literally doesn't let me answer or get up, even though another part of my brain is screaming "go eat you're hungry". The controlling part says "just get this widget into that whatsit...hold it....insert pin..."

Just sayin. That's me.
posted by TomMelee at 6:06 AM on January 25, 2008

You know, as entertaining as some of the extreme options are, and as much as I'm normally a big advocate of communication, I've got to admit that I solve this problem by asking my wife to clear the table for dinner when I'm down to the last ten minutes of cooking.

I'd tried talking about it, and I'd tried sulking, and I would have tried starving her if we didn't have an excellent pizza joint right next door to make it a waste of effort. None of them worked as well.

I think some people just have a hard time seeing eating dinner as an obligation. (Here's a guess: was dinner time Important Family Time in your family? Was it just a shot at grabbing a bite to eat in his?) But clearing the table, or setting it, or making the salad, or whatever — that's a job. Of course it needs to be done on time. If that's how he thinks, it may be easier to work with it than to change it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:09 AM on January 25, 2008

How about putting a TV in the kitchen? Then he can listen to the news and help set the table or do other things.

TV goes off when meals begin, though :-)
posted by sandra_s at 6:16 AM on January 25, 2008

Obviously the only person who knows why he is late is himself, but perhaps he truly doesn't understand how much effort it takes to cook a family meal and have it hot and on the table for everyone. If his ony experience with preparing meals is making himself a sandwich then he would of course not appreciate the effort you are making.

It would be completely fair of you to say "Hunny, I am upset that you do not come to the dinner table after I have prepared dinner. This has made a formally fun activity very stressful for me. I would like to take a break from making the evening meals for a while. Which one of your daily chores would you like me to take over while you are making dinner for the next while?" If he says he can not cook feel free to point out it is a learned skill that is only learned through practice and direct him to your cookbooks (I was never taught by my parents how to cook but at least I was courtious enough to show up on time for the meals they prepared). Once he sees the time and energy investment (grocery shopping, planning balanced meals, keeping everything hot at once) he might be more appreciative when you do decide to cook again.

Don't do this for only one or two nights, give him a chance to learn something new and become self-sufficent. It will serve him well when you need to leave your family for a few days because of a business trip or emergency.

You are not overreacting, you are his partner, not his mommy and if your children can make it to the table on time then so can he.

Maybe I am feeling nasty but my other thought was to cook a nice meatloaf and serve yourself and the children, let him know that dinner is on the table. At the five minute past mark bring out a plate of dog food and put it at his place. Smile sweetly when he eventually comes and offer him some gravy...
posted by saucysault at 6:26 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

i'd suggest that you either push back dinner for a bit, giving him enough time to unwind before dinner OR unplug the TV before he gets home :)
posted by phooey at 6:39 AM on January 25, 2008

He's being rude. If he really does want to finish watching a particular program or you're getting dinner on the table 10 minutes after he comes home from work, pushing the time back might be wise on your part.

If he continues to not "get" how rude this is, then serve the meal and put the leftovers away immediately. He can warm up his dinner, serve himself, and explain to his kids why.
posted by desuetude at 6:57 AM on January 25, 2008

Show him this thread, discuss which posts you both agree with and disagree.

My wife suffers from the same habit as your husband. I do (and enjoy doing) most of the cooking and invariably I have to say "dinner is ready" three times before she comes to the table. With time I've been able to observe the following :

If she hears me still preparing food, she won't come. If she hears me eating, she'll come. She's usually just engrossed with something else and although I sometimes take it personally, it never really is.

posted by furtive at 7:36 AM on January 25, 2008

P.S. I really doubt he's being passive aggressive.
posted by furtive at 7:37 AM on January 25, 2008

I have to make a confession - I've been dinged for doing this to my other half a few times - I'm told dinner is ready in a few minutes, I say 'be there in a mo' and before you know it I'm on the computer in the lounge still sorting something out, or finishing an article and she's sat 6 feet away half-way through dinner.

