She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink



It seems so unreasonable when you put it that way: My wife left me because sometimes I leave dishes by the sink.

It makes her seem ridiculous; and makes me seem like a victim of unfair expectations.

We like to point fingers at other things to explain why something went wrong, like when Biff Tannen crashed George McFly’s car and spilled beer on his clothes, but it was all George’s fault for not telling him the car had a blind spot.

This bad thing happened because of this, that, and the other thing. Not because of anything I did!

Sometimes I leave used drinking glasses by the kitchen sink, just inches away from the dishwasher.

It isn’t a big deal to me now. It wasn’t a big deal to me when I was married. But it WAS a big deal to her.

Every time she’d walk into the kitchen and find a drinking glass by the sink, she moved incrementally closer to moving out and ending our marriage. I just didn’t know it yet. But even if I had, I fear I wouldn’t have worked as hard to change my behavior as I would have stubbornly tried to get her to see things my way.

The idiom “to cut off your nose to spite your face” was created for such occasions.

Men Are Not Children, Even Though We Behave Like Them

Feeling respected by others is important to men.

Feeling respected by one’s wife is essential to living a purposeful and meaningful life. Maybe I thought my wife should respect me simply because I exchanged vows with her. It wouldn’t be the first time I acted entitled. One thing I know for sure is that I never connected putting a dish in the dishwasher with earning my wife’s respect.

Yesterday I responded to a comment by @insanitybytes22, in which she suggested things wives and mothers can do to help men as an olive branch instead of blaming men for every marital breakdown. I appreciated her saying so.

But I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is “I got this,” and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

I always reasoned: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

But she didn’t want to be my mother. She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.

Men Can Do Things

Men invented heavy machines that can fly in the air reliably and safely. Men proved the heliocentric model of the solar system, establishing that the Earth orbits the Sun. Men design and build skyscrapers, and take hearts and other human organs from dead people and replace the corresponding failing organs inside of living people, and then those people stay alive afterward. Which is insane.

Men are totally good at stuff.

Men are perfectly capable of doing a lot of these things our wives complain about. What we are not good at is being psychic, or accurately predicting how our wives might feel about any given thing because male and female emotional responses tend to differ pretty dramatically.

‘Hey Matt! Why would you leave a glass by the sink instead of putting it in the dishwasher?’

Several reasons.

  1. I may want to use it again.
  2. I don’t care if a glass is sitting by the sink unless guests are coming over.
  3. I will never care about a glass sitting by the sink. Ever. It’s impossible. It’s like asking me to make myself interested in crocheting, or to enjoy yardwork. I don’t want to crochet things. And it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which doing a bunch of work in my yard sounds more appealing than ANY of several thousand less-sucky things which could be done.

There is only ONE reason I will ever stop leaving that glass by the sink. A lesson I learned much too late: Because I love and respect my partner, and it REALLY matters to her. I understand that when I leave that glass there, it hurts her— literally causes her pain—because it feels to her like I just said: “Hey. I don’t respect you or value your thoughts and opinions. Not taking four seconds to put my glass in the dishwasher is more important to me than you are.”

All the sudden, it’s not about something as benign and meaningless as a (quasi) dirty dish.

Now, it’s a meaningful act of love and sacrifice, and really? Four seconds? That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing too big to do for the person who sacrifices daily for me.

I don’t have to understand WHY she cares so much about that stupid glass.

I just have to understand and respect that she DOES. Then caring about her = putting glass in dishwasher.

Caring about her = keeping your laundry off the floor.

Caring about her = thoughtfully not tracking dirt or whatever on the floor she worked hard to clean.

Caring about her = taking care of kid-related things so she can just chill out for a little bit and not worry about anything.

Caring about her = “Hey babe. Is there anything I can do today or pick up on my way home that will make your day better?”

Caring about her = a million little things that say “I love you” more than speaking the words ever can.

Yes, It’s That Simple

The man capable of that behavioral change—even when he doesn’t understand her or agree with her thought-process—can have a great relationship.

Men want to fight for their right to leave that glass there. It might look like this:

“Eat shit, wife,” we think. “I sacrifice a lot for you, and you’re going to get on me about ONE glass by the sink? THAT little bullshit glass that takes a few seconds to put in the dishwasher, which I’ll gladly do when I know I’m done with it, is so important to you that you want to give me crap about it? You want to take an otherwise peaceful evening and have an argument with me, and tell me how I’m getting something wrong and failing you, over this glass? After all of the big things I do to make our life possible—things I never hear a “thank you” for (and don’t ask for)—you’re going to elevate a glass by the sink into a marriage problem? I couldn’t be THAT petty if I tried. And I need to dig my heels in on this one. If you want that glass in the dishwasher, put it in there yourself without telling me about it. Otherwise, I’ll put it away when people are coming over, or when I’m done with it. This is a bullshit fight that feels unfair and I’m not just going to bend over for you.”

