Taken for Granted

Dirty dishesSunday evening. We are getting the house ready for our cleaning lady the next day. Can’t let her see what the place looks like after we spent the weekend at home. Jeff just finished washing the dishes and has stacked them on the counter. Now the strange thing happens. Instead of grabbing a dishtowel to help me dry, he grabs his book without a word and disappears upstairs to the bedroom.

How typical of him to leave me to finish the kitchen. I know he hates drying dishes, but that’s no way to treat your husband. At the very least he could have asked: “Honey, are you okay finishing this by yourself?” But no! Without comment he just leaves me to it. Of course there are other things to take care of and I haven’t even started to get my own stuff ready for Monday. Thoughts like that are building up steam in my head as I whirl from counter to cupboard, trying to create a semblance of order in this domestic mess.

“I’ll show him,” I am thinking, by now thoroughly pissed with his thoughtlessness. Not only will I clean up the kitchen, but I will also make our regular breakfast oatmeal not only for me, but also for him. This will shame him for sure and will give me more time to build the case against him. Even when he takes me for granted, I work selflessly for a better life for us. I don’t just walk away from our commitments because I don’t feel like doing the dishes and want to curl up in bed with my book.

For a moment I consider keeping the suffering to myself and to just strafe him with icy silence when I get upstairs. But wait, he is so much better at not talking than I am. Darn. That won’t work. No, I will let him have it. Cleaning up the house is a shared responsibility and he just can’t leave it to me. Just for once I will tell him exactly how I feel. This plan firm in my mind and the kitchen by now organized and clean enough like an OR to satisfy the most anal retentive surgeon, I climb the stairs.

On the top landing I expect to see Jeff snuggled into bed, or even already dozed off. I’m stopped cold in my path of righteous wrath by the sight of my husband just finishing putting fresh sheets on our bed. A task he dislikes possibly even more than drying dishes. A task I usually do, but haven’t done today. I stand there, opening and closing my mouth without sound, while frantically trying to regroup. “You just don’t care,” suddenly isn’t an option anymore. I settle for “Why did you leave me like that?” my tone suggesting year-long abandonment on a desert island instead of ten minutes on the first floor of our suburban home.

Jeff’s face shows concern that his usually fairly stable husband has lost it this time for good. I stumble through an emotional recounting of my inner turmoil. This isn’t contributing to domestic tranquility. Jeff is tired, in a bad mood since he had to change the sheets, and really not ready for a lengthy exploration of our relationship dynamic. In the end we settle on: “We can be pretty stupid. Don’t you think?” and share a chuckle. I’m glad to realize yet again that the Jeff in my bed is a much better man than the one I sometimes carry in my head. We turn off the lights, spoon like every night and end the day with a whispered: “Good night! I love you.”

Just like any Sunday night.

This article was first published at Frontiers LA.

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