Communication failures, or the prohibited stew-eating incident of last year

How many of us struggle with communication getting through within our own families?

I know I do and although some days or weeks are better than others, there is always room for improvement in the communications department.

Especially with the husband. 🙂

I’ll leave the kids out of this conversation at the moment, since a) they’re kids! and b) they have selective hearing, and c) they’re kids…


I have a somewhat funny anecdote to share that illustrates this frustrating phenomenon of communication not getting through. Although at the time I was seething, I am (sort of) getting past it now. Frankly, if I spend too much time allowing that experience to rattle around in my head I feel myself getting all tense again. Still, working on seeing positives instead of dwelling on the negatives has its benefits on my mental health, and what better way to deal with this than to write it out in a blog post?

Here is what happened:

I picked up a medium sized package of beef chunks with visions of making a slow cooked stew in my new le Creuset pot, the orange one I leave on the stove because I use it practically every day in the cooler months.

On a particularly busy weekend, where we were also expecting some family to visit and possibly stay for dinner, I started cooking my stew. I have a slow method of adding items to my stew over the course of several hours. Onions and garlic in oil first, 15 minutes later toss in the meat chunks and brown them, later add the broth, then the root veg… etc.

I looked forward to cooking my stew slow and purposefully. I can almost smell the aroma wafting through the house, creating comfort and warmth, just by rereading this sentence.

After a while I realized I was missing some crucial item. There’s a store up the street I could run out to and be back in 20 minutes. He was out with the kids, was going to be back for lunch and would head out again with one of the kids later.

They were going to need lunch.

Beside the stove is a small part of the counter separating the sink from the hot surface. I had a cutting board there with some chopped up Swiss chard and kale, items I was going to add into the stew upon my return. The stew still has to cook at low temperatures for several more hours for the meat to become fall-apart tender.

Just before leaving the house to go to the store, I turned the stove off and put a lid on the pot. Then I took out a bunch of items from the fridge, placed a hand-written piece of note paper on it with the word LUNCH written out, and texted the husband the following:

me:   lunch on counter
him:  ok
me:   add rice to soup, warm in mike, kids can add noodles from fridge
him:  ok
me:   I’ll be back in 20 min

He acknowledged the texts. Twice. Right?

When I got home, he was scooping a second bowl from the orange pot on the stove.

“It’s really good!” he said.

It is a miracle I didn’t throw something through the window, or commit some heinous crime, because I was overcome with so many emotions at that particular moment, I can’t even put words to them. None of them good ones.

I did manage to point to the counter where the labeled lunch was still sitting, completely untouched. His words “I didn’t know” just made the entire scenario so much worse.

The fact that he only left one of the meat chunks for the rest of us to share just exasperated me more.

A year has passed since this incident occurred, and I still struggle with how that simple form of communication managed to get so screwed up. And more importantly, how I am still so affected by this and he, most likely, has completely forgotten what he probably considers a simple mistake, and ‘not a big deal’.

So what lesson has come out of this situation for us?

Some of it good, some of it…well, we’re still working on it. For example, he now feels compelled to ask me every single time he reaches for something to eat.

This is a little exasperating for me, since the stuff in the fridge or pantry are ready to eat (or re-heat and warm up). They are not in the process of still cooking. So, a container of leftover pasta from yesterday does not require my approval. But he asks, just in case.

At the same time, I continue to label stuff I want saved. For example, if said container of leftover pasta is meant for a kid’s thermos lunch, I’ll either put a label on it (kid’s lunch), or store it in the thermos. Each kid has his own, so their dad wouldn’t take a blue or pink thermos to eat its contents.

On the subject of labels: he may not have seen, or chose to ignore, the lunch label that fateful day of the stew-eating incident, but to me it’s just logical and obvious. I like lists and labels and calendars. So what? In a busy family constantly separating and running off in different directions, lists and labels make sense to me.

Labels have their purpose, is what I’m saying. It’s really not that difficult to adhere to reading a label…

We shall see how this continues with the kids starting to show more interest in cooking. Will they adopt my labeling system to their food creations?

I can only hope.

Now please tell me, am I the only one who struggles with these breakdowns of communication? I would really find that hard to believe, so please, share! I’d love to hear your dilemma.




4 thoughts on “Communication failures, or the prohibited stew-eating incident of last year

  1. I get this, although we have been lucky enough to avoid major incidents like this. But what I really understand is how stuff like this can play over and over again in your head and you just can’t get over it. UGH. I wish there was a way to get over the disbelief!

    In our house I am 100% responsible for the food and feeding people, so when my careful plans are put astray by someone eating something they weren’t supposed to, I feel like my whole week is falling apart. It’s so weird how the responsibility for the food plan just isn’t on anyone else’s radar. I was thinking of writing a blog post recently where I wanted to declare the words, “What’s for dinner” off limits. Instead, people would be welcome to say things like, “Did you have a specific plan for dinner, because if not, I’ll get in there and see what I can put together” or perhaps “I was thinking pancakes for dinner, would that work for you?” But I doubted they’d ever see the difference there so I gave up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can I just say, I winced as I read this. I mean, you didn’t say, “Lunch is in the orange pot in the stove. Help yourself!”

    It would have served him right to get e-coli or something from eating un-finished stew!

    Communication is an issue in my house, and with my husband, also. Basically, I communicate, and he does not.

    And the whole thing about asking you every time he reaches for something now? That sounds very much like something mine would do, except he would take it even further, I’m sure.


    I don’t know what I can say except this:

    Our therapist (when we were seeing one) had us say something and then had our partner relay what they heard back to us. And the results are often very interesting. It’s a good exercise and can definitely work if both partners are willing participants.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re working on it. Lordy. I look back and part of me is actually able to snicker now…:)

      In retrospect I think he realized afterwards just how deeply this affected me. Hence the endless ‘can I eat this’ questions. sigh

      Thank you for responding. Perhaps I will try your suggestion and ask him (or the kids) to repeat what I said just to make a point!


Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.