Funny, charm­ing, kind man lives in do­mes­tic filth

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health - Sex ad­vice with Suzi God­son

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: suzigod­son@mac.com

“Un­tidi­ness

is an ir­ri­tat­ing habit, but in the greater scheme of things, a tol­er­a­ble and im­prov­able trait in a loved one

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