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Published on July 25, 2018

Look Forward to a Lifelong Bond with Marriage Advice from This Expert

Look Forward to a Lifelong Bond with Marriage Advice from This Expert

In order to make a long term relationship work, it takes figuring out how to live well in an equitable fashion.

Today’s egalitarian relationship are built on living the mundane moments with a sense of care and intentionality. Modern couples are often at a loss for how to infuse their daily lives with true meaning such that their marriage might last a lifetime.

I work on a daily basis with numerous couples who are working to figure out how to make love last. They each come in with similar stories about where they get stuck and how their love fades.

Each of them thinks that they might be the only ones going through what they are experiencing, yet they don’t realize that the next couple in the waiting room is likely experiencing very similar dynamics in their relationship.

Very few of us really know what goes on in the inside of the relationships of those around us.

We likely don’t even know half of the story of the relationship issues of those closest to us. Yet if we did, we might realize that we all struggle with very similar issues in our most intimate relationships:

Difficulty communicating, challenges in the bedroom, emotional distance, being let down by our partners and not knowing how to fight fair are just a few of the main issues that modern couples face.

I am in a privileged position, as a therapist, to hear what people’s lives and relationships are really like. It became clear to me that most people are unaware of what’s really happening in the inner lives of others.

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Most people are looking for tools to have more satisfying relationships, but are often stuck in blaming their partner rather than making changes themselves.

How I helped a couple with a fight about who does the dishes

I decided to write one of the couples I work with a letter and address their concerns from a recent session. That session focused on a fight about who does the dishes at home.

I’ve heard this sort of fight many times from couples. They argue about doing the dishes, and it becomes about much more than simply the act of getting the bowls and dishes clean. It becomes about an underlying dynamic in their relationship, and how power is distributed.

The letter to this couple is included in my book, You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, 2018) along with 50 or so other letters to individuals and couples. The letters are meant to help people feel less alone in their experience, and perhaps see therapy as an option for their personal growth and development.

The letter that follows is the letter to this couple fighting about the dishes. While their names and details of their situation have been changed, their story is a common one.

Perhaps their experience can teach us a little about how to create a romantic relationship that can last a lifetime.

A letter of marriage advice for all

Dear Alex and Jamie,

Our last session was the third time in the last two months that you have argued about who does the dishes at home.

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The latest episode was one in which Alex left a cereal bowl in the sink in the morning before heading off to work. Jamie, you reported seeing the bowl but did not wash it, even though you had some time to do so. Instead you waited to see if Alex was going to wash the bowl after coming home. That didn’t happen, so you let it sit there in the sink until the next morning to see if Alex would say anything. He didn’t, and that lead to an argument.

The cereal bowl in the sink was a symbol. It held tremendous meaning for you, Jamie. It was not just something that holds breakfast cereal; it became a test of who picks up after whom. The bowl became everything that is out of balance in this relationship and how you might take one another for granted.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people in therapy discuss who does the dishes. It is a very common conversation as it represents something foundational in family life. The home is where we come together to share meals. Buying food, cooking, setting the table, clearing it, and washing the dishes are all daily chores that go into a shared family life. Yet the division of household labor constantly gets well-meaning and loving couples into ongoing quarrels.

Doing dishes is the grunt work of mealtime. We speak about the joy of cooking, we watch cooking shows on television, and take great pride in preparing a healthy and hearty meal for our families. We also go to great lengths to savor food. We become foodies, try new restaurants, and revel in good company over a shared meal. Yet we do not celebrate the joy of doing dishes.

There is no dishwashing competition on television. We don’t see shows about adventurous hosts traveling the world in search of people doing dishes. No, the dishes are reserved as a chore. They take a back seat to the main event of the meal. Those who are left to tend to the dishes might also feel like they take a back seat.

Being charged with the grunt work of cleaning up after dinner might feel lower status than being the one preparing the food, and it certainly feels lower than those who are being served. The dishwasher can feel taken for granted and unappreciated, almost acting in a service capacity.

Jamie, when you saw Alex’s bowl in the sink, perhaps you felt that he was sending a message that you should wash it for him. Perhaps you felt taken for granted and in a service role. If that’s the case, then I can see how that would feel awful. The next day your argument escalated over this cereal bowl.

Alex, you felt Jamie was being ridiculous to get so upset about a bowl. In fact, you felt pretty hurt yourself that Jamie would wait to see if you would eventually wash the bowl and test you in this way.

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I know that this isn’t the type of environment in which you want to live. The argument stretched on for days and turned into extended periods of silence until you came to our couples counseling appointment.

Of course you know that this was not about the cereal bowl. The level of emotion and argumentativeness far surpassed the indiscretion of leaving a bowl in the sink for a day.

We need to understand what was brewing underneath the surface such that it boiled over during the cereal bowl incident. We need to look at why people get so upset about who does the dishes.

You are not alone in this scenario. Who does the dishes represents so much about the structure and dynamics of a family. Why do some people share the task of dishwashing while others split the tasks and relegate it to the person who did not cook?

