My gf can't stand dirty dishes. Like, as in one single dirty dish in the sink. I have lived alone for many of my years, and I know about myself that I do not mind washing dishes. However, in my natural state, washing dishes for me is generally a once-a-day and as-needed sort of thing. If I need a bowl and our three (we own exactly three) bowls are dirty, I'll just wash the whole sink of dishes. If I'm getting a glass of water and I notice that I can't see the bottom of the sink, I'll wash the dishes.

Since my gf refuses to abide a single dirty dish, I rarely have a chance to wash dishes under my normal schedule. I have to literally stop her from washing dishes. We have a strange tit-for-tat where, sometimes, she'll say to me "come wash these dishes," and other times, I'll say to her "don't wash these dishes."

Obviously I could solve this by becoming fastidish-ious. OTOH, she could solve this by chilling out about the dishes. Also, I could half unchill and she could half chill out, and we could meet in the middle.

However, I'm convinced that there must be some solution that involves the both of us having to only minimally change our existing attitudes. One such (ridiculous) solution would be to have separate kitchens, with separate sinks, and separate dishes. Then nobody has to change. Thus, such a solution exists (although this particular one is infeasible for obvious reasons).

How can we eat our cake and have it, too?

  • A non-IPS approach: would using a dishwasher help, since the dirty dish would be out of sight? Or would your gf still want to wash it by hand because it's there?
    – Arsak
    May 18, 2018 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


If she can't stand, specifically, SEEING dirty dishes in the sink, maybe you could consider putting them "out of sight and out of mind". This worked for me in my bachelor days, when I could leave dishes for later and not freak out over a messy sink if someone stopped by. I had a fairly large opaque plastic bin with a sealed lid on the counter (about half the size of the sink) with soapy water, and all the dishes went there to pre-soak until I had the time and inclination to wash them. Then I would wash the bin and put in fresh soapy water for next time.

If she has a problem with the IDEA of having any dirty dishes in the house then some of the previous responses are probably more appropriate. You might consider offering to do the dishes after each sit-down meal, and let her handle all the in-betweens (snacks, coffee cups, or whatever) whenever she chooses. Then she can "refuse to abide a single dirty dish" without the "strange tit-for-tat".

  • This is the sort of no-compromise, have your cake and eat it too solution I was after. :)
    – Him
    May 18, 2018 at 18:32
  • 2
    Welcome to IPS SE! This is a well-written first answer and congrats on its being accepted; I had to wait a while before I got my first answer being accepted. I look forward to hearing more from you! Generally I also encourage new members to read through the help center (interpersonal.stackexchange.com/tour)... May 18, 2018 at 20:06

Surely your life is not so blissfully chore free that all there is in the world is dishes? Why not say that she will do all the dishes all the time, on her schedule, since she feels the need to do that anyway so as not to see them, and you will do all of something else - ideally something she doesn't like doing and you don't mind as much.

Notice the wording "don't mind". Nobody enjoys chores - dishes, lawnmowing, cleaning the toilet. That's why they are chores, not hobbies.

You want it to be a roughly-equal-sized chore, so putting the garbage out once a week probably is too small, and sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting away all the laundry probably is too big. It should also have a similar urgency level, for fairness. Vacuuming can always wait. Maybe wiping down all the counters and surfaces? Giving the kitchen floor a quick damp mop every day after dinner? Perhaps you could ask her how big a task she would need to be permanently exempted from in order to be ok with being the only dish-doer.

The two of you can come up with something. This will serve you well for the sorts of chores that are hard to share or take turns at, which will only increase over time.

  • because nobody really wants to do dishes. She does the dishes because she can't stand seeing them there, but she does not enjoy the activity. Therefore "you do all the dishes and I'll..." is a no-go.
    – Him
    May 18, 2018 at 15:08
  • I would give her 2 options do all the dishes or shut up and let you do them once a day (but it has to be done every night before you go to bed not ad hoc). This was what I said to my husband do all the dishes or let me buy a dishwasher. We own a dishwasher. I wouldn't actually say that all the laundry is to big as there are only 2 of you, if the job only go upto sorting on the bed into "mine" and "yours"
    – WendyG
    May 18, 2018 at 16:03

Your challenge, which you have stated (although in not so many words) is a fundamental difference of opinion in how the dishes should be done. You have a more relaxed way of doing dishes; she is more intense about it.

You are right that there is a way to meet in the middle, and it involves you both giving ground. That doesn't mean you give ground completely, nor does it mean that she gives ground completely. I'd suggest that you both come up with an agreement on dishes - either a schedule, or decide on who is responsible for them. I did the second with my wife and that has worked out well - she hates dishes in the sink but since I do them, she knows that they aren't her problem and can grit her teeth and ignore them.

You can do that one of two ways: agree that on certain days, you will do dishes and on certain days she will do dishes. Agree that on those days, you will do ALL the dishes, irrespective of how many are in the sink. That will satisfy her that the sink will be clean at some point and can leave you the option of doing them at your pace.

My wife and I agreed that I would do dishes and she would do laundry. (She hates doing dishes; I don't mind it.) As part of our agreement, I don't tell her how to do laundry as long as I have clean clothes and she doesn't tell me how to do dishes as long as she has clean dishes. That has worked out well for both of us, although I think I may have come out ahead in that arrangement.

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