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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3,876 thoughts on “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink

  1. Sina says:

    I agree with a lot of this but it goes both ways.. If it’s a small 4 second inconvienece to save a marriage yep of course a man should just do it. But what about the woman who’s willing to leave over a glass? I’m a woman very happy in my relationship of 10 years and believe me my guy doesn’t do the vast majority of chores I ask him to do. But if the roles switched I wouldn’t live up to my own expectations. And if I found I was linking doing dishes to feeling respected I would either unlink my emotions (doesn’t seem great to link respect with a dirty glass) or at the very least I would explain to my guy “hey this is irritational but I can’t help it” you can’t leave a marriage without trying anything you can to save it. That includes putting your own thinking under a microscope to find flaws and let’s face it us women are really good at diagnosising everything our men do wrong, we just like to not put ourselves through the same process. It all goes both ways drives me crazy when my guy leaves dishes all over the house (by the sink would be excellent Hahaha) but I love him and I’m not going to link a dirty dish to how he feels about me

    Liked by 2 people

    • lisa says:

      I think what you don’t understand is that the dirty dish is usually only one minor thing in a larger list of things that makes the wife feels disrespected. If it were only leaving a few dishes by the sink, this would only bother me slightly. It’s the other 100 things that pile up that make me want to leave.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Annoyed when people don't read says:

        That’s what the whole article was about…..he said. “It’s not about the glass” several times…..


  2. Bob says:

    This is a really good post!
    My parents are divorced and this helps me understand them better. Sometimes I have similar conflicts with my mom and this is ssooooooo relatable.
    This post made my day Bc I’m happy I’m not the only one😃

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tasha says:

    This is an excellent article and really just helped me breakthrough to my boyfriend. It has nothing to do with the glass. It’s a metaphor. It has everything to do with being a partner. It’s been hard for me to articulate everything to him so I sent him this article.


  4. jennbb33 says:

    I wish I could get up the guts to send this to my husband because it is, truly the little cuts that will kill your relationship. We have been married for over 17 years and I’m ready to pull the plug because I don’t feel respected or appreciated. EVER! But I’m afraid If I send it to him, it will cause yet another fight. Bottom line: adulting sucks ass. Just don’t get married.


  5. Obviously there was something much deeper going on; it is very unlikely that any girl would give up the man of her dreams over such a petty thing. Either she married you knowing that you aren’t truly the man of her dreams or she is really that petty, and you are better off without her either way.


  6. Well, now. The Squire often leaves his dishes on the counter for me to put away, but I have that figured out and it is pretty much my own fault.

    I Have A System. And by gum, you are in big trouble if you mess it up. The Squire and I both know this and have learned to live with it. When we were newly married, we were loading the dishwasher after dinner and I didn’t even notice that I was moving every single thing he put into the rack until he called me on it. If he’s home and I’m working (I’m a temp) he will load the machine his way, and by gum! those dishes actually get clean! Sonofagun! But if I’m around he will generally sit stuff on the counter. Mind you, this man packs my lunch and has the coffee in the cup for me to add hot water in the morning.

    We’ve been married over forty years. It’s too much trouble to break in a new husband at the stage of our lives. I’m going to let him keep me.


  7. Jupiter says:

    Guys like you are keepers… I think she seemed a bit ‘Naggy’ but I’m guessing that she was trying to control her surroundings because she was unhappy for whatever reason… Maybe had nothing to even do with you but still sorry you had to suffer through the pain of divorce… Kudos to you for working with her to raise your son cooperatively <3


  8. Bonnie Clark says:

    Sorry, dude, but you still haven’t figured it out. She didn’t leave you because of the glass and it isn’t about respect or death by a thousand cuts either. Women may be irritated at their husbands for that kind of thing. We may nag our husbands forever, but we won’t leave them because of it.

    Wake up! It’s because you weren’t satisfying her sexually. Period! That may be her fault and not yours, but that’s the bottom line.

    That dirty glass thing is just plausible deniability to save face.


    • effbacon says:

      Unless you have information about their marriage that I haven’t seen, I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion of her lacking sexual satisfaction. I know my SO wouldn’t leave other that issue as her interest is close to zero.


      • Bonnie Clark says:

        My observations over many decades are that women only leave husbands for one of three reasons:
        1. She has reason to fear him, and she is afraid he will hurt her or someone she loves – ie: her children.
        2. Financial insecurity.
        3. She senses that he does not desire her – ie: she is not sexually satisfied. In this case, she will leave when she connects with someone she believes she can find love/desire with.

        I’ve seen it happen over and over and over. I have never seen a situation where a woman left her husband for any other reason. If they were not fighting over money, and he never threatened nor abused her or her children, that only leaves one possibility.

        Women do not leave over dirty glasses. It’s always about love or money.


        • sam says:

          glad your generalization covers every divorce situation ever. thanks for that info.


        • sam says:

          p.s. you know what happens when you assume and generalize…. you’re gonna look like a dick. because its an ignorant thing to do.


        • Wesley A Edwards says:

          This also happens as a wife refuses to care for a home. I suggest reading this together and often revisit it. Never felt more disrespected in my entire life, come home to a nasty home. I worked so hard for.


  9. What a great post! The glass represented the beginning of the marital breakdown. She felt disrespected, unappreciated and unheard – all factors which lead up to divorce. It’s so difficult for men in our culture to understand that woman are their equal. We can build spacecraft too, we can be police officers, detectives, firefighters and take on the role any man has ever had in the past and we don’t feel like doing housework either!


  10. […] his lesson too late. This was the first post I read that made me respect this man, Matt: “She Divorced Me Because I left Dishes by the Sink.” So sad he learned too […]


  11. timbuckto says:

    You’re right it’s not about the dish, although it’s still pretty.

    It’s about the little cuts that are never talked about… Never addressed… Never healed. The real problem is communication. Our first inclination is to internalise disrespect and to make the other person into a villain without thinking about how they feel in the situation. This goes both ways as a defensive mechanism and you can’t completely fault yourself over not seeing the lack of respect in one dish.

    The true failing is the lack of calm explanation of the situation and why she felt that way. The communication is needed and encouragement to nudge those who don’t feel the same way about the situation so that they can understand.

    There’s a saying I learned in philosophy long ago and it applies to this. “It is only reasonable to assume that common sense… Is only common to you”

    Until a problem is fleshed out and made common for the other party it is egrigeous to expect them to use their intelligence to reason our a psychic understanding of the offended parties feelings.

    Communication is key… If a person can’t articulate it, get help. Ending a marriage over dishes is rediculous and lazy.


  12. joe says:

    It always seems one way. It seems the burden of marriage is on me, not her. She can be as irrational as she likes that is HER RIGHT. I am not allowed that benefit. There seems to be only one way in relationships. It appears that I have to subjugate my rational soul in order to appease an irrational argument. Doesn’t seem very fair to me.


  13. joe says:

    I feel like our marriage is good. Every idiot argument I eventually toss to the side like a pebble into the sea and forget about it. Every idiot argument she takes that pebble and puts it in her pocket and when the next idiot argument comes she says ‘look how full my pockets are; this is our marriage’ and when I don’t agree with that, I am a jerk. If I don’t agree with her variety of irrational or even completely unjustified or wrong things then I am a bad husband. It’s exhausting being ‘the Buddha’ when you are not the buddha. There’s only so much strong quiet sympathy I have before once in a while I just say ‘hey that is not fair!’ Shouldn’t she just give me a break once in a while???


  14. […] frustrated and angry with their husbands who leave dirty laundry on the floor, and dirty dishes next to the sink said: “I know you’re sad your husband died, but that doesn’t mean we should excuse the […]


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