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Different Standards

Renata wrote:

I have a partner who is wonderful in many ways – he’s funny, intelligent, multitalented, generous and dynamic. However, his slovenly habits are driving me to distraction. I am out of the house for fifty hours a week, and on my day off I clean the house from top to bottom and do all the washing etc. In the evenings when I come home I am usually too tired to do any major chores, but when I do get home, the house looks as though a bomb has hit it. He has Thursday afternoon, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off and rarely, if ever, does a single thing around the house. He drops his clothes anywhere and everywhere, leaves everything he uses out, uses the floor when the ashtray is full (well, almost), leaves cupboard doors open, leaves lights on during the day, forgets to turn the oven off after cooking, etc etc.

We have spoken about this on many occasions and he always promises to help more but never does. He doesn’t see that having a tidy home is important to me, he just says it doesn’t matter. I’m not obsessively houseproud or clinically clean but I do like things to be generally tidy. I feel it is important for our son as well, in that it sets him a good example and gives him a nice environment to live in, but unfortunately he seems to be following in his dad’s footsteps so I usually end up with two trails of chaos to tidy up on a daily basis. I feel disrespected and uncared for I suppose.

I am at my wit’s end, it’s getting to the point where I don’t want to come home because I know what I’ve got to face after a 9 hour shift being on my feet all day.

My partner has got several projects on the go aside from having a full-time job (he works 3 twelve hour shifts mon-wed then thur morning) he spends all his spare time on his projects and I know he is an obsessive person and a very hard worker but he just won’t compromise. I’ve tried to tell him that he’s stealing my time by not doing a few little things around the house during his time off (all I asked of him is to spare 20 minutes on his days off to tidy up, put some washing in the machine and perhaps hoover) but he keeps saying that he forgot or we ran out of washing powder.

Am I being too picky or should I take a leaf out of his book and tell myself it doesn’t matter? Or should I be tougher and go on strike? (This has crossed my mind a number of times!) Should I get a cleaner in?

I would be very grateful for your comments as I feel an objective viewpoint would help enormously.

Dear Renata

The trouble is, you've allowed this to go on for way too long.

You don't say how old your son is, but if he's old enough for his untidyness to hurt, we're talking a good few years.

So why now? Has it got worse? Have your standards got tighter? Or is the truth that there are now other issues, and while you used to put up with it because he was the world, that's no longer true?

In marriage, the visible problem is rarely the one that needs fixing; I'm guessing in your partnership the lack of respect is wider than just untidyness.

So what can you do? Well, it seems that you'd rather clear up behind them than leave it - but have you considered doing it with them? A bit of joint activity sounds like it might be quite therapeutic.

And if he won't go along with that, then I think you might consider counselling. There's a serious problem here, but it is not yet quite clear what that problem is.

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