One common complaint I hear a lot as a marriage counselor goes something like this: “If he’d just do the dishes once in a while” (Yes, it’s usually the wife saying this about the husband). And the phrase is usually followed by a number of other phrases. Like “If he’d just do the dishes once in a while maybe I wouldn’t be so tired and would be in the mood for sex more” or “If he’d just do the dishes once in a while maybe I’d feel more like a wife and less like a maid”.
While the dishes are an important thing, it’s unfortunate that so many couples fight about it. It’s unfortunate because your marriage is a lot more important than dishes. And ultimately, dishes aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. Think about it, have you ever heard someone say “Yeah, I divorced him because he just would never do the dishes”? If you did hear that from someone what would you think? Yeah, you might think that husband was a jerk for not doing the dishes, but you also might think that the person who divorced him was pretty shallow for making a life altering decision because of dishes.
Don’t Let Dishes Get in the Way of Your Marriage
Instead of arguing about dishes, then, try to focus on other important aspects of the relationship. After several years of research Dr. John Gottman found that it’s not the amount of arguing that makes a couple happy or not. It’s the amount of positive communications that a couple has. He found out that if couples has five positive communications to every one negative communication that the couple reported themselves to be happy. What this means is that by focusing on other important aspects of your relationship that are going well (instead of arguing about dishes) can make your relationship happier
There are plenty of other things that you can focus on in your marriage instead of dishes. For example, maybe you and your spouse really enjoy doing projects around the house together or doing fun date nights. Maybe you like trying new restaurants or you both enjoy sports like hiking or jogging. These are great things that many couples share together and can create lots of fun and connecting conversations. Try to focus on things that you enjoy doing together instead of focusing on dismal household chores
Is it Really about the Dishes?
When couples are arguing about dishes, there’s usually a pretty simple solution: simply sit down together and talk to each other about who has what responsibilities around the house. Divide up the responsibilities in ways that seem fair and require equal amounts of time. Most spouses recognize that they have to be responsible for certain things around the house and they’re willing to put in their time and effort to get them done.
Most of the time, though, when a partner comes in complaining that their spouse doesn’t do the dishes there’s usually something more going on than just the dishes. Usually, the dishes are just one example of a more significant pattern of behavior and the
partner doing the dishes is feeling slighted. For example, doing the dishes could be an example of one partner feeling like the relationship is lopsided and they have to take on the bulk of the housework. Or the partner doing the dishes isn’t feeling connection from their partner so doing the dishes makes them feel more like a maid than a spouse.
In these cases, it’s important to recognize if it really is about the dishes or if it’s about something deeper. Ask yourself why the dishes are so important to you. If it’s about the dishes talk about it and come up with a way to divide the labor so it seems more fair. If it’s really not about the dishes, though, then stop arguing about the dishes! Talk instead about the bigger problem. Like I said before, people rarely divorce because of dishes. But they do divorce because of deeper problems in their marriage.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. He specializes in working with couples learn to communicate and overcome sexual difficulties.