Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for January 3rd, 2012

Cleaning The Kitchen: 2012 Rings In New Habits

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 3, 2012

  Tom and Jeri, a heterosexual married couple for twenty years, with the same names as the cartoon characters, were getting on each other’s nerves. Tom loved to cook and he loved to shop for food. Jeri does not do either, but she resents a kitchen which is filled with food that no one eats. She is upset with Tom for not taking inventory when he goes shopping. “You are not a good wife,” she says, hurting Tom’s feelings. Tom then retreats into a withdrawn state, not engaging with Jeri, thereby making Jeri and Tom more at odds with one another. They come to me with this dilemma; the dilemma about their kitchen.

“Why don’t you two work together to establish what you need when you go shopping and then let Tom take it from there?” I suggest, proposing that if they became a team, rather than hurt by one another, then maybe they could constructively establish a working alliance. “I don’t like being called a wife,” Tom says quietly, but with feelings which suggest that he does not know how to cope with what he seems to feel to be an accusation. “I can understand that,” I say, “if you think that a wife is a negative term. Maybe, though, Jeri meant wife as a gender neutral term for someone who manages the kitchen.” Jeri chimes in quickly, “yes, that is exactly what I meant.”

“It seems to me that the two of you misunderstood one another. Tom likes to shop and cook, but he does not like to take inventory. Jeri, you may not like taking inventory, but you could assume this as your domestic responsibility. Then, the two of you could set aside a weekly time to work together to establish a shopping list.” I say, suggesting an obvious solution, but one that could only be discussed once the ‘wife’ comment was explained in a way in which Tom did not feel the need to withdraw. “We will try that,” Jeri says with a mix of optimism and skepticism. “It is a new year, so it is a good time to start new habits,” I say, reminding them of the opportunity that a change in calendar brings us.

Posted in Relationships | 3 Comments »

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