When cooking together hurts your relationship
Love is a conflict between reflexes and reflections
I just love those TV shows or movies where the couple is in the kitchen..
They’re cooking together.
They’re laughing. Giving each other tastes of the sauce they’re joyfully making together off of a generous wooden spoon
Maybe even dancing in the kitchen?
I mean, it ticks a lot of my boxes.
I LOVE food
I love cooking
I love doing new things
I love doing things together
Oh my, I love sensual delights.
And romance? My Libran heart LOVES romance!
And Jol is a Taurus – also a lover of the good things in life, of sensual experiences.
And connection is right at the top of his list of wonderful and needed experiences too.
Sounds like a perfect set up to have those movie and TV scenes play out at home, right?!
But the reality is that Jol and I can’t do that. *shakes head*
We can’t cook together.
We definitely can’t cook NEW recipes together.
There’s no dancing in the kitchen.
No giving each other tastes off of wooden spoons as we laugh together 👈 that’s the movie scene playing in my head!
The reality’s not romantic.
It’s not really even very companionable.
What it used to be was very, very triggering!
For both of us.
I had my romantic illusions disappointed.
Jol felt under pressure, unskilled, and panicky.
We used to try and fail.
What could’ve been a sweet evening together, ended up being a horrible argument. Hurt feelings. A sense of failure on both sides.
It took a long time before we realised there are other ways we can have those playful romantic moments together.
There are ways that work for us.
And ‘cooking classes at home’ are not it.
Even just ‘trying new recipes together’ is not it.
In my mind, it’ll be like the movie version
“Cooking together” is one of the romantic stories I brought to this relationship with someone who was not really a cooking person.[*]
In reality, when Jol tries a new recipe, he panics.
He needs to focus.
Follow the recipe exactly.
No-one must speak to him.
Or distract him.
He gets snappy.
And I like to cook by intuition.
The recipe is a loose guide.
I add things.
Easily substitute ingredients if we don’t have them or I sense something else will suit our tastes better.
And while I’m articulate and generally a great communicator, when I’m in flow, like when I’m cooking.. I just DO and find it difficult to find the WORDS to direct or tell someone what needs doing, even if I have the experience needed.
Especially these days when menopause seems to have changed how my brain works.
In general, it’s easy for me to notice what the other person’s doing and accommodate it or flow with them, to make it a more “together” experience.
But I get frustrated when the other person’s panicking, maybe even “trying so hard”, that they’re not actually present.
[cough.. cough.. Jol.. cough]
When they seem more like a loud staccato blast to me than a sweet harmony. *sigh*
And that ☝️ is not a wonderful, romantic combo!!
What we do instead..
We like to do things together where you need to work stuff out. Brainy stuff. Not hands on stuff.
We like to watch stuff together and stop and talk about things it stirs for us.
I like to read articles out loud to Jol and we talk about them. Long, deep conversations.
We like to explore new places, or old places in new ways, hand in hand.
And then go somewhere we haven’t been before to try food that someone else has made for us.
We set ourselves up for success and we celebrate what works best for us as a couple.
And how do we deal with the cooking problem at home?
I understand.. sometimes, there are just things that need doing and we have a story that they would be better if we did them together.
That that would be ‘fair’.
Or other stories that we bring to tasks like putting up a tent, assembling IKEA furniture, or driving somewhere we’ve not been before.
And sometimes that’s the real problem.
The fixed way we’re approaching it.
So we’ve found more flexible ways of doing things, like the cooking, that really work for us.
The real us, here and now.. not the fantasy us from a parallel dimension.
Cooking isn’t enjoyable for me when it needs to be done every day, so Jol’s taken on the everyday cooking.
I play my part in the team by thinking of novel ideas for food to try.
Something that’ll liven up our routine.
And Jol has been improving his cooking skills as he tries my ideas – on his own in the kitchen.
And I’ve been loving the results!
We both have.
Why this works for us..
I feel supported by having daily cooking taken off of my plate (so to speak!).
I’ve learned to appreciate the same reliable (not very exciting) food, even though I thrive on novelty, because it’s not me doing the cooking every day.
I also appreciate Jol being willing to change it up once in a while when I yearn for a specific kind of food or I come across an interesting recipe.
As a habitual kinda guy, thinking of new recipes to try isn’t Jol’s strong suit. He appreciates my flow of fresh ideas (and recipes) to keep things lively.
And he’s found he really enjoys cooking now that he has more skills in the kitchen.
He feels supported too.
And I cook more extravagant meals from time to time when I feel inspired, or surprise Jol with dinner occasionally when I know he’d be delighted to find a meal already made.
We do both love food.
And romantic things.
And even cooking.
Just, not all together.
Do you and your partner have something like that?
Something that you like to do, but the way you do it together is so triggering you never want to do that thing ever again?
Have you sat down together to work out what unexpressed, idealised vision you each might be bringing to the activity?
Set some time aside to journal or talk through these prompts:
What underlying story could you be weaving into the task?
Is it an overlay of “idealised (and unrealistic) romance” like I was overlaying onto our cooking sessions? Or maybe “perfect family time“?
Is it someone else’s perfect idea of this activity you two keep trying to do together and failing at or failing to enjoy together?
Are there others ways you can enjoy the activity or get it done? Are there more novel ways of approaching it?
Are there other ways to reach your desired outcome? Really out of the box thinking is best here.
Are there other ways to divide the labour (in this activity.. or overall, as in you do all of this and they take on all of something else?)?
If you try this exercise and have some revelations, let me know in the comments, or on either of my social media channels.
And if you get stuck, message me using the box at the bottom of this page and tell me the specific detail of what happens in your most common situation and I’ll send back some suggestions!
I like that kind of troubleshooting.
[*] One of Jol’s romantic stories he brought to the relationship was of his partner going on long walks and bike rides together
.. across the countryside
.. in all weathers
.. like he likes to.
I am not that woman! 😂
And that’s a story for another day!
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