She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink

(Image/jerrywilliamsmedia.com)

(Image/jerrywilliamsmedia.com)

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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4,096 thoughts on “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink

  1. kcat10 says:

    Wow, Matthew. You really get women. You truly understand the relationship dynamics between men and women, and how to create a deeply loving relationship. You show how to make it all a win/win for both partners. I really appreciate what you wrote here. It is uplifting to know there are men like you out there who care, and are willing to share what you have learned. Thank you, thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • RYAN MCLAUGHLIN says:

      And you really don’t get men….

      It’s a two-way straight ladies… not “your way.”

      Like

      • ThePants999 says:

        Actually, as a man, this article massively resonated with me because it was abundantly clear that he really DOES get me. This article perfectly describes the way I think, feel and react in this situation – it’s uncanny how much he “gets” me – so I consider it sage advice.

        In any case, it’s not saying “men, do it the ladies’ way”. The specific example Matt has picked up on here is indeed something where I suspect there is a fairly strong gender split along those lines – but there will be other subjects where it’s the men who care and the women who don’t understand why men care, and the message will be the same. “If it’s not something that’s important to you, do it their way to show you care about THEM.”

        Good work Matt!

        Liked by 2 people

      • katie says:

        This isn’t about her getting her way, dude. It’s about him understanding *WHY* tiny, insignificant things were upsetting her. It took him losing her to see that it wasn’t that she wanted her way – it was that she wanted him to understand HER.

        Liked by 1 person

    • shellieeyre says:

      The whole piece just resonates with me; it’s not the fact that the garage is an impassable mess and has been for 30 something years, it’s that he *knows* it upsets me but refuses to do anything about it. I don’t need him to agree with me or understand why it bothers me, I just want him to believe that it does and therefore want to do something about it. I want the fact that it matters to me to be important to him. And for 30 years I have been explaining this to him to no effect. It makes me feel completely insignificant.

      Like

      • Yorgo says:

        Have you ever thought about the fact that maybe, the way things are in the garage are like that for a reason to him? What if having the things in the garage is important and matters to him, would you then understand and respect that? That is when dialogue is important, and if you cant see that, you are just a feminist who want your “husband” to do things your way just because.

        Like

  2. The Wild Norseman says:

    I stopped reading after the third paragraph. What a bunch of third-wave feminist crap.

    If she told you she disliked glasses by the sink, you’re an idiot for not listening and it’s got nothing to do with dishes, but the fact that you didn’t listen.

    If she didn’t tell you about her ideas, she’s an idiot for not communicating her feelings and preferences.

    Ultimately, it’s never about the dishes or the toilet seat or whatever else you probably whined about.

    My last relationship, the best thing we taught one another was OWN YOUR SHIT.

    My example: I almost always opened the door for my gf (car door or whatever) because I wanted to. I felt like honoring her in these little ways and she felt honored. In fact, when I occasionally didn’t get the door for her, she’d get hurt and upset because she felt I didn’t respect her.

    I had no idea she felt that way, until she TOLD ME. I was looking at it from my perspective; I was doing it because I wanted to but occasionally I didn’t want to, so I didn’t.

    Once she told me, she could OWN HER SHIT and understand HER feelings had nothing to do with ME or what I did or didn’t do.

    But once she told me, I understood how she had felt valued by my actions, so we both came to a new understanding and grew closer together. I kept opening doors for her and she could also not become upset when once in a while, I let her get her own door.

    Small example, but illustrative of how you really need to work on your maturity and communication.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Neat feedback. Three paragraphs and you have me and marriage all figured out.

      Thanks, champ.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Rufus82 says:

      I concur. The idea that only the man should change ina relationship is fucking absurd.

      The idea that we don’t accept our partner’s flaws is fucking absurd.

      The idea that we must change our partner to fit us is fucking absurd.

      Like

      • Matt says:

        As long as you acknowledge you haven’t the first idea what I believe because you haven’t read anything (which is fine — just don’t talk out of your ass), I’m super-cool with this take.

        If you want to sound like an informed person, come back later when you actually understand what I believe and why before spitting out “fucking absurd”-ity charges.

        Two people with working brains PURPOSEFULLY decide to get married, understanding all of the risks and well-publicized challenges. Pretty smart people most of the time, who can speak the same language and stuff.

        And then, with mathematical precision, half of them divorce within a decade, and countless more are fucking miserable and having affairs.

        The MAJORITY of marriages fail.

        The implications of that are astonishing to me.

        Don’t act all butt-hurt because I think men should own their role in the breakdown of their marriages.

        There’s a better way of doing things.

        I’m sure you and I agree on much more than you realize. But if you think as a writer, I should be pointing fingers at anyone but myself (and metaphorically, any guys who think and behave as I used to–and still sometimes do), then I think you have things to learn about connecting with other people.

        Disconnected people die lonely and depressed, maybe with mouth herpes and a nice case of penile burning sensations.

        Connected people die happy and content, satisfied with a life well-lived, and leaving a legacy their children and families are proud of and will remember fondly.

        Choose one.

        Liked by 3 people

        • jennbb33 says:

          DING DING DING. What MATT SAID.

          Both people have to continue to want to make their CHOSEN LIFE PARTNER happy. Throughout the course of the marriage/relationship. Not every day, sure. I don’t wake up singing zippadeedoodah every day, hell no.

          But every fucking day.
          Do you eat off the clean plates that magically appear back in the cupboards?
          Do you like the clean house?
          Do you appreciate reaching in and grabbing clean underwear/socks/shirts/what have you when you are getting dressed?
          Do you piss in a relatively clean toilet on the regular?
          Do you like the pantry stocked?
          Do you enjoy having toilet paper at the ready when you have to wipe your ass?

          Unless you are PAYING someone to do it, or you still rely on your mother, or you do it yourself, have a little gratitude.

          Because, motherfucker, it’s not the goddamned fairies who do it. It’s your SPOUSE. And that person – yes, I am speaking from personal experience here – will want to RUN THE FUCK AWAY FROM YOU if you don’t get off your entitled high horse and say thank you every once in a while! And maybe, yes, maybe, do it without being asked!

          I am butthurt because I communicate about it and only sometimes do I get a little help without having to badger for it. Take your ‘fucking absurd,’ put it in a pipe, and smoke it.

          Liked by 2 people

          • meridda says:

            man, I love you guys…! but this is why I could never blog…all the criticism and judgment coming from people who (often) don’t even read the posts…its not like matt is saying he did EVERYTHING wrong and his wife did EVERYTHING right and that ALL marriages are like this….I appreciate your bravery for putting yourselves out there and telling your sides of the story–it is helpful to a lot of people, including me.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Rads says:

            “Unless you are PAYING someone to do it, or you still rely on your mother, or you do it yourself, have a little gratitude. ”

            Actually, unless you are doing it yourself have a little gratitude. No one likes picking up shit for others – not for money , not for love.

            Like

        • A lot of marriages do end early due to money problems, I don’t know the precentage off hand but it’s pretty high. 7 years of marriage, and it’s still hard, it has it’s ups and downs, no ones marriage is perfect.

          Like

    • randirq says:

      Your reply was longer than the blog post! If you had taken the time to read it, you would have noticed that Matt already figured it all out. You actually sound like you still have respect issues.

      Like

    • krissylou11 says:

      Similar to what I wanted to say. Maybe, just MAYBE, it wasn’t about all that emotional crap, and it was about putting your GD DISHES in the dishwasher!!

      Like

    • yorgoyagui says:

      I totally agree with you Norseman, it is not about doing it in one or other way because that person feels disrespected, it is about telling the other person how you feel. Not listening to that is each ones mistake, but the important thing is that everything must be said and never expect the other person to know because it seems “obvious”.

      Like

    • WishItWasntSo says:

      This comment:

      “Once she told me, she could OWN HER SHIT and understand HER feelings had nothing to do with ME or what I did or didn’t do”

      Im going to call you out on that. When you are in a relationship the point should be about being able to affect each other. What you do that builds up her emotions and what she does to build up yours become the buffer against all the stupid tiny seemingly insignificant things you will (or she will) or that life will do to seemingly bring it down. This is the old addage of do the good times outweigh the bad. You do effect each other and if you are not then you using each other to fill some sort of need but you are not in a relationship. So you need to own your shit AND her shit and she needs to own her shit AND your shit.

      Like

      • Matt says:

        Yes.

        The Wild Norseman is describing conversations one has with oneself and each other during the dating “should we get married?” period.

        And you are describing MARRIAGE.

        The first is two people deciding whether or not to partner for life.

        The second is no longer just two people. Marriage is one big, important thing. Like an airplane. And the two married people represent the two things that make it fly — the engines and the wings.

        Planes don’t fly with working engines and no wings. Planes don’t fly with attached wings, but no engine thrust.

        Marriage is about two people putting the safety and overall functionality of the aircraft in it’s proper place — as the most important thing.

        Like

  3. Strangerland says:

    I feel sorry for you. But alas, you’re learning to become a better person.
    I do think it’s petty matter, but I sort of got where she came from, and I think how you managed to finally understand can be construed as the proof that you did love her, enough to bridge your gap with her eventhough it’s too late. Sorry for that, Matt, I hope you can get your happy ending eventually, with her or anyone else.

    I think it’s not about misogynistic or feministis stuffs. Think of it this way- we know people in the dating phase can do stupid things all.in the name of love, right? Like dancing in the rain. Going to her window with guitar and playing some pathetic music while her dad peeking from the other window with guns in his arms. How she’s very crappy in cooking, but she tries making chocolate bites for her crush during Valentine’s Day, and probably still managed to produce crappy salty chocolate snacks with ugly shape in the end. How she dislikes dress, and yet bears with the whole bridal dress because she wants to look pretty for her groom. How he thinks it’s stupid, but slaving over diamond ring and bending his knees to ask her to marry him. Or maybe somekind of “epic” proposal.
    We know these are stupids. Those who did it know it’s stupid too- they’re lying if they say it’s not stupid and they’re not ashamed of it.

