Friday, December 7, 2012


Shared Spaces, Lie-Measurement, and the Manageable Hassle

1. I've been with my husband for four years, although we have just been married a few months. We have a really great relationship, with just a few issues, and the biggest one for me is housework. He does NOTHING. And it drives me insane. I think it's a combination of a lot of things — his parents are hoarders so he grew up in a very messy house, and he has adult ADD which can make it impossible for him to focus on things, especially things he doesn't want to do. He feels bad about not helping, he apologizes, and he laments over the difficulty of changing. But after four years, I'm at my wit's end. I know that this is partially my fault — I mean, I knew what I was getting into! And he's a good person, very loving and caring, and our relationship is otherwise very good. I know I have my own faults and craziness, so I try to appreciate the other things he does for me. But I feel this issue building inside of me like a big, ugly resentment monster, and I just don't know what to do.

I've tried different ways of approaching this — from letting him choose chores he prefers to do, from weekly lists, from angry outbursts, from leaving everything a mess to see if he'll step up in his own time. Nothing has worked. We both work full time, and my job is very stressful, and I feel like I'm running two people's lives in addition to work. It's exhausting and I feel disrespected that he's not even making an effort, and I also worry about how things will be when we have kids. In the past we talked about hiring someone to clean for us, but money is tight and I don't know if that will be a good long-term solution. When I hear about my friends' spouses installing new lighting or taking their cars to get fixed or surprising them with a clean house, I want to cry, because I've never had anything like that. What can I do?

This one made me wince, because I was that guy, though I'm less that guy now (though not-not that guy either, alas).

So I'm going to steal the Choose Your Own Adventure-style answer: If you think "If this stays this bad forever, I'll divorce him," pick Answer A. If you think "I want this to get as much better as it can, but I'm not going to bluff on an ultimatum I wouldn't actually use," go to Answer B.

Before I do this, though, let me say two things in passing, either of which may get me burnt in effigy in the comments. The first is about hiring someone to clean: Do it if you can afford it. A lot of women, for reasons I don't really understand, regard having a clean house as a moral issue rather than as a practical tradeoff of invested time to subsequent benefit.

A great way to trade time for benefit is to earn money to buy benefit, as with going to a movie, or out to eat. Cleaning is just another item in this list; you may not be able to afford it, but you know that little voice that insists, whatever creative or professional ambitions you have, that you must also clean your own house? That voice is not your friend.

Second, many women also seem to think that we men expect you to clean for us. There are indeed some men who do, but I think the majority of us don't expect you to clean for us so much as we are perfectly content to live in squalor. It's not like we lived neatly by ourselves and when we met you, we just outsourced the work. We just thought the sink was an ideal place to store dirty dishes for up to a week. I recognize that this is not our most winning trait, but we also don't mean it as personally as you all often take it.

On to Answer A: Bombs Away.

Tell him you're leaving for a weekend to go visit your mother, friends, etc. and that the house has to be in some kind of shape when you return, because you have to go right to work Monday morning. Then go and return.

If he's kept it in even moderate shape, thank him clearly, and tell him that you're grateful because when you have kids someday, you'll both need to keep the house clean. (The kids thing was a big part of me improving on this score.) He'll backslide, of course, but you can then present backsliding as an active affront rather than as a passive failing, given past evidence of his successful performance.

If he can't keep the house on his own, even when you've made your demands clear, tell him you're not sure you can stay together, since you'd need his help cleaning to take care of kids, and right now he's looking like lousy father material, which means lousy husband material, and he should explain how he's going to change, because much as you love him, this may be it.

A couple of notes on Answer A: This is a one-shot strategy. "I'm leaving" loses its potency if used with any frequency. This is also a "Now rather than later" strategy; the grout is not yet dry on a marriage a few months old, so its easier to re-set some of the tiles. And, as the self-defense experts say, never threaten anyone with a gun unless you are able to pull the trigger. Which brings me to...

Answer B: Co-working and Orca

If you're just trying to get what you can without an ultimatum, there are two things you might try (in addition, I recognize, to the many things you have already tried).

First, clean with him. You both do the dishes. You both straighten the house. You send him off with the laundry while you dust. It doesn't buy you what you want — he's cleaning when you're not to balance you cleaning when he's not — but it does share the work somewhat, and it may lower the resentment, and it may train him a bit, while giving you a bit of leverage of the "But I've seen you do it before" variety.

Also, a lot of women seemed to like the advice in that article about training Shamu the Orca and what it means for changing your husband's behavior. It was all over the straight-lady internet a while back — here's the link in case you missed it.

These, btw, are two things my wife did to change my behavior (alongside bearing a couple of children), so they can work somewhat, in at least some circumstances. And if he's incapable of cleaning even alongside you, you may have to reconsider Answer A.

2. How long have you been married, and can you compare your marriage to ... an animal, or a musical instrument?

A dozen years. The animal our marriage is most like is an axolotl. The musical instrument is a sarrusophone.

I mean, a marriage isn't a thing like that — nobody lives happily ever after, we just manage the tradeoffs. My wife's basic life question is "How can I avoid making a mistake here?" Mine is "When I screw up, how can I recover?" On good days, having two different strategies is great. On bad days she thinks I'm too careless and I think she's too rigid, and some of those days can be quite bad indeed.

Tolstoy was wrong, is what I'm trying to say. Living with other people always takes work, and even the happy families still have to develop their own ways of snatching joy from the jaws of anguish.

3. My boyfriend of three-plus years (with whom I now live) just dropped a bombshell on me. We had sex pretty early on when we started dating (more like hooking up and hanging out, then turned into "dating"). It wasn't great for the first few weeks, but I attributed it to not knowing each other well, and that he was maybe kind of a jerk who didn't care about my satisfaction in bed? Then we talked about it, it got much better and is now pretty amazing.

We had "the talk" and also "the other talk" about how many people we've been with, etc. etc. He told me he'd slept with two other girls, but they weren't relationships and it happened only once or twice. (For reference, my number before him is three, one of them a serious boyfriend.)

Fast forward two years, we're in a fight about something related, and he tells me he'd never *technically* had sex before me, he was actually a virgin, only came close one time; he was afraid to tell me in the beginning and lied. AHHHH. I love this guy so much and we've talked about marriage and we're super in love, want to be together for always. But I'm worried now that he'll be curious at some point about what sex would be like with someone else. What do we do? Open relationship for a brief window? We're both jealous types, so that would be hard, but I would consider it (not sure if he would). I'd always been glad he'd slept with girls before me, like it was a safety net for our sex life, he kind of knew what else was out there; but that's gone now.

There's also the issue that he was capable of maintaining this huge lie for a few years (and lying about other things in order to cover this up). I understand how it was intensely personal and embarrassing for him, that lies can snowball, but ... still. I'm kind of scared because we're definitely good communicators and believe in talking about everything, and he's a really good and honest man, but this has made me see him in a different light. 

In the history of bombshells, "I fucked fewer people than I told you about" is way down at the Pop Rocks end of the scale.

It is difficult to convey how shameful it is for a straight man to be a virgin, and how the single most humiliating way this fact can come out is in a conversation with a woman he finds attractive. Even writing this, I can remember being in bed with my high-school girlfriend, working up the courage to tell her, in a strained whisper, that I didn't know what I was doing. (She was wonderful about it, but even at a remove of decades, I can still recall the pain.)

So I'd cut him some slack. As lies go, this seems more Match-style profile padding than Madoff-scale mendacity, particularly if you sidled into dating from hooking up.

Also, to your worry about him being "...curious at some point about what sex would be like with someone else." Unlike who? All those guys who say "Once I'd slept with 3 (or 8, or 17) women, I was all done being curious!" Doesn't work like that. My first date with my wife was in the 1990s, I haven't so much as kissed another woman since, and when I notice someone attractive, I'm still curious about what the sex would be like. We're men. It's what we do.

So here's the deal. Men who don't cheat have one thing in common: We decide not to. And then we keep deciding not to.

Monogamy isn't some switch in the limbic system that gets flipped when a person meets The One (though it can feel like that for the first year or so.) It's a social overlay on a species that isn't actually monogamous. So the question isn't "Does he fantasize about sex with other women?" (which: duh) but "Do you trust him not to act on those fantasies?"

From your letter, you seem to find him trustworthy in general, so I certainly wouldn't let the fact that he hid a deflating fact from a hook-up partner he ended up falling in love with convince you that he's a bad person to be in love with.

4. My boyfriend of two years cheated on me three times: The second time (I thought it was the first until recently) was an extended Skype and Facebook flirtation with a mutual friend that really only amounted to emotional cheating but seriously hurt my feelings. I told him then that if he cheated again, I would dump him. Fast forward to last Christmas: an ex-girlfriend was sleeping over at his house due to some sort of car problem. In the morning he got into bed with her and they started doing the dirty, but they stopped before anything serious happened because he felt terrible about what he had done. According to the ex, he completely freaked out emotionally and spent a lot of time crying and dry-heaving afterwards.

The two of them planned never to tell me what happened, because they didn't want to ruin our relationship. But the next week rolled around and he couldn't keep lying to me, so he told me what he had done and asked for forgiveness. Then he said, in the interest of complete honesty, that he had had sex with different ex about a month after we first started dating. He had taken her, and some other (mutual) friends, with him to his family's lake house while I was starting a new job in a new state. Thanks, bro.

I wanted to break up with him then, but we'd purchased tickets to go to Germany to visit his grandparents and I'd spent quite a bit of my savings on the trip already. By the end of the trip he'd convinced me to give him another chance.

So now, it's been almost a year since the last incident of cheating. Prior to that, we had been talking marriage and he'd told me I was the most serious relationship he'd ever had. Since then, we've lived together, adopted a dog together, etc. He is my best friend and in spite of his unfaithfulness, we make a great match. Our life goals are the same. I love his family, he loves mine, he's talking about marriage again (he's 23, I'm 21). The only problem is, I still don't trust him completely. He's promised never to do it again, and I consciously believe him, but I've developed jealousy issues in the last year that I'd never had before. I don't like my new jealous self and I don't like wondering where he is or what he's up to, who he's talking to on the nets, etc. I can't marry someone I don't trust, obviously. How much time is enough time to trust somebody? Am I deluding myself? Are we doomed?

Moving in concentric circles out from the basic facts: You are 21 years old.

Your boyfriend has cheated at a current rate of more than once a year.

He let his ex sleep at his house. ("Car problem"? Srsly?)

When you wanted to break up with him, the thing that kept you from doing it was sunk cost of air travel.

You characterize your reversal of opinion not as "I changed my mind" but rather "He convinced me."

You don't like who you have become because of his actions.

I mean, I could go on, but believe me, your adopted a dog, cute though it doubtless is, would be pretty thin compensation for marrying someone you don't trust, and he's given you enough reasons not to trust him that I'd find it pretty hard to reverse that in anything like the time it would take you to find someone better.

5. My boyfriend and I dated for a year and half before moving in together. And we've only been living together for three months, but the hard part is, I'm starting to think I made a mistake.

I had been in the same living situation (sharing a house with roomie friends from college) for more than a year and wanted a change. He was graduating from law school (had been supported by his parents all the way through law school) and needed to find a more affordable living situation since he was going to get cut off (at age 26) after taking the bar exam. At the time, finding separate living situations and negotiating the back-and-forth for another year seemed ridiculous. I had concerns about moving in with someone starting out on his own for the first time, rather late in life, and without a job lined up. I did, really. But somehow they took a backseat to our actually finding a place and putting our stuff in it together.

If it helps, I'm 27 and have been financially independent from my parents for a LONG time, so I am truly having trouble understanding what he's going through. I also think, shamefully, that he is really freaking spoiled.

Now I find myself living with a man who's driving me bananas, has no idea how to budget, and has no current income. We're less than halfway through our lease and I'm wishing we hadn't moved in together. We don't have sex, we bicker a lot, and in general it just feels like we've lost our connection. Yes, we have talked about this. Yes, I am even seeing a counselor about this. I still think that maybe, the relationship is over, and the only things stopping us from breaking up are plans for the upcoming holidays with each other's families and this signed lease. Help?

Let's see, you're asking which would have the more negative effect on your life, walking away from six months of a lease, or sticking it out with a spoiled man-child with whom you have a bickering, sexless relationship?


You don't even go through the usual Advice Column motions about how he's a great guy and all, except for this one thing. It's just a description of why you think you've made a mistake, and how unravelling it will be a hassle.

And it will, god knows, be a hassle, because real estate, but speaking not just as a married dude but as a re-married dude who got engaged the first time much too young and out of inertia, let me tell you from bitter, lived experience that doubling down on chronic suck just to avoid some acute suck is a long-term bad proposition.

So I hereby induct you into the large and distinguished body of "People whose letters asking for advice answer those very questions in that very letter." Go forth and find someone more your match.

Previously: Stay-at-Home Dads and the Confrontation-Averse.

A Married Dude is one of several rotating married dudes. Do you have a question for A Married Dude?

Photo via Flickr/boynton

346 Comments / Post A Comment


I like this dude a lot.




@aphrabean Also, I like this dude Alot.

mousie housie

@aphrabean I read through 1, 4, and 5* as: "Holy shit. Did he just crawl into my mind?" Clearly I have some... food for thought.

*2 started off as frivolous but really hit home at the end. The advice he gave 3 was sound, but it's not really an issue that personally related.




#4 & #5 GET OUT NOW. That is all.


A Dude fails to mention the top reason #5 should call it quits: HER BOYFRIEND WENT TO LAW SCHOOL!

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll

Are you fucking kidding me? She should dump him because he's a spoiled man child, not because he went to law school.

Lame joke, dude.
Law Student.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Totally legit reason to dump a spoiled man-child with no job and mountains of debt.

Why Did I Go to Law School?


@S. Elizabeth
Oof, sorry! It was sort of an inside joke for a friend. (Hi, K!)


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll hee hee.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I see what you did there. :)


@iceberg Yes RUN THE FUCK AWAY #4 and #5. The holidays are an ideal time to reclaim your life! Run away to family and friends.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Oh man, LW4. That guy is horrible. While I understand that cheating is horrible, it's also horrible that he's so selfish that he unburdened himself of secrets to make himself feel better and make you feel worse. Run away from the horribleness.



I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@JadedStone Exactly. "But I feel so badly about this, aren't you so proud of me for telling you? Whew, it's so great to have that off my chest! It's like a weight has been lifted. Wait, why are your shoulders sagging now?"


@JadedStone Gah. LW #4, I know that your boyfriend and his ex reported how broken up and histrionic he got after he slipped in "just the tip", but honestly, the fact that he threw a dramatic performance of Shame™ worthy of an Oscar after the fact is not compensation for the fact that he got into bed with her in the first place.

I am not of the monolithic opinion that everyone should immediately dump a cheater, but your letter doesn't indicate to me that your relationship has grown or changed significantly because of the cheating. It could be that you just left this out, but what I would personally want to see from a relationship where one partner had cheated was more open communication between the two partners, and the cheating partner mea culpae-ing until the cheated-upon partner felt comfortable again. The fact that it doesn't really seem like anything major has changed w/r/t your communication as a couple is a red flag for me.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I can't remember if it was Dan Savage or one of my lady friends who is in a very successful marriage who told me this when I cheated and was feelign AWFUL and couldn't figure out if I should tell. "If you don't plan on doing it again, and he has no way to find out, then the only reason you are telling him is to make yourself feel better. That would be a very selfish thing to do."
So I didn't tell, and we broke up 5 months ago for different reasons. And I still haven't told, because, what is the point?