The man DOES NOT want to divorce his wife because she’s nagging him about the glass thing which he thinks is totally irrational. He wants her to agree with him that when you put life in perspective, a glass being by the sink when no one is going to see it anyway, and the solution takes four seconds, is just not a big problem. She should recognize how petty and meaningless it is in the grand scheme of life, he thinks, and he keeps waiting for her to agree with him.

She will never agree with him, because it’s not about the glass for her. The glass situation could be ANY situation in which she feels unappreciated and disrespected by her husband.

The wife doesn’t want to divorce her husband because he leaves used drinking glasses by the sink.

She wants to divorce him because she feels like he doesn’t respect or appreciate her, which suggests he doesn’t love her, and she can’t count on him to be her lifelong partner. She can’t trust him. She can’t be safe with him. Thus, she must leave and find a new situation in which she can feel content and secure.

In theory, the man wants to fight this fight, because he thinks he’s right (and I agree with him): The dirty glass is not more important than marital peace.

If his wife thought and felt like him, he’d be right to defend himself. Unfortunately, most guys don’t know that she’s NOT fighting about the glass. She’s fighting for acknowledgment, respect, validation, and his love.

If he KNEW that—if he fully understood this secret she has never explained to him in a way that doesn’t make her sound crazy to him (causing him to dismiss it as an inconsequential passing moment of emo-ness), and that this drinking glass situation and all similar arguments will eventually end his marriage, I believe he WOULD rethink which battles he chose to fight, and would be more apt to take action doing things he understands to make his wife feel loved and safe.

I think a lot of times, wives don’t agree with me. They don’t think it’s possible that their husbands don’t know how their actions make her feel because she has told him, sometimes with tears in her eyes, over and over and over and over again how upset it makes her and how much it hurts.

And this is important: Telling a man something that doesn’t make sense to him once, or a million times, doesn’t make him “know” something. Right or wrong, he would never feel hurt if the same situation were reversed so he doesn’t think his wife SHOULD hurt. It’s like, he doesn’t think she has the right to (and then use it as a weapon against him) because it feels unfair.

“I never get upset with you about things you do that I don’t like!” men reason, as if their wives are INTENTIONALLY choosing to feel hurt and miserable.

When you choose to love someone, it becomes your pleasure to do things that enhance their lives and bring you closer together, rather than a chore.

It’s not: Sonofabitch, I have to do this bullshit thing for my wife again. It’s: I’m grateful for another opportunity to demonstrate to my wife that she comes first and that I can be counted on to be there for her, and needn’t look elsewhere for happiness and fulfillment.

Once someone figures out how to help a man equate the glass situation (which does not, and will never, affect him emotionally) with DEEPLY wounding his wife and making her feel sad, alone, unloved, abandoned, disrespected, afraid, etc. …  Once men really grasp that and accept it as true even though it doesn’t make sense to them?

Everything changes forever.


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3,833 thoughts on “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink

  1. […] his lesson. It reminds me of that post by Matthew Frey, about how his wife left him because he left his dishes in the sink — but it’s much more than that… a situation so common it’s made its way […]


    • MD says:

      It’s not about the glass, not even really about showing love and appreciation. It’s about taking care of the little things that one constantly does that turn into bigger things (i.e. leaving an empty water bottle on the counter, every day, and not taking the time to put it into the recycle bin because THAT just takes SO much effort…) If you know the glass thing bothered her just ask why…get to the bottom of it…and tell her why you left it..compromise…BUT when you ARE done with it, take care of it and don’t leave it for her to do.


      • Vinaigrette Girl says:

        You didn’t read this in full, did you? That patronising, self-justifying “why” – like she doesn’t understand – is part of what gets women deciding to leave. Chambermaid in Chief is not what women look for in marriage. The author is spot on here.


        • StoryMing says:

          As a woman myself, I don’t think there’s anything much wrong with trying to understand the why, SO LONG AS you are also doing it anyway in the meantime.


    • This hit the nail right on the head.


  2. ischemgeek says:

    I think this comes back to society’s ills played out in the home: Women are taught that it’s our job to take care of men, our job to be the self-sacrificing ones, our job to manage home and work and etc, and that it’s wrong if we ever complain or feel put out or if we don’t do it all with a smile. End result is that women, in general (me included) have to be more aggravated before we even raise something as an issue and are less assertive in standing up for ourselves than men – and in a lot of cases, we have good reason to be as a lot of research shows that assertive women are viewed less favorably in a lot of cases, have lower job reviews, etc.

    Men, for their part, are often not taught how to do housework at all (my partner wasn’t for example). Where they are taught how to do housework, they are often raised with the unspoken assumption that when they get into a relationship, their girlfriend or wife will take care of it, and that these skills are just for living alone or for not driving their roommates batty.

    So you get men who simply don’t have the know-how to pitch in equally on the housework front and an engrained attitude that they shouldn’t have to, and on the other hand you have women who simply don’t have the know-how to raise something as an issue early and assertively and have been taught to be ashamed of not being some superwoman who can keep a house spotless while taking care of kids and pets if you have any of either, and working full time.