    I guess when you’re married, all those big, epic ways to prove your love becomes very simple and petty. You’re so right that it looks petty, on my good days I probably would see it as no big deal as well. On some days tho, it’s very nice and emotionally-boosting when you see your partner goes out of their comfortable ways, to make an attempt at proving their loves for you. You think it’s stupid, she knows you think it’s stupid, and that you go out of your way to still do it for her can make her feel loved indeed. Some guys can do it as nice surprises every now and then. It’s indeed a simple, petty thing. But when you see it this way, it’s no different from a girl or a woman in dating phase, wanting or wishing for their partners to do something to prove their loves.
    It can be surprising them with queueing for that concert ticket or the newest book/gadget for hours. Or suddenly pouring honey over their heads to attract butterflies. Or suddenly make an advertisement on a stadium- “I Love You XXX, Would You Marry Me?”… These big, amazing, stupid things to do. You’d never do it to anyone, you’d never do it if you’re not in love. And when you’re married, it’s calming down into something as simple as going out of your way to put the glass in the right place- you think it’s stupid and petty, she knows she’s being petty as well, but nonetheless when you do it /for her/ she feels the love you have for her.
    It’s just too bad that some men can’t see it this way.

    Like

  4. Sam Heyman says:

    Good article and important message about respecting and caring about one’s partner. But it works both ways. It could just as well be a father on paternity leave who cleans the house and gets annoyed when his wife leaves dishes or glasses by the sink. Equally men can feel sad, unloved and disrespected when their partner yells at them for simply leaving their glass by the sink. Why are you trying to reinforce false stereotypes?

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m not trying to reinforce any true or false stereotypes.

      I’m trying to get men to understand what empathy means, and to learn to see the world through the viewpoint of others.

      In the case of a marriage or romantic partnership, I believe it’s the ONLY way to make it work. To make it lifelong with two content and happy people.

      I’m trying to start conversations. To provoke thoughts. To get people to ask better questions.

      And I’m proud that little old me has been able to do those things to the degree my writing has.

      If you think I’m anti-men, or blame men exclusively for relationship failure, then you’re jumping to highly misinformed conclusions based on one thing you read out of context.

      Ironically, that is exactly the sort of thing we need to NOT do in our relationships if we want them to not fall apart.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Igor Dultsev says:

        Yes, but the thing is it is scarily hard to do things you don’t really care about. Your brain just erases them from your view, so when you see the sink, you don’t really see the sink and a glass on it, you actually don’t really see anything, your brain processes the image of sink and put ‘sink is there’ sticker in front. Unless you need a sink, you don’t pay attention to this label, so all details are hidden from view.
        So what we have is two people — one of them has difficulty of viewing the sink, and second thinks their partner doesn’t respect them.

        Obviously there are a lot of things in the house that work this way: one partner feels that one group of things is important, second feel this way about another group of things.

        And unless this respect and strife to go out of your way to watch yourself to not do things the way your partner feels offended goes both ways, it simply won’t work.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I can tell you with 100% certainty that a guy who doesn’t “see” things sometimes because he doesn’t care can start to care simply because of the attached significance.

          These really are the things that end most relationships.

          Once a person realizes this, these little things become easy to notice. One must simply apply the correct amount of danger to these “inconsequential” things. If we love our spouses, it’s really not a hard thing at all.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t agree with you on this one Matt. I absolutely agree with the *importance* of this, but I don’t agree that once you’ve identified the problem, the solution is easy. I think Igor has an excellent point. The problem is that we’re dealing with the conscious vs the subconscious. It’s all very well for the conscious mind to decide “right, I am going to care about this” – that’s the key first step, and it means that if you notice something that will matter to your partner, you’ll choose to sort it out. But the subconscious mind doesn’t give you a choice. It’s running an automated program. Unless that program tags something for escalation to the conscious mind, you don’t notice, you don’t get to choose. And the subconscious mind is really hard to reprogram.

            I’m struggling with this right now – I’ve been making a determined effort to do the things that are important to my wife, and I have a solid record now of doing the things I spot. But spotting them remains patchy. I’m having to consciously use a mental checklist of things I need to look for as they MIGHT need action, until that eventually nudges my subconscious to start looking for them as I walk by.

            By the way, have you seen https://english.emmaclit.com/2017/05/20/you-shouldve-asked? Tangentially related and also struck a chord.

            Like

            • Matt says:

              We may totally be talking about two different things. I, in no way, believe that I know exactly how your mind works.

              I am the in the top 1% of people in the world who can demonstrate forgetfulness or a lack of awareness.

              We can’t know what we can’t know. Ever. I just mean, we can learn to see the dish by the sink is meaning more than nothing.

              I did see the–comic?–that you shared here. Read it yesterday, thanks to a couple of people sharing it with me.

              I think it’s a fair representation of a common relationship, and doesn’t blame anyone.

              It’s the not blaming people part that I really like the most.

              Like

              • “I just mean, we can learn to see the dish by the sink is meaning more than nothing.”

                Sure, we agree on that. But Igor’s point is that this doesn’t actually solve the problem until we learn to see the dish by the sink *at all*. You said in your previous reply that once a person realizes that the dish has significance, it becomes “easy to notice”, but it doesn’t. The brain has spent years filtering out that dish, and you can’t start acting on your wonderful new worldview until you train it not to.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Matt says:

                  I should choose my words more carefully. I don’t disagree with anything you just said.

                  The only point I wanted to make was that I believe once the full significance of these things hits us (all these things I remember not giving a crap about that I now realize led to the end of my marriage — they HURT. They left a mark.) … so now I feel like it’s easy for me to identify these things.

                  On the other hand. I’m a single father now, and my son’s mother and I still very much have a relationship in making sure he has what he needs for school, and coordinating schedules and all kinds of stuff.

                  Rest assured, I’m objectively horrible at being mindful of things like getting to the grocery store so that I have good lunch things to pack for him. That I have certain outfits prepared for him when necessary, or his sports uniforms washed, or that I’m on top of his activity calendar or homework.

                  It’s a constant reminder that without the right partner who has the right mindset and temperment, I’m something of a danger to a stable relationship.

                  So, please forgive me if I sounded like I thought I was all smart and righteous and on top of shit. I’m really not.

                  Perhaps I misunderstood Igor because, like my son’s school calendar, I wasn’t playing close enough attention.

                  I appreciate you going to bat for him, and for being honest about your experiences at home.

                  Like

          • Ana W says:

            Can I say, respectfully, without trying to be hurtful to Igor or Chris, but to a woman this logic of the “subconscious mind” and “filtering” sounds like an excuse. I have a doctorate in science so I have no trouble understanding your meaning. But it rings false. It does go back to empathy. It is not about the subconscious. A person is either capable of empathy or not (or they need to learn it). When your spouse, whether male or female, tells you once or twice or three times that something matters to them there is nothing to filter. Applying that empathy to other situations takes practice yes, and the mental checklist may be a temporary assist, but that system will ultimately fail without empathy. And you will eventually burn out trying to do things this way because from your end this will get to be mentally and emotionally tiring. You will become resentful when you overlook something not on your list and your wife/spouse snaps over it. Because there was no empathy or connection to what they are ultimately saying to you – that they don’t feel valued.

            Women don’t want to be with men who have to create “checklists” of things that matter to them – the reason being that such lists always carry the risk of overlooking or “forgetting” something. Have you ever created a grocery list and despite writing down an item have forgotten/overlooked to buy an item? I have. the mental checklist is, at the end of the day, just a list – it’s not an act of love or understanding, it’s a way for a man to “keep track” of what he is doing, something concrete that he can fall back on and say see, I’m trying. But it lacks the infusion of emotional value that your spouse is really looking for. If the message was clear, that you value them, and you say it and show it with words and actions and connect their their sense of being valued, your list will be far easier to manage and less charged for being imperfect on occasion.

            as an aside, i’ve been reading a lot about some of these behaviors and the literature indicates that men tend to have more issues with this type of thing than women. is it possible (and this is not a rhetorical question) that filtering or subconsciously not recognizing something as important to your spouse is not something based on gender specific neural wiring but rather a trait that [men] increasingly are exhibiting toward their wives?

            these books really helped me to understand what was happening in my marriage and some insight into my own behavior as well. Most people exhibit some form of this behavior in their lives or relationships but the real problem is when it is a person’s ONLY way of coping or dealing with challenges and you have a partner who does not cope this way. A key issue with this behavior is lack of insight into the fact that one may be exhibiting this, which is harder to fix and takes a lot of commitment.

            Like

            • I’ve walked through the kitchen half a dozen times today. I always had a place to go or a thing to do, upon which I was focused. So when I read your post, I went back to the kitchen, this time to specifically look to see if there was anything in there that I should have done. Sure enough, the laundry basket had enough in it for a load of laundry. On none of the previous occasions did I *look* at the laundry basket – I was too focused on what I was doing, and didn’t think to take this opportunity to check whether there were any jobs I could do.