@wee_ramekin Also, like the married dude, I stopped right at "I am 21 years old." I can not imagine contemplating a real, grown up marriage before 25. And really 30 is better. Every woman I know who married that young is now divorced. Every. Single. One.


@redheadedtwit Yep. This about sums up my feelings, both as somebody that has been cheated on (and subsequently told with that, "I'm such a good guy being honest with you about this, wow, I feel so much better!" tone from the douche) and as somebody who has cheated on a partner about a week before we broke up. I liked the guy as a person, but the relationship was dead, and I didn't see the point of hurting him any more than absolutely necessary.


@redheadedtwit I agree. I mean, ugh, I hate even the thought of being cheated on, like if I think about it hypothetically too hard, I feel terrible! But, yeah--it's wrong and bad and selfish and maybe if he did it in the first place, he doesn't care that much about me and all that. BUT, on the other hand, sometimes things do "just happen" (and I really, really can't get my head around how it ever could in my relationship, but I'm sure I know someone who's been in this scenario)... if it was never gonna happen again and he knew it and just wanted to be the best BF ever to me, blah-blah, I'd hate to lose the whole thing once I was told. Which is what would happen; I know me and I know I'd never forget it, no matter how much I love the guy. Not only would I be mourning the relationship itself, but I'd feel so hurt on top of it! Ugh, no--so, for me, it's don't tell if it was a one-time mistake too. Please.

Jolly Farton

@blueblazes I burst out laughing at "he's 23, I'm 21" - and I'm 22! But come on


3 and 4 both seem really young, and it makes me wince pretty hard when they say "we've been talking marriage". sometimes when you're young, telling your signif other that you want to marry them is just a way of telling them that you super, super love them. Ya know? Or is that just my experience? Ha


@peregrina Shit, I tell my friends I wanna marry them. Including the ones who are married.

Emma Peel

@peregrina "when you're young, telling your signif other that you want to marry them is just a way of telling them that you super, super love them"


This is how I dated two "guys I'm definitely going to marry," talked about it tens/hundreds of times with each of them, and -- to my great relief, really, because I'm 25 -- did not so much as get engaged to either before we broke up. The guys were the ones who brought it up (and the guys were the ones who ended it, in the end, although both times it was mutual/amicable).

"I'm definitely going to marry you someday" feels like a promise, but is very different from "I am making a conscious decision to propose to you at this moment, as an adult," and -- if anything -- can hide flaws in the relationship because YOU'RE COMMITTED AND IT'S MEANT TO BE.


@peregrina Sometimes "talking marriage" at 21-22 goes nowhere. Sometimes they do get married, several years later. And sometimes they get married before they graduate college. I've seen it happen all three ways.

Reginal T. Squirge

Girl, I would marry the shit out of you.

Emma Peel

@cuminafterall I think, in general, "talking marriage" is most useful if you're expecting some kind of action to come of it in the next... year or so? 18 months? (Proposing, or moving in together, or whatever, not necessarily signing the marriage license.) I also know couples who started talking marriage at 20 who went through with it years later, but I think saying at 21 that you're going to get married at 28 is basically just a more intense version of "I really really love you" and should not be used to guide long-term decisions if relationship problems present themselves.


@Emma Peel Well, of course it's not a commitment. Certainly LW4 shouldn't let Mr. Cheater blackmail her into staying with him because he's "talking marriage" (I noticed she said he was the one bringing it up).

I see we won't agree on the more general issue; my dude and I started talking about marriage just before I turned 22. It was less "I really really love you" and more "do we want to stay in our city or move elsewhere, at what point will we feel ready to get married, how much do you have in student loans?" YM, as always, MV.

@Emma Peel I think it's also code for "We Have Grown Up Love." I understand the urge to want to talk about marriage, and I also understand why they were included -- at 20 or 21, you're just kind of past the years where everyone is telling you you're "too young" to know what love and relationships and dedication to one person are. Too young to get married, too young to know things. I remember being 21 or 22 and describing a relationship as "talking about marriage" because it was a way to signify -- or at least try to signify -- "I'm serious here."

When I read "we're talking about marriage," I read "take this question seriously. Stop looking at this number, and please look at where I am in my life and the real-ness of my question."

I think it's a sticky, tricky situation to be in, and a tricky age. Like, 21, you're graduating from college! You're legally an adult! You're starting to really be seen as a grown-up! But just a short time ago, you were a teenager and treated as such.

I'm willing to cut the 21-year-olds "talking about marriage" a lot of slack because being in a relationship around that age is HARD, both as a person and as a member of society that sees you as almost but not quite a grown up.

For reference, I was teaching high school at 21. Which is INSANE. But that's where I was, teaching high school, living on my own, dealing with dating outside of a college situation, and I empathize with how hard it is to go through and how hard it is to be taken seriously. "You're young, just dump him/her" is no longer good advice, but it's frequently doled out to 21-22 year olds who are tax-paying, job-holding, martini-ordering, productive members of society.

I'm 26 (wooo it's my birthday today!) and I think "wow I was a BABY at 21." But I wasn't. I just did a lot of growing in 5 years.


@S. Elizabeth Well put!

AJ Sparkles

@S. Elizabeth 1. Excellent insight. 2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


@Emma Peel yes, exactly just a way more intense way of saying i love you.


@S. Elizabeth I think we should be best friends. I was also teaching at age 21 (high school students - WHY?!) and my birthday was Wednesday. (but I am now 24)


@anachronistique One time I was working on a huge project and asked a lot of my peers/friends for advice, and my saying "marry me!" was a common theme of these meetings. So much so that during my meeting where I found out I got funding, I had to stop myself from saying it to the NON-peer in front of me!


@S. Elizabeth Yep, I did about 95% of my growing up from 21 to 27. Now, teetering on the brink of 31, the entire decade of my 20s just looks like wave after wave of me making terrible decisions and learning from them. I wouldn't give up the emotional agonies of those years for anything.

We all agree though that at 21 or 23 or 25 in a serious relationship, it seems like we are ready to get married. I remember talking marriage at 19/20 with my boyfriend at the time because we were SO GROWN UP. I sometimes try to imagine how that would have worked out. Not so well.

Which, actually, ties in a bit with LW3, as well. I don't believe that a person has to sow wild oats before committing. But that's what I did, and I feel like the experiences I had in my 20s (see above) did a huge amount to shape the kind of wife that I am now. All of that sleeping around gave me a good sample size for my advanced study of men before graduating to marriage.


@S. Elizabeth So well put. I was just thinking about that today! I turned 26 in October, also. And had my going-into-college plans worked out, I would have been teaching at 21. (Instead, I was coordinating volunteers for the Obama campaign at 21, which was much better for me.) And I'm really glad I didn't marry the guy I dated at age 19 who seemed to want to get married! (He married the next girl after me and they seem happy, so... good for them, good for me.)


@S. Elizabeth HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!


@blueblazes I am also teetering on the brink of 31! Only a few more weeks. Happy almost end of 30, friend!

@MissMushkila We can totes be biffles.

baked bean

@Emma Peel Why is it always the guys who talk about getting married? I was freaked the fuck out when my current bf hinted that only a year in.

I'm still kind of freaked out, and currently trying to plan my future and deciding if I want to involve him in it :\
I had to let him know the other day that yes, I have to consider whether or not I involve him in my future, whereas he was assuming I was involving him in my future. Maybe a bad move on my part to tell him this.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

OK ALSO: Having a clean house for me is a matter of pride. It shows me that I can take care of the nice things I have - like a house.

And it usually enrages me when dudes say, "We're men, of course we want to have All The Sex," but this guy made that blanket statement make some sense. I would only add that women are capable of thinking that way, too. It's not just men who wonder.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I am happy with that sentence if corrected to read "...when I notice someone attractive, I'm still curious about what the sex would be like. We're [human]. It's what we do."


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose
YES. a matter of pride and also the comfort of knowing you can have guests over, having a comfortable space to welcome friends. SO IMPORTANT

Daisy Razor

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I used to feel that way, and then I had a kid. And it became a choice between a clean house and time with my daughter. My mother always chose the clean house, and I have many a childhood memory of dusting the baseboards because I was low to the ground.

I got a cleaning lady.

Reginal T. Squirge

It doesn't matter what the reasoning is. It's important to your wife and it's something you can do for her that's NOT THAT HARD.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Daisy Razor It's great that you had the perspective to shape that decision, and awesome that you are able to hire a cleaning lady. Me, I'd love to hire a cleaning lady, but am not in a place in my life yet to financially justify it.

Heat Signature

@Daisy Razor I was never super clean to begin with, but then I had kids and somehow it forced me to do basic shit like take care of the day's dishes, clean off countertops, and maintain a basic level of bathroom cleanliness. I will never, ever, ever dust, though. Like, ever.


@Heat Signature I love you


@Heat Signature Funny, I just had the "oh God someday my children will need a clean bathroom and a better dinner than cereal!" freakout just last night.

Heat Signature

@cuminafterall Not sure about the dinner part...my son has Honey Nut Cheerios at least five times a week during the evening hours (I refuse to have a power struggle with a five year old after working all day and dealing with a three month old baby).


@liverwortlaura Exactly. I want to feel comfortable in my home, and that includes being able to do a quick tidy and have people in my house without being embarassed/ashamed, rather than requiring a week's notice to deal with the accumulated filth (usually all by myself).

Daisy Razor

@Heat Signature And laundry! My god, the laundry.

@cuminafterall Eh, Baby Razor had yogurt & sweet potato chips for dinner last night. As long as the kid's not on a diet of Peeps & gummi worms, I figure she's all right.


@Daisy Razor High five, girlfriend. As a working mom, I'd rather spend Saturday mornings hanging out with my daughter than scrubbing toilets.

And last night, my daughter had a cupcake for dinner. She had back-to-back violin rehearsals and then we went to my husband's orchestra concert, where there was a bake sale. Mother of the Year.

raised amongst catalogs

@liverwortlaura Get out of my brain, Laura! (Not really; you can stay.)


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose
Can we talk about the gender division of labor here for a minute? Ladies feel bad about neglecting domestic chores because adults teach us as children that there are tasks for men and tasks for women. Women learn through interacting with the world that the domestic sphere is ultimately their responsibility. The fact that the source of the problem eludes both the husband and the advice giver shows that they are out of touch. The "morality" this dude references is reinforced throughout women's lives, through our family and through our work. Its not like this mystery dropped out of the sky. Hint: its the same reason why men make more money then women, have more free time then women, and get better jobs then women. *wink*

Additionally, the idea that women do not think practically about hiring someone, (lets get real, another woman) to clean our houses is insane and demeaning. Traditional "women's work" is undervalued: the house isn't clean because its not important. Can you imagine what would happen if we compensated domestic workers what we compensate tradesmen or any other person we let into our homes to work for us?

mousie housie

@v=ir I'm not sure some of the commenters here are aware just how maddening dealing with an ADHD spouse's cleanliness issues can be.

We're not talking, like, a couple of dust bunnies and a cluttered table.

My person lived in a hovel-like den of blankets, clothes, toys, books, partially dissembled electronics (SO MANY, MY GOD, FUCKING JUNK THEM ALREADY), cabin equipment, receipts for ten years of unfiled taxes, don't touch those damn receipts, it's crucial they remain wadded along the bottom of the couch, car parts, salvaged wood for a construction project, an old mattress the dog pissed on, usually a month's worth of takeout wrappers because the sink had stopped working two months ago and fixing it would require making a simple call and noting the repair time, which for some reason is impossible to arrange so let's go into overdraft to buy takeout and pretend we're washing the dishes in the tub while they rot.

It's not just "let's hire a maid to ensure the mirrors gleam and the floor is spotless." Some ADHD adults literally cannot get motivated or focus enough to put the cap back on the toothpaste.

OP - sorry if I'm projecting, but I've dealt with it, and it is hell. Do NOT feel guilty for making him get his act together.

Koko Goldstein

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Thanks for this! I'm the originally LW #1, and wanted to chime in to say we are now working on the ADHD thing. We've known it's an issue for a while, but after feeling at the breaking point (and writing letters to advice columnists...) I finally did some googling. We're reading this really great book on marriage and ADHD together. I've realized that he really needs some sort of treatment and I need some more understanding and those will be the first steps towards goodness. I'm feeling pretty happy about it all.

Also to answer some comments, I am a horribly messy person. . .but I at least try to save face and be able to walk through my house :) The husband, not so much.

Thanks for the comments all.

Lily Rowan

I really hope I'm not breaking some lady-code here, but.... some of us women live alone in squalor as well. And definitely some of us are just sloppy.

You know, for the record.


@Lily Rowan Yeah, my husband would definitely say I am the sloppy one out of the two of us.


@iceberg Me too. But I really like the clean together suggestion. I am terrible at the day-to-day upkeep type stuff (doing dishes, etc.) but if it is a Sunday morning and we clean together, I can really get some shit done and feel great about it.


@Lily Rowan True, but it didn't sound like LW was one of them (us)?


@iceberg Same here! And it's not even that I'm sloppy, it's just that he's the reincarnation of Howard Hughes.


@Lily Rowan TRUTH


@Lily Rowan Also! Non-single ladies sometimes look at other men and think about the sex! We're women! It's what we do!


@Lily Rowan Yes. When I was reading that question & the answer, I definitely had a moment of "uh-oh. I am not a guy, but I think maybe *I* am THAT GUY."


@werewolfbarmitzvah Ah ha ha ha this is me and my husband, too!


@Lily Rowan
Thank you.


@werewolfbarmitzvah Yes, me too!! On the other hand, he loses his phone/wallet a lot and fumes about looking for them frequently. Also he keeps the kitchen SPOTLESS and spot cleans the carpet on the regular but lets mail/papers/magazines heap together for months (which I then stringently organize or throw out). I guess we have compatible messinesses.


@Lily Rowan Squalor lady high-five!! I was (will always be in my heart of hearts) messy as hell until I moved in with my current bf, who is adorably clean, like reminds me of that robot in Wall-E that cleans everything clean. It kills me with cuteness.

So my natural level of messiness includes dropping things and not picking them up (why? If I need that crumpled napkin later, I will know where to find it, on the floor where I left it) but this leads to a level of messiness that visibly pains my living partner.

The compromise that we've reached is that I will make an effort to make sure trash goes all the way to the trash can and dishes make it to the sink and then once every two months participate in a day of deep cleaning. He does most of the maintenance cleaning (vacuuming, etc) in the meanwhile and wordless moves my shoes and coffee cups and detritus back to their proper places on the occasions when I forget to do so myself.

And I've actually begun to put in some effort myself, because having gone from squalor to cleanliness, I can attest that it really does improve my mood/productivity. For instance, I bake all the time now (instead of having moments that involve thinking: "Hmm, I'd love to bake, but all my pans are dirty, oh well.") So really, I was THAT GUY and still am a bit, but I knew it would be a problem, so we check in regularly by having house meetings and setting goals (for the love of god unpack your stuff already, it's been six months) and then check in about how those goals went and set new ones.

