Of Course It Was About More Than Dirty Dishes

But that ain't the truth. The truth is, you are the ignorant. And I am the tyranny of shitty husbands. But I'm trying real hard, guys. I'm trying real hard to be the shepard. (Image/Miramax)

But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is, you are the ignorant. And I am the tyranny of shitty husbands. But I’m trying real hard, guys. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd. (Image/Miramax)

I thought it was obvious that my wife didn’t—literally—want a divorce because of some dishes left by the sink.

I assumed no adult could possibly believe that. I was wrong.

Because many people gave the post the TL;DR treatment, or I did a lousy job of writing it, or they lacked the intellectual capacity to understand it, or never bothered to ask themselves the right questions because life is more comfortable when we’re secure in our personal beliefs, a frightening amount of people missed the point entirely.

My post “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink” spent time as one of the most popular things on the internet over the weekend. As of this writing, it has been read more than 2.3 million times.

For context, my previous most popular post had been read about 100,000 times. Over the course of 2 ½ years.

As a writer, you’re like Cool! People are validating my work! But then the comments start rolling in.

“Be a man. Pussy.”

“Your wife was a nagging shrew and you’re better off without her if she would leave you over something petty like a glass by the sink.”

“You’re STILL missing the point if you think she left you because of dishes!”

“You’re a sackless fag.”

“You’re sexist because you wrote that ‘Men are capable of things’ as if women couldn’t do those things, too!”

“You’re sexist because you write about how horrible men are, but never talk about how women can be the problem too!”

My personal favorite was the Canadian high school girl who tweeted that my wife left because I write like “a whiny teenage girl.”

That was discouraging.

Things the Post Wasn’t About

It wasn’t about me.

It wasn’t about Men Vs. Women.

It wasn’t about encouraging men to be subservient husbands.

It wasn’t about propping up wives as the all-knowing and wise queens of how to structure relationships.

It wasn’t about complaints suggesting my wife nagged me over inconsequential things.

And for Pete’s freaking sake, IT WAS NOT ABOUT THE DAMN DISHES.

The “dishes” post has a thousand comments to the contrary, and each time I approved one of them I wanted to set myself on fire just a little bit more, because THAT—along with reading another new asshole call me a “mangina”—would feel infinitely less frustrating than all the people screaming on the internet while the entire point sailed a thousand miles over their heads.

Things the Post Was About

Understand something, please. Until five seconds ago, a thousand people AT MOST, were reading my posts. This “dishes” one? It was read 236 times the day it was published. And all of them “know” me, in that they’ve read dozens, maybe hundreds, of my posts, so they recognized the metaphor immediately.

Here’s my entire thing: I’m a child of divorce, and a few years ago I got divorced myself. I think divorce is very, very bad.

While I was trying and failing to save my marriage, I began a journey of introspection and self-discovery. I wanted to understand what I had done to help break the marriage, and discover tools to repair it OR at the very least, to make sure I wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes in a future relationship.

I read books. I read articles. I spoke with married people. I spoke with divorced people. And I started writing down ideas and publishing them.

More and more and more, people were saying: “Yes, this! You GET it!”

And if you read through the comments in the “dishes” post, you’ll see that the vast majority are echoing that.

I’m no smarter than anyone else. I’ve simply heard the same divorce stories so many times now that, combined with my not-too-distant memories of my marriage, I’ve been able to identify terrifyingly common behaviors by husbands and boyfriends that mirror my own that I now understand to be marriage and relationship killers.

As someone passionately against divorce, I feel compelled to share these ideas.

I am NOT a “Get Married” advocate. It’s clear most people are doing a terrible job in the partner-evaluation process, and overestimating their abilities to function as marriage partners, which mostly has to do with how we can’t know what we don’t know when we’re young.

And the adults shelter us from the ugly truth.

Mom and dad don’t tell you how they fantasize about running away, or sleeping with someone else who makes them feel desired and respected, or just how much more sad they feel today than they did when they were young. It’s because they want to preserve our innocence.

Our education system, shamefully, avoids the topic altogether.

But I am a “Stay Married” advocate. Unless we’re going to ban marriage or eliminate long-term monogamous relationships altogether, I think it behooves us to improve an institution that affects 95 percent of people AND fails more than half the time.

People thought the “dishes” post was about me and wanted to critique my marriage based on a headline they misinterpreted.

