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Are You a Neatnik Married to a Slob?

This can be a real problem. Do you feel angry and frustrated and even desperate? You may even be considering divorce because you feel so unable to live with a person who makes constant messes and can’t even see them. Then you get criticized for being critical, etc. Here are some things that may help your situation…

First of all, even though you have told your spouse over and over what you want from him/her, your spouse may not change – not because (s)he doesn’t care — but because as far as (s)he is concerned you are speaking an unintelligible language. (S)he doesn’t see the mess. Yes, I know that seems unbelievable, but in many cases it is absolutely true. Do I mean (s)he can’t see the sink full of dishes when (s)he puts her cup on the counter because there is no room in the sink? Do I mean (s)he can’t see the garbage overflowing from the garbage can when (s)he trips over stray garbage that was thrown in the vicinity of the can? Do I mean (s)he can’t see her underwear on the table when she eats breakfast???

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

It is incredible to people who can see the mess that other people can’t see it, but there are people who are very disconnected from their environment for various reasons. They don’t see it and they don’t know why you are so upset – which generally makes you even more upset. But really understanding that your spouse is not doing this to you will help you navigate through this problem.

After you digest that incredible bit of information, consider the following:

  • If you require order for your brain to function, carve out a space in your house (it could just be your sock drawer) that has the order you crave. This is your area that others are not allowed in. This may provide you with a little breathing room, and allow you to calm down. Explain to your spouse that you are weird and you need your very own desk, drawer, etc. (Yes, I know – (s)he’s weird. Imagine not being able to see the garbage when you are tripping over it!!!) But a little humility never hurt anyone.
  • Now, set about removing as much clutter as you can from your house. Please resist the temptation to move to a bigger house, thinking that will take care of your clutter problem. It will only give you more room to collect more clutter. I know this is not “fair”, but if you think long and hard, you may realize you have some kind of fault your spouse has to endure. Even if you don’t, this pain and sacrifice will make you a better person, AND it will make your house function better, too. Don’t try to declutter your house all in one day. Just do it as your energy and schedule allow.

I know you might be mad at me for telling you (and not your piggy spouse) to declutter, so I’m going to wait for just a moment before I give you the big kicker. Hmmmmmm,mmmmmmm,mmmmmm. Ok, ready?

  • Start thanking your spouse anytime (s)he does any housework at all. (I’ll wait until you calm down. …… I know it’s not fair and is absolutely ridiculous. No, I really do.) There is a reason for doing this. It will help him/her to have a positive experience with housework, and will encourage him/her to do more.  It’s hard not to get frustrated when (s)he only took out half the garbage, and left the other half on the floor, but we’re going for a long term change here.

Establish simple routines in your house to keep it running smoothly. Make them as easy and straightforward as possible. (Lay out your clothes the night before. Empty the dishwasher before you go to bed.) If housecleaning is basic and simple, and if you train yourself to appreciate your spouse’s efforts, especially in the beginning when (s)he is in unchartered territory, you will have a lot more help with the housework. I have to tell you though, to be patient.  This will take a little time. Take care of yourself during this process. It’s not easy! But I know you can do this, and your life and situation will change. Your spouse may never be as attuned to the environment as you are, but if you married yourself, one of you wouldn’t be necessary!