Divorce him for the Dishes by the Sink?

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Divorce? He leaves dishes by the sink occasionally. Sometimes, he doesn’t pick up his dirty underwear and believes dusting is a waste of time. He rolls his eyes when I disinfect the kitchen. He gives it a lick and a polish when I would use bleach and a flamethrower.

And my personal pet peeve – If I give him a ‘to do’ list, my husband will find the one thing he’s been meaning to do that is NOT on my list, and do that.

These things can drive me crazy or hurt my feelings. Sometimes, I feel disrespected and ignored . . .

but divorce him?

Not even kind of.

Can I unpack this viral post written by a man whose wife was apparently driven to divorce by dishes by the sink? In the end he understood how he could have better loved his wife, but I was left wondering if she ever learned how to better love him?

He leaves dishes by the sink sometimes and doesn't pick up his dirty underwear. He thinks dusting is a waste of time. Should I divorce him for that?

I have had many days my heart was broken over something he said or did. I’ve said goodnight in a huff wondering how I could be married to this selfish man for the rest of my life. I’ve cried myself to sleep.

But truth really is often about perspective.

Those same nights, he went to bed defeated, wondering why he married me, feeling disrespected and unloved. He wondered if I could ever think he was good enough just the way he is, if I really loved him or just the man I wanted him to be?

Ladies, I get it.

I see those dishes and underwear on my ‘to do’ list that never gets done. I’m child rearing, blogging, homeschooling, homemaking, friendship building, small group leading, Bible reading, part-time working. I need three of me on our slowest days.

When he adds to my list, it is the mic-dropping-straw on the proverbial camel’s back.

But, I’m the one reading into those choices. Dirty dishes by the sink really say I’m too tired to do one more thing. The dirty underwear shoved into the corner screams it’s 3 a.m. and I haven’t had my coffee.

His Army job is long and hard, but he comes home to me everyday. He kisses me goodnight even when we’ve been snippy. He brushes our daughter’s hair and flies her around the house, even when she is getting too big, even on his bad shoulder.

I can choose to see it his way. If it only takes 4 seconds to move that dish to the sink, can’t I just do it? Even if I hate folding his stupid Army socks, better to be folding them than wearing them 16 hours a day.

Because he just wants my respect and love and to make me happy, even if he sometimes has no idea why things are important to me, even when I don’t really either, but really, really just like it my way.

I’ve learned that if I really don’t have the energy to wash the dishes by the sink, they’ll wait until one of us makes it a priority.

In fact, when I stop trying to keep every spinning plate spinning and some drop, he sees my need and picks up the slack. When instead of nagging, I just said, “I can’t, I’ve got nuthin’ left,” he’ll get out paper plates and frozen pizza.

Again, humility and broken realness win.

When I said, “I know it’s just a cup, but I work so hard to keep the house nice. I would feel so loved if you would just put it away.”

He replied, “I’ll try. But it’s just a cup. I’ll forget.” I said, “Thank you for trying. If you forget, it’s ok.”

Then he didn’t forget often because I made it about being a team against the chaos, not me versus him.

I am really saddened to see Christian women sharing this viral post because it doesn’t take a faith-based view of marriage at all.

I vowed for better or worse in a rose-colored fog, but that was the promise: for worse.

“WORSE” was this vague undefined something like a tragic accident that might happen to other people, but probably not to us. I didn’t picture dirty underwear, empty toilet paper rolls, arguments about dishes and countertops, parenting squabbles – the boring mundane worses that make marriage hard.

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I read the entire post, I know he was exaggerating to demonstrate how he hadn’t really respected her and his callousness pushed her further away. But oh, how I wish I could interject into every woman letting these little molehills become mountains.

Don’t let dishes by the sink destroy your marriage!

My marriage isn’t perfect, but we’ve come a long way since I stopped seeing everything from the world’s perspective. Marriage is part of the refining fire that makes us more like Christ.

