In my first marriage, I was always the one coming up with the ideas for where we were going for dinner. Which was curious because I didn’t really care.
But my ex-husband did. He was the kind of person that had a fairly broad range of things that he would eat in general, but they were very time locked. He had to be in the mood for something to eat it. This often meant going out to eat as it was impossible to plan meals ahead of time. And forget about his ever consuming leftovers. He seemed to have some mental block against it, the best I could tell.
When we could afford it, restaurants seemed like a good option. Since menus were typically much larger than what I could whip up at any given time at home, and he and I didn’t have to have the same thing, leaving our choices in dinner to be independent outcomes.
But these nights were inevitably difficult conversations, too. Because even when it came to the choice of the restaurant itself, he was incredibly indecisive. “Where would you like to go to eat?” I’d ask.
“I dunno,” he’d say. “What are the options? Where are some places you’d like to go?”
And even though I was pretty easygoing about such things and didn’t really care (having lived through multiple periods of food scarcity, I’ve been known to force myself to eat things I don’t like because it’s what we have on hand), I’d be tasked with stopping for a minute, mentally imagining myself visiting certain restaurants. I’d start reciting places that seemed like they’d be nice to go.
And my ex-husband would shoot them down one at a time. Until I came to one that meshed with his particular mood of the moment.
By that point, I’d be exhausted and a little resentful. Since we were often at my seventh or eighth choice before he said yes, and I’d mentally have gotten excited about things, only to have him say, “nope, nope, nope” over and over. Imagining places I’d like to go and being denied them one after the other.
It was the worst of both worlds. Having to come up with ideas but having no real say in the outcome.
Asking One Another “What Do You Want for Dinner?” Over and Over Until You Die
The dinner issue was of course not the reason my ex and I got divorced. (We weren’t really compatible as domestic partners in a number of ways, and we’re both amazed now that we managed to be together for a decade.)
But it’s something I’ve definitely thought about a lot, because I’ve gone on to eat the vast majority of my dinners with a different person. Husband 2.0, I’ve often joked. Complete with more compatible drivers, less memory leak, and better overall performance.
The issue of what to do for dinner clearly is still with us. There’s a popular joke that says marriage is basically asking one another “What do you want for dinner?” over and over until you die.
I’ve read a bunch of different decision-making methods since then, easier ways to collaborate on choosing a dinner place. Here’s one that a lot of people use:
- One person comes up with three choices (of restaurants to go to or dishes to cook at home).
- The other eliminates one of the options.
- The first person cuts the least desirable option of the ones remaining and effectively chooses.
That’s the strategy my current husband and I typically use when we’re at a loss.
He’s basically the opposite of my first husband when it comes to food: He has a much shorter list of foods he likes. But when he likes something, he’s pretty much always in the mood for it.
And suddenly I’m the moodier of the two. Because while I’m not nearly as particular as my ex-husband was about it, I do experience more cravings than my husband does. Times when I’m really in the mood for something and really not.
We tend to cook at home the vast majority of the time, which is nice. Quicker. Huge savings in money. Better for us.
In any event, there’s one principle I’ve learned is crucial when it comes to making joint decisions, regardless of the strategy you use: The more opinionated person needs to be part of the decision-making process. And not just part of the fun, final parts. But the parts that are annoying, require effort and creativity. Otherwise, joint decision-making is a hellish task for the easygoing one.
It’s something I’ve definitely tried to be mindful of now that I’m in the other position.