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The Care Bear Stare (and More About Dishes)

Earlier this week I aired our dirty dishes with you (and this morning, my hubby left a dirty coffee cup and bowl on the counter again – go figure!)

I’ve heard from several of you that dirty dishes/the dishwasher is a source of strife in your household as well. There’s something about that dishwasher, isn’t there!

Today, I want to offer a tool that will help as you navigate your dishwasher drama.

First of all, recognize that you have options: you get to decide what dirty dishes mean to you.

As I shared yesterday, I’ve decided that: Dirty dish ≠ disrespect. I honestly don’t mind putting a few additional dishes in the dishwasher – so I’m moving on. But if YOUR dishwasher drama isn’t something you want to let go of, you still have options.

You can set a boundary. A boundary is simply a request + a consequence.

A request is an ask – something like “please put your dishes in the dishwasher” or “don’t use that tone of voice when speaking with me”, or “I would like a salary raise.”

A consequence is the action that YOU will take if the request is not met. Something like “I will leave the dishes where I found them” or “… I will leave the room” or “I will accept a different job offer”. The consequence needs to be something that is in your control, so it cannot be focused on the other person (e.g. a consequence cannot be “you will have to leave the room” – because we don’t get to decide what other people do!)

A boundary, therefore is request + consequence. “Please put your dishes in the dishwasher or I will leave them where I found them and they may attract flies” or “Don’t use that tone of voice when speaking with me or I will leave the room” or “I will accept a different job offer if you cannot give me a salary raise”.

Boundaries must be set from a place of peace and love – not from spite, anger, or resentment. When setting a boundary from love, you have minimal emotional attachment to the outcome. Adults have free will and the other person may or may not honor your boundary – that is out of your control. Your role is to set a kind and loving boundary and the other person gets to decide how they’ll react.

We’ll contrast boundaries with demands. I think of demands as toddler-style angry negotiation – DO THIS OR ELSE! You may have a full-on tantrum if the demand is not met. (Demanding is what I used to do about our dirty dishes issue – “Why can’t you ever put your dirty dishes into the dishwasher? What is wrong with you? I am done putting your dishes into the dishwasher!”)

When you make a demand, you have tremendous emotion tied to the outcome. Demands end poorly, because you cannot control other people’s actions. When you have so much emotion tied to an outcome that is not within your control, you set yourself up for disappointment, anger, or resentment.

And those negative emotions only hurt you. No emotion can zoom out of your body like the Care Bear Stare (I’m a child of the 80s, and this is an amazing visual!) and affect another person. Your negative emotions only cause you pain. Replace your demands with boundaries.

I invite you to consider your dishwasher drama.

What are you making it mean? Is it true? Do you want to let it go?

Or do you want to set a kind and loving boundary (a request + a consequence) with the full awareness that the other person’s reaction is out of your control?

Remember, the Care Bear Stare works only in 1980s television, not in real life. Stop making demands and start setting boundaries.



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