Neighbors, dishes, happy marriages

Chuck Tabor - Contributing columnist

One of the greatest joys we have experienced since our move to Florida has been getting to know our neighbors. We see them almost every day. We converse with them on a regular basis. We play golf with them. We regularly eat meals with them.

We have laughed with them. We have cried with them. Just this week, we stood out in the middle of the street at midnight looking at the “Super Blood Moon” with them.

These people are our friends. We all hail from someplace different. We have neighbors from Kentucky, Utah, Colorado, West Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and yes, Ohio (even as close as Chillicothe!).

They also come from places as far away as Canada, and South Africa. We have found in all of them something we enjoy and something we value – friendship.

Now don’t get me wrong, we had the same situation when we lived locally. But what we discovered then and there was that we, along with every one of our neighbors, were so busy with “life” that none of us had much opportunity to even think about visiting too much with each other. And that is sad.

But since we have been here, we have discovered that most, if not all, of our neighbors find themselves in similar situations. They have a lot of time on their hands – time they do not know what to do with.

And for many of them, they wake up each and every morning and find themselves sharing their home, their meals, their days – all 24 hours of them, with the same individual they have lived with for many years, and they are scared!

In the past they have been able to separate at least for a part of the day, going to work, school or somewhere! But now, as one of my neighbors has shared with me, they feel “trapped!”

My bride and I are burdened for these folks. They are under the same roof together – have been for many years — but are not very happy.

How can we help?

I believe there is a simple, and quite frankly not very spiritual, solution to this dilemma. And it relates to something they face each and every day of their lives: Doing the dishes.

Every day, they slowly accumulate. Plates covered in sauces and crumbs. Forks, knives, and spoons all gummed with bits of this and that.

At the end of a long day of work, cooking, cleaning, and, for many, negotiating with small children, a couple has to face the big question: Who is going to do the dishes?

A report from the Council of Contemporary Families suggests that the answer to that question can have a significant impact on the health and longevity of a relationship.

It found that, for women it’s more important to share the responsibility of doing the dishes than any other chore. Women who wash the vast majority of the dishes report more relationship conflict, less relationship satisfaction, and even worse sex, than women with partners who help.

Women are happier about sharing dishwashing duties than sharing any other household task.

What is it about dishes? Dan Carlson, the lead author of the study, offers one possible reason: “Doing dishes is gross. There is old, moldy food sitting in the sink. If you have kids, there is curdled milk in sippy cups that smells disgusting.”

Couples who do share dishwashing responsibilities seem to have better relationships. According to Carlson, that’s because a couple can do dishes as a team.

When partners each handle some portion of the household tasks, they divide them in one of two ways. They either split the chores— “you cook Monday, I’ll cook Tuesday”—or they do them together, at the same time.

The nature of dishwashing encourages couples to stand in the kitchen together and work simultaneously until the job is done. That kind of teamwork, especially when practiced regularly, often makes partners feel more connected, ready to tackle the gross and the curdled, in and outside of the sink.

Every wedding I have performed – close to 500 in over 40 years of ministry — has included some reference to the fact that the Lord wants to be the center of that relationship.

Washing dishes together will help do things in the right way because it is a way in which husbands can show respect to their wives and demonstrate just how much they appreciate what their wives are doing. My bride and I have discovered this, even with the “modern” invention of the dishwasher!

The Scriptures tell us that “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1). I now tell couples – our neighbors included – that they can indeed have a happy marriage if they will even try to do the dishes together! It works!

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.

Chuck Tabor

Contributing columnist