A couple of weeks ago, Steve from Colorado brought up an interesting point of contention in his relationship. Why do I always have to do the dishes? Makes sense right, after all, you both dirty the dishes, you both see the mess in the kitchen, and the buildup of gunk and odors that rapidly accumulates in the area where you prepare your meals is hardly unnoticeable. So why does it feel like only one person steps up to do the dishes all the time?
First off, let’s call it what it is, it’s not about dishes. Dirty dishes becomes the encompassing focus but look at that sink of chaos and every item in it is more than just a fork, a plate or a spoon. See that dirty plate- that’s all the times you do the work during sex and she lays there and then complains to her friends later that she isn’t satisfied. Oh and that coffee cup with the solidified chunks of creamer and caffeine residue – that’s really last Sunday when she interrupted the football game for the 100th time to ask which shade of pink you preferred on her nails. Really look at that overflowing mess and recognize it for what it is- feelings of resentment because things are one sided or just not fair in the relationship.
So now I have you thinking about everything that flatware really represents, how do you decide who does the dirty dishes? It would be great sometimes to go back to that childish saying of “he who smelt it, dealt it” and if you were the one that caused the dirt then you clean it. But really, how effective would it be if you split your responsibilities down to you wash your fork and I’ll wash my plate? If you are going to do that, you might as well be single, eat at home and wash your own fucking dishes every night. This is where I’m supposed to provide this great simplistic answer that drains all the resentment like the dishwater and leaves everything all new and shiny again. I have no answers, I only have experience in how I have navigated the issue and here is what I suggest. Just say it. Come home, look at those dirty dishes and say “It bothers me that the dishes are dirty and it bothers me that I’m always washing them.”
Be forewarned, this may start an argument. Chances are you are not doing things that she feels you should be doing as well. You may get back a litany of items that she feels that you are not carrying your weight on- like leaving up the toilet seat, never going to the grocery store with her, wearing your shoes in the house, not reciprocating when it comes to oral sex, and so on. But get it out, have that argument so that you know what those dirty dishes really represent. She may not hear you at the time but I guarantee that as a woman, we replay every detail over and over again. At some point, later on when she’s in bed alone fuming, she will hear a small portion of what you said. And that small portion will take hold and grow a little bigger and a little bigger. The same for you though, you may hate to do the dishes but would you rather deal with all the illustrious shoppers of Walmart or wash some dishes in the comfort of your own home? Once you expose the conflict, you can decide what parts of it you own, then think about what is more important – all those dishes or your relationship, and then you compromise and do them together. Which, by the way, is not as bad as it sounds. Standing side by side with your hands in warm soapy water may lead to more than the stove being turned on in the kitchen. And, if that happens, it’s ok to leave the dishes dirty.