    It’s a recipe for friction in a world where women just simply don’t have time anymore to take care of all the housework – maybe back in the 50s when we were expected to stay at home, there would have been time for it, but in the modern world, it’s only fair that if both partners are working both should pitch in equally on housework.

    Yes, you should have helped your partner out with housework more. But the failure doesn’t just lie with you (or with her inability to articulate why it was important for her to get help, for that matter!). It lies with the culture that still raises boys and girls under an outdated and sexist assumption that girls only need to know about housework and babies, and boys will never have to pitch in with either.


    • Mmr Bruce says:

      I completely disagree. Nobody taught me how to fold laundry, how to clean counters, clean mirrors, use a vacuum or to cook. But I do 80-90% of the laundry, I help cleaning our home (it’s our Sat AM chore) and I cook 100% of the time. I do these things because it’s my way of contributing to the home. My wife is on kid duty most of the time and I do the things I mentioned (plus a lot more such as mowing, landscaping, power washing and almost every outdoor related chore). I do enjoy cooking, but it’s still a grind when you do it 6 nights a week and not always enjoyable.
      Like I said, nobody taught me, but if there’s a man out there who cant do any routine household task and is not physically or mentally challenged, then he’s just not willing. And, this goes for women just as much as men.


  3. Ichi says:

    While the author may have had good intentions, his argument is still based on flawed assumptions: that men and women are fundamentally different and incapable of understanding each other. The very premise that only a woman would care about dirty dishes or that only women attach deeper meanings to simple things and gestures is very misguided. As is the idea that a man couldn’t possibly understand how a woman will feel about something because all women react fundamentally differently to things than men. People are different, they have different needs, wants and priorities, they react to situations in their own unique way, regardless of gender. I know men who can’t stand dirty disorganized spaces and I know women who couldn’t care less what you do with your dirty dishes. It’s stupid to make that kind of blanket statements. This is not at all about men and women, it’s about respecting the person you are with and respecting the fact that if they repeatedly tell you something, it’s probably because it’s important to them. You don’t dismiss your partner’s complaints repeated because you’re a guy who doesn’t get how a woman thinks, you do it because you don’t respect your partner. It’s that simple. I’d like to think that maybe the author really did learn from that experience, but from the way this is written, I kind of doubt it. As long you keep thinking of your wife as an incomprehensible alien being just because she’s a woman, you’ll never truly respect her as a partner, and you’ll always be wrong.


    • ree221 says:

      Generalities like this irritate me as well. The author made the mistake of putting all men and all women in two different buckets, making the assumption that both sexes see the matter of doing a small deed for the one they love as trivial to men but monumental to women. I know a lot of women who would leave an empty glass by the dishwasher and a lot of men who would be bothered by it.

      However, this article is EPIC in that it opens up a conversation regarding how completing a “trivial act” for the person we love, demonstrates that we value and respect them. THAT is the message we send them (male or female), no matter how slight the task. To dismiss any act that would please your partner as “trivial” is akin to slapping your partner in the face (in my opinion) and is what ended my own marriage. I just didn’t feel respected. At all.


      • Matt says:

        I appreciate this feedback. I’ve come a pretty long way in nearly four months RE: gender silos, thanks to some brilliant reader feedback and continuing education.

        I’m always trying to get better. And how we frame the gender conversation is absolutely a way in which I, and most people, can probably do better.

        Thank you for reading.


        • Caring soul says:

          I agree 100% about your article and one I posted before. Totally agree on causes that lead to the divorce.
          It’s true.
          I even cried that it ended a sacred vow.
          Hope you’ve learnt your lesson.
          Wives feel the same way exactly as you wrote.
          I’ll read your next article. It’s going to be my third from you.
          I don’t like you while you’re married to her but in case she can trust you again, please prove to her parents that you will take the second chance.
          If you have violated her more than twice then I pray you will never get her back and her happiness is my priority.
          I don’t like what you did to her at all but if you’ve improved totally….I wish you the best together….again.


      • RyLy3 says:

