Is John Gray right about men not washing dishes? What do you think?

John Gray, author of Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus, says wives should wash the dishes even though they do the cooking. I think he makes some excellent points in his book, but I disagree with him on this one.

John explained to me when we chatted at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, that men should be able to retreat to their den to unwind after dinner. Women keep finding ways to occupy themselves with tasks nearly all the time anyway, because this is their nature. So if they don’t do dishes they’ll be working at something else.

In my experience, John Gray is correct in generalizing about women being more likely to be busying themselves doing something constructive more of the time than men who are prone to kick back for long periods of time in front of a TV, newspaper or book.

But if the wife would rather be working on the computer or doing some other task than cleaning up in the kitchen, she will appreciate her husband for handling that job. The arrangement will feel fair and she will feel happier and nicely supported by him.

I think it’s about her being able to choose how she spends her time rather than about her being expected to do dishes after she’s already knocked herself out preparing/cooking a nice meal.

Besides, if instead of feeling exhausted physically and emotionally from from cooking and cleaning up afterwards, a wife who experiences her husband as loving and caring will have more energy to be a loving, intimate partner.

What do you think?


  1. Alia Ramer says:

    When my husband and I were childless (and therefore both working) the rule was whoever didn’t cook washed the dishes. But after we had children, and I stopped working outside the home, he stopped helping with the cleanup after dinner.
    It’s been a bone of contention, still after many years. I don’t work outside of the home, but I still would like a little help every now and again, even if I do the dishes most nights.

    • I am glad you wrote about this. Many wives, and husbands too, can benefit from learning how to deal with this type of challenge.

      Here is how to have a good discussion to resolve the issue in a way that works for both of you.

      First, try to understand where your husband is coming from. Did he grow up seeing his mother handling all the cooking and clean-up? If so, he may unconsciously expect you to do the same once children come along.

      Assume that your husband wants you to be happy. Your job is to help him. Tell him what you want in a way that makes it easy for him to be supportive. Choose a time when you are both feeling calm, receptive, and accepting, such as during a Marriage Meeting after you’ve established a pattern of successful meetings. Or discuss the topic when it feels right for both of you.

      If you don’t know who did the cooking and cleaning up in his childhood home, ask him. Try to understand why he thinks he should no longer do the clean up. Once you hear his response, tell him gently what you’ve heard him say. Once he feels understood by you, he is likely to be more open to hearing how you would like things to be.

      Then tell him what would make you happy. It takes some effort to change an entrenched habit. So start by asking him to do the clean up on a particular night, just to give you a break, say tonight or tomorrow night, whichever he prefers. When he says okay, make sure to express your appreciation.

      After he does the clean up, tell him sincerely how much you love and appreciate him for being so thoughtful and responsible. If “every now and then” means once a week to you, ask him in the same way once a week to please do the clean-up (or some of the clean up if you want to start slowly), and keep your appreciation comments flowing. After a while, you can encourage him to take care of the clean up on a regular schedule, say on Wednesdays or Sundays; whatever works best for the two of you.

      As you don’t mention the age of the children, I wonder whether you are training them to help in ways appropriate for their ages, such as by putting out napkins, setting the table, clearing dishes from it and so on. That would be good for all of you.

      After you try the above approach, I expect you will be pleased with the results. Please let me know.

  2. I appreciate your viewpoint on creating a truly supportive relationship. Like you, I too appreciate John Gray’s work, but I think it is dangerous to stereotype. If we truly value each other as people, we recognize that everyone has strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. When we honestly discuss these, it isn’t hard to come to a loving solution that serves all concerned.

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