Do The Dishes

August 25, 2011  |   Posted by :   |   Articles   |   0 Comment»

By Avnish Sabharwal

In relationships I often see women having the same conversation with their men, and hoping that this will finally be the time that they get what they want…or that their men are finally aggravated enough to change.
This may be based in some expectation of how a romantic relationship “should” look.  As a man consider the opportunity to be curious.  What does your partner actually want?  Is there a need that’s going unmet?
As an example, I typically let the dishes pile up and then do them when I have to eat with my hands.  My partner and I for years have had the conversation about how she likes the dishes put away immediately and we would diagnose “why” I don’t do them or she would resign herself to doing them herself since it doesn’t seem to bother me.
After years of this, what made the difference is a conversation we had that wasn’t based in the past.  I asked her what makes her so happy about me doing the dishes each night and she told me that she feels really cared for.  So, now I was enrolled in showing my love through doing the dishes – there was a new relationship I had now with doing the dishes.  And it was actually giving me power in my life through fulfilling on a promise each night.
But that wasn’t enough – I actually had to look to the future to see what kind of structures I needed to actually keep this habit in place.  So I was honest about needing to be reminded each evening and not being allowed to go to bed without the sink being empty for 30 days.  I gave my girlfriend permission to hold me accountable and told her that some nights I would complain and want to sleep, but that she could still remind me of my commitment and I wouldn’t hold any of it on her. 
As small as doing the dishes may seem, the experience created an opening for my partner and I to communicate in a more effective way.  It allowed me to change in a way that was a win for me instead of having it be another thing I wasn’t doing or something I was wrong about.
The lesson: 1. Being less bad is not likely to create motivation for change – have the real value of your new action be present consistently; 2. Create structures sufficient to your resistance – don’t expect your habits to change with insufficient support to make that happen or you will create a history of how you can’t change

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