How many ways do you know of to prepare chicken for dinner? Chicken in mandarin orange sauce with rice? Teriyaki chicken you marinated overnight in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator and then cooked on your indoor grill?
What about casseroles? I cooked these at least two nights a week for more than 20 years as I tried to stretch our family’s food dollars to the maximum with 3 hungry kids and a husband who grew up in the mid-west and wanted filling meals with bread or biscuits on the side.
What about steak or fish? My husband insisted that these were too expensive for family dinners so those were completely off our menu. And that wasn’t his only rule about dinner at our house.
During all the years I was at home raising our kids, my husband had a rule that we weren’t allowed to eat out more than once a week. That was the Law.
Of course it was much easier for him to follow this rigid rule about not eating out more than once per week since he travelled for his corporate sales position every week and got plenty of restaurant prepared foods himself paid for on his business account.
Although he didn’t eat dinner with us regularly due to his frequent travel schedule, I made sure to have an entire dinner prepared and ready to go when he was home with me and the kids. During dinner, he would offer detailed comments and critiques about what I had made- and if he didn’t care for something he made that very clear and would insist that I never make that dinner again. Often I felt as if was walking on eggshells, holding my breath anxiously as I waited for his praise or criticism and trying to anticipate what his reaction would be.
When he didn’t like what I had prepared, he spelled out all the reasons and assured me that he was critiquing my meal and informing me about what was wrong with it to HELP ME for next time and how this was beneficial!
And I believed him because I didn’t understand then that this hurtful barrage of criticism he dished out was damaging me emotionally and making me further dependent on him. I didn’t know anything at all about emotional abuse and the long term effects that it has on our confidence and self-esteem.
After the storm of divorce entered my life, I realized that during my marriage I had followed directly in my mother’s footsteps. She too had prepared endless suppers, carefully catering each one to please my father’s specific tastes and then waiting with apprehension to find out his verdict about whether he approved of it or not.
After I discovered the extent of my husband’s secret life, I filed for divorce and my attorney filed a motion which was approved by the judge that required that my husband vacate the marital home and remain vacated during the time of the divorce. But this didn’t stop him from coming over to “visit the kids” and then sneak into the kitchen and help himself to whatever dinner I had prepared for them.
I myself was so upset most of the time during divorce and unravelling the aftershocks of my husband’s ongoing affair and lies that I could barely keep down solid foods at all and so I often ate small snacks throughout the day and then avoided eating dinner altogether.
Finally, after going to see a therapist during the separation and learning powerful information about narcissism and emotional abuse, I began to discover that I am a woman of worth, deserving of respect and free to make my own decisions and not have to follow the demands of my critical husband.
As my therapist frequently reminded me, “Just because he says it, doesn’t make it true.”
I began to see that I didn’t have to remain handcuffed to my “201 New Ways to Fix Chicken” cookbook and that making a balanced dinner every night was not a requirement that was written in tablets made of stone.
So I made the life-altering decision to quit cooking dinner.
What a huge relief!
I quit making dinner in 2007 and believe it or not, the kids, our golden retriever and I are still thriving and well! They’ve learned to fix simple things themselves for dinner and I do the same.
Has going through divorce changed the way you think about making dinner every night?