Funny, charming, kind man lives in domestic filth
I’ve started going out with a funny, charming, kind man who has a really unpleasant, untidy, dirty house, and his bedroom is the worst of all. He has tried to make an effort, but it’s still not great. We can’t always go back to mine. I like him, but find this off-putting. Should this be a deal breaker? >> Some people, myself included, find it harder than others to keep their house in order. It is often to do with the way we were brought up. My mother, for example, had a rather chaotic relationship with domesticity, and I, sadly, seem to have inherited it. I fantasise about living a Marie Kondo existence, but it doesn’t help.
What does help is living with a man who demands a degree of order from me, and I suspect you would find the same to be true if you and your boyfriend got together on a more permanent basis. Cohabitation requires you both to pull your weight, whereas right now his flat is his personal space so he can be as messy as he likes.
If you stay together you might have to accept that you will always have different benchmarks for what constitutes tidiness and that’s OK. Everyone is different and if we were all super-tidy, no one would ever experience the joy that comes from imposing order on chaos or finally sorting out your knicker drawer. Although you are not happy with his domestic situation, there is, at present, no real incentive for him to change. And if he has flatmates who are equally slovenly, he may feel that tidying up is a waste of time because they will only mess up the common parts again. He clearly tries to tidy the flat before you come round, but it doesn’t meet your high standards. As I’m sure you know, finding fault is not a fantastically effective way to increase motivation. How you communicate also determines whether or not you get listened to. Criticise too harshly and most people shut down, whereas if you adopt a softer tone, and approach your differences with good humour, you are much more likely to achieve the outcome you want.
In the honeymoon phase of a relationship we are generally blind to our partner’s faults, but as you get to know each other better, the rose-tinted glasses come off and you begin to see your partner for who they really are. At this point, the traits that gave a person “character” can begin to grate. Chatty becomes garrulous, careful becomes stingy and quiet becomes passive-aggressive. Because you haven’t been together very long, the fact that you are so turned off by his untidiness suggests an unwillingness to compromise on your part. If this man is kind and funny, and loving and attentive in bed, focus on those positives. Personally, I don’t know why you don’t just go back to yours any- way. It’s cleaner, nicer and means you don’t have to carry a toothbrush and a pair of pants in your handbag.
Although I am, admittedly, a little biased, I’d say that untidiness is an irritating habit, but in the greater scheme of things, a tolerable and improvable trait in a loved one. Educating your man about the rewards of tidiness might take time, but if you are a patient teacher he will learn. How you navigate this gap between your domestic standards is important because it indicates how you will manage other, potentially much more critical differences that crop up in your relationship in the future. I worry that you have chosen to interpret his untidiness as a personal insult and feel that if he valued you he would put the effort into making his environment nice, because I am pretty certain it has nothing to do with his feelings towards you.
Your lovely boyfriend may never be capable of communicating his love and respect through the medium of cleaning and if you remain so inflexible, this issue may end up becoming a dealbreaker. It is worth seeing whether your good example could affect his behaviour. Next time you go round to his, instead of getting cross, show him what you mean by clean and tidy. If you help him to make his place look really nice, he may like it so much that he chooses to keep it that way. If you end up living together this issue will become much easier to manage and if he is otherwise funny, charming and kind, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Please send your queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org
is an irritating habit, but in the greater scheme of things, a tolerable and improvable trait in a loved one