        Both you and Ichi made the fatal error of attacking the author for the more simplistic statements in the piece. Rather than realizing the article was about HIS situation and how the lessons he learned from HIS situation can help others, you attack his example of a glass. For the record, women and men ARE different. It’s Ok to generalize as generalizations exist for a reason, stereotypes exist for a reason. Just because something isn’t 100% accurate in every situation doesn’t mean it’s not a correct assessment. You also attack the smaller point is his story about the glass and attempt to dismantle his argument and even belittle his progress in learning about relationships by questioning what he’s learned. The glass by the sink was simply a small example of how two people can see the same situation differently. For him it was a glass by the sink, for another couple, it might be cleaning out the bathroom sink after brushing, etc. Rather than attacking the author, how about applauding him for recognizing a mistake he made in his marriage, and instead of either passing blame or dwelling on the mistake, he has authored an article about respecting your partner in an attempt to help others. If anything we should all be applauding his healing efforts. Now to the substance you’re again attacking. Have you ever heard of the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. I mention that book specifically because you mentioned “alien being”. It’s a massively popular book that talks about how men and women see things differently and will ALWAYS see things differently. I find it incredibly disturbing how people are trying to minimize the differences between men and women in some sociological attempt to promote equality. Men are VERY different from women. If you disagree, just stop reading because you’re beyond help. Our hormones are very different and this drastically changes how we see things, how we feel about things and how we react to things. All of which is Ok! Women (in general) are more emotional about certain situations. (to the crazies out there, that doesn’t mean that EVERY woman is more emotional than EVERY man – so don’t throw out some example of a man crying while a woman comforts him) I’m not attacking woman power or women’s rights. I’m simply saying women have different ways of looking at the world than do men. The article simply states that in a relationship we need to work harder at seeing how the other person might view and feel about a certain situation before we dismiss their concerns. Had the author realized how the dish (just a metaphor for issues in other relationships fyi don’t argue about the dish) made his wife feel, he’d have gladly put it in the dishwasher. I think the article is great for anyone that reads it and can help save many marriages. Great job and dismiss the people that want to argue about how a man they know might be offended about the dish and you’re sexist for pointing out that a woman might be more likely.


        • kim says:

          I so wish I could have said this like you did. Thank you. Perfectly stated.


        • Ger says:

          Nobody is “attacking” the author here. The piece is well written and has some great points. But saying that women are different to men because they get emotional about inanimate objects IS a generalisation. When one PERSON feels entitled to dismiss another PERSON’S wishes as less important than their own EVERY day through the SAME act for YEARS, eventually that relationship will break down. This is irrespective of gender or any other label. Someone pointed out that men should stop viewing women as aliens they can’t figure out. I agree. It’s just an excuse to hide behind. PEOPLE are different from each other, that’s the message. When we find someone to share our lives with, it is our job to figure out what makes them tick NOT dismiss their grievances as irrelevant. Great piece, just don’t agree that men don’t understand women. Some people can’t be bothered to understand other people. The gender excuse is old.


      • Beggars Belief says:

        Trying to reply to “RyLy3 on May 23, 2016 at 10:13 AM”, but I guess they’ll never see this.

        Yes, stereotypes usually exist because of some kind of factual reality, historical or current; however, it does not automatically follow that it is a positive thing to perpetuate them. Yes, statistically it will be the woman of a heterosexual relationship that “nags” about the glass, and the man who thinks she’s overreacting and is frustrated with what he perceives as a skewed perspective; however, it is not useful to blanket-state this circumstance as the only one worth considering as this will only serve to cement and galvanise the sterotype(s), which leads to more assumptions and prejudice. Stereotypes (which are overwhelmingly negative) encourage people being unfairly dismissed and written off: yes it may be a minority (hence the stereotype!) to whom it’s unfair, but it’s still an undesirable way to approach human relations, and not a constructive way for a diverse society to exist and improve. The intention of overcoming stereotypes is not to minimise differences or ignore statistics, it is to recognise the exceptions to the case and encourage potential to buck trends.

        Because it is a possibility (less probable but entirely possible – this is exactly my point) that the man could be the perceived nagger and the woman the perceived dismisser, I think the author should have been more flexible in presenting gender roles in the article, and he has welcomed this suggestion from other commenters and responded favourably.

        Nevertheless I agree that the article is a great point of view and a very useful read on many levels. Thanks Matt!


    • Thebeesknees says:

      My exhusband got a new wife that will never have dirty dishes in the sink like I do right now. I cook and there’s constant dishes. My house is sloppy compared to my exhusbands new house. Reading your blog made me happy I’m single. No fighting over stupid stuff.
      Thanks :)


      • Caring soul says:

        I agree with you.
        You are so witty to understand the whole intention of the article.
        I print yours and post on my fb.
        Can I see your fb, too….I create pages to rescue families. Hope you can read mine, too…may Allah bless you…


  4. Ian says:

    I’m going gay


  5. […] She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink […]


  6. DK says:

    Love this and all the comments. I can relate to all of this!


  7. Love this article. It makes perfect sense to me. Sharing with my friends on Facebook. Thank you :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Karen says:

    Thank you. Thank you for providing a way to explain it to my husband in a way he would understand. Thank you for putting the meaning into the words I had spent years verbalizing only to find that it didn’t stick. You helped save my marriage (and our counselor). My husband and I are communicating better than we ever have and for the first time we truly have a partnership. This article was the flip of the lightswitch that helped my husband understand what I had been trying to get across for too many years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      My favorite kind of comments to read say things just like this. I know what you mean about the switch finally getting flipped. Thank you for taking the time to share this story.

      Here’s to you both. To many years.


