When it comes to the gender division of household chores — and the uneven approach to mental and emotional labor that is so often implicit within that — we know we’ve still got a ways to go before equality is reached.
In hetero households, in particular, the second shift remains a phenomenon largely specific to women, with the expectation that they’ll be the ones to take on the lion’s share of home life management and maintenance persisting.
Which is why one man’s open letter about his divorce, penned in 2016, continues to resonate.
In an op-ed written for the Huffington Post and titled “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By The Sink,” blogger Matthew Fray details the downfall of his marriage. And it’s a scenario that may feel familiar to many couples who’ve kept a home together (whether they’re continuing to cohabitate or not).
“Sometimes I leave used drinking glasses by the kitchen sink, just inches away from the dishwasher. It isn’t a big deal to me now. It wasn’t a big deal to me when I was married. But it was a big deal to her,” Fray wrote. “Every time she’d walk into the kitchen and find a drinking glass by the sink, she moved incrementally closer to moving out and ending our marriage. I just didn’t know it yet.”
His phrasing here may sound a touch dramatic, sure — at least at first. But Fray then goes on to unpack, refreshingly, where exactly he was culpable in this dirty dish situation — and his findings are ones that many a married person today could likely stand to benefit from reading.
“I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time… I always reasoned: ‘If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it,’” he recalled. “But she didn’t want to be my mother. She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household. She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management. I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.”
While Fray adds that a “dirty glass is not more important than marital peace,” since his divorce, he’s come to understand that the arguments with his partner were never actually about dirty dishes — they were about a perceived lack of respect, acknowledgement, and love. And, we mean — no kidding! Isn't that what's really at the root of most moments of interpersonal conflict, relationship dynamic aside? Read his full post here.