“It was a typical night in our household about a year ago. I had just finished my nightly dessert and glass of milk before bed (that’s right, I said nightly), and I had placed my glass into the dishwasher. I was moving around the kitchen when all of a sudden I noticed my husband had taken my empty milk cup out of the dishwasher, rinsed it, and placed it BACK into the dishwasher.
‘Uh, excuse me?’ I said, ‘What are you doing? Why are you rinsing my cup?’ He responded that he had already told me my cup smelled if I didn’t rinse it thoroughly before placing it in the dishwasher. WHAT?! When?!
‘Well, sir, I read a NY Times article once that said it is wasteful to rinse dishes before placing them in the dishwasher where they get cleaned with water, again. I’m just caring about the environment here!’ Also, it is the dishwasher…it isn’t as if we are hanging out in there, and we always keep the door closed, so it doesn’t seem like smells will be seeping out.
Furthermore, we are 12 years into our relationship at this point, and I’ve been having milk EVERY NIGHT. Has he been secretly rinsing my cup every night for 12 years?! Why hadn’t he told me this before or just asked me to do it? And the most infuriating issue—why is he saying he HAD told me when clearly he had not?
Naturally, I responded with a very defensive, ‘Um, no, you didn’t tell me. And also, why are you doing that, and how long have you been doing it?’ My husband replied that he HAD told me to do it to my chocolate milkshake cups, but really it isn’t a big deal, so he just does it.
OK, reader. If this is seeming a bit in the weeds…sorry, but the details matter.
He had indeed told me in the past he didn’t like when I put my dirty chocolate milkshake cup in the dishwasher unrinsed, but the reason was the dishwasher couldn’t get all the sticky chocolate off. When I had a milkshake ever since he told me this, I HAD in fact been cleaning the cup. But clearly, milk alone doesn’t stick, so I wasn’t rinsing those cups. You follow??
‘No, you did not tell me you wanted me to clean out my milk cup,’ I replied defensively, ‘You told me to clean my chocolate milkshake cups out.’ He quickly retorted, ‘It is the same thing. I assumed you would do the normal thing that everyone does—rinse out your dirty dishes so they don’t stink up the dishwasher for several days.’
CODE RED. Let’s just say this devolved quickly. Isn’t it absurd that rinsing a milk cup sparked a fight that resulted in angry and annoyed feelings for a couple of days before we talked it through? Anyone who is married and honest knows this is just normal life. Eventually, this led to a long conversation. So exhausting being in a healthy, excellent marriage!
Just like every other argument we’ve ever had, this clearly isn’t about the cup of milk. What is really going on here is this: almost every fight we have at this point in our marriage is about the same thing. I don’t listen or pay attention, and ‘acts of service’ are how he receives love. I think he is too harsh and unkind, and no ‘words of encouragement’ for me! He has high standards, which he lives up to, and that makes him an amazing partner and dad. However, it often feels like I am supposed to intuit what he wants, and if I do not, then I am not paying good enough attention. Thank god we both value ‘quality time,’ or we’d basically be doomed.
Through our debrief talk, it was revealed that my husband did not always feel comfortable stating his smaller preferences to me. In the past for years, when he tried to tell me he’d prefer I do something different, I made jokes about how difficult and particular he was. I’d be defensive and dismissive. To me, I felt he was criticizing me or telling me how I was doing things wrong, when in fact, he was often just stating a preference. But sadly because of my state of lack and unconscious responses, we were in a cycle where he didn’t feel he could tell me what he wanted, and if he did, I’d get defensive or shame him.
He admitted that he ‘felt like a b*tch’ bringing up this kind of stuff…which to me is totally gendered and bogus cultural programming. BUT ALSO, once I got honest with myself—we’d been together 10+ years at this point—I realized when he tried to state preferences I’d respond with things like ‘Oh my god, another RULE,’ or ‘It really isn’t THAT big of a deal, is it?’ when he asked me to do something differently. He had learned not to share and holding in his feelings would sometimes lead to resentment.
When I look back on that, I can so clearly see this is not acceptable. I want my lovely husband to tell me all of his preferences. Just like I want him to respect my wishes, I want to respect his, and I certainly don’t want to shame him for having them. I want us to spend our whole lives trying hard to understand and not annoy each other! A huge part of what marriage is all about.
Most of all, I want to know and see him just like I want to do this for my kids. It doesn’t make sense for me to tell my kids all their feelings are OK, but then to shame their dad when he has a feeling or a preference. I am so glad we had this argument over the milk cup and then did the hard work to really talk through our cycle AGAIN. We both feel it is totally exhausting at times, but we do seem to have new insights almost every time even though we’ve been together for more than a decade. I know doing this work will last a lifetime, and there is no one I’d rather do it with than my husband.
I can tell when we are arguing the energy is off for everyone. The kids test more. They are more needy and cry more. We might think we are hiding the fact that we aren’t getting along, but our kids sure aren’t fooled. It is so critical for us to address all the dynamics in our household and realize the big impact they have on our kids.
Our children learn much more from how we act than what we say. They are always watching and learning. And when they watch me and my husband, I want to be sure I am modeling the marriage I want them to have. The respect, caring, and love I wish for them to find one day. Who we decide to marry is certainly one of the most consequential decisions we make in life, and I tell my kids that. No fairy tale endings over here, just a lot of hard work, annoyance, love, anger, respect, sadness, and joy.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by youareagoodmom. You can follow her journey on Instagram or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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