Buuuut you have to care enough about the other person's time/effort/comfort. It wouldn't work if I didn't push myself (daily) to be a slightly less messy person.


@adorable-eggplant Exactly. You have to a) recognize that even if you don't understand why, this is important to your partner and b) be invested enough in the relationship/your partner's happiness that you would rather put in uncharacteristic effort than see them unhappy. I think point a is where a lot of relationships fall apart, regardless of what the thing is.


@adorable-eggplant "...reminds me of that robot in Wall-E that cleans everything clean. It kills me with cuteness."

Heeee! Since I know your boyfriend, this description also kills me with cuteness. Now I want to get him a Roomba keychain or something for Christmas...


@Blushingflwr Yes!! That's exactly what it is! I could happily deal with a hazardous level of messy (honestly, my first apartment was a putrid danger zone and I remember it fondly) but I have other expectations, for example, punctuality is a big one for me, that make a huge difference in my world.

Some partners are willing to accommodate those things, regardless of whether they value them themselves-- even without having to be convinced that those things are worth valuing for x reasons, because they care about the happiness of the person they're with. Those people are keepers.

@wee_ramekin I have a story for you re cleaning and robots!

hahahaha, ja.

@Lily Rowan: Just wanted to add that I once lived in a small rowhouse / townhouse with little storage space. In the summer, my winter clothes were scattered on my floor in a thick pile; in the winter, my summer clothes were the ones that were underfoot. The few times I did clean, I managed to get some nasty splinters from the old wooden floor. I suppose I could have gotten a rug, but I really wanted to be optimally efficient.


@adorable-eggplant Yep. I anticipate these issues when Dudefriend and I move in together. He likes things to be neat and even though he says he'll just clean for the both of us, I know I'd resent having to do that, so I am trying to learn to be better now (it's not working).

But I like this Dude's cleaning together idea. I could do that.


@packedsuitcase I just had a great realization: I think my boyfriend and I are at the same level of cleanliness (relatively clean, but willing to let things pile up for a while.) We don't live together, but if we ever do, I think this will be an area where we don't clash. Yay.

Springtime for Voldemort



@adorable-eggplant reading your comment made me get and start cleaning the bedroom I share with my boyfriend. he is the neat one, and is always picking up after me. you're right you do stuff you wouldn't normally do sometimes cause you love the person and want to make them happy. so thanks for that reminder!


@Lily Rowan Yes. My boyfriend and I are both sorta slobs. I have clutter issues but definitely am pretty motivated to keep things actually clean (like I will frequently remove clutter from a surface, dust or clean it or whatever, and then replace the clutter), whereas my boyfriend is really just pretty ok with living in squalor. We don't live together, but if/when we do, cleaning ladies will be had - even if that means we have to sacrifice some other things to afford it. Otherwise cleanliness will be a source of many fights. It already irritates me that he adds to the clutter and messiness and my place and forgets to clean up after himself when he's here, so when we actually share a space, it will definitely be worse.


I'm not a fan of the "men are this way! women are this way!" phrasing of some of these answers, but at their core, most of the answers are good advice.

Lily Rowan

@yeah-elle Totes.


@yeah-elle Yeah, I know but I must counter that WOMEN BE SHOPPING and MEN DRIVE LIKE THIS.


@parallel-lines Oh, totally. It bothered me too, that's why I mentioned it.

PS I impulse bought shoes today SO WHO KNOWS RIGHT


@yeah-elle I think you mean your vagina impulse dropped shoes today, because we all are essentially just genitals, mirite?


I just want to second Married Dude's advice about a cleaning service, if you can spring for it. It may not be that much, either. I had friends who did this in college. Split between 4 roommates it was $25/month, roughly half a bar tab, and it saved them huge amounts of bickering.

Mr. Delperro had cleaning ladies before I moved in with him, and kept it up (despite my initial budget-based protestations). It does wonders for our living situation. We suffer from both being fussy about different things (he hates it when things are out of order, I am a germophobe) but having someone come in and "hard clean" all the surfaces once a month saves a LOT of fussing on both our parts. Plus, knowing that they'll come means we have to go through and straighten things, or we don't get our money's worth.

Seriously, if you can afford it, outsource this chore.

Lush Life

@bocadelperro Yes! It can be only once a month! It takes financial dexterity sometimes, but keeping tidy is easier and life is far less stressful when I know that at the end of the month someone is going to come DO THE BATHROOM.

I also look at hiring a cleaner as helping the local economy and a small business, but that may in part be to assuage any lingering sense of guilt over the perception of luxury.


@Lush Life When I floated the idea of getting rid of the cleaning service, Mr. Delperro made the argument that it was $90/month spent towards not fighting. Around here, basic cable (which we don't have) is $70/month, and he'd rather spend that money + $20 on not fighting than on ESPN. So that's one way to look at it. I'd also rather give my money to people in my community than to a big national cable corporation.

Plus, as gobblegirl said below, paying people to do what is traditionally "women's work" acknowledges that that work is on par with other sorts of labor, and not somehow less valuable because it takes place in a home. So there's that.


@bocadelperro Yeah, I was going to chime in here too. Maybe a cleaning service once a month would be manageable (even on a tight budget) if you are willing to move the mental-health-moneys of bar night to mental-health-moneys of not fighting.

I'm not saying it's the only option, but it might be worth it, possibly. Don't live on rice alone for cleaners, but maybe drop the cable for cleaners?


@bocadelperro As long as you pay your cleaner a decent wage! Which I'm sure you do, but not everybody does.


@PatatasBravas I bet you could, right? Especially if you're not wildly filthy? Are there, like, "basic packages" for just the stuff that isn't exactly difficult but is boring and time-consuming for some people?

Springtime for Voldemort

@bocadelperro Yup. For once a month (or even twice a month, depending upon budget), it's not really that hard to eat out 2-4 times less that month or pass over those totally cute shoes. Cleaning stresses me out an insane amount, and I loooove having someone come once a month. I'd rather reshuffle a few things around, invite a friend or two over a few more times for a 72-cent gin & tonic than a $7 one at a bar, and have someone else do the cleaning.


@bocadelperro You still have to declutter the house if you have a cleaner. Guess who did that part when I was married?


I have a hard time being concise about LW1's issue, because of the whole burning rage thing, but every woman should read The Politics of Housework.

For LW3: I had a very similar thing happen with a long-term boyfriend, who lied about being a virgin (to the point where he had said he'd been sexually unsafe with past women and we got in a big fight about it! Like, he'd rather I thought he was being sexually foolish/unwise than a virgin!), and at first I felt very betrayed. And then I got over it, fast, because I realized IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. He didn't lie to deceive me, he did it because his own humiliation was too overwhelming to bear, especially when it came to sharing his deepest shame with the woman with whom he was falling in love. We are not together anymore, but if your sex life is great and fulfilling and he's a good person -- you need to get over it. It's really not an issue.


@iknowright oof, so many of those excuses sound eerily familiar...


@iknowright God, I love that piece.


Recommend also "The Second Shift" by Arlie Hochschild. Nothing's perfect, but it's probably worth reading if this is something you're thinking about.


@iknowright Dang, that's great. Also, it could have been written in 2012 rather than 1970.


@iknowright thank you! great read. BitchPhD and Bluemilk have also written some great stuff about housework. The only thing missing from this article is explicitly pointing out how *having to worry about and keep track of* who's doing what is also invisible work that falls to the woman in many cases.


"...and when I notice someone attractive, I'm still curious about what the sex would be like. We're men. It's what we do." :|


Yeah, I want to be realistic, but I also want to not feel sick about it.


@NeenerNeener It makes me sick to think about this too (that is, if I am interpreting your comment correctly). I'm fine if my BF thinks someone is pretty (though I would not like hearing that he thinks someone is "hot") but I do not want to believe that he is thinking about sex with the multiple attractive ladies he sees out and about in the world. At all. In fact, I don't think he does--maybe I'm naive and delusional and crazy, but I don't believe it. I'm not saying never, but I just can't run with the "if he's a straight guy, he does this." Ick, I hate thinking about it.

eva luna


I agree. The idea of it makes me feel ill. One guy I dated (why? why?!) told me that every time he saw a pretty girl he thinks it would be fun to have sex with her. Then he tried to claim all men are like that, which is not true. Another guy I dated (still a close friend) said that that's ridiculous and that (and he has actually taken a lot of courses on sexuality, so I trust his numbers) it's really only a third of guys who tend to be visual to that degree. When he and I were dating, he made it very clear that he had no desire to with anyone but me, well, ever. So, I think it's really a very individual thing. When I am in a relationship (granted I am a woman, but see previous sentence) I don't fantasize about other men. I think other men are attractive and maybe a thought flies through my head occasionally, but it never sticks. So, I think it's entirely possible that your beau does not do this.


Yes, it makes me feel physically sick to think about. This might be just a case where I'm just relating it to my own experience/thoughts, and feeling uncomfortable about my partner's being different. Before I got with my current guy, I was with someone for 8 years, and after we broke up, I was single and intentionally abstinent for a period. I got to a point where I was thinking about sex constantly, i.e. "curious about what the sex would be like" with most guys I came in contact with, not just the ones I found attractive. Then I met someone that I totally love. Some days more than others, I'll feel a sexual charge just coming into contact with the opposite sex (and actually, a lot of the time, it's a very unwelcome or repulsive feeling, like when the thought of your parents having sex pops into your head). And it's not the same; I'm not thinking about "the sex," it's just an energy that when I walk away causes me to have thoughts about my partner. Because there is a difference for me, it hurts to think that he might be having thoughts about "the sex" with anyone he finds attractive. I don't know if that makes sense.
There's another part to it that I haven't completely worked out in my head, so it's probably going to sound weird. I'm a person that puts more weight to an emotional connection than an act of sex. I think I'd be more likely to forgive someone for a (maybe drunken) slip up one night than developing an intimate or romantic relationship with someone else. I might even be open to having a sexually open relationship, I don't know, I've never done it, maybe I wouldn't deal so well. But there's something about this that feels like a betrayal (the curiosity about sex with others while in a monogamous relationship) or dishonesty, maybe suppression, that kind of makes me feel like I'd rather the relationship just be open. Or just not be with anyone ever, I don't know.
I just really don't like the seeming reality (confirmed by the women commenters saying yes, it is so) that I'm being presented with here.


@NeenerNeener @eva luna Oh, thank you both for saying all that! I am fine admitting that I may be a little more... tense (?) about this kind of thing than a lot of people (perhaps even including my beau!), and it's not like I never find someone who is not him to be attractive. But it sort of stops at attractive; I acknowledge that someone is visually appealing but it feels almost like a clinical thing to say when I am with someone I love. My BF is absolutely adorable but he is, of course, not... who... I'll just say Joe Mangianello or whatever sexy guy people love lately. So while I do have big fat celebrity crushes on Christopher Meloni and Louis CK and Rob Zombie (who, for all intents and purposes in my life, might as well not even be real people), and I can certainly agree with a friend that some guy is hot, I don't tend to wonder even for a minute if I'd like to have sex with them, you know? Not while I have a BF that I love, at least. So it's not farfetched to me that other people (my BF included) are this way too. I think he would be hurt if he thought I were thinking that way and I know I would be if he were.

Of course, if I were single, I would probably think (and have thought) differently. All of this could go hand in hand with the fact that I have never been a multiple dater, though--even when I was only very casually seeing someone here and there (not a judgment-- just how I operate even if I think the guy might be playing the field; if you can, please do--seize the day! I just never managed that, even when I wished I could).

And if a passing thought runs through my BF's head, so be it--just do not tell me! And if it becomes a frequent thing, or more than passing, then just please... undo our thing and sow the oats or whatever!

Finally, I just don't take well to "guys do this" type of statements anyway. I know there is some truth to some of that stuff but come on now! I'm wary of any guy who claims "all men" do anything.

Judith Slutler

@Bombyliidae Wait this is super confusing to me, like does this mean you all DON'T fantasize about sex with hot people around you, just because you are in a relationship?

I've never cheated and I tend to check out guys who look more like my current boyfriend when I am in a relationship even, so I consider myself pretty darn monogamous. But, I definitely fantasize about sex with random guys, and I wouldn't expect my boyfriend to somehow magically not think about other women just because I exist in his life.


@Emmanuelle Cunt I can't answer for everyone, of course, but I don't (unless the thoughts are so fleeting I can't even remember them). And I don't expect anything from my BF, magical or not--I just don't believe that he can't help but fantasize about sex with every woman he sees simply because he's male and "that's what men do." I really doubt that about lots of straight males I know, actually.

eva luna

@Emmanuelle Cunt I never fantasize about sex with anyone but the person I am dating and when I am single I have a really hard time fantasizing about sex at all. It's super, super personal for me. I'm not saying I don't think about sex when I am single, because I do (a lot), but it's rather vague and unfortunately centered on my (most recent) ex, who wasn't even that good in bed, but I loved him. I'm a very monogamous creature. So yeah, not saying it's good or bad, but that's how I'm wired.

eva luna


I can't tell you how comforting it is to read this because I sometimes feel like I am crazy. Of course I find other guys attractive even when I am madly in love, but only kind of. . .vaguely. I feel about the same about them as I do about attractive women, who however lovely they are to look at, I have very little desire to ever have sex with. It's so very personal with me. It's not something I have any desire to change.

I know guys who are the same way. I'm so tired of hearing "all guys look at porn" or "all guys actively fantasize about other women." It's ridiculous! For example, Probably almost all guys in our society have seen porn (even I have), but there is a huge difference between having seen something or utilizing something occasionally/ when you are single and looking at it regularly. Some guys do, maybe even most, but most is not all and I'm odd and want to find someone else is who is equally odd.

I'm single currently and am in this weird place of being super sexually frustrated but unable to really channel any fantasies. Like I said, I'm odd. I'm at peace with this for the most part, but it's validating to read about other people who feel like I do. I don't think everyone should be like me or that I am correct, but it's nice to know that other people also function as I do.


@eva luna "Vague" is the perfect word! If I think about sex now, it's sex with a specific person--that being my BF. And when I was single, I am certain I thought about sex in a general "sure wish I was having some" kind of way and maybe even a more specific "that guy I was just talking to is pretty cute...maybe...?" way. But while in a couple, it's only about that specific guy. But maybe we all do a different degree of the same thing--some of us just don't apply it as specifically as others, but it all come from the same place (so to speak). And like I said, if I (and you) are THIS way, I don't find it hard to believe that guys can be too. Maybe it's even some kind of unseen force that helps the universe match a couple to each other--like I'd be a bad match with someone who was the opposite of me in this way (even if I had no idea what he was thinking), and vice versa.

And I don't like any sentence that starts out, "All women do [this thing]" because whatever follows is so rarely going to be 100% true! So same goes for men.


