Used to be, when my husband was out late, or sick, or just busy, I did the dishes for him. The dishes are his job, and he’s really good about emptying and reloading the dishwasher every night, but the bigger dishes pile up in the sink until finally there isn’t enough space to rinse stuff or fill up the Brita filter. At that point I generally stepped in, emptied the dish rack, washed the pile of dishes and went about my business.
In that moment, I felt good about helping out my husband, because I know what a relief it can be to get home and find a chore you’ve been avoiding has been done for you. But then, as I was left alone to do everything for longer stretches, the resentment started to simmer. He never does a load of laundry when I’m late, or feeling shitty–Why was I always the one making his life easier, when he never did the same for me?
So, a couple months ago, when we had one of our coming to Jesus talks about “the order of things,” I stopped doing the dishes. I didn’t point out that I used to do it, nor did I declare that I was going to stop. I just don’t do the dishes anymore. No matter how late he comes home, or how many nights he has other commitments (and he had A LOT in December), I NEVER do his dishes. Of course, if I have to clean a pot or pan so I can use it, I do (and without comment), but I never step in and empty the dish rack or deal with the mounting pile of dishes (and some days it gets high).
I wonder sometimes if he’s even noticed that something has changed, that I stopped helping him out, but I never broach the subject because I know I’ll say it wrong. So I go about my business, trying to prevent resentment in the only way I know how, by giving less instead of wanting him to give more.
And you know what, I don’t feel so much resentment anymore. It doesn’t bother me as much that he NEVER steps in (nor has he) and does a load of laundry, or any other chore, to help me out. If we’re both not doing things for each other, it hurts less.
This week my husband has been sick, and the dishes have piled up. I feel like a bitch leaving them, but the fact that he has never stepped in and given me the space and time I need to get better when I’m sick, keeps bubbling up. When I’m sick I’m expected to suck it up and soldier on. Who my expectations of him be different? On the one hand, I don’t feel like this stuff should be quid pro quo in a relationship–I only give if I get–and yet, if you’re the one who always does the giving and rarely, if ever, gets anything in return…
I did the dishes for him today, and I know he appreciated it. Honestly, I miss helping him out sometimes. But I know that eventually, when I get frustrated or angry, the lack of reciprocity will come to a boil and the resentment will start to simmer. I wish I were a bigger person, and could just give without feeling I should get back. And I wish we had the kind of marriage where we did things to help each other. But I’m not that person, and we don’t have that marriage, and I’m trying to accept that, without feeling like the biggest bitch that ever walked the earth.