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Man 'sad' GF didn't praise him for making boxed mac and cheese; GF gets good advice.

Man 'sad' GF didn't praise him for making boxed mac and cheese; GF gets good advice.


'AITA for not praising my boyfriend’s cooking efforts when he made boxed mac and cheese?'

My bf (33,M) and I (36,F) and I have been dating for nine months now. He doesn’t know how to cook, and this is the cause of tension between us.

When he eats alone it is usually a mix of instant ramen/ready to heat frozen meals/cereals/and portioned meals his mother gives him. I don’t eat meat and can’t eat many of these and a few months into the relationship it became clear he can’t prepare food for us both.

I asked him why he doesn’t cook and he said it’s a mix of ‘not needing to’ and ‘being scared of it’. He said he doesn’t like how cooking has lots of elements that need to come together at different times and finds it stressful.

He expressed a desire to learn to cook so I started to teach him. So far I have shown him how to make deli style sandwiches, cheese omelettes, and pizza (nothing fancy, the kind where you buy the pre-made base and add toppings). Teaching him requires me to help him make a list of ingredients, and go to the supermarket to help purchase them, because he finds it ‘easier when I’m there to do that’.

When I show him how to cook I try to be patient and careful with him because I want him to have a good association with the experience. I praise everything he does and when we sit down to eat I thank him. But sometimes I find it challenging.

For example, when we made pizzas he asked me if I put tomato on my base before or after oregano. I said it didn’t matter and he got upset with me for ‘not just telling him the right answer’. This led to a fight. I’ve tried to explain to him that it doesn’t matter if a meal isn’t perfect, we just need to eat.

I sometimes wonder if he has a learning disorder or similar but he is smart and good at learning in other areas of his life. He does clean up and do the dishes after we cook. He always thanks me for cooking.

Recently he has been sending me pictures of food he cooks himself. The other day he messaged me a picture of some boxed mac and cheese with broccoli and told me he was pleased with it. I didn’t reply and changed the subject. Later he told me he was sad I didn’t say something nice about it because he was proud of himself.

I know the polite and good thing to do would have been to reply with something encouraging but I feel like I’m already doing a lot to teach him cooking and don’t want to be a 24/7 cheerleader as well. I’m doing all of the mental load of organizing food for us as a couple - usually when we dine out I pick the place and often he asks me what I think he should order.

Being in the role of ‘cooking/food coach’ is ok one or two nights of the week and I want him to feel confident but sometimes I just need a break. There’s something about the dynamic that isn’t attractive to me - it’s like I’m his Mom and he is looking at me for approval.

AITA for not being more encouraging of my bf making box mac and cheese?

Here's a conversation with OP about what may be going on:

neoneldritchhorror writes:

NTA. I'm sorry but am I reading this correct, you had to teach the man how to make a sandwich??

green_chimes OP responded:

Yes, the worst bit was showing him how to buy ingredients. He put it together fine but needed direction on what to put in it.

Dontdrinkthecoffee writes:

Hooooo boy. Okay.

The absolutely overwhelming dependence on an order of operations reminds me of when I learned to cook. I couldn’t understand why the important details were never included.

I extensively researched each step of how to cook, including watching a hundred or so short YouTube videos, and followed a basic cookbook designed for teens. I still googled half the information in recipes for interpretation.

You may have guessed, but I am almost certainly autistic and undiagnosed. I also had neglectful parents who would get too stressed and angry-freaked out about teaching me how to cook. I also knew that if I had learned how to cook more than mac n cheese that I would be the one responsible for all of my whole family’s meals so I fought learning a bit.

His dependence on you needing to praise him is a bit odd, but he did reach out in a bid to show you that he made something himself, without your help. I think that shows that he is trying to be independent in learning. Something small like an ‘Oh, nice!’ would probably be more than enough.

I’m guessing he’s working through trauma of some sort, like neglect, or fighting through issues with neurodivergence. He needs to learn to be more independent, but ignoring a bid for connection is one of the ways a person destroys a relationship. It’s up to you if that’s what you are trying to do. NAH

green_chimes OP responded:

Thank you very much for sharing this, your perspective is valuable to me. It’s not for me to say if his upbringing was traumatic but fwiw I’ve met his parents and liked them - and his dad cooks at least some of the meals. I definitely wonder if he leans neurodivergent in some ways and that’s a factor. I don’t really want to diagnose him based on an issue we’re experiencing as that seems undue on my part.

I think it is about striking a balance between how to support him without me getting exhausted or frustrated.

peachiiev says:

I think if you want to have a good relationship with him, you should find out. Just ask him, kindly, if he is neurodivergent.

I don't want to be quick to assume he's using 'weaponized incompetence' on you since he sounds like he genuinely wants to learn and is cooking on his own, nor do I want to diagnose him, however; he does sound a lot like me and like others on here that have expressed anxiety about food and cooking.

I'm autistic and disabled so that makes doing house work and cooking a struggle since I often need help from my husband and have more bad days than good. When I do something by myself that for a lot of people would be minor, my husband always tells me 'good job, thank you for doing that,' and it means a lot.

Pleas have that conversation with him and don't take all the 'he needs praise like a child, he can't make a sandwich by himself, red flag' comments to heart until you figure out what's going on and then you two can have a healthy conversation about food and other aspects of your relationship going forward. NAH

green_chimes OP responded:

Thank you for sharing, I am tuning into more comments like yours and other people who have suggested neurodivergency as a way to reframe the situation.

I agree there’s other factors worth exploring. I don’t think he knows if he is neurodivergent so this won’t be simple to raise with him. I don’t believe anyone can diagnose another person they’re dating, only doctors can do that. But other comments have made me consider the possibility he could be.

There’s things like how when he drives he has a similar stress to cooking - he only wants to drive the same routes, new routes or not knowing the precise way make him feel chaotic. He also often asks me questions as if I should know a clear cut answer, when I don’t (no one does).

Although the ‘weaponized incompetence’ comments have validated my frustration and righteous feminism, some of them have verged on downright mean.

I’d rather have a deeper conversation about what’s going on with him, and prompt him to investigate neurodivergency for himself, than continue to cook the way we have been and ultimately lose my patience.

If he does need to work through being neurodivergent I’m not sure we should be together at this stage in both our lives - or at minimum we’d need different ways to manage some tasks - but unpacking that honestly is the best way to assess it.

My hat is off to everyone with disabilities or neurodivergency, and their partners, who have shared their experiences on this post. From my heart, thank you.

Sources: Reddit
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