Cooking for someone is probably one of the most spritual and fundamental things you can do in a relationship. That warm and fuzzy feeling you get when enjoying a meal together prepared at home probably has some serious anthropological roots. Thousands of years ago ,when we existed as hunters and gatherers, we brought back our kill to the family or tribe and took pleasure in the consumption of an animal which would sustain us nutritionally and even possibly clothe us. Every part of the animal was utilized for our sustained existence and so it’s no wonder that sharing a meal with someone you care for, references some pretty ancient behaviors and feels pretty darn good.
However this same connection to food and meal time can also bring great discomfort in relationships. Fights during mealtime seem especially painful, especially when someone walks away from the setting. Most people aren’t expecting to fight during a meal, so your defenses and guard are down. Ever sit at a restaurant in anticipation of someone arriving for a date? The level of sheer embarrassment and emotional pain is arguably much worse than that same individual not showing up at a theater or other venue. Now imagine the pain associated with someone that uses meals as a way to completely invalidate your affection?
I’ve experienced this first hand and I have to say it’s pretty painful. I love cooking for those I love and I’ve been in the situation more than once where it’s been brought to my attention during an argument that “I never asked you to cook for me.” Ouch. Holy shit that hurts. Not only are those words showing a great lack of manners and gratitude, but it’s a hurtful and often successful attempt to undermine the love and emotion you put into a meal. Anyone’s who’s ever enjoyed cooking knows that a part of you and your energy is expressed in these culinary creations whether it be a simple hot dog or a four course dinner. To have that turned around and mutated into something of an emotional weapon is tortuous. It’s completely invalidating your affection and something you created from a magical place… your heart.
So how do we prevent such painful experiences from occurring? You don’t. I know that may sound crappy but in the almost 50 years I’ve been alive I’ve noticed humans will almost always take advantage of a week spot when it’s to their advantage and they’re trying to defend themselves physically or emotionally. Unfortunately it’s just human nature. Even more unfortunate is when you’re predisposed to suffering from this kind of wound because you make yourself vulnerable to it. If you put your heart and soul into everything, then expect your heart and soul to feel the brunt of criticism, verbal insults and unjustified attacks on expressions of affection. It’s part of being who you are. It’s part of having a passion for something others can’t grasp or understand.
“It’s okay to want to do things for people and make them feel good, but not to the point where you make yourself so vulnerable and allow them to hurt you needlessly.”
You might also try changing your perspective and realizing you’re not responsible for anyone else’s happiness except your own. The next time you make a wonderful dinner, do it for yourself and be willing to share it with others. They will most certainly enjoy your efforts, but you will enjoy it so much more knowing you did it for yourself…. they simply have your permission to participate. Yeah! And while your at it, make something special for yourself and hide it from them or better yet, eat it in the kitchen while you’re slaving away, completely unbeknownst to them you’re actually savoring freedom.
I hope you can see and appreciate my humor here. There are no easy answers, but the middle ground is a good place to start. It’s okay to want to do things for people and make them feel good, but not to the point where you make yourself so vulnerable and allow them to hurt you needlessly – always create from the appropriate place. Everyone needs to realize that when you’re wounded emotionally, part of the blame lies with the afflicted. In some way or another, we allowed it to happen… we gave someone the power to enter our psyche and deliver the offending blow. Doing things for yourself and allowing others to join in the fun makes it much easier when… and it will be a when, someone tries to flip the tables and make it seem your efforts were unsolicited. Not only would they be right, but they can use this little self esteem boost to help carry themselves out the front door and out of your awareness.