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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4,588 thoughts on “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink

  1. Tammy Kinsman says:

    This is the most refreshing insight to a women’s psyche.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine Bynum says:

    Love it

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Feline says:

    This is such a unique idea for a blog.
    Really enjoyed the essay about the glass by the sink.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Charlie says:

    Ok. So let’s just game this out. You start putting all your water glasses in the dishwasher as soon as you’ve used them without letting them hit the counter. Then ….. next time you will hear a
    complaint about how you use so many glasses! Or perhaps that you don’t start the dishwasher when it is some undefined level of full. You see where I’m going here? I think compromise is the name of the game. Maybe you have one specific glass – or a water bottle – that she agrees you can leave wherever you want. And it’s yours to deal with – wash, dry, etc. you decide when it’s dirty & when to clean it & where to leave it. She puts up with this one item & you can relax a bit. Other dishes? You deal with them right away after you’re done using them. I know this is past history, but it’s the principle. Both people in a relationship need to learn to give and accept change. It can be fun & playful too! Maybe she gets you a glass with a funny saying on it. Or whatever. Digging our heels in & losing sight of the power of simple compromise & negotiation is the beginning of a relationship losing it’s charm. My 2 cents. Rock on!!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      In a vacuum, I agree with you Charlie. But this is my story, and in this story, the wife has a million other experiences that tell the same story over and over and over again:

      “I am married to someone who either refuses to participate in the things that matter to me, or he’s simply incapable of ever being that. In either case, I have to choose between the horrors of divorce and sacrificing 50% of my young child’s entire childhood, OR I have to intentionally choose to wake up every day to a life and marriage where every conversation reminds me that I’m not important enough to my son’s father to be considered when he makes decisions. I’m invisible. Unappreciated. Unwanted. Unloved. This is not what I signed up for.”

      It’s a very difficult spot to put a human being in, Charlie.

      Our failure to recognize that feels just like all of the other things we fail to recognize while we’re busy defending our character and telling our wives just how incorrect their thoughts, feelings and beliefs are every time they share them.

      That’s not what love is.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Mike Gray says:

      “Then ….. next time you will hear a complaint about how you use so many glasses! Or perhaps that you don’t start the dishwasher when it is some undefined level of full. You see where I’m going here?”

      Yeah, that is one possible way it could be. That the glass-user, deep down, fears that if they give an inch on this one thing, their partner will take a mile, and they will be “subjugated” as it were. And that fear may not really even have been consciously thought about and examined. I mean, if you really thought your partner was like that, why would you stay?

      But the way Matt described himself, as I understood it, was not fearful of his wife in that way, but simply un-awake.

      “It can be fun & playful too! Maybe she gets you a glass with a funny saying on it.”

      I really like that idea. It has a light touch. It is, as you say, playful, and aware. A million miles from the not-seeing that Matt was stuck in.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sonya says:

      You can talk to her. You can have a deep conversation regarding both of your motivations. You can make sure she does not in fact push it further. You can figure out what is important and what isn’t? The point is not your spouse being ornery, the point is understanding why certain things bother them and not bothering them with said things. Read the article again Charlie.

      Like

  5. Jackie Chaney says:

    This is great!!

    Like

  6. Rochelle says:

    From a female perspective, this is much, much more than the glass beside the sink; In fact, it really is nothing to do with the glass beside the sink at all.
    This is about assumed roles and a lack of reasonably fair participation and responsibility and engagement in the domestic aspect of the relationship/marriage. Which leads to questions about the the other aspects of the relationship in terms of consideration, support, engagement and participation – to name but a few.

    To use the glass as a metaphor, what then becomes of the glass?
    Does the glass get placed beside the sink and then no longer given thought to?
    That then leaves the resolution of the glass being eventually cleaned and returned to the cupboard as someone else’s responsibility.
    Does the glass actually even get reused the next time a glass is needed or is it just an excuse to avoid the responsibility of the resolution of the dirty glass? And then what happens at the end of the day with the glass?

    Wouldn’t we all love to be able to just use a glass and place it beside the sink and not have to give it further thought? Or leave the house and not worry about weather you have a key – just leave that to someone else to worry about? Or even to leave the house and go to do x for an hour, then decide to do something else and 3 hours later return home without a phone call or second thought about family meal times, preparation of food etc? Whose responsibility is it then left to to build a family life?

