Dinnertime used to be my least favorite part of the day, for a gazillion reasons – I wanted our meals to be as healthy and delicious as possible and so I knocked myself out to make meals that dazzled. In part because I’d worked so hard, I stressed about how much of this food actually made it in my kids’ mouths. Because my kids were small and needed to be in bed by about 7 or else they were total basket cases, I wanted the preparation and the consumption to happen in a timely manner. And then, there were the dishes. Oh, the dishes!
My husband and I had a basic understanding – whoever cooks doesn’t do dishes. Perfectly reasonable, right? The thing is, my husband is a soaker. He actually says, “I come from a long line of soakers.” Which is code for, “Sometimes I do the dishes, sometimes I just stick them in the sink.” Which means I’d emerge from putting the kids to bed and often see the kitchen in the exact same state as I had left it. This bugged me to no end.
Here’s what typically happened: I would start doing the dishes, hastily, feeling sorry for myself all the way. “Why do I have to do all the work around here? Why doesn’t anyone else care if our house is a mess?” It was pretty pathetic.
Then I got pissed off. I still did the dishes many nights, but now I did it noisily, hating my husband in my head. “This is wrong and you are a jerk!” I’d think to him in my mind. Once or twice I said things to this effect to him, and we had a big fight that didn’t leave either of us feeling any better.
Now, I’d like to make it clear that I do love my husband. Even when I occasionally hate him. 🙂 I did not want to fight with him and I knew he wasn’t trying to torture me. So I thought about it and realized, having the dishes done is important to me. And while I still prefer that my husband do his fair share of the cleaning, my feeling either defeated or ticked off wasn’t serving anyone. So I started accepting that sometimes I did the dishes. I wasn’t enthused about it, at all, and while I was doing the dishes with this mindset, I’d spend a lot of my mental energy thinking things like“Scott is working like crazy at the moment to support us,” or, “He doesn’t value cleanliness in the same way I do, but since it’s more important to me, so I’ll just do it.” It was an improvement, but I was still spending a lot of energy on rationalizing why it was OK that I was doing the dishes.
Over time, I started to shed another layer of dish drama. I realized that the dishes need to get done for all our sakes, and sometimes that meant my husband would do it and sometimes it would be me; it wasn’t about keeping track of who did it and when. That was a big shift. It didn’t change the reality of how often I did or didn’t do the dishes, but it made a big difference in how much of a toll it took on me to do them.
Then something cool started to happen. I started to see the time I spent doing the dishes as a time to decompress. When I didn’t have to spend my time doing it thinking about all the ways it was wrong, I got to just go in to the zone where I was totally absorbed in what I was doing and my thoughts naturally quieted down. The dishes got done, AND I got a little mental downtime.
And here’s the really cool part – when I stopped judging whether or not I should be the one doing the dishes, my husband started doing them more. Not because we talked about it, but because the energy around the whole conversation shifted.
Now, I’m in an even different place. The dishes get done, or they don’t. If I do them, I think, great, I’ll savor this opportunity to get my mind and body working on the same task. If my husband does them, I think, great, I’m going to sit and read or play with the kids for 10 minutes, and just enjoy the fact that they are getting done. And if the dishes don’t get done – neither of us has the energy, for example – I just think, we both need to chill out now, they’ll get done tomorrow. And as a result, my angst over whether the dishes are done or not done has totally receded.
Over this process, it has removed a point of contention between me and my husband, which means we can just enjoy each other more. That feels really, really, really good.
It took maybe a year to get to this point. And while I didn’t know it at the time, it was a perfect representation of how shifting your perspective changes your experience. Imagine if you didn’t have to feel undervalued, perturbed, or judged by your husband! Can you imagine it? It’s completely possible.
If you’d like to learn how to start shifting your experience of something that’s weighing you down, sign up to view my popular master class:
How I Stopped Hating My Husband (And You Can Too)
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