You know WHY I do it? I have a shit internal clock. I do something which I think will only take 2 minutes, and it ends up taking 20. Telling me dinner is ready, when it's not actually ready for another 15 minutes is the worst thing to do, as then I get up, come to help, get told there's nothing I can do, and I go back to where I started and usually am even later than I might have been. I don't mean to be disrespectful, I love my fiance. I just lose track. We don't have kids. Yet, anyway.

I don't do it all the time, just when I'm sucked into something else and literally lose track of time and the world around me. you know what works most often? "Dinner is on the table. Come eat now. No, not in a minute. Right now, it's on the table."

Failing that, giving me something I can actually do to help also works, especially if it's not just busy work. Getting me to engage in conversation in the kitchen in the last few minutes also works, if she's not doing something complex and doesn't want to be distracted.

Finally, try an alarm clock. When he says 'just a minute' literally wind up an alarm clock, give him 60 seconds, and leave it next to him. He might get the message!
posted by ArkhanJG at 7:44 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Welcome to my childhood. Dinner was a battle. Both parents were passive aggressive and stubborn. Dad would come home and need to unwind a little. He's watching Andy Griffith on the TV. Mom calls for dinner 5 minutes before the program is over, without fail. Dad wants to finish the program. Now the rest of the evening sucks.

Same thing happens at the holidays. I'll be talking to my grandpa and uncle (or whoever). Someone will decide dinner is ready and call out appropriately. One of us will nod acknowledgment. But grandpa is telling a story, he'll be done in a minute. And then the stream of cousins are sent into the room telling grandpa it's dinner time. The fucking turkey has been done and sitting out for 20 minutes while the cooks chatted, two more minutes isn't going to kill anyone.

The home should not be a battleground.
posted by gjc at 8:02 AM on January 25, 2008

My fiancé tends to zone out when he's on the computer or watching TV. In my mind, it's completely rude to turn on the TV when someone is talking to you, but in his family, it's (apparently) completely normal. He had absolutely no idea that this could be construed as rudeness or insensitivity. It took a full-scale freakout, replete with tears, to make him realize how much this was hurting me. He admits he's dense, and no amount of polite conversation and reminders got my message through.

You don't need to TELL him you're hurt/annoyed. You need to SHOW him. I don't advocate crying just to get your way, but if this really hurts you, then muster up some tears when the kids aren't around and show him how unhappy you are with the situation. If he's otherwise a decent guy, I bet he will change.
posted by desjardins at 8:40 AM on January 25, 2008

If he doesn't appreciate your cooking, then stop cooking for him.

Exactly. Just prepare enough for the kids and yourself. If he wants a meal ready on his own time, he'll cook himself.
posted by hairgelburrito at 9:07 AM on January 25, 2008

You could unplug whatever device he's in front when he ignores you. If that doesn't get his attention, I don't know what will.
posted by O9scar at 9:28 AM on January 25, 2008

You're well within your expectations. In agreement with all the previous answers -- this is incredibly rude and thoughtless behavior, and certainly was not tolerated in my house, no matter who it was. Unless you're performing CPR or doing a launch countdown for the space shuttle, you had better be there when the person(s) who have been so kind as to cook you a meal, tell you that it's time to eat. As far as your husband goes, it's particularly upsetting that he only does this when you're the one that's cooking.

Moreover: dinner time should be family time, and chronically showing up late or ignoring the call altogether is not only disrespectful of the labor of making a meal (which your husband is not likely to fully appreciate if he's uninterested in cooking), but also disrespectful of the rest of the family. It says, quite clearly: "spending time with you people is not as important as this television show|magazine article|video game." IMO, that is incredibly insulting.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 9:35 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I absolutely agree with everyone saying eat without him and put whatever is left away. Passive-aggressive behavior is the type of thing that breaks people up, over the long-term haul.

After you've done this three times or so, if he hasn't changed his ways, stop cooking enough food to feed him as well and tell him to start cooking his own dinner. There is no need for you to endure mental anguish; have dinner by yourself or with your children if they are home. They will at least grow up knowing that you're supposed to eat together because you are providing an example.