  9. Layne says:

    I have been legally seperated for nearly 3 years. I shared this article on my facebook, and my boyfriend read it. Thank you for putting into words what we can all understand. I know I wasn’t perfect in my previous marriage, and we seperated for different reasons, but it helps to recognize why those little insignificant things can become big things. My boyfriend and I both loved the article, and seeing us both put it into practice has made a world of difference. We are expecting a baby next month, and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time :)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. […] Will she REALLY leave you, break up your family, and start a new life because you leave dishes by the sink? […]


  11. dorkwadcentral says:

    From someone on the verge of leaving, this hit home.


  12. Hopium Anonymous says:

    Thank you. For this. It’d this coupled with rage and then teaching five children to treat me this way also.
    After 26 years, I’ve never “wanted” to divorce – tear my family apart – I just simply cannot stay where I’m treated like I am not wanted.


  13. spitfire511 says:

    Thank you for this! It’s not something I could ever phrase in a way that helped my ex to understand – the glass by the sink, the socks on the floor the toothpaste in the bathroom sink. You hit the nail on the head – feeling as though someone doesn’t respect the contributions that you make – whether male or female is a tough one to overcome. There’s definitely a communication breakdown there that persists until we can step out of our own perceptions and consider things from a different perspective. Needed this one today – thank you again!


  14. Norrean Goal says:

    I loved reading this, so much insight so much simple truth. It is never the Thing “it is what the Thing represents” once we get that every THING changes


  15. […] I don’t care if that’s cheating, or speaking profanely, or leaving a dirty glass by the sink. […]


  16. >getting married in the first place


  17. […] I want to thank a number of close friends, some of whom are WUWT friends, who knew and helped me get out of the tunnel. You know who you are. I also want to thank Matt over at Must Be This Tall to Ride for his help in putting things into perspective. […]


  18. […] I want to thank a number of close friends, some of whom are WUWT friends, who knew and helped me get out of the tunnel. You know who you are. I also want to thank Matt over at Must Be This Tall to Ride for his help in putting things into perspective. […]


  19. Ken Mitchell says:

    Women _NEVER EVER_ tell you what they want; “If you really loved me, you’d KNOW what I want without me having to TELL you!!!” Real masters in communications, y’know. I’m not a mind-reader.

    That said, once she TELLS you what she wants out of us poor dumb brutes, it’s up to us to deliver. It isn’t fair, of course, because when we tell THEM what WE want, we’re often told that we don’t have a clue about what we really want or need, and the women will give us what THEY want to give us. It’s a rigged game.

    The only way any marriage ever survives is if BOTH PARTNERS have open communications. Talk about everything, all the time. If one of you shuts up, it’s all over. That’s why the divorce rate is approaching 50% – or is it over that now?

    My first wife refused to tell me what she wanted; I was supposed to KNOW what she wanted. Since I didn’t know, that was proof enough that I didn’t love her, in her mind. That’s why she was my FIRST wife. It was expensive and painful, and for a while I was ready to gnaw off my arm to get away from her. My second bride and I are still newlyweds, still getting to know each other after 35 years, and I’m still madly in love.

    Survival, even joy, is possible.


  20. Crystal says:

    Holy. Shit. Man- you should be insanely proud of yourself. This is spot on, cracked the code type of stuff. I’m sure it was a painful process to get to this point of humility but wow- you will be better for it.


  21. Angela says:

    Omg. My husband and I are at war over dishes right now. I will forward this to him and hope he ‘hears’ it. Thank you


    • Bob Lynch says:

      Maybe you will be lucky enough to ‘hear the other side, too’: not “men” but people ARE different, and whether we like it or not, ‘weight’ different acts differently. For instance, are the dishes REALLY that big of a deal? Have YOU decided yet to remind The Prince that you’d like him to step away from the TV / Computer / SmartPhone / Green Section, and go empty the sink?

      Remember Angela: women have something many men simply do not have: a nagging sense of completeness, finality, “done-ness”. The cause is something researchers are still nearly without theories for, but it is real. If (compared to you) your otherwise pretty good mate were identified with an ingrained handicap, would you still be tempted on tossing him? Over the ‘disrespect’ of dishes?

      Just saying: there are two sides of the coin of companionship. The best way to get rid of the ‘hangnails and splinters’ of relationships is to change IN LOCKSTEP. You state, with words, things you’d like to see change. He does the same. You BOTH start changing. Expect imperfection, time; expect somewhat childish complaints. Worry not: he’s seeing the same from you. Just … you don’t see it.


      There are few other things as important to making a relationship work.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. James in Perth says:

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom — acquired the hard way. I have to say that my wife, unlike yours, got upset because I washed AND dried the dishes. She thought it was a waste of time to dry and put them away again since “they dry themselves overnight.” I on the other hand can’t stand to see a mess in the kitchen when I go to bed. But I did take too long to do it. C’est le vie.


  23. Mario Rossi says:

    I started using paper plates. Since I’m in charge of garbage and recycling, we’re all good, but I’m sure she’ll leave me for something else now.


