The Tao of Dishwashers and Creating Marital Rituals

I have discovered that if there is a literal and metaphorical ground zero for marital discord it is the dishwasher. Track with me here:

Apparently there is an idiosyncratic logic to the loading of a dishwasher that is entirely reminiscent of how one approaches life in general. It is, if you will, a concrete demonstration of your philosophy of everything.

Do you wait until the last minute and then cram too much in and hope it all comes out alright in wash?

Are you spartan and rigid in how the dishes “must” go in in order to come out clean?

I’m not overstating it when I tell you that I have presided over more arguments about the rituals of this boring kitchen gadgetry than any other. People take their kitchen zen pretty freakin’ seriously.

I wonder, when I’m in dishwasher argument 5 of my therapy day, what it is about the operation of this ubiquitous appliance that sets people’s teeth on edge. And, I’ve come up with several theories about it. Here they are for your amusement:

1) You want everything to be your way: Shared chores and shared lives don’t work if you try to manipulate them down to the last detail. Though it would be nice if everyone did everything perfectly (your way, of course) holding your partner hostage to your whims and then saying, “you knew I was this way when you married me” doesn’t work. You are responsible for creating mindfulness and reasonableness within yourself. At the heart of collaboration is both people moving a little bit to the center. In order for the dishes get clean, literally and metaphorically, choose your battles.

2) You don’t take responsibility for anything: Hey, it would be cool if the dishwasher loaded itself. Maybe it’s sort of easy to rationalize that your partner likes loading the dishwasher if he or she always does it when you don’t. But, it’s more often the case that your spouse is worn out and tired of shouldering all the burden, but has lost hope that you’ll pitch in and help. And, when you want him/her to engage with you around things that are more fun–sex, snuggling or family outings–they won’t have the energy or goodwill to do so. In order for the dishes to get clean, literally or metaphorically, do your part without being begged.

3) You both ignore that the dishes are dirty: Sometimes, everyone is tired and life has taken it out of you. Both of you see the dishes piling up in the sink. The house is beginning to smell. But, neither one of you wants to tackle the mess. Silently, you both agree that the dishes are getting to be too much of a mess to clean up anymore. In order for the dishes to get clean, literally or metaphorically, pay attention to your marriage and call for change, even when it’s scary.

Would you like to come figure out how to get your marital house in order? Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it.

Your Partner in Healing,


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