Day 216: Kitchen Sinks and Hand Grenades

This guy wrote a blog post about how his wife divorced him for leaving his glass by the kitchen sink.  The post is about his realization that it was never really about his refusal to do the dishes.  I don’t know much about him, but the blurb on his blog says “I’m single.  I’m divorced. I’m a father.  I make bad decisions. This is my journal.”  I’m not impressed.

I don’t want to be one of those bloggers, or one of those people, really, who spend their time criticizing others.  And really, there are some things about the article that could be really great.  And if his blog is about learning from his mistakes, good for him, I think it’s very brave to put it all out there.  I hope he has discussed that particular advertisement with his divorce lawyer thoroughly.  I also hope he takes the feedback he receives helps him to better understand women.

The post starts out with great strength:

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.

I rejoiced when I read it.  There is a guy out there who actually gets it.  Women are put in this position all of the time, and he’s going to write about it, yay!  A few lines later he said something I didn’t really understand about someone named George McFly, who I think is from an old movie, but that’s fine, I’m hooked, I’m into it.

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.

Record scratch.  Wait.  I thought he understood that it was never about the glass?  It probably wasn’t a big deal to her when they were married.  Now I’m confused.

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.

Eh-huh? On some level this guy still clearly believes it was about the drinking glasses.  It probably had more to do with the fact that she was moving incrementally close to moving out and he didn’t notice.  I wonder what his ex-wife would say about all of this…

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.

Ah!  Now we’re back on track.  Yes.  Every woman I know has felt this way at some point.  Men, if you’re reading this, it’s important.  Even the most nurturing woman does not want to mother you.  If she does, you’ve got bigger problems.

He goes on to talk about how men can do things, like all of the great things men have accomplished.  If you are a woman and you can read it without rolling your eyes, well, you are a better woman than I am.

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He explains three reasons he might want to leave his glass by the sink that can be summarized by saying he doesn’t care if there is a glass by the sink.  He also explains that the lesson he learned too late is that he should not leave his glass there because it matter to her.

Dude, it’s not about the fucking glass.  Stop already.  We know, you don’t care about the glass, you think she left you because she cared so much about the glass.  No.

He then provides this helpful little list:

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.

What does basic human decency have to do with caring about her?  I would think, and hope, that if this man had a roommate he would keep his laundry off the floor, and not track dirt over a clean floor.  Taking care of kid-related things is something dads are supposed to do, again as a matter of basic human decency.  Offering to help, doing little things that show love, those are good, but they are at the bottom of the list, which is only one more indication that he still doesn’t get it.

He goes on to explain how a man might justify leaving the glass.

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?

It continues from there, but you get the idea.  A fairly nasty reaction to a simple request to not leave a dirty glass near the sink, and completely unnecessary.

And then another turn.

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.

Ok, maybe he does get it?  Really, I think the inclusion of these two lines explains why women have been sharing and discussing this article all over Facebook today.

The article popped up on my newsfeed three times before I read it.  “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink.”  Right.  Why would I want to read something like that?  Worst case scenario, it’s depressing.  Best case scenario, it’s depressing in a slightly less depressing way.  But by the third share, I clicked through.

As I read through I thought about my own relationships, and the relationships with which I am familiar, and how often I have seen similar issues play out.  One couple argued about who rinsed their extremely expensive wine glasses, so the wife just left her wine glass, stained dark purple with wine, sit out on the middle of their kitchen island for six days while he was on a business trip.  This particular couple has walked to ledge of the big D several times over the past few years, but they always manage to walk it back.  I imagine their housekeeper cleans the glasses now.  For another woman, who seems to spend most of her time cleaning, but swears she hates to clean, it’s her husband walking over her perfectly cleaned and scrubbed floors with muddy, dirty feet.  For another, it’s offering helpful suggestions while he sits and observes her cleaning the house and cooking his meals.

I know these women fairly well.  One of them can fairly be described as anal, and the problem actually is, to some extent, the dirty shoes on the clean floor.  But mostly, for all three, it’s about a lack of respect and a lack of understanding.  It’s about having the same conversation, making the same attempts to explain what makes us feel upset, or vulnerable, or safe, and feeling like they fall on deaf ears.  I think for those of us with young children, that’s especially tough, because we spend most of our days with little people who don’t listen.  It can start to feel like we have lost our tongues along with our sanity.

It’s also tough because I think women tend, either because it’s natural or because of cultural constructs, to put a lot of effort into figuring out what other people need to feel loved, to give other people what they need to feel cared for.  Imagine spending 90% of your time and effort caring for others and to feel like no one bothers to consider what would make you feel cared for, even after you try to explain it, even if that thing would take little time or effort.

I thought about all of this when I turned to read the comments.  A lot of women expressed outrage.  There were the usual sanctimommies and sanctiwives, being married is a commitment, we should all do more for our husbands, don’t be a brat, is a dish really worth a fight, blahblahblah.  One woman said “I absolutely will do the dishes every day of my life, with a smile, rather than lose him over it.”  Lady, you are as confused as the author of this article.  Nobody cares how much you love doing your dishes!  It’s great that you feel respected by your husband.  Not everybody does!  A few women seemed to appreciate that the author tried, while gently pointing out some of the same concerns I highlighted above, particularly the comment implying that taking care of his children was some kind of favor.  But really, most of the comments were from women who were contemplating divorce.

These women read this article and something about it resonated with them deeply.  So deeply that it compelled them to comment on a public post confessing their marital strife and their plans for divorce.  Other chimed in with stories about how great divorce can be, and a few other voices urged caution and counseling.  I mean, some of these women sounded like they were about to snap.  I can tell you I wouldn’t leave a dirty knife in their sink.

I am not a marriage expert.  I haven’t been married that long.  My parents are divorced (my father is supposedly headed toward his fourth divorce), I’m divorced, and I know very few people who are happily married.

Still, I have a few more thoughts.

When I feel good, happy, safe, loved, and fulfilled, I don’t care about dirty dishes by the sink.  Or garbage that should have been taken out hours ago.  Or discovering we are somehow out of toilet paper.  Again.  I just wash the dishes, or take out the garbage, or order some toilet paper.  It’s not a big deal.  It takes two seconds.  I can handle it.

But when I start to feel overwhelmed, like maybe I won’t be able to get everything done that I would like to get done, or maybe something bad is lurking around the corner and I’m tiptoeing up to it, trying to find a baseball bat as I navigate the Legos strewn all over the rug, or I feel lonely or neglected or just plain pissed off, the dishes, garbage, and toilet paper feel like something personal.

And this is the truth:  When that happens, we are both to blame.

For the most part, we are doing the best we can, and I mean “we” in a mostly global sense (there are some assholes who are doing something else, I don’t know what they’re doing really, but it’s not their best).  We get up every day, try to contribute to society in some way, often while juggling twelve different plates above our heads, and that’s great.

But when things start to get a little dark, it’s time to have a conversation, and it’s time to be honest with ourselves.  We are only capable of so much change.  At some point, we are who we are.  We all have to find a way to accept that, about ourselves, and about everyone else, including our spouses.

So you don’t care about putting your glass in the sink.  Fine.  She can’t make you.  But maybe you could find something you both care about.  Write her a poem.  Take her on a picnic.  Pay her parking tickets.  Find something she cares about that you can also appreciate.  You don’t have to understand it, or love it, but appreciate it.  Understand that it makes up a part of who she is, a part of the person you love.

And don’t be a fucking asshole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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