@Emmanuelle Cunt I pretty much never fantasize about sex with specific people. It's rare that I even feature my partner in my fantasies (though I do, sometimes). Usually, my fantasies are about the activity not the person. I can have a very detailed fantasy about what I'm wearing and how the room is laid out and what's happening to me and not spend any energy at all on a physical description of the guy, because that's not what I'm interested in (and also, my eyes are usually closed during sexy times, so the visual isn't all that important). Sometimes I'll daydream about sex with my partner or an ex with whom the sex was good, and sometimes when I'm fantasizing I'll cast my Gentleman Friend in the lead role because why not, but it's not the key factor.
Sometimes I'll look at a guy and think "that's a nice looking man" or "my, what a fine set of hands you have", and occasionally if I'm ovulating and someone is hot, I'll feel a bit of a jolt when I look at them, but I don't think about fucking them in any kind of meaningful way.


@Blushingflwr EXACTLY!


This is, by a very long measurement, my favorite Dude. I am totally dazzled, both by your tone and your problem analysis.

I thought I would take a crack at explaining this:

A lot of women, for reasons I don't really understand, regard having a clean house as a moral issue rather than as a practical tradeoff of invested time to subsequent benefit.

I'll speak as my own woman here, but part of the moral issue of having a clean house is feeling like an adult - a competent, self-sufficient adult. Letting the living space get gross is a failure of that basic adult competency.

Another issue for me is this - I know how to clean my house. I have the skills (thanks, A Clean Person!). I can do it well, given the time. Contrast that with cutting or coloring my own hair (I can't), doing my own nails/toes (nope), waxing my own brows or nether regions (hell, no). I tend to pay for that which I cannot do for myself.

My compromise on the cleaning thing is occasionally hiring someone to do the deep cleaning. I am responsible for the day to day maintenance, but occasionally, splurge on having someone do the crap I just hate doing (hardwood floor hands and kneesies).


@karion YES. And this also gets at why it can be so painful to have a partner NOT HELP with this. When you share a home with someone, it feels so nice to take care of it together, and resentment can build SO FAST if it feels like one person (very often the woman) feels they are doing more of the heavy lifting. Because it's not just about division of labor - it's deeply emotional and ties into feelings of pride and success.


@liverwortlaura: You know, I think the housework issue is a much bigger one than simply "some people are clean freaks, some are slobs." It is, very simply, a values issue. As I'm Right on Top of that, Rose said above, keeping a clean, orderly living space evidences a respect for the things that you have. It is treating your personal effects and living space (and, I would argue, yourself) with respect.

I have also come to realize that the answer is not always 50-50 on the housework issue. I do most of the cleaning in our home, and my husband does most of the cooking. Occasionally, I bust out the full course meal, and occasionally, he does a surprise deep clean, and more frequently, we will cook a meal together AND do the Sunday cleaning together. But primarily, I clean, he cooks.

Someone who doesn't attempt to clean, doesn't make any adjustments when asked - this is such a bigger issue than housework. I suspect that this inconsideration plays (or will play) out in other critical areas. If one spouse says "this isn't working for me" and the other doesn't take any corrective action or propose a different solution? I couldn't stay married to that person.


@karion yes, all of this is very well said - and I think you're right, it IS a values issue, which is NOT the same as a moral issue. I think some people might read it on the surface as if it's a moral issue (the Dude, for example), but it's a values thing. And yes, it's not about what people do better or worse, it's about partnership, and it will look different for every couple in the world, but it has to work for both parties.

honey cowl

@karion I also feel like, for me at least, there is enormous societal pressure that MAKES having A Clean House INTO a moral issue. There is simply not that pressure on the men in my life. They don't understand why I feel woefully inadequate and anxiety-ridden if there are dirty dishes in the sink or my bed isn't made. There is a whole huge society pressing down on me telling me I'm A Bad Woman because of it.


@karion I think the "moral issue" that some people have (and I think it's generally more prevalent in people older than me) is that women have been conditioned to consider a clean house (ie, a clean house for their husband and family) an indicator of their worth as a woman. So for them to say "I don't want to do this" is the same as "I can't do this" which is the same as "I am a failure as a woman."
In addition, I know some women (middle class, generally) have political objections. They feel guilty for hiring someone (who makes less than they do) to do what they consider "menial" or "dirty" work. They feel class guilt, or feminist guilt (because most people in housekeeping jobs are women). I call bullshit on this. By hiring someone to do household jobs that have traditionally been "women's work" and paying them money for it, we're acknowledging that it's real work, and not something that a women should just shoulder for free because it's her biological duty.

Lily Rowan

@karion Honestly, I feel somewhat personally attacked by the idea that because I hate mopping and don't care about unmopped floors, that I don't respect myself.

Of course if I were living with a clean person, I would clean more. Actually, I would probably clean more if I lived with a messy person as well. So I agree with you about the consideration/working together issue, but not the other.


@karion I had similar feelings about keeping a clean house as a mark of successful adulthood, and a lot of guilt surrounding the sense that I should be able to do it and what was wrong with me that I couldn't. But having the financial resources to -pay- someone to clean your house is also a mark of successful adulthood, isn't it? I think it says some interesting/strange things about our culture that it's "okay" to derive a sense of satisfaction and personal responsibility from the former but not the latter.


@Lily Rowan: You know, I reread what I wrote and can see how it comes across as judgey and shit. I think I was using a mental reference point that doesn't apply in the ordinary situation. Nevertheless, it was crappy wording and overly generalizing and I apologize for that implication.

My default setting is mildly messy. At my lowest point in life, my home was downright gross. When I am hitting on all cylinders, my house smells like lemons and lavender. Most of the time, I am somewhere in the middle. For me, having things clean and orderly is somehow both a base-level competency and an accomplishment.

I hate to mop. It is, in every sense, a chore. I don't do it often - I mostly spot clean. I don't think this is an indication of self-respect, and again, apologize for that implication.

Lily Rowan

@karion Thanks -- I appreciate that. It's true that I feel better about myself when my house isn't a shithole, but I'm not actually sure which is the chicken and which is the egg. (And I make a distinction between not-that-neat and shithole....)


@karion I think the division of labor is a big issue for LW1. She even mentions that other husbands fix things (or get them fixed), and hers doesn't.

To me, that speaks to Mr LW1's general indifference to Taking Care of Things, whatever they may be. So today he doesn't get the oil changed. Five years from now, maybe he refuses to take the kiddos to the pediatrician.

If he doesn't want to clean, fine. But he needs to find an equal way to contribute. For instance, Mr. Blueblazes makes all the phone calls that require interacting with corporate customer service. Because I just can't stand them. And in exchange, I do all the cooking. I consider it equal work, even if it isn't the same work.


#3 - is it really that big a lie? I mean, to me, the number of people you've fucked is a relevant detail, yes, but it isn't a defining trait. It's not like he told you he was in good financial shape and had actually filed for bankruptcy twice. It's the kind of lie we tell at the beginning of relationships when we're not sure where things are going and are afraid of being vulnerable. As A Married Dude said, there is no magic number of people you can fuck and then be done. If monogamy is what you both want, and what you agree to, then it doesn't matter how many other people you've slept with. In the time you've been together, has he shown any inclination towards seeking out other sexual experiences?

#4 - just end it. I am not a person who believes that sexual fidelity is the be-all and end-all of romantic requirements. But if you agree to it, you need to stick to it. You don't trust him, he has displayed poor judgement, and that's not going away. You are 21, and there is a whole ocean's worth of other fish who will not cheat on you.


LW3--do not even worry about it! This is a totally fine non-problem! There are several of these lady has been around the block, dude was a virgin relationships in my circle (including mine--we started dating in high school) and we have had drunken chats about it and everybody is cool.

Other long term monogamous ladies can correct me if their experiences are different, but I feel like once you are together for long enough, your shared sexual history starts to become so much bigger than your separate sexual pasts with other partners/lack of other partners that it matters less and less (both in terms of numbers of experiences--the fact that I had had sex with like, 3 whole people seemed like a big deal 12 years ago but now it is not even a thing--and just because it's been just the two of us for so long).


I HATE HATE HATE the persistent idea that someone needs to sleep with multiple people before they settle down. It's obnoxious and presumptuous to assume that a person doesn't know what they want in a partner/life/sex life just because they have fewer sexual partners than average.


@SarahP Agreed!


Not that I am judging people who do like sleeping with multiple people before they settle down! Sleep with as many people as you want! Just don't judge other people for not doing the same.


@SarahP Yeah I thought the jump from 'I was his first' to "do we need to open the relationship?' was kind of insane, since it didn't sound like he had said anything at all suggesting that he wanted to sleep with other people.

Emma Peel

@SarahP Honestly, the fact that she's so upset about a, to me, pretty understandable lie (especially since they didn't know each other well before they started dating/sleeping together) -- and that her mind went immediately to that -- makes the lie itself even more understandable.


maybe she wants to sleep with other people?
when you're sitting on a three it probably looks like "fewer sexual partners than average" and finding out the bf was a virgin just sort of let her sublimate the idea and put it on him?

I don't know that seems like a lot of internet psychology for me to be engaging in.


@SarahP Yes! Also, I really hate the assumption that the sex you do or don't have before you get married has anything to do with happiness in a long-term relationship. For every person who says you HAVE to sleep around before settling down, there's some screeching jackass on the other end of the spectrum who claims that sleeping with too many people will ruin your sex life with your eventual spouse.


@paddlepickle I've been in this situation, and not just first sex but really first... everything. And this is at age 25. I don't think it is the idea that you have to have sex with lots of people, but maybe the idea that people are curious. There are lots of sexy and interesting people in the world and there is no reason to limit yourself to just one, beyond personal preference. I've had several partners and so I knew what I was expecting and what I wanted. He had not had the same experience, so I've wondered if he doesn't want to explore a little. It hasn't come to that, and it probably all depends on the person and relationship. Of course, we were totally honest about all of this at the beginning, being sort of adults.


This dude is a good dude and I like him.

My problem with the cleaning is that I can't afford to hire someone to do it for me, but I also do not have the time to do it, and both me and the husband tend to be the people who say "we should clean" but then start finding things that HAVE to get done, or we turn on the football game to have "in the background" and then we both start lingering in front of the TV uselessly instead of cleaning, or I find an old journal or yearbook and start flipping through it, or he realizes he forgot to pay some bills and then it's 4 hours later and we're looking at houses online and have wasted the one day in the weekend we had free for cleaning.

I blame no one but ourselves here, but pretty much that's the problem. And so if I had the money, I'd maybe consider hiring someone, but then I also kind of have this nagging issue of not wanting to pay someone to do something I can do perfectly well myself, if I just up and do it.

Also, LW 4 and LW 5 - GET OUT OF THERE. Just get out!!

Lily Rowan

@Scandyhoovian Doing stuff in little bits is pretty much the only thing that works for me -- there's no way I'm every doing a big clean on Saturday, but I might spend 10 minutes half-cleaning the bathroom on a Tuesday, and that actually does help.


@Scandyhoovian Seriously, pay someone. Like people above have said, if you do it even once a month (or even once every two months) it can be like $80, and if you can at all afford it, it's totally worth it. Plus, it means that you have to clean before they come over so that they can get to the real dirt, so it forces you into straightening up. But you know what, the whole "not wanting to pay someone to do something I can do myself" thing? That's just silly on a number of levels! I pay people to cook food for me when I order food, and I can cook for myself quite well. Sometimes I get mani-pedis, and I can paint my own toenails. Sometimes we pay people to do things for us because we would rather have someone else do it, and that is TOTALLY FINE.

Plus, seriously, someone who is hired to clean my apartment knows how to clean much better than I can, and can do it way better and more efficiently than me. When I come in after someone else has cleaned for me, it looks dramatically different than if I did it, and it takes me twice as long to do it not as well.


@Lily Rowan the flylady way! www.flylady.net if you can get past the obsessive cheeriness, her ideas are gold. who wants to spend the weekend cleaning? not me! but I can do it in little bits during the week!


LW3: I dated a a guy once and we had sex pretty early on in the relationship, which I definitely didn't regret at the time, until he told me a little later on that he was a virgin at the time. I shook it off, but as the time went on it became clear that while we had a lot of fun together we weren't very compatible. He thought I was too negative, and we didn't share that much in common. BUT, he was crazy about me and refused to see anything wrong in the relationship even though he would get upset with me all the time, which I think was related to losing his virginity to me. After I broke up with him he started dating another girl, but was still pretty crazy about me, telling me so during one of the times he and this girl had broken up.

Basically I'm saying that for me this situation turned out negatively by being blindsided by this. He put me on this pedestal, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was only because I was his first. It should also be noted that we were 19 - 20, so pretty young. I guess you just have to really dig deep and talk through how much your relationship has been molded by his losing his virginity to you and the late revelation.


@TheRisottoRacket WOW, sorry, that was long winded. I also want to say I agree with A Married Dude, I just wanted to add my two cents.


Not EVERYONE is all up ons their deflowerer. Just speaking from personal experience--of a guy I first had sex with and a guy who first had sex with me--I feel like it's sort of a myth that you "bond" with your first sex partner. I think bonding is so variable from person to person that someone's equally likely to bond with you for a number of reasons, not all of which are firsts, and not all firsts being sexy firsts.


LW1: omg, so much to say about this issue, as it has been a huge one in my own marriage and is obviously a huge issue for so many others, in large part of socialization of children, gender "norms" etc.... But there is this HUGE gulf to overcome when a person just DOESN'T KNOW how to do things. I know how to keep a clean house because I helped my mother with it from a very young age. So I KNOW how to mop a floor, scrub down door jams, dust off mantles, do the dishes, fold and iron laundry - I know how to do them so well that they come as second nature, as does an awareness of WHEN they need doing. A huge A-HA moment for me was realizing that my husband both DOESN'T KNOW how to do many of these things, or even if he technically COULD figure it out, they just never occur to him! If you've never mopped the floor before, it doesn't even register as A Thing To Do, no matter how many muddy footprints are on the entryway tile. I have realized that AS ANGRY AS IT MAKES ME, it's not his fault that he was raised the way he was raised, so being angry WITH HIM for not knowing isn't useful. There are plenty of other things to be righteously angry about (like, when I make my needs very clear requests and he just doesn't help me because he doesn't feel like it), but there needs to be some breathing room when a partner is just less-equipped life-style wise, like it sounds like LW1's partner may be? also, disclaimer: I am actually horrible at keeping a clean house.


@liverwortlaura also, therapy. if nothing else than to feel validated in your frustration about the imbalance of housework.


@liverwortlaura This is absolutely true - my parents are both somewhat lackadaisical about cleaning, so while I can do my own laundry and scrub a toilet and such, my filter for what needs to be cleaned is at a level of "pretty gross", and there are certain things I never do. (Like scrubbing door jambs. That's a thing people do?)


@anachronistique I knew there was a 'b' in jamb, but didn't trust it! It is not something I do now on a regular basis, but something I probably did almost weekly as a child? to be fair, three little grubby-handed kids probably took their toll on doorjambs than 2 adults.


Yeah, I can do most of those things no problem, but I now have images of being held at gunpoint by Russian mobsters and told I have to clear a door jamb in the next five minutes or... they blow up the University of Pittsburgh?? Sorry, U. Pitt!

honey cowl

@liverwortlaura I would like your advice on how to achieve clarity on this issue since I have been the Cleaner Of My Dude's Toilet for the entirety of our three-year relationship DESPITE THE FACT that we do not live together. IT IS DIRTY, DUDE. PLEASE TO BE CLEANING IT OR I WILL KILL YOU.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Mild degreaser and a rag, scrub, wipe with clean water. I've save the University!