The “dishes” post is about trying to help husbands get from oblivious to enlightened RE: Why Their Wives Seem to Care About “Little” Things We Don’t Care About. Men don’t understand how a stupid glass by the sink could actually hurt. That sounds insane to him. Until he figures out how to believe it’s happening anyway, and then care about the glass BECAUSE he cares about his wife, these totally cliché and annoying Man Vs. Woman, But That’s Not Fair!!! whine festivals will continue.

People accused me of sexism.

I only write for husbands and about being a husband because that’s what I know. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, wife or mother. I’m going to leave the role-reversal writing on these topics to the people who do know what it’s like.

And OF COURSE sometimes wives are the dish-leaving culprits in a marriage! But that’s just not relevant to me writing for guys like me.

Husbands who are frustrated with their wives’ cleanliness habits are not likely to identify with my marriage whatsoever.

People accused me of preaching submission.

Hahahahahahahaha!

I’m the most stubborn mule I know. It’s a damn shame you can’t hear my high-and-mighty Piss off, you’re not the boss of me! voice. That was my ex-wife’s favorite. (Not.)

The most important lesson I’ve learned post-divorce is how critical it is for human beings to have well-communicated, strongly enforced boundaries. Boundaries which are ideally discussed and mutually respected during the dating process and long before anyone agrees to marry.

No, men. Your wives should never be domineering tyrants. But there can be no question that if you’re married to one of those, it’s because you allowed it to happen AND failed to demonstrate competence—either in the life areas which she now must control, or in the preservation of your self-respect or enforcement of your boundaries.

Wives are not better than husbands. Women are not better than men. (Nor the other way around.)

But I see a hell of a lot of men getting marriage wrong, and this is my way of trying to help.

All the evidence in the world that men are getting marriage wrong lives in the comments section of the “dishes” post.

The “dishes” post that wasn’t really about dishes at all.

…..

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210 thoughts on “Of Course It Was About More Than Dirty Dishes

  1. […] This post originally appeared on Must Be This Tall To Ride. […]

  2. Jess says:

    Very disheartening indeed that you had to put up with not just a bunch of unproductive venom, but unproductive venom from people who didn’t even get the point! I read the original post and loved it, because it was spot on. I made my husband read it, which he knows now he should do even if he finds it silly because it will make me happy (true story!). Although he now understands how this works, he used to be really bad about the “leaving dishes” sort of thing, and I could never explain to him why little things do matter. After reading the “dishes” post he accused me of writing it myself under a false name, or at the very least suspected that you had been spying on the many conversations we used to have about this very issue. But I’m one of the luckiest wives in the world because although I had to explain it a lot, he was willing to listen. And since this has to go both ways, I try to do the same for him for things I may think are inconsequential or silly, because it’s all about respect. Ignore the haters, you’ve had an insight here that means a lot to folks who know better.

  3. Igor says:

    Please stop writing the same post everytime. You get divorced. Fine. Just move on instead of making it the center of your life.
    Damned! Shut the fuck up.

  4. Ann Coleman says:

    I thought the original post was very well written and its point was very clear, and so was the fact that the glass was the metaphor for a deeper problem in communication and understanding. (I’m sorry you got so much negative feedback for it, but that seems to be the way of the internet these days.) Your advice is good for anyone who is struggling to do better in a relationship, I think. Thank you.

  5. Reblogged this on and commented:
    WARNING! THERE ARE SOME OFFENSIVE WORDS HERE.MORE AT THE BEGINNING. NOT MANY LATER.
    THIS GOES WITH HIS FIRST POST.

  6. […] Last month, Matthew published “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.” Before he knew it, the post had gone viral — no promotion needed on his part. Since then, he’s been experiencing the aftermath of the experience, which he reflected on in “Of Course It Was About More Than Dirty Dishes.” […]

  7. shannon says:

    Matt, my husband read your “dishes” blog three times before he really started to get it. This morning, I found this list written by a pissed off me after a fracas that came out of what happened as we were preparing to have people to dinner a while ago. Husband is the cook, so in no way am I saying he does nothing, if not 50%. . I am trying to illustrate why woman get so angry over a “dish left in the sink”.

    We agree that we want to have a pleasant, not too stressful day getting ready for dinner party. We agree that a fair use of time and energy is that he does everything in the kitchen and feeds and de-poops the cats, while I do all the house cleaning and table setting. He is “done” and on the computer. I say great, I am almost done, too, why don’t you take your shower. I look happily at the clock knowing that we will, once I get in the shower, have that half an hour to sit together and have a glass of wine. Then I walk into the kitchen.