Mark 8:34 ESV /  And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Deny myself. Deny the human parts of me that say, “I deserve.” Deny that I deserve anything except to serve God with all that I am everyday. With ALL that I am.

Jesus carried a cross. I can pick up dirty dishes by the sink. Real marriage takes grace. Click To Tweet

God gives me grace and forgiveness when I fall down. When I yell at the kids or gossip or ignore His directions. Over and over.

Forgiven people forgive people. We don’t say divorce.

It isn’t easy, but that means when I’m tired or sick, I try to do one more thing, take one extra second to think before I speak, to honor my husband by respecting what he does and thanking him for everything he gets right and the hearty attempts, and choosing carefully when, how, or IF I approach those things I wish were different.

Learning how to talk with him is a work in progress. We are learning a common vocabulary of patience and grace. And divorce isn’t in it.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness….” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’ll be honest, sometimes the chaos wins these days, but happiness does too. The house is dustier but the laughter is louder. Because I quit seeing dishes by the sink as a failure of his love and just there waiting for one of us to clean them .  .  .  eventually.

Communication is a work in progress. We are learning a common vocabulary of patience and grace. Click To Tweet

There is a difference between ignoring dirty dishes and abuse. If you're being abused, get help.

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Its Own Way: Having 1 Cor. 13 Love in my marriage

Sunday, my husband and I decided to cook spaghetti together. We had different ideas about making the sauce. Tomato sauce is one of the few things that I have worked to perfect, so I started to fight for my way.

What should have been a simple discussion about which step should go first, started to be about who was a better chef, smarter, and generally the most rightest person in all the universe.

What should have been a simple discussion became who was the most rightest in the universe… Click To Tweet

I silently prayed for the right heart in that moment, and adjusted my attitude before it became a fight. Yet, I should have stopped before I started.

The next day, God pointed me right to what He wanted me to see. My daughter was having a rough day with her attitude. She decided to try her hand at talking back. After her third or fourth visit to timeout, I tried some instruction about why she should talk to me with love and respect. Because of who God is and what love means, so I pulled out the bible and began to read to her 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-7 specifically.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

And like most times I start to use the Bible in parenting, the person that gets most convicted is me. If real love does not insist on its own way, how much of the problems in my marriage are from failing to live this scripture. Heaven Not Harvard I know this familiar passage, many people do.  But I was really struck by how I can be convicted new of its truths. In that moment, I had a renewed spirit to be patient and kind with my testy child. Then I read verse 5 and flashed back to the spaghetti incident the night before.

1 Corinthians 13 says that love does not insist on its own way.

Period. Not sometimes, not even when your spaghetti sauce recipe is perfect.

Bummer.

I started thinking about what my marriage would look like if I quit insisting on my own way. I started thinking about why the sauce mattered to me. Questioning my method felt like attacking my competency in the kitchen, as an intelligent person, even.

Ooooh, I was making him feel the exact same way. Men need respect. They crave it, but American culture has done a great job of teaching us to treat men like overgrown children. We’ve forgotten what respecting your husband looks like.

I didn’t realize how many times, over little things, I had been disrespecting him by arguing. I’ve been so afraid of the consequences of doing things his way, I never thought about the consequences of insisting on mine. I was casting aside his leadership and opinions without really considering his expertise and wisdom, or even his feelings.

I wonder how much resentment and frustration I’ve caused in our marriage from insisting on my way without a good reason except my personal preference. I could be such a loving example of grace by respecting his ideas. I need to give him freedom to express his way. And do my best to let it go when that isn’t the way I like it. Its Own Way - Heaven Not Harvard - learning to let it go instead of fighting for my own way. Loving my husband through respecting him.

Turns out being “right” is a lot less loving than letting him be right. Are there times to insist? Yes, when we’re insisting on God’s way, not our own.