  24. Jen Almondale says:

    I occasionally run into this sexist nonsense, and it’s always a bit jarring. Like ‘wait, what century is this?’ jarring. So, to be clear: your ex-wife doesn’t care about the dishes because she’s a woman. Your inability to empathize with someone standing in front of you and telling you their feelings with tears in their eyes is not because you’re a man. It’s because you’re an asshole. Maybe you’re only an asshole to women? Or to women who you think you don’t have to care about, because what’s she going to do, leave?

    For what it’s worth, you seem to have at least figured out the problem with what you were doing (repeatedly ignoring requests from a partner, which you probably agreed to respect at the time the request was made; also, that parent/child or boss/employee dynamics in a relationship aren’t generally healthy), but the weird gendered shit layered on top of it is just so bizarre.


    • Matt says:

      Right. A lot of people don’t like it. And frankly, misinterpret it.

      None of this is BECAUSE someone is male or female. But it IS 100% demonstrable that (generally speaking — all of this is just broad generalities) “Men often do this…, women often do that.”

      I agree that it does very little to advance the social conversation about how bullshit sexism is. And I apologize for that.

      But this isn’t about gender. This is about husbands like me, learning an important life lesson about empathy that can save their marriage if learned early enough.

      And THAT is important. And it’s worth any ancillary criticism I might receive as a result.

      My intention isn’t to categorize or divide or pigeonhole. It’s only to help men confused about communicating with their wives or girlfriends have the “ah-ha” moment they need to not break everything.

      It’s important.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Sexism is bullshit. I try hard to not demonstrate it.


      • Ken Mitchell says:

        Many of the comments here concern failures to communicate. In my case, my first wife, her negotiating strategy was to make demands.

        We were happy at first, or I thought we were. But after our sons were born, she apparently decided that whatever I was wasn’t good enough. Or perhaps it was all an act, and by that time she figured that she had “won”; she told one of her girlfriends that I would never leave the mother of my children.

        Generally in “negotiation”, each party gives in a little, takes a step forward, and they meet in the middle someplace. In her case, she’d make demands, and not budge an inch. I’d give in a little, and then give in a little more, and a little more. After a while, I started surrendering to her first demands, since I knew she wasn’t going to budge. She was so shocked by that that she’d take two steps BACKWARD, and restart the argument from a new, non-negotiable position. I never claimed to be smart; just young, stupid and (I thought…) in “love”. So it took several times of me surrendering to her initial demands and then her making NEW demands… Eventually I figured out that this was a fool’s game, which is why the original Mrs. Mitchell was replaced by a new, far more reasonable Mrs. Mitchell.

        Communication is still sometimes hard, but if both parties can bargain in good faith, it _can_ work.


  25. Jo says:

    I usually don’t comment on these and have not read all the comments written, but I know from experience (married 30 years now), I totally understand the woman’s issue with the glass. It is a matter of respecting how a person feels. My husband does the same type of thing. When he puts something on the kitchen table which is a few steps FARTHER than putting it in the cupboard…it just shows me he could care less how this makes me feel. And when I have asked him why he does that, he won’t answer or makes up a “silly” answer that makes no sense. So I give up, I quit asking and just put the stupid stuff away myself. But it still bothers me every time I have to do that. I do plenty for him and he’ll do plenty for me (if he’s in the right mood to do it), so we make it work, but it’ll be with me forever that there’s some things he doesn’t care how it makes me feel.


  26. thank you so much for posting this matt. When I goggled can I divorce my husband when he persistently leaves drank out of water glasses with the clean ones I really didn’t think I would find anything like this! I wasn’t sure it was about the glass or not for me and so this made such sense. I am going to show him this later, as there are lots of other small issues that could blow up if he dosn’t really understand my point and I bet this will help get that message out there. Best of luck to you and thank you for sharing


  27. Jhana Wallace says:

    This is spot on. I am often at odds with with my husband and kids about this type of stuff. I do 90% of the housework and management of all stuff related (bills, appointments, activities) AND I have a job. It’s very frustrating that my husband is incapable of handling what I call “his business” routinely and doesn’t do what he says he will do. He’s not a kid, but sometimes he might as well be. They also all leave crap around, undo any organizing I make happen (yet they like being able to find their stuff when they want it), and just show a general lack of respect for the effort I make to make their lives infinitely easier. It’s not about the glass by the sink-it’s about respecting and appreciating that someone took time to make a place for that glass, and putting it there for the next person.


  28. CCC says:

    Matt, I just discovered your blog the other day and have not been able to tear myself away from reading it. How is it possible that you could understand women so PERFECTLY?? I am still incredulous! I have never read a book or magazine article that has been so right on the money. I don’t even think our marriage counselor gets it. The only problem is how do I get my husband to read it? He has never read a single thing that I’ve ever recommended, including ADHD articles pertaining to my son. He has definitely considered divorce, and probably will again, but I think his eyes would really be opened and he would actually change his ways if he were to read your blog. Any suggestions on how to get him to read it?

