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 ex wife was out, I tried to do those things that I really didn’t want to – or didn’t feel needed doing – just to please her and demonstrate to her that I cared about how she viewed the household and that even though I disagreed with the standards, I’d try to maintain them. It’s only fair. She worked hard all day with the kids and the house, and then compounded with part time work on top, I thought the least I could do was contribute to making the house exactly the way she wanted it to be. I should caveat at this point that compromise in our house always seemed to be me trying to reach her lofty standards rather than her lowering hers to mine, or meeting somewhere in the middle. Anyway, I’d do whatever I felt needed doing, and some of those things that I know she liked to be done, get the house smelling nice and looking tidy for when she walked through the door.
Now I wasn’t expecting her to walk through the door with the same face as kids coming down the stairs on Christmas Day, but I would have liked a little recognition that I’d clearly thought and cared enough to do those things that I didn’t agree needed doing, simply for her, but all I generally got was a series of harumphs and sharp exhales. The focus was always on the negatives of what had 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 didn’t always do a great job, but I did try. I did things I didn’t particularly like, just to try to show her that I cared and that I was trying not to take her for granted, but all I tended to get was grief. It’s no wonder then, that I was reluctant to try again the next time, or the time after that. Now, to be clear, I was 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”?
Clearly I never got the hang of it.