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.

…..

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…..

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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4,454 thoughts on “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink

  1. […] When you choose to love someone, it becomes your pleasure to do things that enhance their lives and … […]

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  2. […] would you please stop leaving that dirty glass by the sink? I try hard to keep the kitchen looking nice. Can you please just put it in the […]

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  3. effiethan says:

    https://english.emmaclit.com/2017/05/20/you-shouldve-asked/ Expecting your partner to tell you what to do and what needs to be done is putting most of the work onto them, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      This is easily one of the two or three best things I’ve ever seen illustrating this relationship dynamic I spend so much time writing about.

      It’s brilliant. I hope anyone who sees this and who hasn’t seen that comic before, will take the time to check it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. featheredcanvas says:

    I think you just helped me figure out why my last several relationships didn’t end up working out (being the female in the relationship) and finally my own brain makes sense. Thank you from three years in the future.

    Like

  5. “Now, it’s a meaningful act of love and sacrifice”

    But even that’s not the ideal situation. You’re still seeing it as a task performed to placate your wife, rather than something that’s an integral part of the relationship and home you’ve built together. You shouldn’t see it as a token of love; it’s basic home and relationship maintenance. While doing it with the motivation of keeping your wife happy will alleviate some stress, the fact that it isn’t second nature shows where the real problem lies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      I’d like to make the case that it’s as simple and dispassionate as good habits vs. bad habits, Katy.

      A meaningful act of love and sacrifice is a positive motivator to do a thing. Rather than the reluctant submission to do some crap thing your partner is nagging you about.

      The goal, from my perspective, is to turn it into habit.

      And I hope it’s obvious that I’m not limiting it to “the dish.”

      But ALL of these incidents we are all blind to.

      Not everyone cares about dishes by the sink.

      So in other relationships for other people “the dish” is something else entirely.

      How we speak to one another around the in-laws. Being punctual for our partners who stress about arrival times for events and social activities. The brand of apple cider we buy at the grocery store. WHATEVER.

      Just loving our partners enough to RESPECT their individual life experiences as being equally valid to ours and then acting accordingly.

      I agree with you that it’s not ideal. This life is not ideal. Human behavior and psychology and emotional baggage is not ideal.

      So we choose to love above all of it. And for people like me, we dedicate our brains to mindful development of positive habits that reduce instances of emotional pain and negativity and disconnection in our relationships so that they can flourish.

      That’s the intended message of this inexplicably popular poorly written blog article. 🤷🏻‍♂️

      Like

  6. […] semi-famous example from this blog and my marriage is the story of me leaving a dish by the sink, and how my habit of doing that led to my […]

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  7. Reblogged this on All the times I failed and commented:
    always repost. always.

    Like

  8. […] disagreeing with them. I just can’t believe real-life human beings with functioning brains read that post and came away with: “Yep. It was literally about dirty dishes, just like the headline said!” […]

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  9. […] disagreeing with them. I just can’t believe real-life human beings with functioning brains read that post and came away with: “Yep. It was literally about dirty dishes, just like the headline said!” […]

    Like

  10. Gladram says:

    Hi,
    Just want to say thank you for writing this article. It contains everything I have felt and thought all these times… I face the communication challenge you mention in the article with my husband. I have forwarded this article to him. I really hope he is able to understand me afterwards…

    Like

  11. […] “dishes” post received more misogynistic comments than I care to count, and a ton I couldn’t approve because I […]

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  12. Heather says:

    Feeling that a partner isn’t respecting your wishes by leaving a glass in the sink? Sure. Divorcing them for it? That is irrational. No one is perfect and a relationship is about accepting that. My partner leaves dishes in the sink all the time, I wash them. I care about my partner and metaphorically speaking I hope they would wash any dish I leave in the sink as well and still care about me at the end of the day.

    Like

    • Except that it’s not just one glass by the sink. It’s all the myriad other things that you have to tell them to do because they can’t be bothered to see what needs to be done (pick up your dirty clothes, brush your teeth, throw your trash in the trash can instead of leaving it on the table, and on and on). ..and instead sit on the couch playing games or watching TV while you are doing the vast majority of the work. You and your partner sound like you actually share the work and look out for each other. If you haven’t experienced this, be very, very happy, because it’s a terrible way to live.

      Like

    • Lilie says:

      Heather, your comment just shows you totally missed the point of this post and what Matt explains all over this website about how his « lack of caring » ruined his wife’s feeling towards him. Of course it’s not about the glass itself, especially when it’s not important for you. Like you, I totally don’t care about dishes in the sink, I am much more messy that my man. But when I would be asking one million times about a little thing that would matter for me (closing toilets, not leaving wet towels on the ground in the bathroom, or dishes in the sink), I wouldn’t feel respected. It’s not about divorcing because of a glass, it’s about divorcing because you lost the feeling of being respected. And it’s not about respecting your WISHES, it’s about respecting what MATTERS to you.
      Maybe your don’t get it because there are just NO things you care for, that your husband doesn’t respect, and then I am incredibly happy for you.
      My man cares for things which really seem petty, irrational, not important (to me), but it matters to HIM, so I try my best to improve myself and take care of those things. I expect the same from him, and I never feel so loved and cared for, than when he cares about things that matter to me.

      Like

  13. Catherine says:

    Most women they like tidiness and order, and women work with their eyes more than a man.
    Men don’t care whether there is dust all over the house or whether a bathroom is untidy, although women do! Why?
    Women are child bearers, nest makers like birds they like to keep their shit in order.