@LaurenF I had so many conversations that literally ended in tears because they would go something like, "Hey, I just want to raise your awareness that I have mopped the kitchen floor approximately once a month for the 7 months we have lived in this apartment, and I would be more interested in sharing this task" only to be met with the response of "Well, I don't mind it being dirty, so if you want to clean it, you can"


fast forward to some real breakdowns on my part and therapy and continuing to ask the questions. It still breaks my heart and gives me some resentment that so much of the heavy lifting of HOW to ask and be heard still falls on my shoulders.... and I also have to remember all the things he DOES do (almost all the laundry and dishes, for example). But, patience. Calm, non-judging asking. Therapy. Making it clear that you NEED some support.


@liverwortlaura Oh yeah, I got this one. He also used to get annoyed with me for not keeping the apartment cleaner. AND he once said to my face when I was bugging him about his massive pile of dishes that were in the way for 5 days he said, "When you ask me to do these things, I really don't feel like doing them." How he made it out with both his eyes I HAVE NO IDEA.


@liverwortlaura Best profile picture ever. It's delightful!


I sorta feel bad for the dude in LW3! There ARE a select few of us women who find it really endearing when a guy is a virgin. I remember I harbored an intense crush on my college BF for about a year before we finally started dating, and one of the factors that moved my feelings from "intense crush" to absolute SWOON was when I found out that he was a virgin who had never even kissed a girl before. I can't quite explain it, but there's something about that quality in a guy (is it the shyness of it? A kind of vulnerability?) that tends to really win me over.


Just had a conversation with my wife last week where it became apparent that, for whatever reason I (the dude) am getting the woman-cleaning-the-house treatment, where there is an assumption that it is my job to do cleaning. We're not sure how it happened, and the best thing that can be said of it is "now I have a more practical understanding of how THE PATRIARCHY feels to women."

fondue with cheddar

@deepomega And that's just the tip of the iceberg!

Glad you're understanding it to some degree, though. It can be a tough thing to explain to someone who's never experienced it.

@deepomega Okay now think about it if every part of your life made you feel that way. Sucks, huh?


No, he doesn't "feel bad" about not doing any chores. Whipping a Swiffer around is a lot easier than actual guilt.


Ugh, gender essentialism.


@tales Double ugh.

eva luna

@tales One of my least favorite things ever, which is too bad for me because it's everywhere.


LW4- oh, no. What are you doing? This dude GAVE you enough time to trust him, & he proved to you that...you can't trust him. He is a serial cheater & also a super bad liar (I second this A Dude's "SRSLY" for the whole car problem thing :-\ )


... doubling down on chronic suck just to avoid some acute suck is a long-term bad proposition.
I love this. Need to embroider it somewhere.

fondue with cheddar

@NeverOddOrEven Right? Life has tried to teach me this lesson numerous times, and it's been a hard one to learn.


@NeverOddOrEven "So I can hurt now, or hurt later.

Now, I guess."

-Mirabelle Buttersfield


Ugh, OK LW1, I was in this exact situation for 6 years (up to and including the ADD, possibly, maybe). And I don't really have any good advice to give, because I tried all the things you tried, and also some of the things A Dude suggested, and it just doesn't work.

And part of it, I have to say, has to do with how men are socialized. Like, when I was 12 or so I was SHOWN HOW TO CLEAN THE TOILET PROPERLY and all this other housewiffery bullshit. Were my brothers? No, no they were not. I also had a single father, and he did not know how to do ANYTHING house cleaning/cooking wise after my mother died. He did not know about separating colours from whites (even I didn't. and he wrecked many of my clothes by putting something red in there). He got better though, and maybe the fact that he actually did chores contributes to my expectation that men can deal with their own fucking mess, I dunno.

And I also TOTALLY DISAGREE that women think it's a moral thing for having a clean house, because for me, it was ENTIRELY PRACTICAL AND ABOUT RESPECT. My ex and I were both in school, and him not doing his own dishes was like him saying "My time is more valuable than your time," PLUS our kitchen was so small, and he used SO MANY DISHES (he was a fucking dish monster. He could go through like 6 plates and cups in a night, it was RIDICULOUS) that I couldn't use the kitchen to cook, and there also weren't any dishes left so I HAD to wash them. It still makes me livid just thinking about it. And I just got to the point where I couldn't do anymore, and pretty much wound up hating him (well this combined with other reasons, like me also being the one paying for everything).Oh, also: DISGUSTING MOULDY MILK CUPS DAILY. Other practical reason.

So now he is with a girl like 4 years younger than him, who doesn't seem to have any career aspirations that I am aware of, and who I am 80% sure based on what I've heard from his family takes care of all his shit, because he doesn't know how to take care of himself. The end.

fondue with cheddar

@Megano! Geez...he sounds a lot like my last boyfriend. I could not get past that stuff, and I seethed until it completely ruined our relationship.

honey cowl

@Megano! Yes to most of these things.


@Megano! Maybe this is where the split I had (see above) came from - my parents made damn sure that I was cleaning things when I was 12, from toilets to the grout on shower tiles. I don't think the same thing happened for my wife.


@Megano! I totally agree that it is about respect, and many men are not shown how to do these chores properly. My current boyfriend is pretty great about making an effort to split the housework, but I have definitely had to teach him things like, "No, you need to dust in this room, not just sweep and call it a day." It can definitely get my blood boiling when men don't feel like they need to clean "because you're better at it."


@supernintendochalmers I actually read a really interesting article on Slate about that, by an economist, and she is like, "THAT LOGIC ECONOMICALLY MAKES NO SENSE FOR REASONS."
Here it is!


@Megano! Ooh thanks, this is fascinating!


@deepomega Yeah, I'd be your wife in that scenario. I can clean bathrooms like a champ because that was my chore as a kid, but then we got a maid when I was 7 and I did not do another chore until I went to college. Dudefriend is currently mildly amused at my inability to remember that cleaning is an important thing to do (I currently only do it when people are coming over), but I'm worried that it'll cause problems long term. :( My brother and sister got it way better, as teenagers they had to do all their own chores and they're way more suited to living with people than I am.


@fondue with cheddar @Megano! My BF is moving in with me soon. I am worried about the cleaning a little. He's not messy at all but he's also not like me. I know that I will end up doing more simply because I notice it more and I get to it faster and I am definitely the one who actively likes ORDER. I am scared that I will get mad at this at some point even though I know all this already, or feel like everything is on me even though it would not be because he's a jerk. I want him to be comfortable and happy here but I don't want to be the sole caretaker and get resentful and have the whole relationship fall apart. Oy, I am a paranoid mess; I haven't lived with anyone at all for a long time. This and the snoring (resulting in me on the couch) are making me nervous.


@Hellcat Definitely talk to him about it before he moves in. A good conversation about what you both expect cleaning-wise is so important to know! I actually said to my ex before we moved in together that I had no intention of being anyone's maid, so I don't know why he was so surprised when I got pissed off about it. But I will definitely never move in with someone again (or possibly not at all) w/o having this talk.


@Megano! Yeah, I suppose I should... and I know that part of the issue is me and my Clean Person tendencies--must keep that in mind!


@Megano! exactly this - 'my time is more precious than yours' - see also always being late for things.

although, the flip side of this is, I keep my house clean enough but prioritise doing stuff. whereas my boyfriend cleans his house more, I think. I watched my unhappy mother clean her very clean house growing up and I think I associate clutter with having a good life?

fondue with cheddar

@ supernintendochalmers My current and last boyfriends both are not very good at washing dishes. They never refrained from cleaning them because I was "better at it", but I forbade my last bf from washing them because I couldn't trust anything he washed. I love/hate washing dishes. I like getting them clean because it's very important to me, but I get really grossed out at the icky stuff. I always rinse my dishes really well when I put them in the sink, that way when I get to them they're easy to clean and aren't super disgusting. But unfortunately, this bf and the last are terrible about rinsing, and the sinkful of dishes gets so bad I don't even want to touch it, and then it just gets worse. It's a vicious cycle.

@Hellcat I am generally a clean-as-you-go person, and my boyfriend recognizes this so he doesn't so much mind the heavier cleaning like the tub and toilet, floor-mopping, and litter box. I feel like I get the better end of the deal but he recognizes that he's a messy person, so he feels like it's fair. It will take awhile to work it out between you but since he's not a messy person I'm sure you can find a solution that works for both of you.

My boyfriend snores, but fortunately he doesn't get mad at me when I kick him in the middle of the night to get him to stop. I don't get as much sleep as I used to, but I'm not a great sleeper anyway. If it ends up being a big problem, maybe he could try those breathing strips that go on your nose?


@fondue with cheddar We've tried those nose things; somehow he rips them off in the night and either hurls them to the floor or finds them adhered to his hand the next morning. I'd send him to the couch but, by the time I wake him up and make him understand what I'm asking, I'm wide awake (I'm also a light sleeper; I woke up the other night because I heard the cat purring in the doorway).

fondue with cheddar

@Hellcat Yeah, I'm the same way. I can't talk during the night either. All I can manage is a kick, and I try to lie with my foot a couple inches away from him so I don't have to move very much. Sometimes I'm able to get back to sleep.

We live near train tracks, and sometimes the train comes through in the middle of the night, blowing its horn. He always complains when the train wakes him up and he can't get back to sleep, and I'm like, "Welcome to my world." I have to sleep with some kind of white noise, otherwise every tiny noise or the ringing in my ears will keep me up.


@fondue with cheddar I can hear the downstairs lady's BF snoring too. Luckily he doesn't do it every night--I don't think he lives there.

fondue with cheddar

@Hellcat Oh, that sucks. I hope he never moves in with her!

I've never had a loudly-snoring neighbor, thank goodness, but I used to have a next door neighbor with a colicky baby. It screamed ALL THE TIME, and our bedrooms shared a wall, naturally.


@fondue with cheddar A baby is part of the reason why I moved out of my apartment and bought a place. Unfortunately, I heard a baby all weekend; hopefully it's only a visiting crybaby!

Reginal T. Squirge

So glad I'm a huge weirdo that keeps my apartment super clean and can just get in the HOV lane and fly right past all these cleaning issues.


@Reginal T. Squirge yep I have three guy friends who are CLEAN MACHINES and like ... they're my friends and I have a really bad track record with doing stupid things with my friends and ruining that friendship BUT I sometimes eye them like "yeah but you're clean. we could make this work."


@Reginal T. Squirge please marry me


It's not "moral," it's because when the house looks like shit, the person who is judged to have fucked up is the woman.

Moreover, women are raised to know how to clean house (or are more likely to have seen such behavior modeled for them from a young age.) Yes, yes, blah blah, post modern feminism yadda yadda but unfortunately the reality is that men aren't raised to know or care about how to clean a house where a woman is.

At the very bare minimum, though, it's embarrassing for all involved. It's embarrassing that a woman has to shoulder the entire burden for not living in filth, and it's embarrassing that men don't know how to clean up after themselves. Fuck, I don't know how to fix it, but it's not just because of women and their silly lady brains.


@Ashley Lange@facebook Ugh, reading even closer "Men don't do it to hurt your lady hearts! Don't hold it against us!" No, no no noooooo no. No. No. Ugh, screw you Married Dude.


@Ashley Lange@facebook Well, but okay, what's the judgement. My house is a mess. So what? Many people seem to feel like you CAN judge a person's moral worth based on the cleanliness of their homes, or at least believe that other people are judging them in said fashion.
I totally understand where you're coming from on the gender essentialism front, but I don't know that he was necessarily trying to say it was because of our "silly lady brains" so much as "this is a thing that women tend to care about more than men" without giving a reason. If it is a true statement, it is likely to be because of socialization.

honey cowl

@Ashley Lange@facebook I am not a friend of this Married Dude.

@Ashley Lange@facebook Married Dude: get off your ass and learn how to clean, and then do it. I'd bet dollars to donuts your wife side-eyes you. Get your shit together.


@Ashley Lange@facebook Actually, it's funny because the one time my husband really steps up with the cleaning is if people are coming over. His attitude is "must clean! can't have people thinking we live in filth!" whereas my attitude is "I would rather have people think we live in filth than have them think I clean up after you."

Though I think he tends to about making a good impression/what people think in general more than I do.


@Ashley Lange@facebook "Moral" is a fucking awful choice of words and the situation as described sounds untenably unequal.


Fuck the idea that I should be embarrassed because I've dishes in my sink, clothes on my floor and some soap scum on my grout. Millions of us, men and women, are leading happy fulfilling lives by ourselves not picking up after ourselves.

I subscribe to the filth-positive school of feminism.

lavender gooms

@Blushingflwr Agreed. A Dude may not understand the reason, but he is right in using the word moral. I have known many women my age who have internalized the idea that a clean house is tied into their worth as a human, because that is what they learned, implicitly, growing up. And women ARE still judged on whether they keep a clean house or not. Maybe we wouldn't judge someone for that but it doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of people who wouldn't.


@Blushingflwr I feel he's ignoring the reality that women don't just clean b/c ovaries or whatever...it's often because we feel immense social pressure to keep the house clean. I've experienced it pretty blatantly - in my old apartment, we would have maintenance workers come over periodically for basic fixing of things. Mutiple times, they cast an eye over our not-abnormally-messy house, and made some joke like "What, your wife was on vacation?" Cue me dying inside just a little bit, knowing that anyone who came into my house and judged it untidy immediately blamed me. It's so unfair! My husband was usually the one MAKING the messes (b/c I usually clean up after myself).

So yeah. It's unfair to hide behind "But we don't do it to make you sad we're just messyyyyy" without recognizing that probably most women don't clean b/c they love clean - they clean b/c they feel anxiety over being blamed for the mutually-messed-up-house.


@jule_b_sorry Yes! And also, I hate this idea that we have to train men we live with into cleaning, and such. They're fucking adults, they are perfectly fucking capable of performing these tasks. Women shouldn't have to take responsibility for cleaning and be forced to manipulate men- by threatening to leave them? By rewarding "good behaviour"?- into helping out.

Miss Maszkerádi

@jule_b_sorry My ex-boyfriend basically made it his mission in life to teach me how to keep a clean house and manage a kitchen, always holding the example of his sainted mother (who I met and who literally, literally has no life outside of cooking and cleaning) over my head. He's Ex for a reason. Fuck men.


@Ashley Lange@facebook I think it's so funny that you're mad at the Married Dude for saying that for women it's a moral issue and making it about silly lady brains, and then you say that it's embarrassing that men don't know how to clean.

Also, so many people in these comments are mad that he said it was a moral issue for women, and then the VERY SAME PEOPLE talk about how if you don't have a clean house you don't respect yourself and if you don't clean up after your spouse you don't respect them, and that it's embarrassing if your house isn't clean. Seems to me that he's right that a lot of people think of it as a moral issue = if you have a clean house you're worthy of respect, and if you don't you aren't and you're embarrassing. I think these relationship disputes over cleaning would be a lot less fraught if people tried to stop thinking in this way.

Jolly Farton

@entangled I am picturing your husband as the cleaning robot from Wall-E and it is fun.


@Onymous yeah, I always say to people when they are like 'sorry my house is so messy': 'it's a house, not a showroom'


Also, I really hated that animal-training article when it came out, and hate it still. Skinner is for the birds (literally). Everyone go read Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn!