    Here’s the list of things I had to finish;

    Wash, dry, put away: 4 pots, 2 cutting boards, 2 colanders and a bunch of small things
    Make 2 of the 3 components of the appetizer
    Refill the pepper grinder
    Refill the pasta container
    Get the wine
    Wash down all the counters and prep areas
    Straighten out the refrigerator so things don’t topple out when we move one thing to get to another
    Wash out and recycle the cat food cans
    Clean the cat litter
    Refill litter
    Sweep floor
    Remind him to take out the garbage so we would have a clean can for after the party

    Now, no one of these things took much time. The aggregate, however, took the time that would have made this a pleasant experience and made it, excuse me for screaming, A
    F—ING TIME CRUNCH THAT LANDED DIRECTLY ON ME! This, as a constant, which it is, means that I never get to totally give over things. I always have to follow up, by reminding, by checking to make sure it is really done, by finishing it. The problem is not only that it happens so often, but that when it doesn’t, when he does what he says he will, 100%, I still cannot relax because I never know when that time will take place. My head feels like it is going to implode from keeping all that information straight and that makes me, no surprise, cranky.

    My husband is a good guy, but he is pretty oblivious. Reading your blogs, Matt, has really helped.

    To end on a funny note. I handed him a tablecloth and asked him to put it on the garden table. I walked out right before the party and there the cloth was, on the garden table, still folded.

    Oops, something he wants me to add. We rent our home for parties so work with lots of catering servers. He has remarked for years, in wonderment, that the women, in general, do much more work. So I asked him to break it down for me. This is what he said.

    50% of the young men work poorly. 90% of the older (over 40, plenty of time to have been married and divorced) men work hard.

    98% of the young women work hard. 100% of the older women work hard.

    • Matt says:

      This was a really interesting and entertaining comment, Shannon. I wasn’t always sure what the tone of it was, but it sounds like you guys discuss these things, and I get the impression most people don’t.

      It’s awesome that you talk. About stuff that really matters. I hope you always will.

      To many years. Cheers.

  8. oneta hayes says:

    Of course, it was obvious that the original article was not about dishes. It was caring – maybe that is not the best word, but it is the one that hits the spot with me. I am here on Sarah’s Attic because I am a fellow member of Blogger’s World out to get better with some folks I don’t know very well. I’m marking your follow and inviting you to come browse a bit with me also.

  9. […] Last month, Matthew published “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.” Before he knew it, the post had gone viral — no promotion needed on his part. Since then, he’s been experiencing the aftermath of the experience, which he reflected on in “Of Course It Was About More Than Dirty Dishes.” […]

  10. Nena says:

    “Boundaries which are ideally discussed and mutually respected during the dating process and long before anyone agrees to marry.” —-ABSOLUTELY!! Communication all throughout the relationship, from day one and on, is essential for knowing how we are feeling about each other and decide together the route to take from there.
    Often times no matter how lovely the dating relationship may seem, it may not lead to a strong marriage in the future so talking about what is important to each party PRIOR to getting married is a MUST!

    • W.S. says:

      I suspect, though can’t possibly know for sure, that many people, have really not done ANY self examination. They don’t know themselves, their likes, dislikes, things they are happy to do, if asked, things they would never do unless the person commanding was Hitler himself, and Herman Goering was standing over them, suggesting they take a look at the taks, and with a smile do it, or else they’d be taking a long train ride – east to Dacau, or Buckenveldt (Is that how you spell them?)

      And the young, who spend too much time telling you their opinion, seem to be worst at it… (Reminds me of the old saying… “You were given two eyes, two ears and one mouth… Use them in those proportions.”)

      W.

  11. J.L. says:

    I completely understood your first post!! Sorry for the haters. I was impacted by your first post because it’s totally where I am at right now after 12 years of a lonely marriage. I appreciate the fact that YOU finally got it! I hope and pray that my husband will get it before a divorce happens. Until then, I continue to seek health for my kids and myself, and pray that doesn’t mean divorce.

  12. Sue says:

    I loved this post, and I too, am sorry for the people who “just didn’t get it.” I bawled like a baby because you were so “spot on.” This is exactly how I have always felt, yet could never get the message across in such a way. I too had my husband read it. What an impact. Thank you. Please don’t ever stop writing, and ignore the ignorant people.

  13. HumanoidMaybe says:

    Have you written about the husband and farther yet, who makes great dinners and also great speeches to wife & teens about how important it is that everyone takes their own stuff from the table to the dishwasher after dinner? How it makes him feel like his cooking is appreciated if we do?

    And then leaves his breakfast dishes on that same table some 2-3 times per week, and random teacups, beer bottles and sandwich plates somewhere in the house some 4-5 times per week.

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