Rewind 10 years...
It's 6:37pm and my 14-year-old self is sitting at the dinner table at my home in Novato, California with my three sisters and parents. I've just completed my meal and still have some homework to finish so I politely ask, "May I be excused?"
"Yes, you may be excused," says my dad.
I stand up, pick up my plate and milk glass, walk over to the kitchen sink, rinse my dishes and stick them in the dishwasher...and I am off to my homework.
Fast forward 9 years...
I am now 23 years old, just married and finally get to move in with my husband. Crazy how cool the word husband sounds right about now! It is such a blissful time and nothing seems to be able to break that permanent smile on my face. The honeymoon is over, we've gotten our first child - Baxter Bane, our little boxer puppy - and it is time for "real life" to settle in. And what does that involve? Family dinners, just like the dinner described above but with only two of us to start out.
I make a real dinner, like actually look at a recipe and cook it like my mom used to do, and it turns out fantastic! (Sorry, I can't remember what it was.) Our bellies are full so I get up with my plate and cup, rinse them off and stick them in the dishwasher. As I begin walking over to feed the newest member of our family, my husband follows behind and goes straight to the couch to watch some TV.
But his plate is still on the counter.
While I don't think much of it at first, this exact scenario continues to happen, each and every time we have dinner, only our puppy is much bigger each time it happens.
I just don't get it! Does he think I am his maid? Is this what our marriage is going to be like forever??
Fast forward 3 months...
The dirty plates sit there, over and over, waiting for me to clean them. And finally I am at my breaking point. I am not going to describe what happened next because it wasn't pretty. There was a lot of screaming and a lot of crying and I just couldn't take it anymore. How could he be so rude?!
He had no idea. Like no idea whatsoever why I could possibly be so upset. And this confused me...like A LOT.
And then it happened. Something that would change the way I viewed my marriage forever.
...words finally came out of his mouth, "You cleaned your own dishes growing up? My mom has always done our dishes for us so I didn't realize it was so important to you."
And there it was. Plain and simple and yet so important to the health of our marriage.
Fast forward 6 months...
I'm sitting here writing this article, and look what is sitting next to me.
You guessed it! That is my husband's plate from dinner last night. And do you want to know the funny thing? It doesn't anger me. In reality, I am not upset in the slightest!
The 25-Year Habit
We all grow up in different families, with different lives, and different ways of doing things. And just because my husband's mom washed his dishes from the time he was born and my parents made us clean our own dishes from before I can remember, doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with either one of us. It doesn't mean that either one of our parents was better at parenting. They were just different.
Believe me, my husband is amazing at offering to help me out. He will clean the dishes, vacuum, feed our very large puppy, and even make dinner if I ask. But the one task he just cannot seem to remember no matter how hard he tries, is his 25-year "habit" of leaving his dinner plate on the table.
Now I could yell at him and get mad as often as I would like but in the end, that is not going to make our marriage any better. In fact, that will make it much much worse. We have had our fair share of arguments over dirty dishes and I can promise you that it is not worth it.
What are the dirty dishes of your marriage?
So the next time you are angry at your husband (or fiance or boyfriend or girlfriend or wife) for whatever it may be, take a quick moment among all of the craziness inside your head and ask him or her how something like that would've been handled in their household growing up. Take a moment to listen to their side of the story and my guess is that a majority of the time, there is very long habit you are trying to get them to break. And it's not easy. It doesn't mean that he doesn't love you and it doesn't mean that he isn't trying really really hard.
And if you take this advice and take it to heart, I promise you that your arguments will cut in half. There has to be some give and take in a marriage. It's not your way or the highway.
Who says the way your parent's taught you is better than his? Because no way is better. They are just different. And accepting those differences is what I have learned in our short 9 months of marriage, that has truly changed our relationship for the better.
Learning to accept the dirty dishes in your marriage will absolutely fill your marriage with a lot more love, warmth, and happiness.