Want a Partner, Be a Partner

All did not go according to plan yesterday (…stupid sheets).

I got a late start to my day, due to issues with my stomach and the bone-deep exhaustion that I’ve felt as of late (fricking COVID, and its lingering effects).

I didn’t get to the gym until after ten, and did a slightly extended cardio workout; so I returned home even more tired, and well past noon.

I walked into the kitchen, stared at the mountains (note the plural use of the word there) of dirty dishes… and felt a despair so deep, I convinced myself that I couldn’t possibly approach the task of washing them all. I thought, “Mitch let them pile up; Mitch can deal with it, as he promised to do.”

I sat in the recliner for a bit, chewed over the commitments I’d written about in yesterday’s post, and then got off my butt and started the dishes (cursing my husband — more than once — for allowing them to pile up the way he had).

Forget two sink-loads! Three hours — and five sink-loads — later (allowing for occasional fifteen minute breaks here and there), all of the dishes that were in the sink — and on the countertops — were washed, dried and put away. I scrubbed the shit out of both sides of the sink with Ajax, and was so worn-out that I had absolutely no anger left within me. I just felt proud of my accomplishment, and hoped that Mitch would appreciate the gesture.

It was four-thirty by the time I finished; so I opted to take a long, hot shower… and left changing the sheets for another day.

Captain Oblivious Risks Getting Throttled

(Side Note: Mitch has to walk through the kitchen to enter the rest of the house.)

Mitchell got home shortly after my shower, hugged me, sat down on the sofa and exclaimed, “You look utterly exhausted, Babe. What did you do today?”

Astonished is the only appropriate word to describe the way I felt about this comment. I scoffed and said, “Really?”

My husband gave me a quizzical look and said, “Yeah, really.”

“Why don’t you go back into the kitchen and look around, Honey.”

“Did you wash the dishes? Damn it, Cass. I told you I’d do that!”

To be fair, he did tell me he’d do that. He’s been telling me he’ll do it for more than a month — with absolutely no follow through.

“I know you did, but I figured it was easier for me to do them than to continue being angry at you for not doing them. I didn’t get to the pile of dishes on the floor near the stove, because I didn’t see them until I had finished the others; but I will.”

“No. Don’t do anything else in the kitchen. It’s just another damn thing you’ll resent me for.”

Surprisingly, I was able to keep myself from biting at this particular bait.

“Mitch, Honey, the stove still has to be cleaned, and other things still need to be handled. I’m trying to help, to create an environment in which we’re less stressed out.” At this, my husband heaved a sigh while rolling his eyes.

I responded with, “Don’t worry, I didn’t throw out any of the Tupperware this time. Moldy and disgusting as it was, I just washed it until it was clean.”

This has been a sticking point for us in the past. I throw out anything that has started to sprout mold; and Mitch has a hissy-fit because it then has to be replaced.

“You could have just thrown it out. It’s all cheap.”

“Aya, Babe. In the past, you’ve thrown a fit when I do that.”

“Was there a lot of mold?”

“Yep. At one point, near the bottom of the pile, the smell was so bad that it made Tocho [our dog] gag. Honestly? That part cracked me up.”

Truth! It made me laugh so hard, I had tears in my eyes.

Mitchell sighed again and said, “Just… don’t do anything else in the kitchen, okay? I’ll handle it.”

At this, I just smiled. If he does handle it over the weekend, great. If he doesn’t, I’ll tackle it while he’s at work next week. Why? Because I felt so much more peaceful today when I walked into the kitchen that the relief was palpable… versus walking into the kitchen, and simmering with anger towards my husband.

A couple of hours later — after we’d eaten dinner — Mitch said, “Thank you, Babe… for everything you do around here. You had a really productive week, and I appreciate it.”

And this morning? When I walked into the kitchen? Mitch had already washed the dishes used last night. Progress, not perfection!

Using a Different Lens vs. Building Resentment

I know that my well-intentioned, but deeply procrastinating, spouse means well when he promises to do something. I also recognize that he is utterly exhausted at this particular moment in our lives; and sometimes just doesn’t have the energy to follow through.

Mitchell is the sole earner in our home, and the designated chef (because I stick tin cans in the microwave without thinking, and have literally set the kitchen on fire more than once — a trait that amuses both my husband and my son, to no end 🤦🏻‍♀️).

When my mental health issues send me into a spiral, Mitch is the one who patiently pulls me out of it… often obtaining a few mental bruises along the way.

He’s supporting my efforts at the university with unbridled enthusiasm; and he’s always willing to take a drive around town when I need space.

Mitchell makes all of the grocery and errand runs in the summer months, because I just can’t deal with the extreme heat of the Sonoran Desert. It increases my chances of having a seizure and/or migraine; and Mitchell recognizes this with unconditional kindness.

So rather than focusing on what my husband isn’t doing (i.e. “Goddam it all to hell, look at this sink full of dirty dishes! Why are the weeds so out of control?! Damn it, Mitch!”) I have decided to focus on what he does do.

I’m toying with the idea that if I lead, he’ll follow — and last night, he washed the dishes we used, so maybe it’s working. (And when it doesn’t, I still have my own two hands to work with.)

The Moral of the Story

It’s taken me a long time to get to this point — a point where I can honestly see things through my husband’s eyes, instead of making it all about me. (Though I’m certain we’ll still struggle with this issue, because it’s a recurring theme in our marriage… but I’m working on it.)

Usually, I would feel resentment for being forced to take on my husband’s share of the chores. I would’ve made a snarky, snarling comment like, “Well, you weren’t going to f*ckin’ do it; so I had to, Buddy!”

But yesterday, when the thought to say something like that crossed my mind, I took a deep breath internally, and tried to show Mitch kindness instead; and surprisingly, that also helped me to reframe my perspective, leaving resentment out of it entirely.

It’s easier to act like an equal partner when you feel you have one… and while I have felt a bit abandoned in this realm for some time, it never occurred to me that Mitchell might also feel somewhat alone.

Taking up more of the mantle at home has provided comfort to my spouse — comfort that I can see on his face, and measure by the lessening arguments in our home.

Do I wish Mitch would do more around the house? Absolutely. Does Mitch wish that we had a second income, and an easier road to financial stability? I have no doubt.

But since neither of us has the fortitude — or the practical means — to fulfil those wishes at this time, we have to make do; and I am more than willing to do my part. (I just hope that I can keep it up!)

5 thoughts on “Want a Partner, Be a Partner

  1. Progress, not perfection. Absolutely!!! You both seemed to have handled that really well, I’m proud of you 😊
    Sometimes just having a cleaner environment really does reduce the stress and the resentment. (I say, as the clutter piles up around me causing me massive anxiety 😬)
    It’s so hard not to act out of resentment…and Damn! That snarky comment would have been the first thing out of my mouth if I ended up doing all that. Good for you, really.
    Progress…not perfection. Something I lived by for a long time. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    Liked by 1 person

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