    Is it any wonder then that you start to feel you are the mother of another child? And then you realise you have to start accepting that this is the relationship that you are stuck with – whether it meets your needs or not. And sometimes, you have to love yourself enough to decide that the kind of relationship you want and need is one with a responsible, self-sufficient, considerate adult who has enough empathy to be able to listen and respond to adult communication in a manner that shows the other person is being heard.

    Like

    • Sharif says:

      On first read, your post doesn’t appear rational. Of course I’m a man so I’m just going to think that. Initially worried about whoever it was on your end of the keyboard.

      Yet another part wonders how well you would agree with the statement, “The way you do something is the way you do everything,” because it sounds like you’re using your husband’s performance on individual things inside the home as individual metrics for how he will perform on everything during the entire life of the marriage, how well he will manage the life of the marriage, in addition to the task of raising your child.

      I get the feeling that it’s bad for your health overall to equally prioritize each task, things to remember, marriage sustainability, the laundry, etc., and your husband’s fitness for raising children in an equally-sized basket used equally for everything. Everything is not equally important: expecting your husband to conform to your standards when your minds, brain structure, and emotions about things are always going to be different is unfair for him and taxing on you because you’re thinking about The Problem every time you see something out of place, and it sticks, and so does the next thing, and the next thing, and whenever else is wrong, until you’ve turned it into a divorce and you’re miserable too.

      Source: Seeing my parents’ marriage disintegrate slow-burn, in part over every small thing my mother considered “not done right.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mike says:

        Hi Sharif, I can tell you that I am a man, and I don’t entirely share your view, so it’s more complicated than male versus female.

        For me, it’s not about evaluating how my partner will perform, nor about prioritizing tasks, or imposing standards for the performance of tasks. It, for me, is about what kind of person my partner is. Are they able to consider another person or not? If I’ve told them several times something is important to me, and they continue to ignore it, without discussion or comment … what does that mean?

        I totally take your point about the kind of partner who insists that everything must be done “right”, (which means total obedience). And if you’ve seen it up close, it makes sense that that is important to you. I would trust Matt to place himself, on the spectrum between “she’s a controlling dictator” and “I had my fingers in my ears”. Both extremes are possible, in my view.

        Like

  7. […] Matthew Fray, un blogueur basé à Cleveland qui a écrit un article viral en 2016 intitulé « Elle m'a divorcé parce que j'avais laissé la vaisselle près de l'évier . » Il a depuis lancé une entreprise où il motive les hommes à améliorer leur mariage. Son […]

    Like

  8. TWC says:

    Since you at least commented with something a bit more substantial than ‘incel’, or ‘I bet you’re single …’ I suppose addressing your response is worthwhile. I am NOT missing the point. You are. As is everyone else in this thread who is advocating for this ‘mental load’ angle. Its utter nonsense. And supremely counterproductive, as relationships are not zero sum endeavors. THATS THE POINT!
    The examples I gave previous are just that: examples. I can also give a personal example:
    I run and own a construction business, and as such, wear many hats, so to speak. I am CEO, CFO, CTO, VP of marketing, HR Admin Officer, VP of Sales, etc..you get the idea. All of that HAS to be done at a level that provides income in order provide for those I am responsible for. It is a 24 hour load…dont even get me started. If I have a bad day, dont meet a deadline/benchmark…I dont get paid. I would say thats just a tad more of a load than that of dealing with the amount of coriander, various childrens’ shoe sizes, where the sugar is, or what sort of life insurance is best. Not to mention dishes, ffs
    THE POINT: I do it willingly, as its an understood contract of marriage. Conversely, I expect my partner to be just that: a partner. Not a cop. Not a child. And def not an entitled POS. This ‘mental load’ crap is just that: crap. If 2 adults act like ADULTS, this 4 year old blog post and the several thousand comments regarding it are unnecessary.

    Like

    • JMC says:

      Same here, female c-level executive, work about 80 hours/week, and my husband handles the household with grace. But know for a fact that the mental load is real and heavy, because at one point our roles were reversed. It’s not imaginary, it’s a sh*tload of unpaid work that in many relationships is underappreciated and unacknowledged.

      I have no problem putting my own damn dishes in the sink and starting the dishwasher, shopping for groceries (cumin vs. coriander vs fennel – it matters), or doing whatever needs to be done when he seems overwhelmed. It’s called empathy and committing to a partnership. I just can’t imagine walking away and telling myself that’s all his responsibility, not mine.