              This sucks. I suck. I’m not trying to excuse it. I’m lacking something. But is it really *empathy* that I’m lacking here? I feel like I completely understand my wife’s feelings. I can see the world from her viewpoint. I care. I want to do better. But we all work on autopilot a lot of the time when we’re doing something we’ve done a million times before, like going to get a drink. Hers works differently to mine. I think “I need a drink”, and my autopilot takes me to the kitchen, manipulates my hands to get a drink and brings me back. Hers does the same thing, but also gets her to glance at the linen basket, and undoubtedly a bunch of other stuff. I need to retrain mine to be like hers, and I’m trying, but it takes time. There’s no way around that – the only way to retrain the autopilot is to switch it off and do things consciously until the ol’ muscle memory changes to match. So that’s not the issue – the issue is that I forget to switch off the autopilot. I don’t think it’s a lack of empathy that causes this; it’s not about what I value, or that I can’t see her perspective, it’s that I don’t have the mental discipline to *always* see her perspective. To take a hundred things that I ordinarily do without thinking, and to inject thinking into all of them. That’s what this takes – not just thinking differently, but thinking where you previously weren’t thinking, and that’s hard.

              FWIW, I don’t think there’s anything gender specific about this. There are loads of things my wife does without thinking, and if I wanted her to change one of them, I firmly predict she’d have just as much trouble.

              (Yes, I’ve now put the washing on ;-)

              Liked by 1 person

              • Ana W says:

                Chris, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean there was anything lacking in you or that you suck. The fact that you missed the laundry isn’t unusual or abnormal. It was what i was alluding to in my post that it isn’t sustainable – you will make yourself crazy doing this. I also don’t think it is a question of retraining yourself to think like her either. Connecting with her sense of value has less to do with doing the laundry 10 out of 10 times and more to do with a shared sense of “we’re in this together”. Right now you are playing a game of “catch up” and in family life there is so much going on you are never “caught up”. there is always something not getting done fast enough and it’s unrealistic to expect that a person can anticipate your needs 100% of the time. my husband would approach this and describe this very much as you are doing and I would struggle as I am doing now to describe what is wrong with that approach and why it isn’t what i am looking for. but for lack of a better way to articulate it, it is that shared sense of being a team and working together. most women, including myself, complain of a sense of isolation in the marriage. physical isolation is what you [men] become focused on – the tasks and chores etc. and the man’s way of approaching this is by doing what you are doing. it’s straightforward, concrete. but physical isolation for women is rooted in their mental and emotional isolation which is more abstract and harder to tackle. Does your wife feel you support her dreams, her goals, her vision for your future together (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, etc.) (and does she do this for you?) – is it really a shared sense between you? is there a shared sense of needing/wanting/putting effort into spending time together, creating a home life, balancing children/work, money, etc. And are you still able to function as individuals and appreciate each other’s individuality? I was reading an article about how men in marriage may lose their drive, or personal goals and this makes them less attractive to their wives – it sounds shallow but it is true (and the same would go for women) – lack of interest in doing things or setting personal goals for yourself can really stymie a relationship if one partner wants to grow and the other just wants to be taken care of. Underlying that, i would add that if a woman feels a man can’t take care of himself and his own needs, how is he going to take care of her? (and vice versa).

                i don’t know your particular situation and there are always a lot of factors that go in to this type of thing. i hope i haven’t added to your confusion. it’s nice you did the washing :).

                Liked by 1 person

              • Matt says:

                I want to state for the record that THIS, right here, is EXACTLY my experience, and why I defend good men who are shitty husbands.

                This is it. Totally and completely.

                We exist every day for decades. And then one day, realize we’re “doing it wrong.”

                And I agree! I have no excuses nor am I trying to get out of anything. For years, I “did it wrong,” because like you mentioned, Chris, I was always focused on one mission, even if that “mission” was something inconsequential to others. At any given time, I have one task — a singular purpose for whatever I’m doing in that moment — and then when it’s completed OR something more pressing (or more distracting :/) occurs, I move onto the next thing.

                My great life struggle is my inability to think of things I’m not currently thinking of. Without some type of memory trigger, any given thought could theoretically go un-thought-of for eternity.

                I don’t know how much of this is normal and healthy. I don’t know how much is some grand deficiency on my part. I don’t know how much of it is a byproduct of my life conditioning from my adult behavior models growing up, or the actions of my parents, or the things I was or wasn’t taught in school, or whatever. I don’t really know anything.

                But I’m pretty sure this very condition totally ruins relationships SLOWLY over a period of time, and I think this Lack of Awareness + Incremental Resentment Building + Typical Human Miscommunication = [INSERT SUPER-LOUD EXPLOSION SOUND HERE]

                And I agree with your final point, Chris. I don’t think it’s gender-specific in a biological way. But I DO think it’s gender-specific in a You Can Observe This To Be Generally True Most Of The Time kind-of way that I’m pretty sure has to do with how are minds form watching and listening to adults and seeing stuff on TV growing up.

                All I know is it’s a big-ass problem.

                Chris, you did a kick-ass job explaining this. Thank you.

                Like

    • jennbb33 says:

      Um, are you familiar with women at all?

      How many men do you know, MEN, not twenty-somethings who are still taking their gap-decade or whatever, that have taken the paternity leave and still do the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the child care, the yard care, and have 100% reversed the roles during the child rearing years? Seriously. I’m not joking. How many?

      I know exactly 1. It was my uncle. And he did all of that stuff while my aunt was an executive at a hospital while my cousins were infants. As soon as they were launched into school, he started a business. He didn’t draw it out for 15 years.

      I know a lot of contemporary men who work full time, and do the yard work. They “watch” their kids while their wives do something like book club. Because, you know, they are the sperm donors and only have an hour to spare.

      The wives? They work full time, do house work, help with yard stuff, do the cooking, the cleaning, the fetching of the children, the doctor’s appointments, the vet appointments.

      The stereotype exists, and it’s not false. Get real. Don’t co-opt this.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Matt says:

        You take a slightly harsher tone than I personally prefer to myself, but damn, you’re a fantastic writer.

        These can’t be the first comments of yours I’ve read, so I’m embarrassed that I haven’t noticed this before.

        Thank you for being part of the conversation (and I don’t just mean that because you’re “on my side” in this particular convo — I’m confident there are plenty of things you’d take me to task for if we ever got there).

        I hope you’re writing somewhere.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jennbb33 says:

          I blush… I guess being an English major really paid off! I don’t write, except in my head. Your post really hit a nerve with me, and I’ve been following it for a while. Thank you for your compliment, really. Someday I will write again, much to the dismay of many friends and enemies… :)

          I love snark. It works for me, I guess. And sometimes the harshness just needs to come out, especially when people say stupid things like “why are you reinforcing false stereotypes?” Zero to ten thousand in, like, nothing.

          I love the writing styles of Jenny Lawson, Laurie Notaro and dooce (before she got commercialized). Check ’em out. And, be well!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Mike Jones says:

    Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] or pointless that you don’t agree with. I’m reminded of this blogpost by a guy whose wife divorced him because he left the dishes by the sink. The point he made was – it wasn’t important to him to put away the dishes, he thought it […]

    Like

  7. easter-egger says:

    I came across your article on social media and i wanted to say thank you for writing it. I know its caused a lot of controversy and people obviously are heated over it. But i find myself in a similar situation and i’ve never had someone put it to words with two sides to the though process. So i wanted to say thank you for saying it. It highlighted whats going on with my relationship, how to to process it and hopefully change. So though many people may be angry with you and possibly angry at me for saying it, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. […] Source: She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink […]

    Like

  9. Ritu says:

    Just thank you. You put into words how I felt when I told my boyfriend how I felt and he said I was just saying he did everything wrong. I was telling him how I felt. And I didn’t understand why he and many other men got so upset with me about saying what I wanted. They could just leave me if it was that bad. Then I end up leaving and they give me rave reviews as a girlfriend. WTF. I am ending this pattern. Either we work it out or end it. Women are in tune with what we need and men can also do this. Thanks and keep writing please. 🙏🏽

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mel says:

    It’s irritating that you can sit and write this blog all about how a glass caused your wife to leave. I’m sure there were far more issues that led to the split. Husbands and wives should give 50/50 and maybe you weren’t doing your part. So get over the glass. You lost. It’s more than dishes.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      It’s irritating that you don’t know what you’re talking about, and missing the entire point. But by all means, carry on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fred says:

        I think you just weren’t good enough in bed.. sorry to break it to you this way. Women usually put up with a lot of shit with the worst of men while they get all bitchy with ‘nice guys’. I don’t think it has anything to do with a glass by the sink. Let it sink..

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Ha. I’m sure that’s it! After all of this time, you figured it out.

          Feel free to get back to your bidding on pro wrestling action figures on eBay.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Fred says:

            wow you’ve got me there.. pro wrestling action figures clearly my style. you must be really good at reading people. Wonder how you misread you ex so wrong..

            Like

          • Fred says:

            I might have been harsh here, but mate, trust me, you are better off without this horrible person in your life. Plus you became a beloved celebrity among egomaniac women. So cheer up, so many good things came to you from this divorce!

            Like

    • Married Woman says:

      Obviously, Mel, you didn’t read the whole article and/or comprehend it.

      Like

    • Dana McDonald says:

      Wow Mel, did you even read the post??

      Like

  11. Tyler says:

    So, this has nothing to do with men or women. Not cleaning up after yourself isn’t a male trait, nor is wanting others to clean up (be responsible for yourself and your actions) a female trait. There is no sex-based genetic predisposition to either not cleaning up or wanting others to not dump their responsibilities on you.

    You don’t need 1,852 words for this. Regardless of sex, the type of relationship, age, religion/lack thereof, just be responsible and don’t expect others to clean up after you. If you live with someone, it’s a safe bet to just clean up after yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s your wife, child, family member, friend, or random roommate: no-one should have to clean up after another perfectly capable human being.

