Blogs Sep 13, 2013 at 10:04 am


Not to mention that it is often so much easier to pick up after someone else than yourself.

When one partner starts asking the other to change, the best advice is to run as far and as fast as possible.
That advice is all well and good if 1) there's someone in the relationship who doesn't mind doing that work and 2) that's an appropriate balance of work in the relationship. Nobody in my marriage likes cleaning the house. I only do it now because I'm retired and the Shrub still works. Heck I'm thinking about un-retiring so I can pay someone to do it. Dusting? Ick. No. My advice would be to simply opt out of going to his house if it bothers you that much and tell him why or pick some of it up and ask him where to put it cause you don't want to ruin his stuff. That seems like a nice, subtle hint.
If the clothes on the floor bother her, than she should pick them up. She should not nag him about it.
Applying division of labor and comparative advantage to household tasks isn't sexist, it is sensible.

Sexism would be neglecting/undervaluing the tasks performed by women relative to the tasks performed by men.

In any case, the household chores negotiation need not begin until they live together. I tidied up after my husband when we were first dating, but cultivating a "not my problem" invisibility shield was much less hassle.
Think of it like a thermostat we all have our own settings with regards to such things as tidiness. These settings can and do change overtime and do adjust as a result of outside factors. Like the outside weather and the acceptable temperature inside your house. Ever notice that in the summer months a lot of folks will keep their house cooler then they ever would in the winter?

So ask yourself this, is he tidier when he is at your place then when he is at his? If he is, then he'll likely up his tidiness setting to something closer to yours if and when you start to cohabit. You'll still have to establish the baseline and make it easy for him to aid in maintaining it but he'll adjust.

If he is just as sloppy at your place as at his, you'll likely have a harder time of it.
If you want to feel like his mom, move in with him.
@4 If someone wants to live in squalor while they are single, that's on them (though I thought common courtesy dictated you pick up after yourself when the SO is coming over). If you're married or you're just living together, the solution is not "the most piggy person gets out of doing all the work by just waiting for the neat person to get fed up AND the neat person should just put up with the work being doubled because the piggy person can't be bothered to use the hamper."

Dan's solution is workable IF one person doesn't mind those kinds of jobs, AND generally if one person is not working outside the home or only working part time (stuff moving and bug killing take up a much smaller percentage of the time out of work than vacuuming, shopping, washing clothes etc). Otherwise, if both of you work and you can afford it, you hire someone to do some of the cleaning. If you can't afford it, you you find an equitable solution that takes into account people's preferences but also is fair to everyone's time, and that probably means taking on at least some tasks that you don't like and learning not to be "bad" at them.
I say hire a maid (or a manservant). If you're planning on moving in together eventually, put some of that money you save on rent into hiring someone to come by a couple times a week to deal with your filth. That way you won't resent him for cleaning up after his slovenly ass, and you don't have to pick up his skidmarked drawers.
This should be fun. There must be a vending machine around here somewhere that sells microwave popcorn.
This vagina club card carrying member agrees! Still, I'd be mildly tiff-ed if someone just assumed that was the arrangement without talking to me first. Kind of like a man might when a date assumes they'll pay for everything.
"why don't you come to my place tonight?"

if he starts to wonder why you never go over there, tell him you're too old to hang out in a dorm room.
@7 I doubt he's a champ in bed with his Mom. I clean up after my wife all the time. I don't feel like her Mom. She makes dinner every night and she doesn't feel like my Mom. People take on roles in relationships, some of them seem cheesy and cliche, some of them involve leather, imagination, and a reasonable pain tolerance. If everyone is in charge of doing their own cleaning, their own cooking, their own what-have-yous, then you have a room mate.
@8 Good advice. I just can't see myself hiring a housekeeper. It's just too embarrassing. Even being at my grandmother's when she had one over always made me feel horrible. Does anyone else have the same problem?

