I want to invite you to join me in a journey to a house of a couple in modern day America. It is around 5:30 or 6:00 pm and both the husband and wife are just getting home from their busy days at work. The kids rode the bus home from school and are busy playing around the house. It seems to be very hectic in the house. I know that the couple does not want us to be there with them because this is a very dark time during their day. Most days this time period would be described at best as chaotic, if not worse. Let’s listen in on the conversation that is taking place.
H: Honey, I’m home. What’s for dinner?
W: Glad you’re home. I just got home myself. I don’t know.
H: What do you mean you don’t know? I’m hungry.
W: So am I. What do you want?
I know that we all have either heard these types of conversations or we have had them ourselves. Usually during these conversations, arguments begin. Sometimes these arguments can truly get out of hand. Then supper becomes a bowl of cereal or a sandwich. No one is happy and supper time just became another fight for a struggling couple.
You might be thinking that your family is not like that. You have other issues that create major conflicts in your relationship. Over the next few days, I will be sharing a typical conflict that I have encountered with couples and then some solutions to that conflict. I realize that each couple’s conflicts are different just because God created us all differently. Also, no marriage is from a cookie cutter.
The first conflict I would like to examine is “Who does the dishes?”. I have been told in my office by a man “I don’t care what happens, I will never do the dishes.” And he was emphatic about the NEVER. As he said that, his wife was crying on the couch next to him. You truly could cut the tension in the room. Obviously there is more to this conflict than just dishes. So let’s delve into the conflict deeper.
One aspect of this conflict has to do with the roles between husband and wife. Traditional roles of husbands and wives have blurred over the years. As I was growing up, my mom was a stay-at-home mom and she did the majority of the housework. I do remember that on many Saturdays and Sundays my dad would either do the dishes or help do them. We as children were also expected to help. I think that it was just understood that the wife was to do the housework, including the dishes. Today, those roles are not nearly as clear as they were in previous generations. Most women are working outside of the home. It takes two incomes for many families to be able to afford to live today. Some men are actually staying home so their wives can pursue their careers. The “traditional” family is definitely in the minority in today’s society. (Although there does seem to be a trend of women choosing to be stay-at-home moms amongst young couples.)
Another aspect of this conflict has to do with your family background. If you watched both parents share in the household duties, then you probably will share with your spouse. If you grew up in a home like mine, you expect the wife to do the kitchen chores. I know that when Lisa and I first got married, I expected her to do all the cooking and cleaning up after the meal. That is what my mom did. Her dad helped in the kitchen with the cooking and the cleaning, so she expected me to help with those every day tasks. Obviously, we had conflicts concerning “Who does the dishes?”.
How do we avoid these conflicts? How can we have a relationship that is not caught in the “role” trap? There are a few steps that will help in the prevention of these fights.
Step 1: Identify your beliefs of the roles of couples. What is the husband’s role? What is the wife’s role? Can there be an overlap? Can there be sharing in the tasks associated with each role? I have couples talk about this in premarital counseling, because if you deal with this from the beginning, it should not be a major issue.
Step 2: Identify the tasks of each role. Talk about everything that needs to be accomplished with different aspects of the roles. The evening meal has several tasks tied to it: buying groceries, preparing to cook, cooking, setting the table, getting children ready to eat, clearing off the table, washing dishes, and putting the dishes up. I might have left something off of your supper routine, but this list will help you move toward a resolution.
Step 3: Assign different tasks to each person. Actually talk about what you expect from each other when it comes to supper time. While you are talking about the assignments, take into consideration work schedules. Some days, the assignments might be different than others because of the schedule. Right now at my house, we talk about my daily schedule as we plan our weekly menu. My schedule depends on how I will help with the meal or the cleanup or both.
These steps are practical suggestions to work through a “messy” situation. Who does the dishes? That depends on the needs of each person in the relationship. You should be working as one to meet the needs of each other. When we don’t focus on the needs of the couple, our relationship begins to deteriorate.
Who does the dishes at your house? Is it a source of conflict for you? How do you deal with that?
Bradley D. Watson, BCBT Directed Path Ministries
After spending more than 25 years on church staffs, God has allowed me to take the experiences and knowledge that I gained to develop a Biblical Counseling ministry. The basis of this ministry is to allow God’s Word to shine on the main issues in peoples’ lives in order to bring His resolutions to problems.