Dating And Living With A Messy Person – Problems And Solutions
We hold this truth to be self-evident, that most sane people don’t like living in filth!
That said, sometimes we find ourselves living in an untidy environment through no fault of our own (unless you consider falling in love our own fault. In which case you’re probably dead inside).
Regardless of how good we look for the perfect partner, there are bound to be differences between us and the person we end up with. These differences can cause conflicts in the relationship. And nothing is more conflict-inducing than living with someone who is organizationally-challenged (or, to put it less diplomatically, a complete slob!).
There are levels to cleanliness and organization; some amount of untidiness is expected from time to time. But unacceptable levels can cause real problems for a suffering spouse/partner, problems that make those cheesy divorce lawyer ads on TV look a lot more appealing…
Here are some of the challenges you’ll face if you’re dating and living with a messy person:
You leave something in one place, and you expect to find it there when you look for it later. That’s not too much to ask, right? Well, imagine being late for work because you can’t find your car keys, your belt, or one of your shoes, after your spouse misplaced it for the hundredth time.
If you’re constantly having to hunt things down, this might make you late to important events: work, weddings, parties, funerals (the dead don’t like to be kept waiting). Tardiness brings with it all types of problems.
Sometimes mess can actually be dangerous. Germs are a messy person’s best friend. Say your partner is careless when cleaning places like the kitchen, the bathroom, and the bedroom, you might find yourself getting sick.
A dirty kitchen counter, for example, might carry Escherichia coli – better known as E. coli; and that stuff is no joke. Likewise, bedding that isn’t changed often carries enough bacteria to start a small bacteria army.
Tripping over things that have been left on the floor is yet another hazard. You risk hitting your head (and subsequently losing your memory – forgetting your name, your loved ones, and what year it is. You’ll then be forced to relearn everything, including how to love your partner. But in that time a new person will enter your life, and you’ll fall in love with them instead. When your memory finally returns, you’ll be in love with two people, and you’ll have to choose between them…).
Or, uh, something like that.
Hosting dinner parties and entertaining visitors is fun… when your abode is spotless, that is. Inviting people over to a messy house will be embarrassing. Not for your untidy partner (who probably doesn’t see their filth the way you do), but for you.
Because people talk. As soon as you bid them farewell, in the car ride home they’ll be jabbering on about the stains on the carpet, or the clothes on top of the TV, or wondering what the brown thing floating in their wine was.
Mess causes stress. If you’ve always been a neat freak, living with a messy person can be especially stressful for you. Coming home to find the sink overflowing with dirty dishes, or the laundry basket overflowing with dirty clothes, could turn a sane person into the Incredible Hulk! You’ve read the comics – no one likes it when that guy shows up.
A lesser known concern, but one all the same, is obsessive compulsive disorder. Being surrounded by mess, believe it or not, can lead to OCD.
It might start small, arranging your workspace in a particular way – the trashcan must never be more than half full, for example. Next thing you know you’ll be washing cutlery seven times before using it, and wearing disposable latex gloves to bed!
Sooner or later, that mess will cause you to fight with your partner. You can only keep quiet for so long about the displacement of your belongings. Arguments, though an inevitable part of every relationship, are never nice.
If you find yourself having to repeat the request for your lover to clean up after themselves, it won’t be long before you question if staying together is worth living in squalor.
An extreme case, but couples have been known to break up over disagreements about hygiene and cleanliness. Resentment can form as a result of the messy party’s unwillingness to alter their behavior. And when this happens, you can kiss your relationship goodbye.
When you’re unable to control the situation, you might be forced to abandon (relation)ship – see what I did there?
So how do you navigate this new and messy world you now find yourself in, without losing your mind or your spouse?
Here are five tips to help you cope with a messy partner:
Write Down What Bothers You
Tell the messy so and so what’s bothering you and how you’re feeling about their untidy ways. If you keep it bottled up, this will lead to that resentment we talked about earlier. Also, if you don’t let them know you have a problem, they might think you’re okay with everything.
Writing down your grievances in a letter not only allows you get things off your chest, but your spouse is more likely to change their behavior when they see that you were aggrieved enough to actually write about it.
Reserve a Messy Space
Assigning your partner a messy drawer or room is a great compromise. Some people need places where they can be their natural, untidy selves, free from judgment.
By doing this, you ensure that the house stays clean, yet your partner gets to live their messy dream without offending you or anyone else.
This can be an effective solution if your partner is too stuck in their ways.
As they say, old habits die hard. Some bad habits are so ingrained that it’s almost impossible to separate them from us. With this in mind, don’t expect things to change immediately. Start with small, incremental changes. Allow your partner to get used to those before moving on to others.
A messy person will not become a clean one over night. They’ve spent a long time doing things their way, and it will take time, and patience on your part, for them to alter their behavior. Pushing for big change too soon will only frustrate both of you.
Set out goals and designate who does which chores and when. You might have to make a cleanliness calendar specifically for this. A specific set of instructions and rules that you’ve both agreed upon and promised to uphold, are more likely to be followed than you merely dictating what should be done.
Consequences for breaking the rules should also be set out. For example, the punishment of no hanky panky for a week could quickly get a messy partner in line.
If the tips above are not working for you, seeking outside help might be your last resort. A relationship counselor could help with conflict resolution, but you probably need a specialist to get to the route of your partner’s problems.
More often than not, habitual untidiness is indicative of a deeper problem that’s gone unaddressed for years.
We all have our flaws, and a certain amount of compromise is needed in all relationships. Dating a messy person is not the end of the world, and doesn’t have to spell the end of your relationship.
Talking, nine times out of ten, should deal with the issue, at least partly. A partner who loves and respects you should want to create an environment where you feel comfortable.