    TLDR; communicate openly and don’t expect others to cleanup after you regardless of the relationship.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Totally agree Tyler. But being an industrious house cleaner is as far from the point as I’m trying to make.

      The dish is mostly a metaphor. It can just as easily be someone throwing dirty socks or a wet towel on the floor. Letting the gas light come on in the family vehicle. Not filling up the ice cube tray. Not putting the toilet seat down. Peeing on it. Leaving crumbs on the couch. ANYTHING that negatively affects someone you live with and love.

      Sometimes, two people have radically different responses to the same event.

      And in marriage, one must love their spouse enough to mindfully care about things simply because your partner does.

      Even if it doesn’t faze you. Even if it’s a gender-reversal. Even if it’s kids and their mom, or two college roommates, or two office co-workers.

      When you love and respect others, you give a shit about things on their behalf, even if on its own, it doesn’t matter to you.

      THAT is the point. And it’s a significant one.

      It’s not about dishes. It never was.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tyler says:

        I completely understand that it’s not entirely about the dishes. I’m also gathering that maybe it wasn’t just one glass since you’ve said “dishes” to myself, others, and in your follow-up article. From a standpoint outside of “men do this,” and “women do that,” it has nothing to do with love. It’s about being considerate, responsible, and, yes, respectful of others. It just has nothing at all to do with a man somehow being preordained to be a slob.
        If two people live together and one is having to constantly clean up or live in the filth of the other, it’s about disrespect (as you’ve sort of said while also blaming it on being a male) and apparent inconsideration.

        We’re *almost* on the same page, it’s just that you seem to have this idea that because you’re a male then you’re naturally an inconsiderate slob. I’m not trying to insult you – just an observation.

        “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.”
        It isn’t about being psychic nor being a male. Cleaning up after yourself is just something that any mature, responsible modern human should do – and not expect others to do for them.”

        “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.”

        Look at it this way: if you live on your own you either do the dishes yourself or have no clean dishes. Or a dirty shower. Or no clean clothes. Or a crumby couch. Or a dirty toilet. A husband/wife/roommate shouldn’t *have* to clean up after him/herself as well as the other person. If it’s a task that wouldn’t get done if you lived on your own and didn’t have a house cleaning service, do it yourself even if you have a spouse/partner.

        Did you make the mess completely on your own? If so, you should take care of it. Did someone else make the mess completely on their own? You get the idea. Now, if it’s something like dirt and grime from foot traffic that both people contribute to, just communicate and share the responsibility of vacuuming/sweeping and mopping.

        No-one is ever going to get mad at you for cleaning up after yourself. It *has* to be about the dishes. Because if you did the dishes you wouldn’t have been assuming she would clean up after you. It’s not a metaphor. It’s more like a symbolic act, really. Or maybe, more accurately, a symbolic inaction.

        “When you love and respect others, you give a shit about things on their behalf, even if on its own, it doesn’t matter to you.” This is the underlying issue. It’s not about love. You seem to be saying that cleaning up isn’t a big deal to you. If you want to be a slob, that’s fine, until your lack of cleaning affects someone else. If I marry a messy, inconsiderate girl I’m definitely not going to expect her to change years of habits because they “love” me.

        Might be a little verbose and repetitive. I’m tired.

        Like

      • Ana W says:

        perfect response.

        Like

      • Ana W says:

        this is a perfect response Matt.

        Like

  12. David Thorp says:

    I don’t agree with this at all. This is control & manipulation by women: “If you care about how I feel then you must do what I want”. Yes, each person should give strong weight to the preferences of their partner (regardless of the “logic” in it), but a good relationship should respect differences. If the man has a very good reason for not putting the glass in the dishwasher and he genuinely feels strongly that is more important than her wish for him to put it in there (as distinct from opposing her desires for the sake of being in control), then she needs to let him make that decision. Likewise vice versa for things he may want her to do (e.g. shaving certain hair, wearing certain things, doing certain acts) – he also needs to respect her right to say no (without her having to persuade him logically).

    Like

    • Ana W says:

      “doing certain acts”? talk about control and manipulation.

      Like

    • DANA A MCDONALD says:

      Uh, a good reason being you don’t have any arms??? How hard is it to but a glass in the dishwasher, David?

      Like

      • David Thorp says:

        I think you’re proving my point – arguing logically why your opinion is right. Matt’s already given reasons why someone (man or woman) might not want to put it in the dishwasher, e.g. they’re planning to use it again. Why should one view take precedent over the other? Using emotional blackmail to win the argument is not love. It has to go both ways.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          My only counter to this David would be the importance of selfless love and respect in marriage.

          Sure. I want to leave my drinking glass there. And I find it annoying that she cares about it. But it’s intellectually dishonest to say it’s actually painful. That I fundamentally causes any sort of damage to me.

          The dish by the sink is mostly a metaphor on par with not putting the toilet seat down, leaving shoes or dirty socks in an unwanted place on the floor, etc.

          The glass by sink — the literal, actual real-life glass is irrelevant.

          How a wife might FEEL when after honest and well-meaning requests to just put the glass in the sink is met with a big middle finger in the form of continuing to do something she reasonably asked you not

          Liked by 1 person

          • David Thorp says:

            Matt, I think maybe you’re trying to rationalise away your feelings? You’ve talked about her feelings but what about yours? It’s not just a glass – how did you FEEL about it? If you didn’t like being effectively forced to do what she wanted, there’s legitimacy in that. Only you can work out whether you have ‘control issues’ (reacting unreasonably to simple requests) or whether your feelings stemmed from a bigger control battle in your relationship?

            Like

            • Matt says:

              No idea! Maybe. I’m not a doctor. I just believe I’m right about all the parts I said. I don’t pretend to know other things.

              I think there’s little doubt that I have issues! I think there’s little doubt that everyone does.

              Like

          • Dana McDonald says:

            Matt wrote:

            “The dish by the sink is mostly a metaphor on par with not putting the toilet seat down, leaving shoes or dirty socks in an unwanted place on the floor, etc.”

            Oh Matt, he was gonna wear those socks again 😎

            Like

        • Matt says:

          Oops…. Hit reply too soon like a dipshit….

          Anytime you verbally or non-verbally tell your spouse that things that matter to them or upset them SHOULDN’T matter or SHOULDN’T upset her because that’s not the way you experience it, so she must be wrong or broken or stupid or crazy or something else bad in order to disagree with you….

          When you tell her that what she thinks and feels doesn’t matter, your marriage is on borrowed time.

          It’s not about equally valid opinions.

          It’s about one person being hurt, and the other saying “F you, I don’t give a shit about the things you care about.”

          THAT ends marriages. Several thousands of times every day.

          And I think it’s sad, because it’s essentially a big misunderstanding and kids shouldn’t have to cry and miss one of their parents every day forever on account of misunderstandings.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Good point Matt! I don’t understand why she had a HUGE fit aboue a simple glass, really? She must be crazy! As a wife myself, do I get annoyed if my husband misses the dirty basket when he’s 2 feet from it? Sure. But is it worth the fight? No, cause I’ll have to wash what’s in that basket, and everything around it. Does my husband get annoyed when I leave clothes on the bathroom floor? Yes, but it doesn’t mean I get angry, I just take care of it. It’s life, and responsibilites, I don’t have a dishwasher so any dish on the sink when I do dishes is getting washed. If my husband has a glass of water on the dining room table, it’s because he’s going to use it again, when I do dishes I ask if he’s still using it, before just taking it away, he’s saving me time to clean his glass cause he’s going to reuse it later.

            Like

            • Vicky says:

              It is not about all the issues she does not like. It is only about some issues more important for her for some reason. If she keeps talking about it, it is time for her husband to begin to pay attention. The price is saved marriage. And seeing how her husband is nice to her she will treat him better than ever.

              Liked by 1 person

          • Rads says:

            “When you tell her that what she thinks and feels doesn’t matter, your marriage is on borrowed time. ” Absolutely!

            I have told him straight that the socks, the towel, the dirty plate on the ‘just’ cleaned table etc etc all make me feel disrespected. When *he* cleans the floor , it just gotta damn well stay clean… coz doncha know he cleaned it, like, last week! But when I clean something – 2 seconds and there’s something on it -and I shouldn’t even say anything.

            I’ve told him I cannot live my life like this – he doesn’t seem to care. Borrowed time – definitely.

            Like

      • David Thorp says:

        If she made such a big deal about glasses going in the dishwasher then I strongly suspect she used emotional blackmail to get her way on an awful lot of other things. A lot of relationship problems stem from control battles.

        Like

  13. Ana W says:

    Matt, I’ve read a lot of your articles and I think it is really brave of you to put your feelings and insights out on the public arena. You’ve heard it before but your articles describe my feelings exactly (as a woman) but I’ve heard my husband express the “man” side you express too. I love all the superior comments from people who have it all “figured out”. The truth is marriage is a process, two people either grow together or they don’t. We change as we grow, when we have kids, as we get older, get more advanced in our careers, have more responsibilities. What used to only annoy me in the beginning or not bother me at all, becomes a life and death struggle when the individuals have grown apart with all those stresses layered on top. I am speaking as someone who has been married nearly 20 years now and (together four years before that) and we are talking about separating (or rather I am). it is heartbreaking and in our case, love is not the issue. but for me, not feeling cared for, feeling alone, and undervalued have become too painful for me to live with. It is precisely what you are talking about. I know some men argue with this – my husband would say he also wrestles with these feelings – and I believe him – the problem is that I am out of empathy right now. it becomes circular after a while, and finding the beginning of the cycle is hard to figure out.

