Carolyn Hax: Daily cooking chores kindle a slow burn of resentment

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 21, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My husband and I have been married a little over 11 / 2 years and are still adjusting to living together, I guess.

Several months ago I suggested that we each take two weekday nights and that person would be responsible for planning and cooking the meal on those days. I was getting resentful that I seemed to be the one cooking more and didn’t like the feeling of being always responsible for dinner. We both like to cook but my husband views cooking more as a hobby and his wanting to cook is very mood-based (which doesn’t lend itself to weekly meal planning).

He is frustrated by the schedule because it turns cooking into a chore, and some days he would be happy eating cereal for dinner. I’m more practical about meals (yes, dinner is a chore but we still have to eat!) and cooking for my partner motivates me to make something healthy.


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Anyway, now I feel like I’m forcing this schedule on him, ruining his love of cooking. But I also feel resentful that it is usually on his nights to cook that he feels like cereal, so no one cooks a “real” meal for me.

Should we just do our own thing at dinner time? I’ll cook when I feel like it and he’ll do the same, even if that means it only happens twice a month? I know that bean-counting is dangerous to a relationship and I don’t want to do it but I can’t push away this creeping resentment.

Dinner Time

Just to get it out of the way, I’m having an eye-roll over the idea that cooking twice a week is too much of a buzzkill for him to bear. Poor Poor Poohpie!!!

Okay, enough of that; I can snark all day from my desk chair, but you can’t. You have to live in this marriage.

And, too, there is a way to look at this that shows respect for his joy of cooking without making him a net drag on your marriage.

While “I cook for you and you serve me corn flakes” may be technically accurate, it’s a micro look at a macro arrangement. There’s no shortage of jobs required to keep a household running, and there’s also a wide range of normal for what a functional household looks like.

Since you feel strongly about dinner, then consider shouldering most of it — and have your husband assume a different burden of similar weight. For example, he can certainly shop for the groceries and do all the dishes (assuming he has no special nostalgia for non-coerced dishwasher loading).

Even that is almost too micro, since it all revolves around food. If you broaden the discussion to everything that must be done to keep your lives running — dining, cleaning, laundry, errands, pet care, home/yard/car maintenance, account-watching and bill-paying, financial planning, health insurance forms, medical appointments, taxes, extended-family contact (calls, cards, gifts, thank-yous), vacation planning — then you’ll be on to a division of labor that’s truly equitable. That is, as long as that’s the result you both sincerely want and are both willing to work to achieve.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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