In your relationship, Alex and Jamie, how is the division of household labor handled? We need to examine if you are holding any deeper resentments. I would suspect, Jamie, that you are carrying resentments about certain aspects of the relationship, and that they came pouring out when you saw Alex leave his bowl in the sink.

Often what will become illuminated for couples is that issues are buried deeper than they realize. There can be a displacement of relational emotions onto household duties.

Jamie, you have talked before about not feeling like a priority to Alex. You’ve described him as someone who tends to be more concerned about his own needs, and who neglects yours at various times. It is no wonder that in the aftermath of the cereal bowl incident, you brought up that he was not around for you when your mother was sick in the hospital.

Alex had no idea why you would bring that up, and became quite defensive. Yet if we look at it together, we can see that the deeper tides of neglect and lack of appreciation overflowed when the bowl was left in the sink.

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The bowl wasn’t causal; it was merely illuminating imbalances already existing in the relationship. It brought to the surface the problems in the marriage that you have not yet addressed.

Brave couples, such as you, are willing to look at times when a fight over the dishes turns into something bigger. They are open to investigating what the fight is telling them about their relationship.

This cereal bowl incident can be an opportunity for greater insight and connection. It can be a chance to better understand and care for each other. Once you start feeling one another’s enduring care, and once you feel less neglected, then you might see the cereal bowl differently.

It might just be a bowl. It would not carry the same meaning that it did the other day.

When that felt sense of care is present, you might not worry about who does the dishes. Instead you might actually volunteer to do them!

Fondly Yours,
David

Excerpt from You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist by David Klow used with permission from Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Inc.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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David Klow

Marriage and Family Therapist and Author

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

Quit Your Job If You Don’t Like It, No Matter What

Quit Your Job If You Don’t Like It, No Matter What

Do you know that feeling? The one where you have to wake up to go to your boring 9-5 job to work with the same boring colleagues who don’t appreciate what you do.

I do, and that’s why I’ve decided to quit my job and follow my passion. This, however, requires a solid plan and some guts.

The one who perseveres doesn’t always win. Sometimes life has more to offer when you quit your current job. Yes, I know. It’s overwhelming and scary.

People who quit are often seen as ‘losers’. They say: “You should finish what you’ve started”.

I know like no other that quitting your job can be very stressful. A dozen questions come up when you’re thinking about quitting your job, most starting with: What if?

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“What if I don’t find a job I love and regret quitting my current job?”
“What if I can’t find another job and I get in debt because I can’t pay my bills?”
“What if my family and friends judge me and disapprove of the decisions I make?”
“What if I quit my job to pursue my dream, but I fail?

After all, if you admit to the truth of your surroundings, you’re forced to acknowledge that you’ve made a wrong decision by choosing your current job. But don’t forget that quitting certain things in life can be the path to your success!

One of my favorite quotes by Henry Ford:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

Everything takes energy

Everything you do in life takes energy. It takes energy to participate in your weekly activities. It takes energy to commute to work every day. It takes energy to organize your sister’s big wedding.

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Each of the responsibilities we have take a little bit of our energy. We only have a certain amount of energy a day, so we have to spend it wisely.  Same goes for our time. The only things we can’t buy in this world are time and energy. Yes, you could buy an energy drink, but will it feel the same as eight hours of sleep? Will it be as healthy?

The more stress there is in your life, the less focus you have. This will weaken your results.

Find something that is worth doing

Do you have to quit every time the going gets touch? Absolutely not! You should quit when you’ve put everything you’ve got into something, but don’t see a bright future in it.

When you do something you love and that has purpose in your life, you should push through and give everything you have.

I find star athletes very inspiring. They don’t quit till they step on that stage to receive their hard earned gold medal. From the start, they know how much work its going to take and what they have to sacrifice.

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When you do something you’re really passionate about, you’re not in a downward spiral. Before you even start you can already see the finish line. The more focus you have for something, the faster you’ll reach the finish.

It is definitely possible to spend your valuable time on something you love and earn money doing it. You just have to find out how — by doing enough research.

Other excuses I often hear are:

“But I have my wife and kids, who is going to pay the bills?”
“I don’t have time for that, I’m too busy with… stuff” (Like watching TV for 2 hours every day.)
“At least I get the same paycheck every month if I work for a boss.”
“Quitting my job is too much risk with this crisis.”

I understand those points. But if you’ve never tried it, you’ll never know how it could be. The fear of failure keeps people from stepping out of their comfort zone.

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I’ve heard many people say, “I work to let my children make their dream come true”. I think they should rephrase that sentence to: “I pursue my dreams — to inspire and show my children anything is possible.” 

Conclusion

Think carefully about what you spend your time on. Don’t waste it on things that don’t brighten your future. Instead, search for opportunities. And come up with a solid plan before you take any impulsive actions.

Only good things happen outside of your comfort zone.

Do you dare to quit your job for more success in life?

Featured photo credit: Jadon Barnes via images.unsplash.com

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