The Laundry Chute: Getting Unstuck

When things get stuck in our marriages, getting unstuck is far more important than whose stuff it was that clogged things up in the first place.

One of the things I love about our new home is that it has a laundry chute. It’s so much more convenient than having to lug dirty clothes down to the basement all the time. The chute has an access not only on the second floor where our bedrooms are but on the first floor, too. It’s handy for taking care of kitchen linens—and for unclogging the chute.

Sometimes clothes get stuck. Either we try to put down too much at once or something catches on this one spot that we can’t quite reach in order to fix.

A few nights ago, Big Guy put his clothes into the chute from the second floor and we could hear that it didn’t go all the way down.

Being the mature people we are (<–sarcasm), we each blamed the other one. He said, “I know it wasn’t my stuff that got it stuck. I always put my clothes down one a time.” I said, “So do I, and I’m positive I heard my clothes land in the basement, so it must’ve been you.” I told him that it didn’t matter and that I’d take care of it the next day. (Seriously, this “I didn’t do it” thing is ridiculous. We both have a habit of defensiveness. Considering all the things I used to blame on my husband, I don’t blame him. As for me, there’s no excuse. It’s on my list of stuff to work on. It’s a long list.)

The next day I’d forgotten that we had a clogged laundry chute, not remembering until I tried to put a towel down. So there I was, with my arm extended as far as it could go and my ear squished against the wall, trying to grab at dirty clothes, grumbling about the fact that I was having to unclog the laundry chute (forgetting that I had said I would take care of it) and that I couldn’t reach anything at all.

So I trudged down to the first-floor access, kneeled on the floor, stuck my arm up as far as it could go, and finally grabbed onto something. It felt like the blouse I’d been wearing the day before. I tugged, but it was stubborn and I just couldn’t get a good grip. So I used my other hand. No luck. I went upstairs to see if I could jostle things around from up there using an unbent hanger. I went back to the first floor and tried again—and this time, the tugging worked.

I could feel my blouse loosen its grip and saw my husband’s t-shirt fly by. A wad of other clothes that had been jammed together began to slowly inch its way down—and then whoosh! all of our clothing from the previous night cascaded down past me. Mission accomplished!

When my husband got home and put his work shirt down the chute with no problem, he asked me . . . “So whose clothes were the problem?”

I went down to the basement to look, knowing what I would find. I sifted through the pile of clothes until I found our shirts from the day before.

Our shirts were so intertwined that it was impossible to tell whose clothing was responsible for the clog in the laundry chute. One person’s shirt had snagged, causing the other person’s shirt to get stuck and block everything above it. No matter whose shirt started the process, the other shirt followed and led to a huge backup.

Someone has to get their arms into the game and start tugging before things run freely again.


When a marriage is suffering, it can be easy to get caught up in pointing the finger of blame at the other person.

Who caused our problems? It’s impossible to tell, because pieces of life are so intertwined with each other. One person hits a snag. The other person gets stuck. Next thing you know, there’s a huge backup that gets in the way of the normal flow of married life.

No matter who hit the initial snag and who got stuck, somebody needs to start tugging until something comes loose.

It really doesn’t matter which one comes free first. If you’re frustrated by the problem, you might as well get yourself into the game.

Start tugging until you can grab onto anything at all. Ask questions. Try to approach things from different angles. Use a different position. Work to stretch your fingers just a bit further than you think they can go. Work from the back end by understanding the “why” of what’s going on. Work from the front end by addressing the words and actions you use today. If it’s about your own issues, work on them. If it’s about your husband’s issues, support him in his effort to improve–and remember that this kind of support might mean that you focus on his needs for a while in order for him to get healed enough to really focus on his own stuff.

Once you can finally grab onto something that you can work on, even if it’s a small thing, gently tug. As soon as you tug the first thing loose, something amazing happens: it creates a chain reaction where everything else can begin to inch its ways loose before approaching a normal rhythm. In marriage, it doesn’t happen as quickly as a whoosh! but it can happen nonetheless.

When things get stuck in our marriages, getting unstuck is far more important than whose stuff it was that clogged things up in the first place.

Don’t worry about who caused the first piece of the problem. Just grab onto something that is within your power to tug on and see what happens.

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5 Comments on “The Laundry Chute: Getting Unstuck”

  1. Absolutely true! Definitely need to work on this and remember. So many times I get frustrated with my husband being so short tempered that it makes me so upset and I get angry back. Then I get defensive and just make things worse. I try so hard to help make me and us better. Then when he gets short tempered about whatever I get upset that he doesn’t see all my hard work. I am working on all this and trying to help him through the process. We have our ups and downs and the downs are getting few and far between.

    1. Just like it takes one person saying something and another responding for an argument to start, it takes one person choosing not to say something or choosing not to respond to change the tone in a positive way.

  2. Love your analogies! You are right about the choice to respond. We are not obligated to attend every argument to which we are invited.

  3. Great Story! I’ve seen a repeating pattern with my in-laws and I really think this could help them. Whenever they get into an argument and it doesn’t get resolved right away… they both tend to go into silent treatment mode. They’ve gone 3-4 days without speaking to each other before. I once asked them if they remembered what they were fighting about, and it was over cheese being left on the counter instead of being put back in the fridge. Seriously?

    They are getting better about it, my wife and I have been working with her mother to speak her mind instead of going silent. Still a rough road ahead, but we’re making progress.

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