    I am not low maintenance. I have high expectations from people. Most intelligent women do. My husband is not used to that. he grew up in a “traditional” home of white upper middle class America with a stay at home mom. I did not. My family was broken and I am not white. this isn’t about race, but more about privilege – but that is another issue entirely. I have advanced degrees (a master’s and a doctorate) – my husband is a successful engineer (with a BS) and out-earns me. I fought for my opportunities, my husband did not but that isn’t to say that he didn’t rightfully earn them. He was just more fortunate than I.

    what may be good enough for another woman may not be good enough for me. But I also have high expectations for myself. I give to my husband and children and no woman wants to feel like her actions aren’t reciprocated, much less valued or cherished. If i’m sick, please take care of me when I’m sick – and don’t make me ask you to take care of me – because you don’t have to ask me. If I manage the bills, please help me with a budget when I ask for help (or actually why do i have to ask? don’t you spend money too? doesn’t how much we save or spend affect you too?), or file the papers like you agreed to do but then didn’t and now there are piles of paper everywhere that make me want to cry, which i ignore till that one day when i can’t find something stupid and i completely lose my shit over something “trivial”.

    Don’t complain about me to another woman and secretly text her and then expect me to dismiss it like it means nothing because she was just a friend. to be fair you expressed remorse but i can’t let it go because of other issues that haven’t been resolved so now you are tired of me feeling hurt about this betrayal and don’t care how i feel about it anymore or rather you can’t sit with the shame of it anymore because it is too painful for you. I don’t know where that leaves me then. I suppose it goes into the “unsolved” file of marriage crimes.

    if i take the time to plan your birthday, do the same for me. I gave you beautiful children while working a very stressful job – i’m talking about overnight shifts and long days of 12-15 hours, and I run our home and our lives, so maybe you could act like those things matter – it really hasn’t been equal over the course of our marriage though I know you like to pretend it has (though at times you’ve admitted it hasn’t been). Your mother cooked you dinner many nights when I wasn’t home, and bathed our kids so they were ready for you at the end of your day. I came home and made my own dinner or cooked for you when I was home – after work, while taking care of kids, etc.

    I know you feel ashamed when I then lose my temper and scream at you about these things. Then you scream back at me and say equally terrible things. and sometimes you feel bad you did them and you try to make it up in other ways – you have tried in the recent years with taking on more responsibility but I have to remind you, ask you, make a list for you, or then you screw those up too or treat them like it’s a chore and I’m just a demanding bitch. I don’t have the patience I used to with your laid back attitude. These things have become urgent to me now, they have taken on meaning for me, but not for you. just like that glass by the sink. at one time maybe it was a joke. then it stopped being funny when the glass became the bills, or the vacations that needed planning, or date nights that never happened because I didn’t plan them and you don’t seem to want to spend time with me, or special occasions that went by unmarked or dismissed or sheepishly acknowledged with an under-whelming gesture. that will murder a marriage, no matter how demanding you believe your wife to be. “when is it enough?” you ask. and that’s the problem. I don’t ask that question. I’ve never asked for a limit to what I would do for you. I had to start putting limits when i realized that you had limits to what you would do for me. birthdays for either of us now are more stressful or happy. another casualty of neglect and resentment.

    these are the worst of the bunch and there are other hurts. why is it we only remember the worst? if i read about this guy and it was another woman, i’d tell her to run to a lawyer. but there were kindnesses and generosity and love. there was closeness and shared laughter and great sex. i want to remember the good things too. I wish the good could outweigh the bad – i think it does really which is why we’ve lasted this long – but when the bad introduces doubt and fear – there is no balancing factor for that on the side of good. everything becomes suspect – you become cynical. you question motives. does he mean it or is it something he checking off to get off the shit list? and if he means it, why does he screw up again, and again, and again, later? if you know i am a little paranoid coming home late at night into the train station, why do I have to ask you to meet me there after 20 years? why not just show up? do you not care? nothing will happen you say. you’re probably right. but what if it does? i’m not a big guy walking to my car in a deserted lot at night.

    you say you love me and you don’t want a divorce but you want me to take the lead in determining the fate of our relationship. i am no timid female, i say terrible things, i’m furious that you duped me into believing you cared more about me than you did. i’ve let you know exactly what i think of you for your behavior and that now I don’t want to make it easy for you. You had an active role in losing me so I think you should take an active role in getting me back. what does that mean? i don’t know. figure it out. and if you don’t then I have to accept that we don’t belong together, because I can’t live with doubt or with a man who won’t lead. I’m tired now and I need to be able to put my head on someone else’s shoulder for a change.

    why do men who say they love their wives not fight for them? they know you want them to fight for them but some men can’t. and as a woman, is that enough? the woman finds the marriage counselor and the guy dutifully shows up – is that enough – is he fighting for the marriage then? or should there be more? is it like the movie “he’s just not that into you” – if a guy acts like he doesn’t care, he probably doesn’t. or does that not apply to husbands after 20 years?

    if you fight for the relationship and they don’t, then what?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jennbb33 says:

      Beautifully said, Ana. This is exactly where I am at with my relationship as well, and I am waiting for him to make the decision on whether we stay together or not. I wish I knew. I tried to make conversation last night – something that wasn’t based on our bills, our kids, or any other stressor in our lives, and there was nothing. That alone gives me a lot of information to go over.

      I went away this weekend for a little respite and was told that they “kept the house clean.” As one-quarter of the people who live there, I guess I should say thank you?

      The magic seems to be gone out of our 20 years together, 18 years married relationship. I just don’t know how to take the next step without causing the next world war. We tried counseling – he just showed up. As soon as the therapist tried to engage him, he got mad and decided he won’t go back. And when she suggested that he go to therapy, he hit the roof. I don’t see much of a future with him, and am waiting for the universe to send me a solution. I don’t pray to anyone in particular; just to anyone who is listening.

      Like

      • Ana W says:

        you are very kind. thank you. i suppose i’m not waiting for my husband to make a decision because i know i have to be part of it too but he needs to say the words. to be fair, he’s said plenty of times he doesn’t want a divorce in the past and he participates in the counseling and has gone on his own at times. but since i’ve seriously pursued separation now (retaining a lawyer and starting the process for the agreement) he hasn’t said it again. I’ve left it an open decision about whether it is a temporary separation or one that will lead to divorce. That is the part we haven’t figured out.

        He has said he loves me (over text lol) but then the words and behavior don’t match. he doesn’t attempt to talk about things – but I don’t behave like I’m receptive either. I’m so angry. he is passive-aggressive and avoids things so i get more mad and that just makes him more reticent. then at some point he will get mad and yell too. it’s really quite stupid. but i can’t keep feeling like i have to force action out of him. he has to lead too, even if it is scary for him.

        it’s hard to have normal conversation with so much weighing on you both. it’s lonely too. i figure it’s lonely in the marriage and it will be lonely out of it but the tension is very draining too.

        Like

        • meridda says:

          ana, welcome to the “club”….our situations sound very similar. I feel your pain. I know my husband feels shame–so I try very hard not to be shaming when I ask him for something, but any small request he seems to hear as “see–you’re failing as a husband because I had to ask”. it feels like my options are to STFU, stuff my feelings and take care of everything or leave.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Julez says:

          Oh by the way OF COURSE they’ll never pull the trigger and end the relationship! Who would? *Look at how much they have to lose!* And all they have to do to keep you is to stay quiet, passive and not hit you. Well someone hand these good men a trophy.

          Like

    • Julez says:

      Ana, you remind me so much of myself in your comment. I’ve read it 3 times since yesterday. You, like so many women, are one of the casualties of modern marriage: women were told they could have an equal partner because our feminist mothers fought for equal rights, and men promised to step up, and they never did. No one taught them how to be adults, let alone men. We’re expected to either “raise” our husbands by nagging them like children (intimacy killing), or silently and invisibly manage until we’re worn down to a nub.

      From my experience, you won’t find peace, and you won’t feel whole again until you leave. Leave. That man does not deserve you. He will never step up. You’ll never feel certain you can rely on him, or that he can protect you. Leave. Don’t waste any more time with men who don’t get it. I left my husband 5 months ago, and BEING alone is a thousand times better than FEELING alone IN a marriage. He tried! But merely trying (as though my needs were a list of chores), like all those good intentions, like all the underwhelming gestures that we’re EXPECTED to be grateful for and put in the labor of hiding our disappointment and expressing undending gratitude!! Our husbands are “nice” men who are trying… that should be enough right?

      It isn’t.

      It sucked. I love(d) my husband. There was a lot of guilt and grief when I left. But I sleep so well at night now, that I’m certain I’ve made the best decision. The last time I went home to pack up the last of my belongings as we sold the house, I walked into: a sink filled with milky, dirty water and dishes, dishes on the counter with food stuck to them (dishes he knew I was taking with me, by the way), the cat litter was disgusting and made me feel so bad for our cats, there was a bucket with cigarette butts in the backyard, but still piles and piles of cigarette buts all over the patio stairs and front porch. He’d went away on a trip and left an over-filled washing machine full of wet towels to mildew. Well, I’m not interested in that. I’m looking forward to taking care of my new place. Maybe he’ll find another woman to be his mother.

      Leave.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jennbb33 says:

        Phew, Julez. You have done it. Props times a thousand. I am terrified of this step. TERRIFIED. I want the universe to fix this problem for me. But this is my future. I know it. I went away this weekend and was reminded that I LIKE me. I like who I am as an individual, and I want to get back to that person.

