Concerning dirty dishes and interruptions

Quite unexpectedly, my husband and I found ourselves attending a marriage conference last Friday. My husband’s cousin and his wife just so happened to have extra tickets to the conference and invited us to go with them. We hadn’t seen them in a while, plus we’d never been to a marriage conference before, so we went. The four of us drove over to a church I’d heard about but had never actually attended. The large auditorium was full with several hundred people. After some announcements from the hosts and a short introduction, the speaker, a Dr. Randy Carlson, came on the stage.

His points and insights, although familiar, were good reminders of things married people can do to create a happier marriage. Saying ‘I love you’ every day, listening without interrupting, abandoning criticism, forgiving one another, using words of affirmation, and etc. He called them Love Habits. By the end of the hour and a half, he challenged us to pick one thing we could do for our spouses for thirty consecutive days. Stopping bad habits and creating entirely new ones can be daunting, but doing one thing is all it takes to start the process. Or at least, that’s what he said.

I sank in my seat when Dr. Carlson mentioned listening without interrupting, sure he was talking to me. It was just too coincidental that he would mention it days after my husband himself pointed out this bad habit of mine. I don’t interrupt to be malicious or to hog the spot light. Sometimes, as he speaks, ideas or opinions pop into my head and I verbalize them so that I don’t forget. Half the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. During one conversation, it got to the point where my husband just stopped talking. Once I was through with the point I wanted to add to the conversation, I turned to him expectantly, waiting for him to finish whatever he had been saying before. When he didn’t, I asked if there was anything wrong. He admitted he was frustrated with me and was trying to collect himself. Surprised, I asked him what I’d done to upset him.

“You kept interrupting me and I kept having to repeat myself,” he said. “I don’t like repeating myself so I’m just not going to.”

Feeling like a jerk, I apologized and promised to work on it.

After the marriage conference, I used my added guilt to make that committment. I was going to be a better listener. I was going to be more considerate of my husband and that was that.

Well, it’s been more of a challenge than I thought. I’ve found myself literally biting my lips to keep myself from interjecting. Worst of all is trying to really listen to what he’s saying while I’m trying to remember what it was I wanted to add. Who knew something so simple would be so difficult? I’ve messed up a couple times and spoken when I should’ve been listening, but my gracious husband has forgiven me every time. I’m happy to report that it is getting easier! I just have to keep focused.

My husband had been having some trouble thinking of one thing he could do for me. Not to brag or anything, but he’s pretty awesome and he does a lot of the things Dr. Carlson mentioned in the marriage conference. I cook every evening (with the exception of those rare mornings when I get up early and make dinner then or when we’re having lasagna and I can just leave a note for my husband to throw it in the oven an hour before I get home from work). But I also wash the dishes 99% of the time. I hate having a dirty kitchen. It immediately sucks the energy out of me when I come home from work to see a pile of dirty dishes on the counter. I finally expressed my frustrations to my husband, who gets home three hours before I do.

“I’m sorry, babe. I just don’t notice when the house is dirty,” he admitted. (Which is hilarious because he can spot a finger smudge on my car window from a mile away while I can go weeks, even months, at a time without washing my car.)

Men and women are different; I’ve seen evidence of this all my life. I never realized just how different they were until I got married. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I believe it’s perfect. We complete each other this way. But it’s so easy to allow those differences to drive us insane! I expect certain things from my husband because, to me, they’re obvious. I mean, why wouldn’t he notice the dishes? It’s the first thing I see!

It takes a lot of selfless love to be able to set our expectations aside and see someone for who they truly are, how they operate, how they think and feel. I’ve decided to let my expectations go, face reality, and try to see my husband for who he is, not necessarily who I want him to be.

My husband decided to make his one thing washing the dishes every day, even if there’s only a handful of plates in the sink. He doesn’t care about the state of the kitchen so long as there’s food in the fridge. But I’ve told him it bothers me, so he’ll do it for me. A whole week has gone by. My counters are clean. The sink is empty. The dish drainer is full. And I’m considerably less stressed. It’s amazing how something so small can make such a difference. I’m so thankful! I hope my one thing is making a difference in his life as well.

So, married folk, what’s your one thing going to be?

Communication

I usually do the dishes in our house.

