I tried a recipe this weekend for a dish that Big Guy and I have eaten at various events but I’d never made. It turned out great, and Big Guy and I both enjoyed eating it.
Imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon when Big Guy turned to me and said, “I found another recipe you could use next time” and proceeded to tell me the other recipe he had found.
My face as it fell, as I had quite the internal dialogue going on:
What was wrong with it? Why didn’t he like the recipe I chose? Why does he have to tell me what I should be doing instead of recognizing what I’ve done? Why am I not good enough?
And out loud I said, “Was there something wrong with what I made?”
My husband started to tell me all the great things about the recipe he’d found. Honestly, I was working so hard to not cry that I don’t remember a thing he said.
I asked him why he had chosen to look for a different recipe, and the only words I remember are “it has more flavors.” He realized that I was upset and said, “Does this mean you’re not going to make it anymore?” At that point, the conversation stopped because of a football play on television—and because I recognized that I had to work through my feelings before I said anything more.
What I was feeling was all too familiar.
My gut reactions were exactly the same as when my husband used to tell me he wanted anything more or different in our marriage bed.
When it came to a similar comment about something sexual, I always did several things:
- Make assumptions about what Big Guy was thinking.
- Allow myself to feel hurt.
- Plan to avoid that hurt in the future by avoiding the act going forward.
Because his intentions were never to hurt me, he was always blind-sided by my response (tears about his words and a refusal to be sexually adventurous in that way again).
Throughout my journey toward sexual restoration, I have learned to counter assumptions with truth, recognize that I can make choices about my feelings, and see that making decisions for my own emotional protection often causes me just as much trouble as the original hurt did.
So I sat there yesterday afternoon trying to process the conversation by using what I’ve learned on my sexual journey.
- I knew my husband had liked the dish I’d made because he ate it and because he told me it was good. I still don’t understand why he found a new recipe for me, but I do know that he was not saying that the food was bad—despite my initial internal dialogue.
- The dish I’d made was not a reflection on me personally—and even if it had been a bad cooking job, that doesn’t mean that I am bad or wrong in either way or that my husband thought so.
- Despite the fact that my feelings told me I didn’t want to make the dish again, I really liked what I had made. Even if my husband had thought it was horrible, I am worth my own effort. It is okay to use my recipe because I like it. My taste matters, too, after all. My inclination to not make this again because I’d let my feelings be hurt would mean that I wouldn’t get to experience that yumminess again.
My emotional reaction was more extreme than it needed to be. However, the reality is that I don’t like it when my husband points out what else I could have done right after I’ve done something. I saw quite clearly that the problem wasn’t so much what he said but the fact that he had not communicated his appreciation first. This is another reminder of the issues of self-worth I have to work through in myself, but the fact is that I had never even bothered to tell my husband that I felt this way.
So I made a request of my husband. I told him that when I do something new, I would prefer it if he would show appreciation for what I did rather than tell me what I could have done differently—at least for a month. (And Big Guy, if you’re reading this, you should know that a whole month is probably not necessary.)
I am not asking him to never suggest anything new. Instead, I am asking him to postpone the asking and use that time to express an appreciation for what I’ve already done. It gives me what I need (appreciation) and gives him what he needs (the opportunity to ask for new things).
Many of us respond negatively when our husbands ask us to try something new sexually. It’s especially hard when the request follows a big sexual effort on our part.
What’s wrong with what I did? Why doesn’t he appreciate what I am already doing for him? Why doesn’t he appreciate me? Why does he always have to tell me something different to try instead of being happy with what I’ve done?
If that sounds like you, I encourage you to spend some time really thinking through this.
- Am I making any assumptions about what my husband is thinking?
- Is my response just about this situation, or is part of it about on-going issues I have to work through in my own heart?
- Have I told my husband how I feel, and have I suggested a different approach that would meet both our needs?
Our husbands should be thoughtful and loving about how they approach suggestions, especially if this has been hard for us in the past. That is part of living with their wives in an understanding way.
However, we need to be sure we are holding up our share of things by reacting to actuality rather than assumptions, dealing with our own stuff, and communicating with our husbands.