For the first four years of our marriage, my wife Heather and I lived without a dishwasher. Dishes would pile up next to the sink, excuses would be made, ultimatums given and, in time, the dishes would be washed. I suppose we did 'technically' have a dishwasher, but Heather was excited to trade me in at some point for one of the newer, mechanical models.
We finally realized our dream three years ago when we moved into our current house. And a dishwasher truly was everything we hoped for.
And now it's broken.
We've made service calls, over the past few years, but we're sick of sinking money into the machine and have been resigned to handwashing over the past two weeks. Amazingly, Heather and I have both commented on how much we seem to enjoy the process now, and as I've reflected on the past two weeks of hand-washing, I can't help but feel our marriage and our selves have matured a little. So to think through that, here are five observations I've made about marriage from our broken dishwasher:
1. Better Together
Prior to The Broken Dishwasher, dishes were very much a solo task - something we would each simply hope the other person would tackle. We've spent more time washing the dishes together this go-around and I'm reminded just how precious every moment with my wife truly is.
2. Media Freedom (unless you don't want to be free)
Soapy fingers and phone screens don't mix well, so washing the dishes with Heather pretty much means I'm required to talk to her. And that has not been a bad thing at all.
At the same time, when Heather's been otherwise engaged, I've found that washing dishes while watching sports on my phone or a TV show has been a good use of my time.
3. As You Go
Heather and I have both found the joy and satisfaction in tackling smaller amounts of dishes throughout the day. Heather often washes the dishes in the late afternoon, and then I put them away and wash the remainder after the kids go to sleep. The loads are lighter, the time commitment less, and more than anything, the momentum needed to tackle the project is smaller.
Putting chores off and trying to tackle them when they seem insurmountable is a good way to not get things done.
Tell that to the laundry.
4. Don't Set Standards for Dumb Things
This one is going to sound insane, but Heather and I actually went to marriage counseling because I thought my wife didn't stack the dishes correctly in the drainer. She thought I was crazy (I was). In my mind, she wasn't being efficient, and I kept trying to help her see she could fit two extra cups in the rack if she just turned the plates a little. She didn't care, and felt I was being hyper-critical and elitist (again, I was).
The pivotal moment came when the counselor looked at me and simply said, "David, just cut it out." To my credit I listened, and things got better.
A few extra years of marriage under our belt, and I have successfully shed the burden of feeling like I need to criticize, improve or increase my wife's efficiency. She's welcome to stack those dishes however she chooses (and she does).
5. Find Satisfaction in Completion
We face a choice, when we look at a project, to judge it by the amount of work needed to complete it, or by the satisfaction we'll receive once we do complete it. Three years is hardly a long while, but I feel the latter is becoming easier - I see a pile of dishes as a challenge to be accomplished, and more so, but an accomplishment that will make my wife smile.
My prayer is simply going to be this: As the years of our marriage go by, Lord, let the reward that is my wife's smile only grow.