@liverwortlaura Really??? I actually totally identified with it. I spent a lot of years training dogs, though, and I still find most of that training to be applicable to "Real Life," even outside my close relationships. ...I admit, I could just be weird.

maxine of arc

@liverwortlaura For real. How do you praise your husband for going nine miles above the speed limit instead of ten? In what universe is that going to sound like an adult sincerely addressing another adult?

fondue with cheddar

@Chesh Maybe you could say, "I noticed you've been making an effort not to speed as much, and I really appreciate it."

fondue with cheddar

2. So, Married Dude…what you're saying is that your marriage is really weird and unnatural-looking, but strangely cute?


@fondue with cheddar His marriage is prevented from becoming an adult due to an environment that remains full of water?

hairdresser on fire

Yo I enjoy the pragmatic responses to these on the whole, buuuut pretty sad/irked by LW1? Hate to get all patriarchy-smashy, but both LW1's excuses for her husband and A Dude's gender essentialism moved me to comment for the first time in like, a year. In addition to practical steps like positive reinforcement, mayyyybe a good idea to look at egalitarianism in your relationship and expectations around gender. Might be enlightening.


@hairdresser on fire Yup. As the messy person in my relationship, I consider it my duty to step up and do my best not because my boyfriend has provided enough carrots of behavior modification, but because I know it is the fair/responsible/respectful thing to do.

Reginal T. Squirge

Oh, and! The first time I really hung out with the first girl I slept with was when we got together to spend the day looking for an apartment (we both needed a place to live) and getting to know each other. I told her I was a virgin as a "this is another thing about me" sort of thing and she said, "Alright." Then we started dating and had sex and evertyhing was fine.

Then I met the second girl and she had some problems with being the second person I'd slept with (mostly because her ex was lame about her being his first) and that contributed to us breaking up.

What I'm saying is that some dudes have courage and don't stress over their virginity and some women are totally cool about it while others make it a big deal. YMMV, etc.

eva luna

@Reginal T. Squirge I applaud your lack of gender essentialism here, though I wish it were common enough I didn't feel like applauding.

Also, your handle is hilarious.


For LW1, you can dissect all sorts of things about why he's not cleaning, both on a social basis and a personal history/psychological one, but the bottom line is that there's something important to you and not unreasonable which you would like him to do but he isn't. At this point, it does sound like you've made it clear to him that his failing to do this thing is hurtful and meaningful, but he feels that his own reasons for not doing it trump making you happy, or at least not giving you extra work to do.

So you are at something of an impasse. I wouldn't call this an ultimatum, but laying it out in these terms to him -- why is your happiness in avoiding this work more important than mine in having it done? -- may help clarify things. And if it's a deal breaker for you, well, then you have to deal with that. But your resentment about his selfishness is only going to grow over the years, and this might not be the only issue over which things line up like this, where he wants to continue behaving in a way which he knows causes you stress or pain. It's something to think about.


@sophia_h THIS. And, like I said upstream, a great thing to work with a professional therapist on, if only to make him see how deadly serious it is!


@liverwortlaura If this is his behavior in one area, I'm sure it's not the only thing he'll act like this about -- crying crocodile tears about his "guilt" but continuing to do whatever the hell he wants as long as he can. It may be a male thing (my husband has this tendency) or a personality thing, but whatever it is, it does not enable two adult humans to live together and have a relationship if one person just pulls the "I feel so guuuuilty *turns the TV on*" card all the time.

Granted, he may not realize that in this situation, his happiness subtracts from hers; he's probably just trying to coast as long as he can without doing something unpleasant. Which is why, especially if he's got the kind of logical-minded personality my husband does, he may need to have it presented in those terms to make any kind of positive change. And yeah, therapy for her or both of them may be a good idea to get that process started.


@sophia_h Thereapy ESPECIALLY if he's blaming his ADD. That's not an excuse - that means there's a problem that he needs to actively work on. I used to pass a lot of stuff like that off on my ADD. Then, I started a treatment program with a therapist. BOOM - started improving my habits on things instead of making excuses. Don't blame ADD and make the rest of us look bad, guy in LW1!

honey cowl

"A lot of women, for reasons I don't really understand, regard having a clean house as a moral issue rather than as a practical tradeoff of invested time to subsequent benefit."

HahahahahahahHAHAHA oh Dude, you have no fucking idea what you just said there.


@LaurenF It's like a zen koan. The more I ponder it, the less sense it makes... until suddenly I understand! Men are from mars (and think about things cost/benefit logically) and women are from venus (and want to clean [haha, um can barely even type that] because of the feels). Yup, that should fix LW1's problem.


@LaurenF yeah and "for reasons I don't really understand"


"women keep telling me and telling me and TELLING ME IN ALL CAPS, like in this very Hairpin thread, but I just close my ears until they stop moving their mouth-holes."


If only I was more logical about having to hire someone to clean up after my husband then I could stop taking it so personally!! FEEELLLINGSSS!!!

eva luna

@adorable-eggplant You know, I really feel like Mars seems like a more thoroughly clean planet, in which case I am from Venus, after all. Gender essentialism makes me so crabby.


YES, thank you, LW1. This is me with my (otherwise lovely!) boyfriend who I’ve lived with for about 5 months now. He isn’t as bad as what’s described, but it still drives me crazy. He’ll help clean in situations where it would clearly be unfair for me to do everything (like if I’ve cooked a big dinner, he’ll help with the dishes), but he never cleans up the dishes he uses by himself and would never think to clean the bathroom/anything else.

I know I enable him to some degree-- he makes A LOT more money than I do, and ends up paying a larger portion of shared costs. We’ve talked EXTENSIVELY about this, and he’s made it very clear that he’s okay with our arrangement. But I still feel the need to make up for what I’m not contributing money-wise, so I grit my teeth and clean up after him.

My worry is also the “if we have kids in the future, am I’m going to have to do everything?” thing. I will try some of these techniques, BUT IT SEEMS RIDICULOUS TO HAVE TO TRAIN SOMEONE OVER 30 TO CLEAN UP AFTER THEMSELVES. Boys suck.


I feel like Dude is a little flippant about LW3. I don't think it should be a relationship-ending bombshell, and I guess it's not so bad in the whoooole history of bombshells, but to me that would be a pretty big deal. Finding out someone had maintained a lie for that long would really bother me, especially a lie that had to do with sexual intimacy.

Her jump to "do we need to open the relationship?" is very odd to me and makes me wonder if there's more to it, since she said they were 'fighting about a related issue'. It sounds as if he only said that she was his first and she jumped straight to 'we need to open the relationship so he can experience someone else', and that's a MASSIVE jump if he'd never said anything about wanting to sleep with other people. Maybe the fight had something to do with that? Wild speculation, obviously.


@paddlepickle I dunno, when my man & I first started dating, we traded our "numbers" & mine was substantially higher. My brain had a mini meltdown & I immediately was thinking things like, "Oh my god, should I tell him to go on a fucking spree one week?" I don't know why. I guess I internalized that societal idea about how men "need to" do a certain amount of wild-oat-sewing before settling down? But anyway, I guess my point is: I see why this LW leapt to that solution.

Baby Fish Mouth

@paddlepickle Did no one else get concerned the "fighting about a related issue" part? I can't really think of a scenario where bringing that up during a fight wasn't a way of fighting dirty.


@paddlepickle Yeah, claiming more sexual partners than he actually had wasn't a big deal, but maintaining that lie for three years? And she says he also told related lies to cover that one up -- I really wonder what those were, and that's the part that worries me most, because I find it hard to imagine what the other lies could be other than, like, entire fake relationship histories.


My boyfriend cleans both more frequently and better than I do; I am more of a tidier. But the solution to that is I try and do as much as I can (especially easy things, like load the dishwasher; unload the dishwasher; do laundry when the basket is full; fold things) and then I ask him to just give me specific tasks and I'll do them. "

I understand being the messy partner and things just not occurring to you the way they do to a person who cleans a lot. But the easy solution there is ask them to teach you (eg, tell me what you need me to do and I'll do it), and make a sincere effort to do your share.


@ponymalta YES--I am the person who cleans a lot (and whose BF is moving in soon). I have to remember that there is nothing wrong with his "I'll wash my clothes when I see that I need more clean things to wear" philosophy as opposed to my "I'm just sitting here watching a movie; why not simultaneously throw some clothes in the laundry (even though it's far from imperative)?" Both of us are neat and clean; I'm just more "do it now" about it.


Help me 'Pin! LW4 has exacerbated my concern over an already tricky problem.

I've been seeing a VERY nice dude for... 6 weeks maybe? I've spent the last few years on the mid-late 20's dating merry-go-round, and merry it has been. I've slept with lots of people, had lots of fun. The rules in that world, or in my world, are "no exclusivity until it is expressly discussed". I'm realizing that I don't think he is operating under the same set of rules.

I slept with someone else, pretty recently (like, less than a week ago). He's a FWB with whom I had called things off for unrelated reasons a month ago, before dude-friend and I were at all real. We are at a party, dude-friend was sick and stayed home, and I was wearing a smoking hot dress. Things have been kind of hot and heavy in the texting world since. FWB and I have pretty intense sexual chemistry, but he's not the kind of guy you give your heart to.

Have I cheated? And what do I do now? Just tell him, right? Or at least tell him I don't consider us exclusive. He's a nice dude who finds me a bit "sexually intimidating", and I think this is going to kill what we have.


@When robot unicorns attack I should add: I don't want to stop sleeping with the FWB. At least for a little while. He is willing to enact an all-time unicorn fantasy for me, and I just CAN'T LET GO.


@When robot unicorns attack 6 weeks is a tiny window. And I'm a kind of literal person, who is on the side of presuming that unless we've said "I am ready to commit to exclusively dating/sleeping with you. Are you up for making that same commitment to me?" then it's not yet exclusive.

If you're having guilt feelings then a bit of honesty might clear that up. Something along the lines of: "I don't know if I've told you, because it hasn't really come up yet. But I feel like we're at the point that it might be good to clarify the parameters of this relationship. I'm interested in seeing each other and sleeping together, but not exclusively. Do you see that working for you in an ongoing way? How much would you like me to share about my other experiences/dude-friends? Here's what I want to know about yours [insert expectations about practicing safe sex and being informed about new folks or levels of entanglement here.]"

There's a reason I've been called robot before, but really, being blunt saves a world of wondering about this kinda stuff. :)


@When robot unicorns attack Hmm. Toughie. I don't know if you've cheated. If I were in your situation, I would feel guilty, but that's because I operate on different personal rules - I don't mean that you should feel bad.
However, I think the only thing to do is have the exclusivity talk right away. Six weeks seems like a long time to not have had it, to me. You don't have to tell him that you've slept with anyone - just tell him that you want to be "officially" exclusive or that you don't want to be exclusive (if he thinks you are, he might take this really hard), and then the rules are set and you know what's what.
I was once blindsided by thinking I was dating a guy exclusively, and then him casually talking about dating around. The relationship didn't last - not because I believe there are set-in-stone rules, but because we had such different expectations and it did hurt my feelings. So keep that in mind - setting the ground rules is always better!


@When robot unicorns attack I think if you can tell he's been assuming you're exclusive you have a responsibility to set him straight, but otherwise you should probably talk about it. I don't know how you can say "I just wanted to clarify that while I like you a lot, I'm not ready to be exclusive yet," without him immediately asking, "Why, who else are you seeing?" So maybe decide before you bring it up what you want more, dating this dude or your unicorn fantasy (tough call, seriously).

I think everyone has a responsibility, even in casual relationship, to treat each other kindly and with respect, and if you can tell that he doesn't think you are only exclusive after an explicit disclaimer, then you aren't respecting him or treating him kindly by pretending you don't know and trying to get around that.


@When robot unicorns attack You say "I think this is going to kill what we have" -- what do you have? Maybe I'm just jaded and/or reading into it too much, but seems like you'd have more to say about a really awesome relationship-in-the-making than "He's a nice dude".


@When robot unicorns attack Nope. Sleeping/whatever-ing with other people is not cheating until you've explicitly discussed your relationships status. As you're not in a relationship with him (whatever you suspect he may think, it really isn't a relationship until you have both decided it is one), you should do what you like. If you do think he's operating under different standards though, you should probably talk to him about it - not in a "omg I think I've been cheating on you" way but in a "FYI, just wanted to make sure that you're okay with both of us being non-exclusive until we decide otherwise" way.


@ponymalta Thanks all. This is basically my entire thought process.

I have an obligation to discuss this with him, I know I do. I know it might mean losing something I want (him or FWB/unicorns). Of course selfishly I don't want that. But you can't have everything, can you! Mr. Monogamy and Mr. Casual Hot Sex.... Eff.


@winslow Haha. Well, I'm not effusive and I'm a commitment phobe. I dump indiscriminately. So if we're still dating and I'm worried about hurting his feelings, rest assured that I'm into it.


@When robot unicorns attack I'm of the firm belief that until you have sat down and had a talk to establish an exclusive relationship, you are not in an exclusive relationship.


I'm with @Scandyhoovian. If no one has defined the terms of the relationship, then there is nothing to break/cheat against, really. That doesn't mean that he might have different expectations or hopes than you do, but as a grown-up, he should be able to handle that conversation as graciously as you handle opening it. Rooting for a happy outcome!


@PatatasBravas Update!

He brought it all up on Friday night. Asked where we were going, and told me he had stopped seeing other people. I told him I hadn't and wasn't ready yet. Easy peasy! He is a grown up, and one who is growing on me.

(He also invited me on a trip, maybe with his mom? I feel lucky because I have other trip plans at the exact same time, and was able to side-step that panic-inducing blind side. Date me. I'm charming.)


I have horrid prejudice about people who hire other people to clean their houses.

I hated cleaning for rich people so, so much. Cleaning for disgusting oil drillers was better. Even though not all of them were entitled jerks, it made me feel like shit to change the sheets on some teenaged kid's bed and dust their rooms for them while they were swimming in the backyard pool.

And as far as not having time and not wanting to put the effort and all of that - you think I didn't have time to clean my own house either? I didn't, and I was tired, and I couldn't stand doing anything after wiping all the streak marks off mirrors and vacuuming up dog hair all day and then going to school. It's great if you don't want to waste your time on boring and difficult and arduous tasks. But it seems so shitty to be able to make someone else do it TWICE because it's too boring and difficult and arduous and gross for you to do once, for yourself.

I KNOW you get paid and that's the fair exchange. And it's a job, and some people like it in some capacities, I'm sure. It's probably a lot better if you work for yourself and not for some degrading company - I've thought about making extra money by doing that. But I can't help thinking that people should just clean up after themselves.

YEAH and obviously sometimes people are old or injured or unable to walk or reach or something.


@LaLoba Wow. Judge much?


@LaLoba I'm sure some people feel the same way about people who order takeout, pay for wash and fold laundry, have groceries delivered, or fail to garden/hunt most of their food. Or maybe not? Maybe there is an arbitrary social judgment going on where people (read: women) who don't clean their house are fundamentally lazier than people who order food in. Or maybe it has to do with having someone come into your home and do your work for you, rather than having it happen elsewhere, which is way too close to having Help. It's socioeconomic privilege, embodied, in your home.