        We all were so hoodwinked by being sold on modern marriage and that we could have it all. Marriage as “Happily Ever After” complete with a knight in shining armor who would make us laugh and love us for who we are entirely, a career that fulfilled our ambitions, a perfect, cherubic family that satisfied our biological cravings, and enough money, energy and wherewithal left to decorate our homes with the seasons, create delicious masterpieces every night in the kitchen, be sex goddesses in the bedroom, and still have enough time to get away with our girlfriends regularly.

        It’s all such a load of bullshit. It’s a farce. My kids eat rice and beans or cereal (that they make themselves), my house is a mess more often than not, my husband can’t find a “perfect” job so he settles for two part-time jobs that he hates, and we are all fairly miserable. Sex? Bwahhhhhh ahhh haaaaaaaaaaaaa – not for MONTHS.

        Good on you, girl. I’m right behind you, if I can find my big girl pants. Keep inspiring us, PLEASE!!!!

        Like

        • Julez says:

          I promise you with all my heart you won’t regret it. We don’t take these decisions lightly. We try. WE TRY TO MAKE THINGS WORK. We’re women, and civilizations depend on us doing the invisible (unpaid) labor of maintaining social order, raising children, nursing elders, and managing LIFE so that Mr. Compartmentalization can focus on his needs.

          Your biggest obstacle is yourself. You will feel guilty and question your motives – but it sounds to me like you are where I was a year ago. If the thought of leaving elicits a vision of hope and sense of self-worth you’ve lost (becuase some guy thought he was entitled to you and everything you stand for, FOREVER) then for christ sakes, go now. You are being taken for granted.

          It was easier for me because we didn’t have children – but it can be done. Elicit the help of your girlfriends and woman relatives. Surround yourself with the nourishing, validating no-bullshit empathy of other women.

          I saw two women leave their unhappy marriages, and they inspired me to do the same. If I could pay it forward and lead other strong, generous, capable women into happiness and newfound hope, I’ll have done my job. You got this.

          And if I had a dollar for every person who has said (without knowing that I left my husband) “How are you doing?? You look so happy!” I’d have a down payment on a second house. <3 <3

          Like

      • Ana W says:

        Julez, thank you. your words help so much. i agree with you about peace. i’ve told others it would be so much easier if my husband were a jerk who never did anything. he isn’t. he helps around the house and with the kids. the kids are great – i’m a strong disciplinarian and i treat them like they are little people, which they are – and they are capable of understanding empathy and accountability. when i write about it here it helps me process the situation and the feedback helps, it really does.

        last night was another defining moment. i had been working from home – and i had sent a few emails to H about our separation agreement – which I am working on but he isn’t thinking about – at all. he really doesn’t want to deal with it and I don’t blame him, neither do I. The status quo is not tolerable though so I am doing it. I sent him some emails and had some questions about living arrangements etc. and also things like, is this a separation headed for divorce or are we going to try and work on the marriage? are we going to see other people? sleep with other people? doing this makes you think about really uncomfortable things.

        i got a text from him later when i asked if he was eating tacos for dinner (we had at home) and he asked me if i wanted to go out to dinner. So i am thinking he’s read my notes and wants to discuss and maybe this will be the light going on and this conversation may be different from others.

        it wasn’t. we go to dinner and he is into small talk – which i am not and never will be. i’m not a small talk person – maybe with strangers or acquaintances and even then not so much. but small talk now is insane – for him it’s classic avoidance. So I bring up the elephant in the room and of course he has not read my emails. Why did you want to have dinner then? I ask. He says, I thought it would be nice.

        F that. So we start talking and i can’t get a real response on anything. no opinions, no convictions. he asks how do we date without sleeping with other people! does this mean he wants to sleep with other people? no, he says, he’s just saying. WTF does that mean.

        He wants to stay married. But he is looking at apartments. But he doesn’t know why or what we should do. he doesn’t understand any of this. doesn’t understand why we are talking about divorce. doesn’t even know the difference between separation and divorce, though i explained the process to him before. he hasn’t looked into it at all. I’ve even sent him links explaining it to him.

        Then the same arguments start – he says I abandoned him and shut down at one point in our lives and I say I know and try to explain my side. And that leads to fury on his part. and I keep saying look, we need to discuss both sides of this. and it becomes “you just want to blame me for everything”. We go home and he is just like a wall, everything I say just bounces off this impenetrable belief that he has to be “wrong” and “the bad guy” and that’s my sole objective when we talk.

        i ask him why he is still in the marriage if he believes that. He is waiting for me to change he says. i am flabbergasted but not really surprised.

        we leave it that this isn’t going to work and he’s all kinds of pissed off – and now we are home – i say to him with finality that this is a separation leading to divorce. and he says that’s what I (meaning me) want. He just wants me to be the one to make the choice so he can blame me for it. I say that to him, and he starts all mad again. and I go upstairs and leave him in the guest room downstairs (where he has been for over a month – my choice). but in my mind i’m thinking, it’s over, it’s really over now. and for those moments i am devastated but then i start to feel like a weight has been lifted. it wasn’t the outcome i was hoping for but i know where i stand now and i can make a decision about my life.

        later i am in the kitchen tidying up – kids are watching tv – and he comes in after hibernating downstairs – processing i suppose – maybe 20 minutes or so. and he says i’m sorry i got mad. I don’t know what i want to do. i want to be married to you. maybe he said he loved me, i don’t remember. he hugs me. I am bewildered. now I am back to where I started.

        but then i’m not – this isn’t fair to me – his lack of conviction or decision making – this is our lives, our marriage, our family. if I have to decide so be it.

        i love him. he loves me. it isn’t enough.

        he texted me this morning. I am in my office – of course crying. he is so depressed about this. i am too, i say. he wants me to be happy. i’ve heard this before. it’s not an adequate response, but maybe all he can muster. i tell him he doesn’t love me, not really. he wants his family, but i don’t think he wants me. (last night he wasn’t coherent about this, which translates as lack of conviction to me – it may not be, he’s bumbling around like a wounded animal right now I guess, but I can’t wait for him to figure it out).

        I tell him he isn’t strong enough for us, so now i have to be. I love you, I say, but I can’t be married to you.

        and now I am moving forward on the separation agreement on my own. i figure he will see it when it’s done – from my lawyer – and have to deal with it then. I won’t be asking him any more questions. i will do my best to be fair. it will need tweaking but it needs to get done. the lawyer will help me figure it out. that’s what i pay her for.

        i can’t say that I won’t consider being with him in the future, but under these circumstances, we don’t have a future.

        i hope i am doing the right thing.

        Like

        • Julez says:

          You are definitely doing the right thing.

          And here’s the beautiful thing: he doesn’t have to “get” it. He doesn’t have to understand. He MIGHT later, once you’re gone… or maybe he’ll get into a relationship right away so he doesn’t have to accept responsibility.

          And he won’t change because he’s waiting for you to change. And he’s not assertive enough to fight for your respect. He isn’t a bad person. It might not even be his “fault” – but you know what?? It doesn’t matter. Him being a good person isn’t going to give you an orgasm, or make you feel valued, or cherished or protected. You’re right: love isn’t enough.

          Don’t believe the: “You’re giving up on us” bullshit, either. What does that even mean? A miserable marriage is considered “successful” if you’re together, albeit brokenhearted? No. And don’t fall for “you’re giving up on marriage” because it’s wrong – WRONG – to make women stay in a social contract that emotionally destroys them. It’s wrong. Full stop.

          Read Madame Bovary. Read Anna Karenina. Read Scarlet and Black. All feature married women who have an undying capacity for love and passion that is thwarted by social convention and cultural expectation. The unhappy wife isn’t a new problem – but guess what? Now we have social media, and we’ve (women) got each other.

          You will be okay. You’re doing the right thing. You’re not wrong. You tried your best. This isn’t a failure. You are learning and growing. You’re in a chrysalis. You’ve got this.

          Like

          • Ana W says:

            thanks Julez – that is so inspiring! i haven’t read scarlet and black. i’m reading the Handmaid’s Tale right now – lol – scary enough.

            i know it is BS that the separation is “my decision” – it is a choice I’m making true but he’s not deciding either way really – i suppose wanting to stay married is not really a decision is it? i want to stay married too, but not under these circumstances. so I guess I’m choosing separation and maybe divorce eventually.

            is anyone on this thread local to the DC area?

            Like

  14. Ana W says:

    precisely meridda. that’s the worst – we’ve never figured that out – how i can ask without him feeling like i’m criticizing or getting to the point where i don’t HAVE to ask. sometimes he seems to take it in stride and others he is mad. i think it is overwhelming for him when i start to say this, and this and this, etc. but that is the reality, there’s LOTS to do and I can’t baby him though I try to make it even between us. I mean we are in our mid 40s, when does it become a habit to just do this stuff? and once you’ve figured out that you need to take out the trash without being asked, how about those papers or the budget or vacation or planning summer camp? these are constants in our lives, how about not waiting to be asked?

    i wish we could just push a button that would “reset” our marriage – clear out all the old and just start again – i think that is why I initially decided this separation would be a good thing – a little time and space – and making it official this time (because I’ve talked about it before) is for me to feel like I am making a decision – there has to be a goal – forward movement. Either we are going to work out or not but there has to be a goal. but his passiveness is making me so mad I am lashing out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jennbb33 says:

      I don’t know about you and Meridda, but I don’t like walking over trash that missed the basket, or laundry on the floor, or whatever it is. I also resent the fact that I have to tell him – and our two kids – that they, too, can bend over and pick that up!

      It feels like he, and they, by extension, just don’t care about the co-habitating any more. And if they don’t, then why on earth should I care any more? I feel like I’ve expressed, over and over, what is important to me. I don’t want to nag. I don’t want to leave lists. Please be respectful and remember what is important to me, just like I remember what is important to you. That, to me, is what makes a partnership last. Be mindful of what is important not only to you, but to me, too….