    Why on earth do most men throw clothes on a floor? Would you throw an expensive Armani Suit on the floor?
    Well I feel it’s a dominant thing and a territory thing, it’s like when a dog pees on a tree or a male cat that sprays.
    If you can understand all that then great, that’s good.

    So if some men keep behaving like animals then just treat them as such, put their food in a dog bowl and make them eat their food on kitchen floor, tell them if they want a shower to attach a hose to the outside tap and shower, but remember at the end of each night to put the Cat/DOG out before going to bed.

    Happily married to a man who picks up his shit every day.

    Like

  14. […] Would you please just put this glass that you like to leave sitting by the sink in the dishwasher? Please? It would mean a lot to […]

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  15. Edna L Taylor says:

    I have to ask, do you have Asperger’s? My husband has that and ADHD and this blog resonated with me because THIS is what I have been trying to get across to him for, well, years. That when he continues to ignore my wishes and doesn’t do the simple day to day tasks, it makes me feel like I am not important and that that he simply does not care. Now, I understand that an Aspie brain is MUCH different from a neurotypical brain, but it still makes things very difficult, even with that understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      ADHD, yes. No asperger’s or any other atypical neurological condition of which I’m aware.

      Like

    • Patrick Langston says:

      Three powerful words… Let it Be.. what do you care about most? Your husband or the house? It may be possible that he feels he is being demeaned as well, some people are sloppy sometimes, sometimes people get depressed etc and they don’t maintain themselves and their surroundings to keep it in the most ideal coneition, sometimes for a very long time.. do you think he feels good about it?…. this is just how it is. PEOPLE ARE NOT PERFECT… Once again PEOPLE ARE NOT PERFECT… Learn to love your husband no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT. Unconditional Love is a powerful tool. It is amazing to know that you will be loved no matter what, as broken as we are we will be healed by love. But if we hold that love away from eachother until we are healed then we have it backwards baby. Wayyy backwards. Love isnt something you hold over someone’s head as a potential reward for them doing what you want. True love knows no bound. Sometimes we forget what love means.. we think it means no dishes by the sink.. we think it means flowers on our anniversary or a birthday card on our birthday but this isnt love..these are things. Dishes by the sink are dishes by the sink and does not represent the vast amount of love that your husband has for you. He loves you.. let him show it without putting so many conditions on it… this is unconditional love. Love drives us to do amazing things and I promise if you show your husband unconditional love he will show it in return, one way or another. The dishes might be left by the sink but when your having amazing moments, amazing sex, amazing unconditional love… the dishes by the sink wont matter when your orgasming back to back it’s hard to think about how big of a deal a couple dirty dishes are. Are dishes getting in the way of an amazing sex life for you? Do you hold out on sex if the dishes arent done? Because your holding it from yourself as well. Is the stress you create from a dirty dish really comparable to the amazing stress relief of an amazing sexual experience with your husband, trust me afterwards he will have plenty of energy to the dishes and come back for another round, shoot he might even start rewashing dishes to get them as sparkly clean as possible for his amazing beautiful wife that shows him love no matter what. You deserve it, he deserves it. Love unconditionally first and trust that the rest will fall into place, why place conditions on love when you can have it all, wherever, whenever, no matter what, EVEN IF THE DISHES ARE DIRTY :))

      Like

      • Ana says:

        I’m going to be honest. Nothing turns me off more as a woman than having to pick up sweaty gym clothes from the bathroom floor next directly next to the dirty clothes hamper and put them in the dirty clothes hamper. So no, it’s not ‘withholding’ sex. Sometimes I’m just too annoyed to be turned on.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Patrick Langston says:

          Well have fun being annoyed and I’ll have fun being turned on. The orgasmic energy of the universe is pretty amazing. I’d rather spend more time in that then the negative energy of annoyance That’s unfortunate you get annoyed by things out of your control. Maybe you’ll learn to let things go that are out of your control, usually micromanaging has things turn out exactly as you expected.

          Like

        • Patrick Langston says:

          That’s also pretty awesome that your husband goes to the gym, but you don’t focus on that do you? Perhaps you just focus on the things you don’t like, and so you keep getting more of it ;)

          Like

  16. Grace says:

    Coming from the woman’s perspective here: my husband I both come from large families-he has 8 siblings, I have 13. I discovered somewhere along the way that having dishes piled and laundry everywhere really bothers him. . It doesn’t bother me as much. So because I love him, and I value his mental sanity, Ive gotten into the habit of making sure those two areas of our household are cleaned. Obviously not always. There are plenty of times when he does it, especially on the weekend. But I do it because I noticed it stresses him out, and I want him to be relaxed in our home, not going over to the sink as soon as he’s back from his 12hr shift because the dishes stress him out. It’s just loving him the way he needs to be loved.

    Like

  17. cestmoi01 says:

    Seriously, bitches need to chill… You can always do the dishes later. Isn’t more important to spend time together and on kids than having a spotless hole 24/7. I feel sorry for men getting nagged on and told what to do every second. He is not a babg and if you are a clean freak clean it yourself af long as he keep up with his responsibilites. Here it is my husband doing the dishes like all the
    Time, no matter if it is 1 am
    Or 1 pm, and somwtimes he tells me if he doesnit think i put it correctly in the dosh washer and damn it is annoying. But we each have our thing and we don’t force one another to do things and we never complain about the other not doing enough and we have two children. Sometimes i would almost wish my dh

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  18. […] Povzeto po: SHE DIVORCED ME BECAUSE I LEFT DISHES BY THE SINK […]

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