And I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but there's different schools of cleaning. If you live with someone who prescribes to a different notion of clean than you then prepare for much chaos. I've snapped repeatedly in my teenage years cause my father was a it isn't clean unless it smells like bleach/you can use Windex as air freshener/wet dishes in drawer kind of cleaner. And no, it wasn't laziness. He held firm beliefs on all of these things.
I'm with Dan. As the picker-upper and bathroom/kitchen-cleaner in my house [and the only one who works a full-time job], I'm with Dan.

While I take care of more than "my share" of tidying, my house-mates enrich my life in other ways, like affordable living, congenial atmosphere and and all the primo weed I want.

For me the trick is to do or not do, but never do with resentment.
@8: The solution also is not "The most finicky person gets to dictate the living conditions"--it looks like that's the most common assumption, and what Dan was pushing back against. "Taking everyone's preferences into account" too often means focusing only on ways to push both of them into the lifestyle that the only one of them wants.
People who are 41 are not going to change their housekeeping habits no matter what you do or say to them.
Housework is one of those things that is fraught with baggage from the 1970's (chore wheels, etc).

I like a clean house, and so does Mr. Vel-DuRay, so we both tend to be tidy. Even if he wasn't, I'd still be a picker-upper, because it's just not that big of a deal to me.

Plus, when I have a really knotty problem that I need to think on, I head to the broom closet, because for me there's no better way to contemplate something while doing something mindless like dusting, vacuuming, washing windows, etc.

As for people changing at an advanced age, Fnarf dear, I have to disagree. I hooked up with Mr. Vel-DuRay in my late 30's, and prior to that time I never made my bed. Now I make it every day because it's important to him. And I have to agree that it looks much nicer.
Indeed, it's not about having a 'fair balance" - that's complete BS - he is who he is, better be ready to accept him like he is, or take ownership and responsibility for the stuff you don't like/can't handle which means doing it yourself, because he's not going to change. If both parties are OK with and happy with whatever division of labor and imbalance exists, then it 's all good.

This was laugh out loud funny advice, and spot on.
Another vote against Fnarf on this one. When I lived alone, my apartment had a narrow path running through the strewn clothes and piles of hardware, with spurs leading to the closet and the stereo. I now maintain just a couple of minor debris piles atop my dresser and in a small corner of the bedroom. It requires only an occasional threat to keep me in line.
my wife and I have been married for nearly 22 years (makes me feel really old to write that). I'd like her to be on time and she'd like me to be neater. I am assuming that she would like to be on time, too, and I know I'd like to be neater. However, we are both idiots if we EXPECT the other to change.

If this is so imporant to the letter writer, she should not live with this guy unless she is willing to do the cleaning without resentment. Yes, he MIGHT change if they share a household. Well, no. He won't.
Dan, What does your husband think of your boyfriend's cock?
@22 Oooh, good grammar policing!
I'm with Ophian @15 "do or not do, but never do with resentment"

Don't expect people to change. Decide if you can live with them the way they are, with whatever extra chores that adds to your life, balanced against the chores-you-hate that they're happy to do for you. If that doesn't add up to a happy living situation, then you're not living-together compatible. Doesn't mean that you have to break up, but you might consider dating and not living together.
he, like so many straight men, is oblivious to his personal appearance.
That's the extraordinarily sexist suggestion... not the cleaning thing.
It looks like there's a follow-up from the LW in yesterday's Classic SLLOTD (the woman who was dating the Ayn Rand dude).…
Ophian @15: Exactly. And hey there, mon chapeau rose :)
@22, @23: In 2006, Terry was Dan's huzzz-band in Canada only. In America, Terry was still Dan's boyfriend, and Dan used to talk up the geographical difference all the time.
22, 23--At first I thought Dan and Terry married more recently than 2006, but I was wrong. They wed in Canada in 2005. Yup, that was an oops!
I'm with the housekeeper crowd, as well as a *little* compromise on both parts. She'll live with a mess of only dirty clothes *only* on the closet floor? He'll agree to put everything in the hamper and do all the wash if she puts it all away? Also, strategery. I am actually the guilty party about putting things in the hamper, so we installed 2. One in a hall closet very close to the bathroom and another in the bedroom. I now have little excuse for leaving things laying about for more than a few minutes, since I'm almost never more than 10 steps from a hamper in a changing-clothes or using-towels situation. He cheerfully picks up when I'm out of the comfort zone or get forgetful (I try, but, you know, if I come home a little tipsy, I may end up leaving my clothes on the bathroom floor).