@LaLoba Dude. I'm sorry you hated house-cleaning; clearly it was a bad fit for you. But the idea that the demand for a service shouldn't exist just because you personally don't like performing it? That is bizarre.


@gobblegirl Someone's actions and monetary expenditures seem like a fairly good metric for judging them. You can feel free to disagree with it, but I think just going "ugh don't judge" about how money is spent is pretty ridiculous. I'm sure calling people out on buying a jet or whatever would be fine by you, but maybe that line is drawn at a lower level for others.

Personally, I think hiring someone to come in and clean for you is fraught and problematic, but defensible.

Please don't just dismiss the thoughts and opinions on this (by someone who seemingly has experience doing the work) with "judge much".


@LaLoba I have someone that cleans my place once every two weeks. I completely adore her - she's amazing, really nice, and does a fantastic job. But I often wonder what she thinks of me and my husband...our apartment is small (jr. 1 bedroom), our furniture is pretty f'ed up and mismatched, and we have weird stuff out and about everywhere (musical instruments, books, strange knickknacks, all the gadgets ever made). I'm convinced she thinks we're crazy people who should probably save their money and clean themselves!


@tales Could not disagree more. Leaving aside how totally unnecessary it is to have a "good metric" for judging (you do know that you don't have to judge people, right? really! it's not required!), who then determines what makes someone else's expenditures worthy of condemnation? Whose value system and personal taste becomes the stick by which everyone else's actions are measured? I mean, I personally think it's frivolous and bizarre to spend money on a weekly pedicure; that's why I don't do it, personally. But I'd never presume to tell my friends that their doing so is "fraught and problematic, but defensible". They don't have to defend their spending, and certainly not to me.


@winslow well I'm not LaLoba, but when I'm the one doing the condemning, I'm pretty sure I'm the one that gets to determine what worth condemnation. I don't feel like I need permission or consensus to loath people.


@tales I have also worked as a cleaner. I chose to accept money to do a task, and I did it. Not everyone has their choice of career, and cleaning is probably a profession with more possible exploitation than some. But to vilify children because their parents chose to spend their money on something that is neither illegal and hurts noone just because she didn't like her job, is pretty intense and I found it very off-putting.
I could have put it more politely, but I chose not too.
And why do you think having someone clean for you is "fraught and problematic" (assuming they work for a reputable company, or for themselves)?


@jule_b_sorry When I did elder care in college, I also did cleaning for the household, because the couple both worked full-time and had two kids and scant time to do it themselves--and it never bothered me! I mean, I guess doing it as an addition to elder care is a bit different to doing it solely, as the only job, but I never felt judgy about them or thought they were rich, lazy jerks wasting their money. I mean, they obviously weren't rich, but even besides that--there's something about cleaning someone else's space as part of a paid job that is much less emotionally fraught for me than cleaning my own home on my own time. I hate cleaning my house! I do it because I have to and because I like having a clean home, but I do hate it! And I don't blame other people for hating it too, and for paying for extra help so they can do other things with their time. It does get more complicated socioeconomically when you have a cleaning person who is not me (aka not white, not a college student doing the work to get experience and extra money), but still. I liked them, I have fond memories of them. I even did one big deep-cleaning job for a different family member who, I can honestly say, lived in squalor because of her age and because of Reasons which are probably very complicated, and it was so much easier on me, emotionally, to wade into that mess and start bagging up bloody kleenex than to go home and stare at my own dirty pile of dishes and cry.


@tales Why is paying someone to clean for you more "fraught and problematic" than paying someone to do any other thing you could do yourself? I mean, I could change my own oil, cook all my own meals, etc., but I sometimes pay people to do those things for me. (And presumably they, like someone who works as a cleaner, then also have to find the time and energy to do those things for themselves.)


@gobblegirl Yeah, people you invite into your home to do your dirty work do judge you. It's part of the price of the service. My first ever job in high school was cleaning someone's house every other weekend and I will never forget how I hated those people. And I wasn't even doing it to pay my rent or feed my family, and I could quit whenever I wanted to (and did), and they weren't even rich, just extremely self-satisfied average middle-class people just like my own family.

People who can scrub a stranger's floor on their hands and knees and and yet not look around and form private opinions are saints but you can't count on hiring saints. That is why I vacuum and polish the furniture before calling the pet-sitters because god forbid their judgment of me is any harsher than it already has to be.

When I have serious money someday I will hire cleaners in a heartbeat, and I will pay them enough to feel like an ethical person, but I won't pay them enough to guarantee that they won't resent me and fantasize about my death, because there isn't enough money in the world to guarantee that. Part of the dignity of being a working class person who performs hard physical labor is that you get to have whatever ungenerous thoughts you want about your employers. I don't think anybody should find that shocking.


Wow, I can't believe some of the opinions here. I find them... shocking.
I can understand resenting someone who pays you to clean their house and treats you like shit, but someone who treats you fairly, and APPRECIATES you?
When I was a waitress, I know I resented people that treated me like I was below them, but the people that were nice? Thanks for tip, I was happy to help.


@Onymous I guess my point is, where do you (not you personally, the universal you) get off condemning anyone? Especially on something that's so arbitrary and subject to personal taste as how money is spent? It's like loathing someone based on their preferred sexual position or the contents of their bookshelf. I can see avoiding a close personal relationship with someone on that basis, even disliking them as a matter of incompatible values, but it's a big leap to claim that spending your money on x makes you a universal jerk. (Unless x is something like child prostitutes, obviously.)


And I find it really sad to think that I'm naive when I don't imagine that people are fantasizing about my death.


@LaLoba Like cheerybeggar, I'm curious to where you draw the line on self-sufficiency, too. I'm guessing having other people do your laundry falls under the "do it yourself" category? What about having people paint your house or shampoo your carpets or change your car oil for you? Those don't take much skill. What about having someone take care of your children, or elderly or disabled family members? A lot of people running daycares have children so they're "doing it twice" just for those selfish bitches who don't want to be stay at home moms.

@queenofbithynia My highschool job was cleaning outhouses and picking up peoples' used condoms and cigarette butts. It was gross, but I certainly didn't spend my days full of hate for the people I was cleaning up after. Neither did my sister, who cleans hotel rooms, or my aunt, who is a geriatric nurse and spends her days wiping people's asses, or my brother, who is the guy you invite into your home when you don't want to clean up the mold in your walls. So yeah, I find the idea that anyone doing labour is spending their days dreaming of their employer's deaths to be a bit shocking. I don't think it's as universal as you think.


@LaLoba I'm sorry you had such a terrible experience, and I can completely understand where you're coming from--it's hard to escape social politics in service work, and it can be so frustrating and awful. But I still disagree. I have cleaned houses before (although never full-time), and... that's the job I asked for, you know? I needed a job, I said, "please give me money to clean your house," and they did. I have also been a waitress and served food to people who were perfectly capable of cooking for themselves. Is that any different?

I hated when people were *rude* to me, of course, but I didn't find either position demeaning in the least. A job is a job--and that applies all the way up the ladder. A boss hires a receptionist to make copies so he can use his time for other things. A school hires a janitor so the teachers and principals can spend all their time teaching and administrating. My current boss could do my job himself, but he hired me so that he can spend his day yelling at people over the phone. ;) And you know what? I'm happy he did, because I was unemployed for a year, and now I have a job, despite the fact that he might think it "below" him. I don't give a damn whether it's below anyone; it's good for me!

(Edit: my boss is great, and doesn't treat *me* as if I'm below him. That is an important distinction. I should also state, to be clear, that my current job isn't service work--it's an office job--though still somewhat low on the pay scale.)


@queenofbithynia Wow... I *do* find that pretty shocking, actually. I've scrubbed peoples' homes and never thought those things, and trust me, I am NO saint. I just don't see what the big deal is! People pay me to do something for them and I do it. That's why I applied for the damn job.

My question (and it's an honest question, not one meant meanly) is... why do you resent/judge? I honestly cannot understand why someone would judge someone else simply because they committed the sin of employing them. (On the other hand, if they are shitty people in other ways, go on and hate all you want.)

This just all makes me really sad. I don't look down on the people who do work for me; nor do I hate the people for whom I do work. And I think most of my friends and family would say the same. Can't we all just do our work and get on with our lives?


@LaLoba In my day job, I hire people at work to do the work I used to do but now I do other work. Am I exploiting them? Why is house cleaning different other than that I can do it myself?

There's a lot to say about economic privilege in this country, but I feel I am participating in the work economy. I'm not exploitative: I pay the rate she set, I respect her schedule, I don't micromanage, I don't make her job extra difficult, I pay a year end bonus and tip extra if I know the house needs some extra attention.

I don't sit around while she does this work, because I am at work, too. One thing I get out of it is that my house gets clean without me having an emotional reaction to it.


@NeenerNeener I don't get this whole debate at all either. I don't know if I have a good example to compare it to (I do my own cleaning and I don't hate it--lots of times I like it! And I am no good at sitting still for a pedicure either). But I do hate food shopping and so I, in essence, "make" someone else do it for me. Maybe the delivery man brings the stuff inside and sees that I am a childless, fully capable human being who is clearly not at work at that time, and then goes home to his wife and says, "Can you believe this? That chick can't even get her own groceries--and from the looks of it, she doesn't appear to cook much either!" But who cares if he does? And I don't feel like I am hurting him any more than I feel like I was hurting the laundry lady who washed my clothes when I didn't have a washer and dryer, and also hated the idea of waiting around in a laundromat all night (though I do run down the stairs and grab some grocery bags too... but that's really just to get it done faster, not because I don't want him to judge me). And I don't feel bad for the husband-and-wife team that cleans my office either. In fact, it seems a bit patronizing to feel bad for people doing a job: who am I to decide that someone's livelihood is somehow demeaning--maybe they like it. Maybe they're proud of the work they're doing and maybe it pays very well and that makes them happy? Maybe it's their own business that they built from the ground up? Maybe they do lots of stuff in addition to cleaning?

I don't know. I do know that a person who demeans or treats someone badly or as a lesser human at all is probably going to do so whether that person is his or her housekeeper or a car dealer or a cashier or a cop. It's not the job that is the villain here; it's the jerks... and jerks are everywhere.


Yes, most of the judgment that people get from me is based on how they directly treat others, or how harshly they judge them.


@queenofbithynia Part of the dignity of being a working class person who performs hard physical labor is that you get to have whatever ungenerous thoughts you want about your employers. I don't think anybody should find that shocking.

Seriously. You think the people who do those sorts of jobs long-term aren't judged just as hard for not finding something better? We're willing to talk about the fraught politics of domestic work along gender lines, but not class lines? (Though that's hardly a first for feminist discussions.)

I also find it telling how many comments that say "well, I cleaned, too, and I didn't judge!" reference long-ago jobs in school.


@Poubelle I have someone who comes every two weeks...and I don't judge her. I think she's lovely, is good at what she does, and appears to make decent money working for herself. In fact, I judge myself more harshly, as I'm sort of embarrassed to be obviously not "rich" (like I said, fucked up furniture and such) but pay someone to clean just b/c I lack time/energy to clean the house myself and feel like a "bad woman" with incorrect priorities.

For what it's worth, though, I might be unusual as my husband's stepmother cleans houses. So, it's pretty normal for me to see someone make decent money and like what they do, while still cleaning houses professionally.


If I were LW4, the temptation to convince my boyfriend that I was a witch would be irresistible.

"Yes, you will dry heave EVERY time you try to cheat on me."


@Bootsandcats I mentioned this to my husband, because he needs to be reminded that I make jokes. He said, "Actually, it sounds like the sex he initiated might not have been consensual. I've never heard of anyone vomiting because they were so sorry for cheating, but it seems a reasonable response to realizing you just raped someone."

Continue leaving him, letter writer.

Judith Slutler

@Bootsandcats Except possibly reversed, because dry heaving also sounds like a plausible reaction to having someone initiate sex with you against your will? IDK.


@Emmanuelle Cunt But he climbed into bed with her, so it seems like he was the initiator here.


Except for LW1 and LW3, these ladies all sound very young. Get OUT now. Life is too long to be dealing with such juiceboxery.


Cleaning service is cheaper and less difficult than therapy. But it only really keeps the house clean if you participate. However, maybe some peoples' expectations are a little too high?

Also: I think it's legit to worry if your partner has had enough experience to feel comfortable settling into marriage. I don't know why we wouldn't take that seriously. I don't think that's all about the "number" though.


@vunder I think that we all found it weird because the LW gave no indication that her boyfriend wants to sleep around or get his "number" up. She's completely projecting that on him.


@gobblegirl Yeah, I get the projecting thing but it's a real bite when your partner finally gets around to expressing that concern later and you're like, "DUDE, I KNEW IT." It's just not something I would dismiss out of hand, but then they're still so young that it kind of boggles my mind, so.


LW1: I think your cleaning issues may be a "thing" for you guys that waxes and wanes throughout your relationship. It will be worthwhile for both of you to examine the reasons behind it because what you guys are doing now clearly isn't working well.

Bear with me here though: as a newly married person myself, and being friends with other newly marrieds, I'm wondering if part of the urgency you feel about this issue, that led to you writing to AMD, is that there is often a difference to how people perceive their partners once they get married. I think there is a tendency to get a bit panickey about issues that have always existed, but now you've BOUGHT THE COW and are thinking that these issues may be your undoing, INSTEAD OF these issues being things that you will work on throughout your relationship, to varying degrees of success, with the ultimate goal that you both learn from each other more and learn about each other more and love each other more.

I don't know, it's stuff I've been dealing with lately, and I've shared my feelings and have found that other women/men feel similarly at this stage of the game. I thought I heard a bit of it in your letter...


@noodge Hi, I am just gonna hop on this thread, because IN THE SAME BOAT! Not that I'm complaining about the cow I just bought, I just think you're right about that whole "suddenly, things stand out that may have always been there and didn't stand out before" thing.


yeah, it happened with both my husband and I. the mantra that has gotten us through it is "we're both individuals, making our own decisions and creating our own actions that the other person may not like. just because we're married doesn't mean that we're the same person now. so just breathe" and it's helped? I think? probably not a bad thing to remember anyway...


@Scandyhoovian I love that you referred to your husband as "the cow I just bought." That is awesome.

dracula's ghost

LW1 and all whose dudes won't do the dishes: Dude. Either you care about your partner's well-being and about the impact of your actions (or lack thereof) on them, OR YOU DON'T. If you don't, you don't deserve to have a partner. This whole "oooh, my mother never taught me to wash a fucking dish, so I can't DO it, I don't GET it, it's my mother's fault" 'tude is maximum bullshit, and they know it, and you know it, and everybody knows it. I've changed a million behaviors to make my relationship work, and so has my partner. It's not hard. You can do it even if you have ADD (WTF is that, is he literally incapable of functioning in society? Because if he can't concentrate long enough to wash a dish then I really don't know how he has a job or performs any task whatsoever). If you tell him clearly: "what you are doing hurts my feelings and makes me feel disrespected" and his response is to keep doing it and not change and then just feel bad* about not changing, then he's a selfish wiener.

