The importance of honesty in all relationships
How meatloaf helped us open the best addiction treatment center in Georgia
When my first child was born, early in our marriage, my husband and I decided that I would stay at home with the baby for at least the first year. I was honored to have this chance to stay at home. I have always been somewhat of an overachiever, so I took my role as wife and stay-at-home mom very seriously. One of the ways I was determined to impress was through cooking dinner. My mother-in-law was an excellent cook, and I knew she made everything from scratch each night, including baking cakes and pies! Large shoes to fill, indeed.
I asked my husband to write down all of the dinners his mother had made so that I could gather recipes from her and other family members to cook in the evenings when he came home from work. He wrote down a list of the foods he remembered her making: chicken enchilada casserole, lasagna, meatloaf, and a few others, and they all went into the meal time rotation.
I should add that during this time, I was a vegetarian and our infant son wasn’t eating table food, so I was cooking many meals entirely for one person, my husband. I didn’t really mind cooking anything else, but one meal bothered me particularly: meatloaf. I didn’t like having to knead the meat and egg into something useable, I hated the smell and feel of the onions in the ground beef, and I hated that baked ketchup smell—it was just my least favorite meal to make.
One evening, a few years and countless meatloaf nights later, I noticed my husband wasn’t really eating his dinner, he was mostly just pushing it around. He would cut off a small piece, take a bite, cut up and move around larger pieces, but no real progress was being made.
I finally asked him: “Honey, is something wrong with the meatloaf?”
He turned to me, full of hesitation, “No, it’s…fine, I guess. I just really don’t like meatloaf. I never have.”
I sat in disbelief for a few moments.
I had been disgusted for years (years!!) having to make this dish. I had hated making meatloaf with a passion, but I thought all along I was doing it FOR someone who enjoyed it, so my extreme distaste was worth it.
“Do you remember when I asked you to make that list of the foods your mom cooked? Why did you put meatloaf on it?”
“Well, you said to write down things she cooked, and she did cook meatloaf. But I never liked it, even as a kid when she made it. And by the time I realized you were just making everything on the list, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you I didn’t like it, so I just let you keep making it. But I really can’t eat this any more.”
We dumped it all out and had cereal that night, and I sat down with a clean sheet of paper. I asked him to help me list ideas for dinners that we might both enjoy. I gave him permission to be honest, finally understanding that I wasn’t the dinners I made, that my worth didn’t rest on the success or failure of a meal. He realized that he hadn’t been doing me a favor pretending to like something he didn’t for the sake of my feelings. We both learned something about each other and ourselves that night, and slowly that lesson trickled over into other areas.
If my self-worth didn’t depend on my husband, and later my children, enjoying the food I made, maybe it also didn’t depend on other things I did, or even how they viewed me at all. It gave me permission to be honest about things I expected, to be honest with him about things he did that I loved or annoyed me. This honesty also helped me realize that most of these things I judged were just like meatloaf—totally subjective to the tastes of the person and not a “fact” that they were wrong or shouldn’t be done.
Once the roots of complete, loving honesty had taken hold of our relationship with one another, they began to spread to other relationships, and eventually those relationships that relied on placating and being fake became unbearable to maintain. New authentic relationships rose in their place, with none of the demands that we pretend to be something we weren’t for the sake of anyone’s perceptions of how we should be.
From a satellite perspective, these relationships also began to take their toll in our work lives. We felt compelled to seek out caring and honest people in all areas of our lives, and our work allowed us to cross paths with our (unknown to us at the time!) future business partner. When the time was right, we made an agreement with him to help bring this kind of loving honesty to people of all walks of life who are struggling with addiction, knowing that it is the kind of thing that can set anybody free. But first we made a pact: as partners, we each expected open honesty from one another, an understanding that we are not the actions we take, and this allowed us the freedom to build not just one but two thriving addiction treatment facilities in the metro Atlanta area (with more on the way!), where people are allowed to be themselves as they grow and move past the addictions that used to hold them.
And when we have dinner meetings, we never serve meatloaf.
If you like meatloaf and would like a copy of my family’s recipe, click here.
If you would like to speak to one of us about moving past addiction with loving honesty, call us now at 888.556.