Divorce is devastating, and no man knows that better than 36-year-old Matthew Fray.
What’s often hardest to bear is that the way to resolve your marriage usually becomes clearest after it’s over. Such was the case for Matt.
Once his wife left him, he noticed the reason for his marital demise glaring straight at him from the kitchen sink. That’s right. The dishes.
“It seems so unreasonable when you put it that way: My wife left me because sometimes I leave dishes by the sink,” he writes in his blog post. “It makes her seem ridiculous; and makes me seem like a victim of unfair expectations.”
But he makes it clear that in hindsight, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“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.”
Maybe he thought the dishes were stupid, but she didn’t. It wasn’t about the 4 seconds it would take to rinse out a coffee cup. It was about the message it sent about her worth to him.
Doing the little things meant he treasured her time and treasured her as his partner. When you get past the running water and the soap suds, that’s what the dishes were really all about.
“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,” he writes. “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.”
Matt shares that being respected is one of the top priorities for men, but he now realizes that he was trying to gain that respect in all the wrong ways: by deliberately putting his foot down over washing a spoon that could definitely sit there ’til tomorrow, by tossing a dirty sock on the floor, or by leaving crumbs on the counter just because he could.
He wasn’t trying to be mean; he just didn’t see it as important—and he was pretty sure he was right about that.
But you see, “importance” is all a matter of perspective. When we label subjective terms with objective truth, we can all get ourselves into serious trouble.
In trying to uphold his manhood, Matt now sees how childlike it really was.
“Men are not children, even though we behave like them,” he admits.
“I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is ‘I got this,’ and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.”
He always reasoned that if his wife wanted him to do something, she should just tell him for goodness sake.
“But she didn’t want to be my mother,” he writes. “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…I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.”
You see, he had several legitimate reasons at the time to not wash his dish, as he plainly lists:
- I may want to use it again.
- I don’t care if a glass is sitting by the sink unless guests are coming over.
- I will never care about a glass sitting by the sink. Ever. It’s impossible. It’s like asking me to make myself interested in crocheting, or to enjoy yardwork. I don’t want to crochet things. And it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which doing a bunch of work in my yard sounds more appealing than ANY of several thousand less-sucky things which could be done.
But it was only after the divorce was final, that the one reason he should have washed that dish became clear:
“There is only ONE reason I will ever stop leaving that glass by the sink. A lesson I learned much too late: Because I love and respect my partner, and it REALLY matters to her. I understand that when I leave that glass there, it hurts her— literally causes her pain—because it feels to her like I just said: ‘Hey. I don’t respect you or value your thoughts and opinions. Not taking four seconds to put my glass in the dishwasher is more important to me than you are.'”
Wow, now this is a man who gets it. Matt realized that he didn’t need to get WHY she cares about the petty things he doesn’t give a crap about, he just needed to get that she DOES. Period. Because caring about her looks like putting that dirty cup in the dishwasher.
“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.
Yes, it’s that simple.”
“Most guys don’t know that she’s NOT fighting about the glass,” says Matt. “She’s fighting for acknowledgment, respect, validation, and his love.”
And isn’t that what we’re all fighting for? Matt makes a strong case for the husband honey-do list in support of their hardworking wives, but the door swings both ways, ladies.
We may not get that our husband needs direct (straight-to-the-point) communication or constant physical attention… or why he likes to watch football every Sunday…or play that one stupid video game that drives us nuts. But we just need to get that he DOES.
Though it seems some lessons are learned too late in a relationship, it’s never too late to start now.
If we both learn to value what our partner values just because they do, we start to enter the kind of Christ-like love that keeps every relationship thriving. If we can remove ourselves from the “things,” like the dirty dishes or the video games, we start to see the person. And loving them looks like loving what they love.
As wisely stated by Matt, “When you choose to love someone, it becomes your pleasure to do things that enhance their lives and bring you closer together, rather than a chore.”
Thanks Matt, for teaching us all a life lesson that can help get us through those ‘dirty dish’ moments with a smile on our faces.
For more from this author, visit www.mustbethistalltoride.com.