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Elysia says:

    Thank you for this post. It shed some light on why my boyfriend gets agitated over small things like a dishes left in the sink.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. […] Dawno nie czytałam tak dobrego tekstu o związkach… Rozwiodła się ze mną, bo zostawiłem naczynia w zlewie. Tytuł może narzucać gotowy osąd sytuacji, a jednak autor nie występuje tu w roli ofiary […]


  31. Marie Brewer says:

    It’s really difficult to divorce in any circumstances, but is worst when both sides don’t agree. The first thing I though of when divorcing was looking for a divorce attorney, but I never stop to think if it was me who was wrong. You are so right in everything that you wrote. Many times women believe men are not capable of doing things, and that frustrates them. We think that they cannot change, but after reading this you showed me that of course it is possible.
    Thanks for your post. I see men so different now.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. […] article, publié à l’origine sur Must Be This Tall to Ride et repris sur le Huffington Post américain, a été traduit par Bamiyan Shiff pour Fast for […]


  33. […] while we certainly have our Dishes by the Sink arguments and laundry list of Shitty Husband things to talk and think about, perhaps what ails you, or your […]


  34. The C says:

    This is my second time back to this article after several months. My wife sent it to me during a rough time.

    I go back and forth with myself while reading it. When you speak from the woman’s perspective it makes sense. When you speak from the man’s perspective it makes sense.

    One huge problem I see with this is the potential for endless arbitrary demands. With a little bit of emotional wizardry they can all be made to link back to the enormously important variable of the wife’s feelings of being loved and respected. It can be dishes by the sink, or a door left cracked open because it doesn’t readily close all the way, or missing a couple details in the month long schedule that she unloaded on you three weeks ago, etc. It can be any insignificant thing that she decides to latch onto.
    Or, it can be a pattern that BOTH of you have fallen into that she suddenly decides to blame solely on you. Eg. for months you BOTH kick off your shoes at the front door without laying them neatly to the side. It’s not ideal but when you’re tired and your arms are full of the trappings of going out for the day it’s easier and you forget to go back and do it right. Then, one day, she’s in a bad mood and comes in raging and kicking the shoes all over the place AND … now the shoes are all your fault and they’re a sign of how childish you are and how she didn’t sign on to be your mother and that you never do anything to help around the house…. Heaven save your ass if you dare to mention that both of you do it and that none of what she’s saying is true. It doesn’t matter that you actually have picked up all of the shoes on several occasions or that where she kicks her shoes off have caused you to nearly fall repeatedly.

    The point is, this habit by women of attaching deep significance to the minutia and detritus of daily living and the forgetfulness in the mundane is poisonous to a relationship. It’s not all on men to adapt every habit and mannerism to the arbitrary desires of their partners. For the working example, “I’m sorry that the glass by the sink bothers you so much. I wish it didn’t but I have my reasons for keeping it out. You need to learn to not fixate on it when you walk into the room. Part of being a spouse/partner and living with another adult is learning how to accept another’s differences. If this is the kind of thing that sets you off then you need to go exercise, or volunteer, or hang out with friends or something. I refuse to be a slave to your emotional diarrhea.”

    But, you can’t say any of this. Women want immediate regret and apologies and understanding. They don’t want a rebuttal, they don’t care how you feel. It’s their opportunity to unload on you. Any attempt to defend yourself or to make a case for complicity or to point out any of the numerous wrongs they have committed on you that you have never said anything about is reduced to you not caring about their feelings or loving them.


    • kim says:

      “You need to learn to not fixate on it when you walk into the room. Part of being a spouse/partner and living with another adult is learning how to accept another’s differences.”

      yeah. You don’t get it. Reread your sentences here. “you need to learn”…really?


      • The C says:

        Yes, believe it or not, sometimes women have to learn and adapt. They aren’t ready-born and perfect. Women can make mistakes. They can be stubborn, manipulative, condescending, cruel, and selfish. Yes, a woman who ties her emotions to every little thing so she can control the actions of other people, or just her husband, is being manipulative and petty. Yes, she needs to learn that that is not how you live with and respect and value another human being.


  35. kim says:

    I don’t think it was his wife that used the glass as the example, though. I think it was him, being symbolic about what the glass represented, and a common symbol that many will relate to. It is not a matter of the things per se that you do, it is being aware of her, her feelings and why things are important to her. It is having compassion for the person you love and approaching her with compassion instead of indignation. You are so far off base in your last paragraph I don’t even think you understood any of the point anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The C says:

      So, in this example:
      1. The man wants to leave the glass out for his own personal reasons and
      2. the woman wants him to put the glass in the dishwasher for her own personal reasons.

      If I don’t understand it then explain it to me like I’m a child. Why, in an egalitarian society, are the woman’s desires held up over the man’s desires? Why is him leaving his glass out equivalent to him not valuing her but her insistence on overriding his personal preferences not equivalent to her not valuing him?

