I like to visit relationship forums to give advice and share thoughts on marriage. I don’t know why, I think I like to make sure my marriage is on the right track and see what areas we can improve. It also helps to see how others manage their struggles and succeed. So far we’ve been able to avoid financial issues and dead bedrooms.
There is one reoccurring issue we have that I do see on the forums: the problem of having one spouse who cleans thoroughly and is obsessively clean versus the other who maybe isn’t as active on that front.
To name Jenny and Steve as an example. Jenny is great, she’s able to clean the whole house and maintain everything. She’s very organized but she so frustrated with her husband Steve. Steve is less detailed and often leaves cups out on the counter, always needs a reminder to put dishes in the dishwasher, forgets to take out the trash and leaves the laundry right outside the hamper. She’s tired of telling Steve what to do and wishes he could just take initiative himself.
The responses to that kind of question would usually sound something like:
“Your not his mother, he needs to clean after himself”
“Seek counseling, there a lack of communication”
“It’s not right he treats you like a slave, you’re both adults and he needs to act like one.”
In Steve’s defense, I am Steve.
I’m the more cluttered one in my marriage. My husband is constantly getting annoyed at my lack of organization, the fact that I’m not naturally disposed to being neat, and my worst offense, leaving my clothes inside out in the hamper. One of our biggest fights was over the state of my laundry. It was so bad, I needed to take the night away from home to cool down.
I like to think I’m not some sort of woman-child and that being an adult doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re hundred percent tidy all the time. I don’t believe that housework, chores, and cleaning should be the basis for marital fights let alone divorce and separation. And yet somehow it is.
You see I’m just not that type of personality that obsesses over every single piece of dust in the house, takes pleasure in emptying out the garbage or making sure the house is like a spread from Housekeepers Magazine. I don’t get excited going through the cleaning aisle deciding what to get that will be tough on grease. I’m not good at playing hostess and cleaning up after everyone at the party, and I’m definitely not great at cleaning every nook and cranny in my apartment.
My issue with cleaning goes way before I was married anyway. My mother was perfect at keeping a home. Everything had its place in the house and if you made a mess you would hear it and maybe even feel it from the slipper she used on us. I never understood why my parents stressed when they had to clean the house. As a child, all I wanted to do with was play or be outside. I was often stuck inside every Saturday while my parents broke their backs maintaining their home. It was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When they were cleaning they were like Mr Hyde, manic and crazy over anything that got in their way. They also used cleaning as a form of punishment. “Oh yeah you didn’t do your homework? I guess your cleaning both bathrooms this weekend!”
So yeah I have a weird relationship with cleaning, nothing triggers me more than someone nagging about me needing to clean. I’m an adult now, I should be able to live as clean or filthy as I want.
The truth is that even if I did make an effort, it would be met with derision. Either that I’m not cleaning fast enough, in the right order or using the cleaning supplies correctly. Apparently the kitchen is the last area you tackle. So I purposely let him go through cleaning weekend on his own now, he’s too particular to please.
But I think my husband has gotten used to my cleaning challenged self. We’ve taken a divide and conquer type of approach to it because we both recognize we have different strengths in our relationship. I’m very particular about our finances. I’m budgeting every week, deciding how to allocate funds, telling him where where to stop his overspending (his vaping), and planning for savings. I also make sure we take care of our health, make all the doctor appointments and cook 50% of the time.
So thankfully, I’m not a complete waste of space in this relationship.
For those of you struggling in terms of who shares the housework load I’d say give the slacker a little credit and room. We aren’t adult children taking advantage, but people with a different set of priorities, talents and strengths.
Household tasks shouldn’t be the reasons why relationships end, but surprisingly they are.
Couples counseling is another way to find a middle ground on such a tumultuous topic.
And if all else fails, just save yourselves the headache and get a cleaning service. No shame in that game.
So to Jenny and Steve, I hope you’re able to work through this difference, worst case, just hire a cleaning person, and keep both your relationship and your sanity.
Check out my other posts on relationships and marriage!
Tags: lazy spouse, husband doesn’t help with anything, should a husband help with housework, sharing chores, household chores, benefits of cleaning service, how to get spouse to clean.