Look deeper: divorce isn’t about dirty dishes

Look deeper: divorce isn’t about dirty dishes

Look deeper: divorce isn’t about dirty dishes

(Warning: gross gender-based generalizations)


I just read this blog post from a man who claims his wife divorced him because of dishes left by the kitchen sink. He appeals to all men to be more aware of and sensitive to how “wounded” women are by these little things men do without thinking.

Aside from some interesting insights into fundamental differences between men and women (Men are big picture, women tend to the details; I agree these things are genetic. I think it goes back to caveman days when worrying about the flowers or a hangnail would have gotten them killed by a woolly mammoth), the article completely misses a crucial part of what makes a relationship work and threatens to put us back a few generations in our evolution as coupling creatures.

What I agree with is that it would help if we ALL focused more on what we can do to support our partners. Little, loving things can mean a lot. Yes, if you know something bugs your partner, avoiding that is great. AND…this is where I take a different view…little things left UNdone should not mean a lot.

If we are, in general, kind, thoughtful, responsible and respectful partners, then dishes by the sink or a sock on the floor or a small irritable moment should mean absolutely nothing.

As much as I wish my own man-partner would see the small details in life (dust bunnies, cat barf, empty cat food bowls), I know that my reactions to these things left unseen are more about me than him. As much as I love the writer’s call to men to pay better attention in general…it’s also a woman’s job to remember that bigger picture that he sees so clearly. If she feels irritated by a dish out of place, she owes it to herself and her man to ask deeper questions than “what’s pissing me off right now?”, or “how horrible is my partner?”

“What am I feeling underneath this irritation?” That’s the question.

I like that the writer identifies that there is sometimes deep hurt, abandonment, powerlessness or worthlessness that is triggered by a small event, but let’s hold on for a moment. When a small event sparks intense emotion, there is almost always something else going on; one of two things:

  1. There is perhaps general disrespect of a bigger nature (lots of little disrespectful moments or maybe one big one) going on in the relationship that is not being addressed. The issue is not the dish by the sink; it’s how many times this feeling occurs in the marriage. If she was feeling generally respected and valued, the dish should be meaningless.
  2. It’s her own sh*t being triggered.

Don’t let women off the hook from needing to manage their own sh*t!

“Sh*t” defined:

Old wounds that leave us with sensitivities to certain emotions that we can no longer tolerate because we’ve felt them to excess.

So, if #1 above is not an issue…if the dish offender is generally respectful and loving, then his partner, whether man, woman or goat, has no business getting all upset and “wounded” over a small issue (see my blog on baskets).

If you take his article of his and switch the genders, how does it read then? If a man explodes over his wife leaving a dish unwashed, it becomes clear that he expects her to modify her actions to suit his emotional needs. That’s controlling behavior.

This is not progress when you put men in the same position women have been for generations. As men learn to be more sensitive to what a woman feels (out of proportion or not), women should be expected to take ownership over managing their sh*t without spilling it everywhere.



1 Comment

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  • Debbie Barnier March 28, 2016 Reply

    This is exactly what I have been trying to say to my partner for years. But I wasn’t putting it as clearly as this does.

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