Despite the fact that both my husband and I make dirty dishes, the kitchen is my domain and he “wouldn’t know where to put the dishes anyway” if/when he ever got the overwhelming desire to clean. (Insert an eye roll from the wife right here.) But every once in a while, I’ll come home to find that the once large pile of dirty dishes is now gone, there are clean dishes in the dishwasher, and there are random plastics lined up neatly in the drying rack. I always make a big deal when I notice this in the hopes that my big hug, kiss, and a thousand thank-yous will encourage him to surprise me with a clean sink more often. Well, Monday after work was no different. He only got around to loading the dishwasher and left the plastic Tupperware containers for me to wash, but I was still thankful because most of the work was done.

Too lazy to actually take the dishes out of the dishwasher and put them away in their proper locations, I resorted to taking out the silverware I needed right from the washer. (We always run out of silverware before we run out of plates, cups, or bowls for some reason. At times, I think we just need to buy another 48 piece set of silverware, but I’m not so sure that would really fix the problem…) Anyway, it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I ran out of clean bowls and reached into the dishwasher for one. There was still chocolate syrup in the supposedly clean bowl I held, quite a bit of it. Which lead me to the dreadful conclusion that, if this bowl was still dirty, every other dish in the washer was too. (Insert gag reflex here.)

Whenever I load the dishwasher, I always run it whether it’s a full load or just half of one. I do this so that we can at least have some clean dishes at the end of the day. So, when I noticed my husband had loaded the dishwasher on Monday, I assumed he had run the washer as well. I was mistaken. As I washed the chocolate syrup from the bowl, I experienced a series of emotions ranging from anger to exasperation to self-pity to resignation. I know what people say about assuming. I concluded we were both at fault in this situation.

When I got back from work and found my husband gaming on the Playstation yesterday, I told him what happened as graciously as I could manage. His expression of horror and disgust was further proof that he had not done this terrible deed maliciously and, after he apologized profusely for the eighteenth time, I reassured him that it was all right. He explained that he was in the habit of leaving half-loads unwashed in the dishwasher with the hope that more dirty dishes would come later and he would be able to run it with a full load, thus saving water and soap. I asked him to please just run the dishwasher every time for peace of mind and he promised he would. We had a laugh about it later and I said the same thing I always say when something like this happens.

“We need to work on our communication.”(For those of you who don’t know, this is a quote from Independence Day, when Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are flying the alien aircraft.)

It’s funny to both of us whenever I say this because, when we were dating, we were so sure we had that communication thing down. We talked about everything. Literally. He found out about my problems with dairy and constipation the first month into our relationship. He texted me while he was on the toilet numerous times and wasn’t embarrassed to inform me when he had a surprisingly large bowel movement. We thoroughly discussed the pros and cons of home birth versus hospital birth and the possibility of aliens. We talked about what we would do if we won the lottery or were stranded on an island. We shared about our dreams (the ones we had while we were sleeping and the ones we wanted to accomplish in the future) and voiced every random question that flitted through our minds. When I did or said something that bothered him, he’d let me know in the nicest possible way and vice versa. We just had that kind of relationship.

Still, certain bits of information seem to fall through the cracks now and then. It can be frustrating, but mostly it’s humbling.

Our friends and family have commented on the ease of our relationship. I can count the “big arguments” we’ve had in our three and a half years of knowing each other on one hand, and even those can’t be considered big when compared to the fights other people have. I mean, we’ve never raised our voices at each other or thrown things at each other or spent a night apart to “cool off.” In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever gone to bed angry at each other. It was a struggle to admit he was right and his ways were best at the beginning of the marriage (I’m not just saying that; 99% of my husband’s methods have proven to be smarter/more efficient than mine.) But I was able to overcome my pride and get over that after a few months. There are things he does that bother me, but he’s made an effort not to snap his fingers to get my attention or whistle for the dog when I’m standing right next to him (he whistles through his teeth and it’s the LOUDEST sound I’ve heard to this day) or turn the water ice cold and jump out of the way while we’re showering together.

These trivial things we “suffer” through might sound small to other couples, but they mean a lot to me. These little things are what keep me from getting a swollen head and thinking I have a perfect relationship. They help me relate and be compassionate to other wives. They are the funny stories I can share with my single friends much, much later, when neither my husband nor I harbor negative feelings toward the matter/event. They are what makes my husband and I human. So, when you look at it that way, you can say that miscommunication and mistakes are things to be thankful for. (Insert cheesy thumbs up here.)