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A couple of years ago I almost lost my relationship over some fried plantain..

March 2, 2024

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I was cooking for my wife and decided to make it in the way my Colombian grandma had taught me..

5 minutes later she comes by the kitchen and says:

“Ugh you’re frying it?..

I don’t want fried food.

Please prepare mine by boiling it with water.,

Fried is so unhealthy.”

I lost it.

Put the pan away and told her to leave me alone..

“Cook yourself then..”

We had a big fight!

She was angry that she couldn’t make a simple request about the food SHE was going to eat and her preferences..

I was angry about feeling controlled and micromanaged and demanded to do things the way she wanted them done (meaning it was no longer a gift from me to her but an expected task..)

Let me dissect to you why we argued..

When she came to the kitchen she was not alone..

Right there with her there were close to 30 years of memories, triggers and traumas.

Stories about who she is, who she is not, what love is and what it is not..

So in a millisecond, a lot of things happened:

In my cooking, she’s saw her upbringing poverty and lack where everything was fried, she felt the ‘choiceless’ obligation to eat unhealthy food, she saw her previous eating disorder and health complications..

It triggered in her a strong wound:

“I am not worthy of being cared for properly.”

(Which is what she experienced with her parents.)

She attempted to solve this by telling me what to do.

Controlling/ demanding instead of asking or inviting.

Control is what we do when we’re afraid we may not get our needs met..

The problem is that it’s super subtle..

You could say please, but your “please” is charged with heavy emotions, it is charged with so much intensity that the other knows that “No” is not a response they can give you..

Meaning that the “please” no matter how gentle it comes out the mouth, is a burning hot “YOU MUST.. or else..!”

So now, back to our fight..

Here’s what happened to me:

I a millisecond, I remembered my mother’s face..

Back then she was a judgemental mother who was very hard to please or to make happy..

She was overprotective and quite enmeshed and controlling, so much I always felt like I had to hide to be myself..

I had to walk on eggshells around her because nothing I did was good enough. She’d point out all that was wrong with me.

So my wife asking for boiled plantain triggered in me a strong wound:

“I am not free..”

“What I do (and therefore who I am) is not good enough.”

I attempted to solve this feeling of powerlessness by getting angry (which is the emotion disempowered people resort to in attempts to bring themselves back up – or push the others down)

I told her to cook it herself and asserted my dominance and leadership over what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.

(“I’m not going to allow a woman to tell me what to do or to submit me into cooking the way she demands it!” I thought in my righteous head.)

By now you’ve already realized this is not about plantain being boiled or fried (though I agree that boiled is much better!)

It’s about the unconscious reactions that happen..

The wounded child within each of us that comes up to fight and to try and break the pattern of trauma they grew up with..

The problem is that the mechanism we use to not experience the original wound (control / forcefulness / anger / closure) is the exact behaviour that is bound to push us directly back into it..

As she demanded I do things differently, she acted in the exact way that would evoke my response of dismissiveness and anger:

Which is exactly what she saw growing up in her father, reassuring her story of not being good enough to be cared for properly, not even by her partner.

When I pushed back in frustration, I did the exact thing that evoked a response of control, anger and volatility in my wife:

Which is exactly what I saw in my mother growing up, reassuring my story that I’m not free nor safe with women and that nothing I do is good enough.

Our trauma dictates our triggers and our triggers dictate how our relationships unfold.

It’s never EVER about the details..

And we are rarely -if ever- dealing with an adult in moments of conflict.

It’s often two children trying their best not to drown under the pain and powerlessness of a difficult upbringing..

And in their attempts, finding themselves deeper into it..

Confused about why small things always seem to spark such great flames?

It’s because it’s not a small thing..

It’s our whole structure of seeing the world, ourselves and love.

And we carry it everywhere we go..

So what do we do?

Well, there are ways to heal these cycles of pain, disconnection and explosion.

They aren’t easy but they’re simple.

It takes commitment, patience and a lot of compassion for ourselves and our partner.