      Liked by 2 people

    • David says:

      Well said. To me, the wife was not marriage material or doesn’t follow through with her commitments. I read this essay when it originally came out. Nothing in the years since has changed my mind. If I remember correctly, they had discussions about this multiple times. She used this as an excuse. Where is the respect for the husband? Where is the consideration about his opinion? Had she allowed a compromise instead of a temper tantrum, they could probably still be together. What other little thing would justify her leaving before the relationship hit a truly big storm. Where is the compassion from the wife for his point of view. Respect goes BOTH ways. IF he had been a slob like mentioned in a previous post, then she would have a case for being disrespected. But A glass out of place because of how a person wishes to reuses it does not show disrespect. It shows she was being a control freak and it was her way or else. That is on her, not him. Been there, done that. Happily divorced. Self-reflection is good in a marriage to keep everything going well. His compromise was sound and she blew it out of prportion. The self-flaggelation is not necessary and possibly counterproductive.

      Like

      • Feline says:

        In the original essay I interpreted the glass on the sink as a metaphor. That is the husband did not care enough about what was important to the wife.

        Like

      • Steph says:

        How does wanting your husband to be an equal participant in the running of the household make a woman “not wife material”?

        It’s fair to not want your husband to not reduce you to an unpaid maid which is what happens if he continuously leaves things (such as dirty glasses) for her to take care of.

        Like

  9. Patti Dewhurst says:

    When I left my first husband, I stuck an apt poem on the fridge:

    It’s your choice.
    Help her with the housework
    And keep her
    Or let her do all the housework
    And lose her
    Then you get to do
    All of the housework
    it’s your choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kathy says:

    beautiful thoughtful thanx

    Like

  11. Rebecca says:

    Wow, the language that you use shows that you still don’t get it.

    This post is egocentric. Half of it is defending your opinion that the glass doesn’t need to be put in the dishwasher. That would be exhausting to live with.

    “One thing I know for sure is that I never connected putting a dish in the dishwasher with earning my wife’s respect.”

    What about putting the dish in the dishwasher because you respect your wife? Not because you’re trying to earn her respect. You’re making this all about you. Your wife was just asking you to stop making her life harder.

    Here’s a news flash to all the men out there. If you make your wife’s life harder than it would be without you in it, there is a very good chance she will eventually divorce you.

    Most adult women are not interested in being another adults housekeeper 24/7. This is amplified if your wife also has a career. Because even when women work, they still shoulder the vast majority of work that goes into maintaining a household.

    Bottom line. Start respecting the person you chose to share your life. If you can’t manage that, don’t expect her to stick around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I might get it more than you believe. I wrote this four and a half years ago.

      But it makes sense that you would take that away from this article, because I’m sure I’d feel the same if I re-read it now. (I don’t read my old stuff.)

      This is a snapshot of how I felt in January 2016. I was a work in progress, and still am.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I couldn’t agree more with the thoughts you shared about relationships RE: how this kind of behavior impacts spouses.

      It’s not okay.

      Like

  12. Krafty says:

    There are a lot of pathologies swarming around such issues. One classic one is ‘you should help do [x] around the house,’ followed by ‘OMG you folded things totally wrong! I’ll just do it,’ followed by ‘he’s so awful he never helps around the house.’

    In other words, sometimes resentment and martyrdom are unconsciously nurtured because they help our lives fit a cultural narrative. Such tropes are potently useful – they can get us sympathy, commiseration, and…an excuse for ending it all. The boorish husband. The petulant wife. The layabout. The nagger. The sexist. The malcontent.

    Of course no spouse will ever anticipate every need or want. Of course love should be about a net positive when summarizing all the pros and cons in a relationship. And of course people can ask for change.

    Sometimes, though, small fights are picked because deep down she just doesn’t love you anymore. She may protect herself from admitting that responsibility by locking on to a transgression that can justify leaving. As many here have said, it really isn’t about the glass in the sink.

    Like

  13. Gianna says:

    Dude, no. I am sorry but you’ve still got it wrong!!! We women don’t want you to do the dishes for US! We want you to realize for yourself that doing the dishes is simply the right thing to do! Same with losing weight or same with anything! Don’t lose weight for us, do it for you!! Otherwise we are still your mother! Know what’s right! Be clean, healthy, and hygienic, for YOU!

    Like

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