Who knew that something so innocent in the center of our kitchen could cause such heated fellowship between two grown, moderately mature adults who happened to be united in marriage.

Words were shared, and then we went to bed angry.

The culprit? The correct positioning and location of a bowl within the dishwasher.

I wonder if the manufacturers should add this to their warning label.

Warning: Dishwasher may cause unwanted arguments and create poor attitudes towards individuals of the opposite sex of whom you are married to. It is best to load and unload dishes without your spouse in the room. For a breakdown in emotions and/or intimacy, see page 99.

Maybe then we would’ve known.

But ladies and gentlemen, this is not the first time this sneaky little kitchen aid has caused such a colorful discourse in our relationship.

Here’s the deal. My free spirit loads the dishwasher in what I call ‘freestyle’ mode. While I have a general idea of the ideal location to place dishes, I highly dislike rigidity and feel it is best to do what makes the most sense in the moment. This causes some dishes to be lopsided, layered, possibly even on the bottom shelf. I find that as long as the dish makes it into the dishwasher, all is well.

My husband’s stable, clear, analytic mind sees that there is a reason and position for every dish that enters the washing machine, and that the positioning is detrimental to the overall success and cleanliness of each participating dish that enters the wash.

I find his way boring. He finds my way lazy.

And so we argued.

I went to bed certain he was being hard on me. And I admittedly prayed that God would change his heart. And his dish-loading style.

What do you do when you and your spouse are caught in the difference trap? Or the right vs. wrong trap?

What I failed to do in that moment (and many others) is what I hope we all can get better at – recognize that differences are rooted in each of our strengths. My husband’s stability and predictability fueled his mindset that all dishes have ideal locations that produce the most effective results. My free spirit fueled the mindset that rules create limitations for fun and spontaneity. And although we usually appreciate each others strengths, we experience unresolved conflict when we focus on our differences instead of the reason for the differences – our strengths.

Conflict exists when two people have differences. This is not problematic in and of itself, and can be very healthy.

However, conflict becomes problematic when differences are viewed without the context of a person’s strengths. When we forget that our spouse brings their strengths into every project, conversation, decision, and dishwasher load, we shift from being on the same team to being on different teams. And we become each others’ enemies.

What are your spouse’s strengths? How do you see their strengths play out in how they handle everyday preferences? What can you do today to shift your mindset from seeing your spouse in opposition to celebrating that your spouse is different? After all, God wired your spouse differently. It’s up to you (and me) to make the choice in moments of conflict to remember the reason for the conflict and be thankful that they are so different.

What was the end of the dishwasher disagreement? The next morning I said that I’d put in extra effort to load the dishwasher with more intention, taking into consideration how strong he feels about the dishes. He smiled.

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