      Like

      • meridda says:

        I’m with you–I’ve tried to start a campaign “no littering in the house” because yes, trash is left everywhere…fortunately, my daughter is quite responsible. part of the issue is that my husband seems perfectly happy with our situation (as long as I don’t ask for anything). I’m the one who is unhappy, so I guess I’m the one who needs to change–I’m just not sure what that means…

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Ana W says:

    how old are your kids jennbb33? are they so old that these habits are fixed? or are they still young (grade school, middle school, even early high school?). of course I would not like living like that, no one would. with kids at least, if they are young enough, you can impose disciplinary action if they are not being responsible. if they are college age, then it may be time to let the sorry bunch live on their own without you!

    Like

    • jennbb33 says:

      They are 12 and 9…. The 12 year old is coming “on line” and getting conscious of her living space. I am hoping that the 9 year old listens to me and gets on board too.

      Like

      • Ana W says:

        ah, they are old enough to be influenced by you. Don’t give up on them – they can learn, you have to be persistent. For your sake and theirs – they have to learn empathy and that the world doesn’t revolve around them, just because we love them unconditionally doesn’t mean we can’t set boundaries for them. I talk to my kids this way – i tell them clearly that I expect them to do certain things just like i do things for them. I don’t pay them to do chores. They are part of the family so they are expected to work. it is about love and respect for one another. I make it clear that I love them but i’m not taking their bullshit. (mine are 14 girl and almost 12 boy). the both sweep the kitchen, washes dishes, unloads dishwasher, does laundry and whatever else needs to be done (as long as schoolwork is finished first).

        keep trying! you will win with them at least in the end.

        Like

  16. Ana W says:

    that really doesn’t seem fair to you does it? i suppose when it comes to “lists” that I feel like if I have to leave a list then what I list should get done without 18 reminders. it’s bad enough to have to take the time to write the list but what good is delegating if you have to keep micro-managing? can you imagine if your boss had to do that with you? you’d be out!

    a friend of mine told me we all have our own views of what’s tolerable to us. she’s willing to put up with certain things that i’m not and vice versa. i’ve tried setting the boundaries of this is yours to do, this is mine to do, but again, this is deemed as “unfair” – i’ve had my husband argue with me (in the past but no more) why it was his responsibility to take out the garbage. one time i left the trash bag (full of trash) by his side of the bed. i think his POV was if it needs doing why is it one person’s job vs another – which is something I’ve seen on this thread too – the problem with that is that only works if both people are on that page. So if my husband picks up the bills and cooking the meals (without being asked) on a regular basis as many times as I do, then I will gladly take out the garbage. But I am not going to have “my responsibilities” and his too. and if it isn’t clearly delegated to him, it will default to me. because he just won’t think to do it. and i always felt it was a little disrespectful in his parents home that his mother had to cook, then serve, then clean the kitchen and then walk the trash out to the garage herself every night while her husband lounged in front of the tv. she was a stay at home mom, and cleaned and cooked, etc. i get it, but that part made me feel like it was un-gentleman man like. why couldn’t he take the heavy, smelly trash out himself? or offer to do it for her? just to be nice? it’s her fault too because she would at times insist on doing it herself even when i told my husband he should do it for her. just out of respect for her as his mother. it led to irritation for me years later when she would jump up everytime i asked my husband to do something – like he shouldn’t be doing anything. stupid woman. it’s partly her fault that her son didn’t feel anything should be “his job” but showed no inclination to just take it upon himself to do something either.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jennbb33 says:

      “A little” disrespectful… I try to say to people, if I’m working, you should be, too…. I mean, EMPATHY, Y’all!!!! Many hands make light the work! Show a little respect! The only thing we can do is train our sons to help when they see their wives – or partners – still working when they are sitting on their asses.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Steve Ballantyne says:

    Enjoyable blog

    Like

  18. Deb Dutcher says:

    This is super-heloful. But for me, I am the wife who works and leaves dishes in the sink, running out the door. Hubby is retired, and hates when I do this. I think, “You’re retired. All you do is golf and watch television. You know how stretched I am. Why can’t you
    help?”. But, you have made me see he feels disrespected. This is my second marriage. Guess I still have a lot to learn!

    Like

  19. Olga says:

    Thank you so much for this article. This is exactly what I am going through right now. I have been with my boyfriend Matt for 6 years and we are definitely going through a rough patch so I decided to send him this article. This is the response I got: “I’m so sorry for hurting you. Not just this time. But for all the other bullshit I’ve put you through. You’re an amazing person. And you deserve to be loved and treated with respect. Please know that. I’ll leave you alone now, but I just had to say something.”

    I have never respond to anything online but really wanted to say thank you. You said all of the things I have wanted to say to my boyfriend but didn’t know how to phrase it.

    Like

  20. B.C. says:

    You certainly hit the nail right on the head.
    If only you knew my husband and could share this and a few other things. Unfortunately you don’t, he’ll never equate this either . Bitter til the bitter end . Thank you for posting this. Much appreciated. B.C.

    Like

  21. […] It was love at first sight. He went in with his eyes glued upon the girl of his affection. He got closer and closer to the counter where she was. With a huge and welcoming smile upon her face she said, can I help […]

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  22. Ufuomaee says:

    Reblogged this on Grace and Truth and commented:
    A really thought provoking piece I believe every husband who loves his wife should read…

    Like

  23. Sarah says:

    All men: Here’s the marriage manual. You’ll need it.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Sarah says:

    Reblogged this on Nderi Sarah and commented:
    All men: Here’s the marriage manual…

    Liked by 1 person

  25. […] a wife or girlfriend is upset about us leaving a dish by the sink, we may spend hours—and even weeks, months or years—arguing the merits of the […]

    Like

  26. […] don’t always know that leaving dirty dishes by the sink, or being extra-polite to strangers, or doing a bad job of executing household tasks like meal […]

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

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  28. I saw this on HuffPo, and what I can’t figure out is why you spent so much space claiming it didn’t matter to you, when it mattered to you so overwhelmingly that you wouldn’t even consider changing. That’s the opposite of not caring about it.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Please tell me what part of it you find confusing. This sounds like a semantics debate. Those can happen a lot around here.

      Example: I’ve been single for four years. Same kitchen. Same sink. Same drinking glasses.

      And I leave a tall drinking glass on the counter in the back corner of the sink by my coffee maker almost every day.

      I pop it into the dishwasher maybe once a week, but inevitably a new glass takes it’s place there.

      I like having a glass to grab quickly to swallow a pill or vitamin.

      What I don’t care about is the glass being there in a “My kitchen looks cluttered and messy” way.

      The glass being there does not bother me.

      It’s there, and I don’t care.

      If my 8-year-old put a peanut buttery finger print on my window or TV, I would care and want it cleaned. If he spilled pasta sauce or chocolate milk on the floor I would care and want it cleaned.

      I clean my toilets and mirrors. I clean my car.

      But I DON’T always clean the drinking glass that I put back there by the sink. It’s because when it sits there, it doesn’t bother me the way those other messy things bother me.

      I’m sorry if you felt I communicated that poorly.

      You probably get this already, but I think a significant thing in relationships that men frequently suck at is: Caring about something on behalf of his partner. I don’t think it’s important to change your beliefs and feelings and brainwash yourself into considering a drinking glass by the sink a cleaning violation.

      HOWEVER, I think a significant key to quality relationships is mindfully “caring about” and “tending to” tasks or whatever simply because the person you love DOES care about it.

      I need to learn that a glass sitting by the sink may feel to her the way a peanut-butter smear on my TV or windows would feel to me.

      Simple empathy. Maybe you’re awesome at it and take it for granted. For guys like me, this is next-level shit.

      These subtle changes in thought and behavior can change the entire trajectory of our lives by adjusting thoughtless, relationship-damaging behaviors.

      I don’t care about that glass.

      But if I’m ever with someone who does, it won’t be sitting there. Because she has to matter more than my personal opinions.

      And that has to be true for every guy who would prefer to not get divorced like me.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ana W says:

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot – and reading the comments about whether the glass was important vs. the importance of a partner’s feelings – IMHO yes caring about how your spouse feels about things is important, even if it doesn’t matter to you. But really, at its core, this is about feeling valued. Spouse A hates the glass, and Spouse B doesn’t care about it. BUT, Spouse A may not feel so bad about washing the glass for Spouse B if she felt valued by her spouse in other areas (not blaming you Matt, just an example). If the wife/spouse A feels and knows in her heart her husband/spouse B actively does things for her that she knows are her “quirks” but he cares about her enough to do them and value the fact that she washes his dirty glass or does other things for him, then she wouldn’t feel the glass was such a big deal. The glass becomes symbol for all the other areas where she doesn’t feel valued or appreciated – it is no longer just a glass by the sink. One person here remarked that she had a more equitable relationship where she and her husband share responsibilities more equally rather than thinking “this is my job and this is yours” – its great if that works for you but i think most of us (women) feel that the buck stops with us too often. So we have to insist on division of labor and too often have to enforce it with nagging and complaining. I agree that it does come down to empathy or lack of empathy.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Matt says:

          Right. People read just one of my posts, and then jump to insane conclusions about my ex-wife based on her reaction.

          They think she’s overreacting to the glass. Overreacting to the pair of jeans thrown on the bedroom chair. Overreacting to me wanting to watch a golf tournament instead of do what she wants to do. Overreacting to me playing poker or watching my own thing while she’s home on the couch, or in a different room watching her thing. Overreacting to whatever.