@14...hire a housekeeper who comes when you're away (just make sure they're bonded and insured). I see my housekeeper maybe once a year when I'm forced to stay home and work on a cleaning day due to something that can't be done in the office/a coffee shop (very rare for morning hours, which is when my housekeeper usually comes). I write a check, leave it on the fridge, go sip a latte, and my house gets magically cleaned.
Eh, living with a roommate who has gotten progressively worse about not leaving crap (including literal trash) all over the fucking place, I'm going to hope JTIH didn't stay with hir (no gender identifier for the LW in the letter as published) boyfriend if ze didn't want to get stuck doing all the cleaning. Labor division that assigns domestic work to women isn't necessarily, intrinsically sexist, though in present USA society, it most often is sexist in practice. Personally, I'd love to find a woman who is able and willing to be the primary breadwinner in a household (and who is into me) so I could be the primary domestic laborer, but I certainly don't want to project my own preferences onto anyone else.
@18, "late 30s" is not 41. Everything is set in stone on your 41st birthday. You should have received a certificate.
There must be a vending machine around here somewhere that sells microwave popcorn.
Considering who the author of this post is, I guarantee there isn't.

Dr. Trophy Boyfriend hurls his laundry in the general direction of the hamper, but never makes it directly in -- and I prefer it that way. Gives me a chance to hang damp things up to dry so they don't molder, and look for stains or needed repairs.

Oddly, it's only when I have a basket of neatly folded clean laundry out that he manages to hit a receptacle.
The responsibility for cleaning always ends up falling on the shoulders of whomever is neater, because they are the only one who gives a shit.

I once had a girlfriend who was actually more of a slob than I, so I ended up picking shit up and/or nagging her do it. Now that I'm married to Martha Stewart, she's the one who wipes down the counters after every meal with lemon scented unicorn piss and/or nags me to do it.

Slobs are definitely educable, though. After many years and a variety of behavior modification programs (the most effective of which involved blow jobs), many of her wretched cleaning habits have embedded themselves in my brain.
@EricaP #24 I feel exactly like your short and effective post on this issue.
@Bequine: Your terminology is all wrong, which seems to have clouded your thinking.

The proper term for "piggy person" is "easy going, laid back person".

A "neat person" is more accurately referred to as "high maintenance, demanding, buzz-killing person."
@34 Do you force-feed lemon peel to the unicorn with some sort of foie gras auger? And do you or your wife have to shovel out the unicorn shit?
Agreed! I pick my husband's clothes off the floor and pay the bills. He cooks and shops. We both do cleaning/dishes/laundry. He takes out the trash. I breastfeed our son for free. We are happy all around!
@ScrawnyKayaker: God only knows the atrocities those unicorns endure in order to keep our kitchen sparkling and fresh.
Correction! Not your boyfriend anymore. Your HUSBAND. :)
Doing the bulk of the housework is fine *if* the other partner is willing to pitch in sometimes. The problem is, when it's a woman doing all the cleaning and a new-ish male partner doing all the mess-making, it's nearly impossible for the female partner to tell whether the male partner is refusing to clean because he's accepted they have an equitable dispersal of responsibilities in the relationship predicated on ability and circumstance instead of direct equality, or whether he's refusing to clean because he thinks it's "women's work" and he expects her to pick up after him.

The solution to this is for the male partner to be *willing* to pitch in when asked, even for tasks he doesn't normally take the responsibility for. "Sure, I don't mind doing the dishes tonight if you want me to" makes it clear he doesn't think the work is beneath him, even if it defaults to the female partner most of the time. Conversely, refusing to do *any* cleaning is a huge red flag, and a good sign he doesn't see his female partner's cleaning contributions as valuable to the relationship.
People are responding as if this is a married couple (well, maybe they are by now). But at the time of writing this letter, JTIH had only been seeing her bf for 4 months. They each had their own homes. I don't think she should start cleaning his apartment. She says she thinks "he'd be even finer than he is if he fixed his teeth and cleaned his house." Then she worries that he'll be offended if she tells him.