You might also ask him what kind of message he thinks refusing to spend time with his children eating dinner is teaching your kids.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:43 AM on January 25, 2008

I think there is a lot of reading into this situation.
The husband is not neccesarily playing "power games" or "being deliberately rude" or anything like that.
When I do this to my wife on occasion, it's simply because I'd like to see the end of the particular segment I'm watching on the news/story I'm reading on the computer and it just takes longer than I think it will.
Thoughtless perhaps, but certainly not intentional.

Solutions might include a DVR (as someone else suggested) so he can pause whichever news segment he's watching.
Maybe he could read the paper at the table rather than watching the news, that way he'd already be there when dinner was served.

Do you eat dinner at the same time every night? Some people need a little downtime in the transition from work to home.
A bit of decompression, so to speak. Maybe dinner is falling within his "alone time". If you delayed it by half an hour, perhaps he'd arrive more promptly.
posted by madajb at 10:53 AM on January 25, 2008

Men in this mode are slow learners.

Just prepare enough for the kids and yourself. If he wants a meal ready on his own time, he'll cook himself.

stop cooking enough food to feed him as well and tell him to start cooking his own dinner

Hey, do like my folks did when I was a kid and wouldn't eat....dump his plate on his head. Maybe embarrassing him in front of his kids will do it.

men can be crushingly oblivious to such things.

Just a reminder that we're talking about a marriage. The trick in a marriage is to resolve current conflicts in a way that won't escalate future conflicts and won't alienate the person that you love.

Everyone is different, of course, but I know that I would not respond well to these statements or techniques. I would start thinking of the times when my wife (who I love more than life) has annoyed me with her habits. I would internally accuse her of being rude and thoughtless herself. I would think I've got as much right to attack her for her insensitivity as she has to attack me! And at some point those thoughts and feelings would come out, but not in any helpful way.

I know that's ugly and petty, but I think it's a common reaction that transcends gender. I'm sure that for some couples it works to escalate a conflict, but enough escalations and you risk turning your marriage into a war zone.

I trust the original poster will rely on all the very helpful advice in this thread and ignore those suggestions that could do the marriage some permanent damage.
posted by ferdydurke at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Is it possible that you're inadvertently timing dinner to coincide with the tail end of his favorite show, making it really hard for him to get up from it? Can you get him to start taping/TiVoing it, or move dinnertime an hour earlier or later to accomodate it?
posted by evariste at 1:27 AM on January 26, 2008

(My previous answer should not be construed as excusing his behavior, which personally appalls me, but if it's something that can be worked around, then why not try?)
posted by evariste at 1:29 AM on January 26, 2008

Dinner is a different experience for each of you. For you it seems to be the completion of a difficult process, a way of showing your love for your family by working hard for them. For him maybe it's just a way of keeping his body going. Maybe it's an unpleasant reminder of how his mother and father fought about their budget at dinner every night. Maybe he's just not hungry. Maybe it's a thousand other things.

You should try sitting down sometime when you're both calm (not right after he finally comes to the table or while you're standing in front of him demanding he come to dinner) and discuss what each of you think dinner is about. Ask him if the timing is OK. If he's just forgetting because it's not an important thing to him, remind him that it IS an important thing to you and ask him how you two can best make sure that he comes to the table on time. A solution he comes up with has a better chance of working and sticking.

You may turn out to have irreconcilable dinner differences. Maybe you can find a substitute togetherness activity, or have some days be dinner with the family days and the rest of the week you and the kids eat together and he'll microwave a frozen burrito at eight o'clock.

(Also, this is not a man-woman thing. Men cook too. Women are late too. To blame this on gender is sexist bullshit.)
posted by fidelity at 6:31 AM on January 28, 2008

A couple other strategies:
- Get Wi-Fi and a laptop so he can hang out while you're cooking.
- Put a TV in the kitchen
- Send the kids to pull on his sleeves to come get you.

These are strategies that my mom either employs consciously or unconsciously to get me to to come to the table.
posted by philosophistry at 3:13 PM on January 29, 2008

Ha ha - my husband used to do this until I sat him down and explained it. My cooking for you is an extension of my love and you showing up to eat it when I tell you it's ready, is how you say that you value and appreciate what I'm doing. Also, if you don't come within 5 minutes of being called - I reserve the right to throw your dinner in the trash.
posted by heartquake at 7:48 AM on February 9, 2008

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