          It’s exactly what you said, Ana. Assuming I was the model husband in EVERY other possible scenario, or even just really good, there’s no way in hell that glass would have bothered her.

          Each of these little moments is a symptom of a larger problem. And unfortunately, I write in such a way that it doesn’t always get tied up neatly.

          My brain works better when I can focus on one subject or incident at a time.

          But in the end, these little moments cause pain because they’re part of a build-up of pain-inducing things. NOT because in isolation, or as a one-time incident, they are particularly painful or meaningful or noteworthy at all.

          Like

      • It’s not semantics — it’s the actual heart of the matter.

        You cared about your right to leave dirty dishes by the sink so absolutely that you were determined not to change, that you were determined not to even consider changing.

        The honest way to deal with that would have been to admit that this is something you really, really cared about, just as your wife really cared about dirty dishes going in the dishwasher.

        That way the two of you could have an honest discussion about finding some way of dealing with dishes that worked for both of you.

        The “but it’s UNIMPORTANT” lie is a tactic for doing an end-run around that process and instead declare yourself the winner

        But it’s obviously a lie, since it was so important to you that changing wasn’t even an option.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I think maybe you just want to internet-fight.

          I just told you the most-honest answer I could, and another human being SIMULTANEOUSLY explained it correctly using different words.

          If you would prefer to dismiss it in order to have your own story about my private life, and personal experiences, and personal intentions within those experiences, then there’s not much I can do to stop you.

          I tell these stories to help OTHER guys understand WHY their wives or girlfriends might be upset over things the guys might consider petty or unimportant. Guys frequently report that their wives or girlfriends “blow things out of proportion” or “overreact.”

          This is my attempt to explain why I believe that happens. And I think the more of them drawing the same conclusions as I have will reduce the frequency of divorce, and God-willing lead to fewer children growing up without both of their parents at home.

          If you think I have some other bizarrely sinister agenda, I’m going to have to let you just believe it. I’m sorry you didn’t agree with my honest explanation for what happened in my marriage, or what my true intentions were when I typed words that you read.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Bizarrely sinister agenda? Really? That’s just a repeat of the same tactic. “If I scream ‘UNIMPORTANT/BIZARRELY SINISTER AGENDA’ I get to declare that I win.” When, in fact, there is no reason to re-interpret what is happening into a fight you need to win in the first place.

            I just think you and your audience would be better served by not giving credence to the lie that something is unimportant to you when it’s so important that you don’t want to change it. Admit that if you don’t want to change something, then it does matter to you, and have an honest conversation about it. You don’t need pages of vague feelings babble trying to justify that it’s important to your spouse; all you need to do is admit that it obviously is important to you and talk about it honestly with your partner.

            Like

            • ThePants999 says:

              Baffling. I can only assume that you genuinely believe that everyone else’s brain works the same way yours does.

              Like

    • ThePants999 says:

      Helen, I think you’ve misunderstood. The mindset here isn’t “it’s important to me to not put my glass in the dishwasher, so I won’t change”, which is what “caring about it” would imply. The mindset Matt’s trying to describe is “it’s important to me that we only make a big deal out of big things, and this isn’t one, so I won’t change”. That’s not caring about the glass, that’s caring about the big picture – thinking that if we cave on this pointless and trivial thing, there’ll be another fifty to follow it.

      (Of course, the key point here is that one’s partner ought to be pretty damn high up the list of what’s important to you, and this is a clear signal they’re not!)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Matt says:

        Totally. This.

        Like

      • ThePants999 says:

        Damn, Matt, you’re way too fast for me :-D

        Liked by 1 person

      • Okay, you’ve done a good job of making my point for me.

        That’s just another tactic for refusing to work together for a solution and instead declaring that you win. All you have to do is declare something “unimportant” and you get to go on doing whatever it is.

        But who decides? If one person is deciding unilaterally what matters enough for the couple to work on, that’s already in insta-divorce territory, because there is no partnership there and no intention to have one.

        Like

        • ThePants999 says:

          Helen, you’re now doing a good job of making MATT’s point for HIM. You’ve come around to making EXACTLY the point this article is trying to make. Which is great, but you still seem to think you’re disagreeing?

          Like

          • Huh. If the point was that neither partner gets to veto problem-solving on an issue if you want the marriage to last, that’s great, but it didn’t come through very clearly.

            What I got out of it was, “Guys, watch out, neither person gets to decide unilaterally what is and isn’t an issue in the marriage, because the womenfolk, they are strange beasts that care about things unimportant to us manly men,” and then a whole lot of vague feelings babble.

            My point was that it would be a lot more clear if the message were, “Guys, watch out, neither person gets to decide unilaterally what is and isn’t an issue in the marriage. If you find yourself coming up with excuses why you shouldn’t have to change something (such as by declaring it unimportant), then it’s time to admit it’s a big deal to you and and start an honest conversation with your spouse about how you and she both feel about it so you can find a mutual solution.”

            Like

            • Matt says:

              You’re a good writer, Helen. I would encourage you to explain things how you want to explain them.

              I don’t have any problem or disagreement whatsoever with the explanation you just gave following the word “babble.”

              I’m writing first-person stories to maybe try to help other people who can identify with my life experiences think about something in a new way.

              The way I explained it is what feels most true and accurate and relevant for me.

              I can tell you with the utmost confidence that if you write YOUR stories YOUR way, explaining things as they make sense for YOU, you will find a group of people who will relate to, benefit from, and learn and grow due to your ability to help them rethink something.

              In the time you’ve spent trying to shit on my story, and convince me that I don’t actually mean what I say that I mean, you could have written your OWN excellent piece that would help people come to the conclusions you want them to come to.

              And I hope someone as smart and as talented as you would invest time and energy in that, rather than whatever this was.

              Good luck, Helen.

              Like

  29. Jess says:

    I will agree to not reusing the glass that I sat next to the sink if you agree to go to counseling to work on getting over worrying about such petty things as dirty dishes in or near the sink. Sir… you shed yourself of a problem. Life is short. There are people out there that will love you for who you are. These things are called “pet peeves” and are not worthy of divorce unless there are larger underlying problems. We are annoyed most with the people we spend the most time with. It is human nature. I appreciate that you understand the importance of that small gesture, but there are larger underlying problems here.

    Like

  30. sandra stones says:

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    Like

  31. Mr wishsomebodytoldmeeairler says:

    I also unfortunately am currently living this exact situation, in a few days we will be officially separated after 12 years together, Ive picked the cup up and put it in the dishwasher time and time again. Has the wife ever considered that the husband also is moving out for the exact same reasons, except replacing the cup for friendship, romance and intimacy. Ask yourself how long will he continue cleaning up for her before he gives up because she hasn’t even started giving him the same respect? The point is that both parties are guilty of the same crime and both are craving the same respect, the only solution is for both of you to realise and understand this predicament and take the first step forward together because in any relationship 1 can not survive without the other. Unfortunately Its to little to late for us , I hope people will read this and realise that it takes 2 to tango! PEACE!

    Like

  32. SingleNow444 says:

    ^^^THIS RIGHT HERE. Death by a thousand cuts. Or glasses. Of course more major issues come into play… but these small issues become very large, as you so realistically pointed out.
    Mine wasn’t dishes.. it was his clothes, piled atop the dresser, that NEVER got put away… unless I did it. Then I got bitched at if he couldnt find a particular article of clothing!! And it was shoes, kicked off next to the side door and left in a growing pile that was unsightly (right next to the table where we ate) and also grew in diameter, causing me several trips and twisted ankles. Then when my daughters came along, they heard their father either ignore or ridicule my requests to move the shoes… and they began to do the same as Daddy. Despite my efforts. By the time I had had enough amd left him, I was not really respected by anyone in the house. I had allowed that to be the example they grew up with. I have worked very hard since then to teach my childten that what I say matters, and that I will no longer tolerate being treated like that.

    Like

  33. Mary Runneberg says:

    Thank you for this! I didn’t think there was a man anywhere who truly understood this. I’m sorry to hear that your understanding of it came too late for your marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. […] I do it throughout the oft-read Open Letter to Shitty Husbands posts, and this very gender-oriented way of storytelling—for better or worse—is featured prominently in the only thing I’ve written that has been read millions of times: She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink. […]

    Like

  35. Annie says:

    Your writings are insightful. I’m the woman in the described scenario, and I’ve been reading a lot of your blog because it resonates with my current relationship. Same old story.

    I find it amusing reading some of the comments that still think it’s about the cup, but it’s also a little scary. I’m not sure that this is the kind of lesson that can be taught without a person experiencing the loss, or a threat of a loss, themselves.

    I don’t know how my spouse would react to being shown the articles on this site. He’s sensitive enough that I think he’d see “shitty husbands” at the top and think that’s all I think of him, thus getting nowhere.

    Like

  36. kat says:

    i think my ex read this article… and used it to quote those internal speeches word to word to my face -_-

    Like

  37. Megen Ashley says:

    What a beautiful explanation into the female/relationship psyche. I couldn’t have said it better myself, which you allude to and I’m not denying in the slightest that women can have issues conveying their thoughts in a highly emotive state. Your article is relevant to both sexes in a partnership. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Korrine says:

    Why do men need to grasp the reasons women feel disrespected by their actions before changing? Why isn’t just asking enough?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      How I wish I had an answer for you, Korrine. Best I can figure, we (all humans, but often men in this scenario) don’t “get it” until WE hurt just as bad as our partners did all those times we didn’t have enough humility and empathy to let someone else feel a certain way, and causing them hurt in the process.

      It’s like we need the pain to finally relate.

      That’s how I experienced it, and I think a bunch of others went through it that way too.

      It’s not okay. I’m sorry.

      Like

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