First of all, Dan brushes off the old, gross dental bridge, which for me, would be the far bigger turn off (I'm not putting my tongue anywhere near someone's clothing-strewn floor, but the inside of his mouth is another matter). But I think he also brushes off the worry about offending slobbo boyfriend, saying that a straight man is oblivious regarding his hygiene and the effect it may have on someone. I think that straight men are used to being considered slobs; in fact it's part of "bro culture." Perhaps he wouldn't be hurt at all by his gf's saying, "all this clutter distracts me and I'd like to focus on you and us, not the pile of stuff on the floor." If he sees it as contributing to more and better sex, he is likely to oblige her. (If they move in together, it's another story altogether: now she either turns into a nag or does the housework herself, or some combination of the two).

But I would worry about offending someone by telling him his teeth gross me out--and yet that would be something I couldn't overlook. I guess she could tell him what she told Dan: that she thinks he'd be even finer if he got that attended to. And then wait and see what happens.
I refuse to believe that Mr Miller is bad at moving things.

And I won't even comment about the financial arrangement.

But I'm willing to grant killing things. In total, not the best case that could have been made, but something.
I pick it up. I wash it. I put it in the hamper. I fold it and put it away. I shop. I cook. I mow. I wash the car. I make the bed and clean the toilet. I vacuum and dust. I write the relatives and make the dental appointments. I drive him to the dentist. I help him in and out of bed. I push his wheel chair all of Costco looking for that certain candy he likes. I listen to him tell the same stories for the 3,000th time. I tuck him in and hold his hand until he goes to sleep. Then I sit and watch over him in the dark. He's 90 and in hospice care. He rewards me with kisses. I love the guy.
Original letter writer is a whiny, controlling, uptight queen B.
Am I the only one who thinks it is perfectly reasonable for someone to nag their SO? Especially if the SO agrees that it would be better to have a clean house, but they are just too lazy to do it regularly without a little nagging. Relationships aren't just about co-habitating and dividing up money and housework - a good relationship will actually encourage you to be a better person or improve on areas where you need improving.

Anyway, in this case I think it is too early in the relationship to start nagging him constantly or to start picking up after him. However, I think you can gently mention the issues to him (both with the dental bridge and the cleaning) and see if he is over-sensitive to it or if he reacts like someone who is interested in self-improvement.

Even if Dan's not being sexist, a guy who thinks it is the woman's responsibility to clean up after him is sexist, and if you discover that he falls into that category then I vote DTMFA. Dan's response may be a little over-indulgent of people who are way too sensitive to criticism. I don't think you should silence yourself to spare your partner's feelings and I wouldn't want anyone to spare my feelings if they could help me improve, especially if they were suffering (bearing sole responsibility for housework) as a result of my laziness. If you mutually agree to divide up housework inequitably as a result of an income difference (or any other reason) like what Dan has, that's another story.
@seandr Love it !
Seperate homes. Then each person's habits in their own places.
@28 *smooch*
@44 aw....
@46 over the long term, routine nagging engenders bitterness & resentment on both sides. At least that's my experience.
@46: If you have an agreement on division of labor that your partner isn't honoring, then of course you have a right to protest. But sustained nagging begets sustained tuning-out if not sustained hostility. Either way, no good comes of it.
@49: mmmoahh!
I recommend keeping separate places; if the mess at his place is too much, meet at yours. Don't move in together though.
lolo & ophian - get a room! With a webcam, please.
@51 and in general: If I were with someone and their space was dirty I would tell them so. If they couldn't handle a little criticism, then they should man (or woman) up. I view nagging as something that's just going to happen in any long-term relationship.
@53: Ha!
@54: Some nagging in a LTR, yes. Sustained nagging in a LTR, no. Which is why a couple should come up with an agreement regarding the division of labor so all one has to say is "Hey- you agreed to this" rather than launch into a long harangue about the other's personal habits while you get more and more pissed and they get start engaging their internal mute button every time you address them.
Nope Dan.