Turns out being right is a whole lot less loving than loving RIGHTLY. Have a 1Cor.13 Marriage… Click To Tweet

For the rest, learn to fold his socks his way, organize his drawers the way he likes them, make the sauce his way. Who knows, when I stop insisting, he might decide he likes it my way once I give him the freedom to choose. Heck, I might learn that I actually like his way better. I’ll work on admitting that later.

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The Secret Service

What do you do when you are so angry you can’t function, so bitter the walls are closing in on you, so empty there are no words? You join the Secret Service.

A few years ago, my marriage was failing. We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t talk much. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team. And while we didn’t fight often, by the time we did, we’d both been harboring so many hurts and slights, that we were boilers ready to explode.

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying to be the “good” wife, be a good person, live morally and he was just such a jerk. He was selfish and mean. He wanted to hunt more than he wanted to be home with us. He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. From using the last of the milk, but not putting it on the list, to breaking my favorite dishes with his carelessness, to leaving me home with the stomach flu and toddler to sit in a boat waiting for ducks. If I ever complained, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I was going to be able to live the rest of my life with this awful person who just hurt me at every turn. I guarded my heart from him, went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would wake up and start being what I needed. What a selfish creep .  .  .

. . . I was.

When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my sin, my need for Grace, and true forgiveness. I can’t tell you how it changed my heart. A veil lifted. I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and pains.

I realized that I had been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the place God should be. I wrote a post about my running away from God, trying to use the world to fill my emptiness a few months ago. When I keep reading about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept praying about it. I kept reading the Bible and praying.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

When I pursued God, asked him to fill my heart, to give me what I need, my cup got full. I was able to stop seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function. As God filled my heart with grace and forgiveness, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

And I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time, not literally, but emotionally. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall we were building between us. Even when I had been doing the right things, I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful things I had done for him during the day and wait for his thanks. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

I was holding up my heart via the laundry or dishes, and he was smashing it over and over. But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing this to serve him or to get something from him?”

Ouch! I wanted love, recognition, respect.

Wait, he probably did, too. What if he was being a jerk because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs? Ooh, and all of a sudden, I saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion. I saw a soul God wants in His kingdom.

And a lesson came to mind about how we serve the needy, but it really resonated with how we serve anyone in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Our Father sees in secret. God will see my serving my husband quietly. Loved people love people, (See 1 John 4) and I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could see his need for me to love him. I started looking for ways to serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret things for my him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

I started to look for ways to just quietly do things for him without his asking. Like noticing that his toothpaste tube is nearly empty and replacing it, adding it to the grocery list when his shower gel is running low, making his lunch and preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been long.How the secret service saved my marriage. Heaven Not Harvard

One of those jobs that I wouldn’t have even thought to do before I let Christ reign in my heart is picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the floor of the bathroom. Every morning. He literally has to walk past his closet (where his hamper is) in order to leave the house every morning, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor wadded up under the edge of the vanity. I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Several years ago, I would have nagged him about being so lazy and careless or even selfish for leaving them there. It would have become an infection between us. A couple of years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that my service to you is about humility and being used by You without drawing attention to myself.” I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When my heart got filled with service, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. I started giving him some grace when his day at work had been too much for him and he needed some silence before he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

Because nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return. Nothing I ever did changed my husband’s heart more than my secret service and how I softened towards him by doing it.

And when I was sharing with a friend who was struggling in her own marriage about how mine got turned around by God, I told her the story of the dirty underwear, how I would pray, “Thank you, Lord, that these underwear remind me my husband isn’t in Iraq.”  Her eyes filled with tears, and she joined the ranks, our Secret Service.

She started to see the same truth that God had pointed out in me. Our culture asks what is in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude, and I’ve never been more full of joy than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity, gross underwear.

badgeBesides, the underwear was just a start. Once you join the Secret Service, you will find so many ways to quietly serve people, and those are my treasures I hold in my hand like sweet pearls, knowing I am seen, I am treasured, I am loved by my Heavenly Father.

Are you in? We’re taking new members everyday.;)

 

 

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