      More to the point, why is it so egregious for a woman’s desires to not be honored but trampling on a man’s desires is overlooked and excused?


      • kim says:

        Dude, seriously…you just don’t get it. You are putting way too much emphasis on the glass. Clearly the analogy is lost on you and based on your response that you somehow think I am insisting women are perfect you are not open to seeing it any other way.


      • Ted says:

        The C,

        You are 100% correct. Kim – you don’t get it.


        • The C says:

          The analogy is not lost on me. I’m thinking outward from the initial problem (the glass by the sink) with a foundation in my own experiences.
          It starts with the glass. You “correct” your behavior and no more glasses are left by the sink. Then, a couple days later, something else takes the place of the glass by the sink. That behavior is molded to her request, too. Eventually you find yourself in this perpetual state of behavior correction.

          Meanwhile, since you don’t bitch and whine about every little detail, you are making no requests of her. You’re just enjoying being married to her. You love each other. You have someone who shares your interests. You have someone to talk to and experience life with. You’re happy.

          Then, one day, something shifts. You come to the realization that for years you have been complacently changing your behavior to make her happy. That, in itself, is not a big deal but, while your behavior is being shaped by her will, hers is being shaped by your kids and her career and her never-ending schedule making. All of the positive things you do become commonplace and expected of you. She doesn’t seem to really care all that much about you except as someone who causes disruptions to her schedule. You realize that her dedication to the minutia, her attachment to all of the little things has resulted in your emasculation and dehumanization. Because she can’t stop focusing on everything you do that irritates her, she starts to think of you as a child.

          The loving, intelligent, thoughtful, beautiful woman that you married, because of her focus on the glass by the sink, now resents you.


          • kim says:

            I have never seen a marriage where the husband makes no requests of the wife. Or, is the wife already doing the things that need to be done and the husband does not need to request that of her. If she is a stay at home mom, is she already taking care of the house and kids? Is she already taking care of the bills. Are you not “requesting” things because they are being done without having to ask?
            I just don’t understand why so many men are so put out by being asked to clean up after themselves. Even in the analogy she isn’t asking him to pick up her glass and put it away.


  36. […] understand that they literally see a different thing. We have context for the […]


  37. Bobbie says:

    Trust me, I understand all too well because I’m living it! I spent 38 years picking up the slack in my marriage. It was just something that someone HAD to take responsibility for. I raised four kids virtually on my own because my husband was so busy being all he could be at work, giving 100% of himself so he could be “successful”. The man I had to deal with at home was the over worked, tired, grumpy guy who left nearly every task, large and small to me. Don’t get me wrong now. It was a dynamic that I felt was working for the both of us. I got the promises that once we had attained a certain lifestyle and we got older that “we” would have this blissful retirement and all my hard work would be repaid! WRONG! It just sapped the life out of me. Our everyday lives took on a routine. His was to go to work and make money full time while working on his expensive PhD part time so he could be called Doctor! My everyday life was “crisis management”! If a problem or situation popped up then it was my “job” to handle it and make his life easy. He did not want to deal with “petty” problems that I should be handling! I thought I was being the type of person he adored for my talents, but that wasn’t the case. Evidently, I wasn’t spontaneous anymore or fun. Of course not. I had so many tasks and timelines to deal with that I had no time for myself or anything else! I found it hard to be relaxed and able to be a “lover” or girlfriend type to his ever growing list of “things that I could handle” cause he was far too busy! I just gave in to it all believing that as soon as that magical day came when he would retire then we could get back to each other! He NEVER said a word to me about his boredom or dissatisfaction with our lives. I thought everything was peachy (sans the growing dissatisfaction I had with my life, not to mention disappointment!). Then it happened! He walked in just short of our anniversary and told me he was “in love” with a woman he met on Facebook! I was destroyed!
    From Jan 2013 to March 2015 my life turned into a ghastly nightmare! We divorced. He went to live with his adulteress. My life and my health were in the toilet (diagnosis of cancer). I prepared myself to make it alone which wasn’t a huge leap because I had been doing that most of my married life!
    Update: Ex husband moves to paramours condo. He is used to the “useful woman” in his life handling EVERYTHING! He suddenly becomes I’ll. Not just sick, but cancer! Girlfriend can’t deal with it. No one can DO for him. This is something he has to deal with! He’s broke, unemployed and sick. Guess who, after four short months with his lover, shows up at my door?
    Why? Cause he KNOWS I can “handle” it! Have things changed? NO! He cannot and will not discuss it, but I know and I’m satisfied that I had the time to reevaluate my marriage. I know why and when it went off the rails. Yep, it was the “dishes” metaphor on steroids!
    Matt is right! Pay attention folks! Save your marriages! Mine is fried and now it looks like my husband and I have nothing left but our race to the graveyard! Don’t let this happen to you!


  38. […] wrote: “I posted your ‘She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’ article on FB and my one woman friend who always disputes the existence of sexism replied, […]


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