This only works nicely if one person is a "stay at home wife". It's nice you personally can afford one, but lots of people can't. If the woman in question has a job, while the hell should she pull a second shift when she gets home (do you realize that cleaning is work, right? And women are entitled to resting at night like everyone else?), while the man puts his feet up?

Pulling a second shift is a reason - empirically established - that woman do not get ahead in the world of work. Household chores prevent them from staying late at work, from working on the weekend. Household chores exhaust them and focus their energy on the house instead of at work. All the while the man is not incurring any of these penalties.

Because of this division of labor that still persists - this is why we see fewer women politicians, lawyers, doctors, and professors, because they cannot find a way to put in the extra hours required for these jobs while picking up after their families.

What would your conversations about housework have looked like if your husband had career aspirations? Or would you only have married him if he didn't, so that he could be around to take care of the house for you.

On the other hand, I can just say that its ok that he doesn't want to do it. And its ok if she dumps him because she doesn't want to live with a child.

But you knew that already, right? You're just posting this to troll all the women of the world that are trying to have jobs and families? By telling them to do the work anyway? Or telling them they have to choose between having babies or families and having a career... while the men of the world - like YOU - get to have both and have to sacrifice nothing?
@56 people with two careers can share the cost of childcare and housework, and then live with the level of childcare & housework they can afford / provide themselves. I just think it's best not to go into a relationship assuming you can change the other person to have your values.
@56: Whoa. Who said Dan didn't sacrifice anything? Who said Terry sacrificed everything? You're making quite a few baseless assumptions.
I know quite a few men who work full time and still do a lot of the household chores even if their partner is a stay-at-home mom or works only part-time. It depends on the relationship and the partners.
I like Dan's answer, but there's no doubt that cleaning is a tough nut. I don't like it, my wife doesn't like it, she does most of it. I work and do a lot of the childcare, and I expect her to do the housework. Problem is that she doesn't like the housework (whereas I like my job and doing child stuff), hence there are problems. I get annoyed because housework isn't that hard - with mod cons it's about 4 hours a day (cooking two meals, shopping, cleaning). She gets annoyed because those 4 hours really drag for her. Don't think there will ever be a solution to this one.
You expect her to do the housework?! Did she have a say in that division of labour or was that a uni-lateral decision by you?
The solution would be that one day she does the housework and you the child-care, and the next day you'd do the housework and she did the child-care. You know, alternating the stuff that neither of you likes to do...

PS: That would be true also if she stays at home and you are the sole breadwinner.
Oy, Dan. I understand that your arrangement with Terry works. But you don't have all the historical baggage that women have with housework. Even if women don't want it to, it still means something different when a woman takes primary responsibility for chores.

I have no solution for these people, but, Dan. I think you know this now, but your experience does not represent the entirety of truth. If you had to write this again today I think you would write it differently.
@62: His advice works if it works. It isn't really about gender roles, it is about whether this relationship will work for her. She can't deal with the mess and he is probably not going to stop being messy (at least over the long term). She can wait for him to change and probably resent him, she can just do it herself, or she can leave him if neither are acceptable. But is seems like a price most people (men and women) would be willing to pay for an otherwise perfect relationship.

Now, if he were messy because he expected some woman to marry him and take care of it, that would be different. That would pose a troubling question about how he viewed relationships. But this doesn't sound like that. And picking up things off of the floor is not "primary responsibility for the chores" it is just one thing. He can still do dishes, taxes, maintenance, vacuuming, dusting, yardwork, etc, etc. Dan was pretty clear that his suggestion was in the context of shared responsibility for chores, if you read it again.

What do you need? How will he—how does he—take care of you? Does he cook? Does he fix your car? Does he do your taxes? Does he knit you sweaters? If there's some semblance of balance, if there's cheerful reciprocity, then why not do his damn laundry?

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