Apologies to all of the die hard fans of Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, but I’m about to paraphrase and potentially misquote one of your favourite films because I’m fed up of having those “I want you to want to do the dishes.” from The Break Up moments.
Now I’m not naive enough to believe that when a woman says she wants her partner to want to do the dishes, that she actually wants them to want to do the dishes. She more likely wants him to want to do something to show her that he isn’t taking her for granted and that they are in a partnership, sharing the chores equally because looking after the house isn’t her role…or something. I think Jennifer Aniston is trying to say that doing something you don’t particularly want to do, for the person you love, shows that not only do you appreciate them but you’re willing to do something you really can’t stand just to please them. So in a sense the man isn’t wanting to do the dishes, he’s wanting to please the woman. Any women reading this can correct me if I’m way off the mark; I’m trying to understand but struggle significantly with the female psyche.
Taking this on board, whenever my wife is out, I try do those things that I really don’t want to do – or don’t feel need doing – just to please her and demonstrate to her that I care about how she views the household and that even though I disagree with the standards, I’ll try to maintain them. It’s only fair. She works hard all day with the kids and the house, and now with part time work on top, so while she is out the least I could do is contribute to making the house exactly the way she wants it to be. I should caveat at this point that compromise in our house always seems to be me trying to reach her lofty standards rather than her lowering hers to mine, or meeting somewhere in the middle. Anyway, I’ll do whatever I feel needs doing, and some of those things that I know she likes to be done, get the house smelling nice and looking tidy for when she walks through the door.
Now I’m not expecting her to walk through the door with the same face as kids coming down the stairs on Christmas Day, but I would like a little recognition that I’ve clearly thought and cared enough to do those things that I don’t agree need doing, simply for her, but all I generally get is a series of harumphs and sharp exhales. The focus is always on the negatives of what has been done, “Why have you moved that photo frame?!” “Why is the vacuum not where I left it?!” “Why have you folded the washing that way?!” “Why have you put the shopping in the fridge that way?!”
I know I don’t always do a great job, but I do try. I do things I don’t particularly like to try to show that I care and that I’m trying to not take her for granted, but all I tend to get is grief. It’s no wonder then, that I’m reluctant to try again next time, or the time after that. Now, to be clear, I’m not after a photo on Facebook or Twitter declaring how wonderful I am to the other social media wives and husbands in order to make them jealous – as seems to be the norm on my social media feeds – and some may say I should learn from my mistakes and stop making them, but the bottom line is I tried. How often in work, or in sports, or with a personal trainer, or in general life have you worked hard, or gone out of your comfort zone, just to do what’s required of you and not got any recognition because it’s what’s expected of you? But how positive and motivated have you felt when your boss, coach, or trainer has given you a metaphorical (or maybe literal) pat on the backside and said “good job, thank you”?
Maybe next time when I’m criticised for never doing anything to help around the house, I can just put on The Break Up and say, “See, I did what Jennifer Aniston wanted Vince Vaughan to do, and even that’s not good enough for you!”