It's the year 2012 and let me tell you I am THROUGH fighting with dudes about the dishes. If I ever hear "well if you want them clean why don't YOU clean them" again I will literally barf. WHERE DOES THE MADNESS END. "If you want the baby's diaper changed so bad why don't YOU do it?" Is that okay? "If you want groceries so bad why don't YOU get a job." You aren't roommates living in a cave! You're human beings who are supposed to care about the lived experience of one another! Tell him to get his head out of his ass AT ONCE! This is outrageous! This aggression will not stand, man!

*pretend to feel bad


@dracula's ghost This should have been the response. So right on.


@dracula's ghost Hi, you're great.

Springtime for Voldemort

@dracula's ghost ADD isn't an excuse, no, but it does mean the problem has to be approached differently than "you do this or you don't care about me". There's this weird idea in your answer that showing someone you love them means constantly changing yourself. Something needs to change, yes, but that could be getting a cleaner, not living with your partner (probably less of an option for this particular LW, since they're married, but for many couples in general...), getting some meds and therapy, or trying one of the many cleaning strategies out there. But no, it doesn't automatically mean he doesn't care about her, and it absolutely doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a partner. "You're not perfect, and thus not deserving of love and companionship" - what the hell kind of mental health allyship is that?


I agree with this Dude when he says maybe some women believe men expect to do the cleaning, which is not the case.
Housework was a major source of tension for me and my husband (then-fiance) when I first moved in; we both worked full time, but I believed the onus was solely on me to keep up with our home.
This lead to lots of resentment that was probably unwarranted, as he never actually seemed to believe it was my job to get shiz done.

Fast-forward a year or so, and we decided hiring a part-time housekeeper would be a wise investment.

We even keep a stack of (recycled) paper plates and (biodegradable) cups for times when we have too much going on to deal with a mountain of dishes (see: my relentless, all-day morning sickness, his working overtime).

I have zero guilt about this; outsourcing some of the domestic stuff means we have more time to hang with each other, which is awesome.


Here's how I conquered the class anxiety of having a hired cleaner which my partner pays for but which I could never afford, being a student: I left my vibrator in the microwave to make my partner laugh next time he opened it. Turns out he doesn't use the microwave that often. Cleaner finds it. Cleaner quits two weeks later. We have new cleaner now. Did I say this anecdote explains how to conquer socio-economic guilt? I meant to say it explains how to humiliate yourself in your own home.

@hoo:ha Probably because the cleaner thought you were trying to make her feel uncomfortable. "Clean my vibrator hahahahahhaha!" Yeah no.


LW1 is your husband also a 'poet'? Because if he is, I'm sorry but you seem to be married to my ex boyfriend and I'm sorry to say it won't get better. When you clean together he will spend his time trying to distract you so he can stop cleaning and so that you'll eventually realize it's more work to herd him around than to do it yourself and you won't bother. Then he'll watch your fish die while you're out of town because his ADD apparently prevents him from going to the pet store to get it more food. And then you'll realize you can never have kids with this man because he'd probably starve them too.


LW1... I have LOADS of feelings about this. My fiancé was the same way for a very long time. We've been together for almost nine years. We met in college, when he was in his "oh that bowl? I think it had mac and cheese in it or something. It's been there for a few weeks so I can't remember" phase. We moved in together after college and he did not do is share of the cleaning. I became the nagging obnoxious one, then he would get mad at me for eventually just doing things myself because he always said he'd get to it. I gave him countless ultimatums and we very nearly split up because of it. And you know what? Three months ago he was diagnosed with ADD (turns out he'd had it all his life, but no one ever caught it.) the pieces all fell into place, he went on medication, and now he's able to focus on the things he needs to. The way he explained it to me, he always KNEW what had to be done, but something in his brain wouldn't let him; he'd get distracted by a thousand little things. We got a new vacuum cleaner today, and he was actually giddy with excitement.

To sum up: You say your man friend has ADD. If he's not on medication, he should consider it. If he is, he should get help in the form of behavioral therapy. I am so empathetic to your problem, but the solution might be different than you think.

mousie housie

@Nutellaface Hopefully it works out for you guys. Word of advice: eventually the medication potency tapers off, so be diligent and keep in regular touch with the doctors/therapists, etc.


@Nutellaface YES to this post of yours. I have ADD/ADHD (inattentive type) and was diagnosed two years ago at 24. The guy sounds a lot like me in some ways...he has the hallmark impairment of executive functioning and difficulty initiating tasks. The current research shows that ADHD is an issue of self-regulation or self-control, which I find to be spot on. You just can't seem to make yourself do things when or how you need to do them or want to do them. It can feel impossible stop what you're currently engrossed in for something time sensitive or important. The more important task never seems urgent enough to get started no until it's suddenly too late, and you get a bit in your stomach made of shame and guilt. It's SO SO SO incredibly frustrating to live like that -- because honestly, no one wants to -- and very hard to explain how you can manage to drop the ball on a daily basis and fail to change problematic things that you KNOW are problematic and in theory, know how to fix.

I will spend an entire Saturday inside, doing "nothing," when really I'm just mentally trying to start a bunch of things that are all overdue (personal stuff or other obligations), forgetting about most of them in the process of trying to make ANY of them happen. It feels like Lucy in the chocolate shop -- I feel like I have 30 hours of thoughts and ideas to cram into the mere 24 we're allowed per day.

The older I get and the more adult responsibilities fall on my plate, the more pronounced and problematic my symptoms have become. I am a hardworking and caring person, but it sometimes feels like the most basic life things are too much for me to handle, and I end up disappointing myself and others.


LW#1, I feel for you. My Mom does all the cooking and housework in my parents' relationship, and I refuse to continue that dynamic. It would definitely be a dealbreaker for me. My boyfriend and I live together and he's pretty great about most things, but occasionally there are times when I've repeatedly asked him to do something and he hasn't done it. Then I tell him, "Don't put me in the position of nagging you" and "I'm not a '50s housewife." To me, a guy who makes his female partner do all the housework is sexist. Anyway, it's just about respect. "It doesn't bother me" is not an excuse for anyone in a mature relationship. If it's a problem for your partner, it should be a problem for you. YMMV of course but I hope you get through to him!


...yeah, I think I'm That Guy in LW1's tale despite having ladybits. IDK, reading through comments, there are all these tales of, oh yeah my mother taught me how to do this as a kid. My mother never did? Kinda wish she did, would have saved me some effed up adventures in house-cleaning during undergrad apartment life. *scratches head* My family was of the opinion that my "job," as it were, was to achieve good grades, keep my room reasonably clean, and handle the computer maintenance. Hahaha. I still do the last when home for Christmas.

Take-away message: house-cleaning, a simple issue that is fraught with feels and frustration?

Miss Maszkerádi

@celeec4@twitter ME TOO ME TOO ME TOO CAN WE BE FRIENDS?! My mom accidentally really pissed me off a year or so ago when she was crashing at my apartment on her way to visit HER mom, and my kitchen was a mess, and she said she was ashamed of having raised someone who didn't know how to keep things clean, and I was like.....mom you never exactly enforced chores or taught me how to be domestic.

Springtime for Voldemort

@celeec4@twitter My mom taught me how to clean, on a technical level, but we fought about it constantly (and about everything else). So cleaning brings up a lot of anxiety in me about how any second, my mother is going to come in and yell at me about how I'm not doing it right and manage to find one teeny smudge on a glass I didn't even know human eyes could see and god why do I think she's my maid just because she's my mother and when will I start being respectful towards her? So, I totally know how to hook up the vacuum or how much dish soap to use, I just don't know how to vacuum or wash dishes without having a bit of a panic attack.


@Countess Maritza ARE WE SISTERS? (No - because I'm an only child). My parents are MANIACS OF CLEANLINESS and the house looks like a magazine 100% of the time. There is NOTHING out of place. When I come to visit (I AM AN ADULT OF THIRTY MY GOD) there is much "teasing" about my messiness, which is fine. But then it's not fine sometimes when I get lectured or told "I wish we'd made you do chores", or, the WORST, "you'll care when you own your own home." LOL GUESS WHAT I WON'T CARE! I've actually given up after I cooked a 3 course meal, tidied, and my parents re-cleaned the kitchen and told me I hadn't even tried. Sanitary conditions are what I need and can provide for myself. I don't want to live in Dwell. :::SOBS::: (yes this is probably the number one "issue" in my fam)


@celeec4@twitter I think cleaning is fraught with emotional issues for all the reasons already mentioned regarding gender roles and whatnot..
But for me, wanting to have a clean house is 50% practicality (easier to find things and do things), 45% for the calming effect (a big mess and clutter everywhere makes the house seem depressing and makes me feel anxious), and 5% pride.
I love the feeling of a tidy home enough that I clean before I go on a trip so that I can return to a clean house. So I guess my anxiety about cleaning and cleanliness is the opposite of what you guys are describing. It's good to hear your perspectives; I hope I can avoid inducing that kind of panic in my potential future husband/kids.


As someone who has adult ADHD...oh, guys, it goes so far beyond "Help your wife; it means a lot to her, just fucking do some chores, you gross person." My question for him would be if he's on medication, and if he isn't...that's the place to start.

Because here's how it goes: I realize I need to change a laundry load. On my way downstairs to the laundry room, I see the linen closet open. I think I should organize it. I get as far as categorizing Band-Aids when I get distracted by my cat meowing for treats. I sit to pet her for awhile. I think I should go downstairs to get her treats, and on the way down, I see my computer. I remember I meant to look up (x), so I sit down and open Safari. In that time, I've completely forgotten what it was I was going to look up, in addition to my cat. I figure that I'll remember what I was looking up soon, and I'm thirsty, so I should go get a Coke Zero. I grab one, but it's warm, so I stick it in the fridge. I stare at the fridge, thinking I want food. Ten minutes have gone by, and my cat is now scratching the couch because she KNOWS she's not supposed to do it, and needs attention. I speak sharply to her before I recall that oh, yeah, she's hungry, I was getting her treats! I manage to get her the treats. I decide pizza leftovers sound good, so I grab the box and sit at the computer for awhile. Still can't remember what I was going to look up, so hey, Facebook! I'm thirsty...I should go get a Coke. It's warm; oh well.

That's about fifteen-twenty minutes. In it, I've forgotten laundry in the span of time it took me to walk halfway down the fucking stairs. The Coke stays in the fridge, because I don't recall I put it in there. I probably leave the warm Coke somewhere in the house. I still don't remember what I'm supposed to look up, and my cat is learning that scratching = treats.

Seriously, guys, it is NO FUN feeling like your brain is leaking out your head. Hyperfocus is a big part of ADD/ADHD, so I can do things like categorizing Band-Aids...but that focus is broken pretty easily and I tend to focus on little picture, not big things.

A possible strategy for the husband, based on my experience: A) Medication, of course...I'm still trying that one out, and B) Make lists. Don't hold yourself to them like "I have to finish item A before B," but use it as a guide so you don't forget everything you're supposed to do. And a kick in the butt, because it's REALLY hard for an ADD/ADHD person to motivate themselves to do something. Because you almost always fail at focusing, you know? And the way I clean is basically to allow myself to be distracted...but keep cleaning. If I fold clothes and bring some upstairs, and feel like I should make the bed, I do it. I try to make myself not do stuff like fooling around on the Internet or napping or whatever, but if it's cleaning...keep yourself moving. You'll go from room to room doing little bits, but those little bits add up. And you bounce back to your list to remind yourself where you can start the next day.

It takes a LOT. I don't think your guy is being awful, LW1. I think cleaning sounds really daunting to someone who a) isn't super clean to begin with, and b) has an attention disorder.

mousie housie

@catsuperhero THANK YOU. My spouse has a similar mindset but can't express it as eloquently.

As the other person, what else can I do? I hate nagging all the time, but honestly it's not nagging if the apartment's about to cave in from the accumulated weight of the junk. I did all the work myself when we unofficially cohabited, but I can't do that indefinitely and I now have my own place to keep in order. (Note: mine could be tidier too, but it's about a 17/100 on the filth scale whereas his is probably 81/100. In 30 minutes I can make it look amazing. His place takes more like 30 days.)

P is on meds but they don't seem to make much of a difference once the work day is over. I've suggested a THOUSAND times to set another appointment; hell, I'll set it, send reminders, and drag him to the clinic myself if I have to, but no-go. I'm at my wit's end.

It is just so frustrating seeing someone that I care about and otherwise build a life with torpedo his daily existence. We're in a financial and life position where I've given up a few opportunities to "make it work," but at this point things have to get drastically better or I'll walk away soon.

Thank you for your perspective.


@mousie housie Yeah my ex just used to get mad at him for reminding him to do stuff, and he still never did it. I mean, I get ADD and what it means, but you also need behavioural therapy, because medication is not magic. You still have to learn how to cope with it. Which my ex never did, he just used it as a crutch to take advantage of me.
*prepares to get skewered


@mousie housie You know, let me ask my husband about how he handles my cleaning/lack of it/unorthodox way to do it. Because I'm not the neatest person to begin with, and he definitely isn't, either. But he still likes three weeks' worth of clothes to be off the floor, laundry to be done, dirty dishes to be put away--you know, things most people don't think twice about. I can tell you some of the things we've gone through to get me here (aware of what's going on in my head and trying to work with it), but I don't know how he takes a deep breath and gets through it himself. I'll report back; it may help you.

A few things...and I might write a novel here; apologies in advance.

1) All the junk and grossness in the apartment--might he also have depression issues? I do--well-medicated--but the thing is, having ADHD doesn't make me automatically quit caring about my surroundings. There's a difference between being a packrat/untidy and being gross. If he's reached the gross part, in my mind, that's a lack of caring. And that's a big red flag for depression. Which often goes hand in hand with ADD/ADHD.
1a) AND goes hand in hand with not wanting to take medication or go to doctors. Unfortunately, it's part of the illness. I'm not saying he gets a free pass; I think that if you haven't already, telling him that you want to drag him to a clinic to get treated because you love him and want this to work and you are willing to do the heavy lifting while he and his doctor figure shit out but he has got to meet you even 1/4 way might help. The thing is, a whole lot of depressed/ADD/ADHD people realize that we're affecting other people, but it's like we're in a cocoon we can't break out of. Sometimes people need to reach in and help pull us out. At one point, my husband took me to the hospital and checked me in. Can you make clear to him that you're not just nagging, that this is a real health issue here that goes beyond a clean house? At that point, you can talk with a doctor about adjusting meds, too. Group therapy is an option, as well, maybe if you set up an appointment not just for him but for both of you?
2) You may also be working against the whole "I'm a man I don't go to the doctor" element that's so pervasive in our culture. And if that's the case, I'm sorry. Ugh.
3) Does he ever focus on ANYTHING after work? Is it just cleaning he doesn't do? Or does he not seem to really do anything?

The thing is, I'll feel guilty that I'm not doing the work, when I'm reminded of it. And I feel horrible that I can't just set down a to-do list and accomplish thing after thing after thing like most people. Most of the time, feeling that guilt sucks. But sometimes, I need it--because yeah, like your guy, I still need to be a functioning human being. And he's not. So I think another question for him is--does he feel badly about this at all? Guilty? For real? When I hear that he laments how hard it is to change and doesn't do anything, that says two things: 1) Another sign of possible depression--feeling like you're at the bottom, can never get to the top, why even bother, or 2) That he's being a douche and knows you'll eventually clean. Not sure which. Because I know I definitely feel guilty, and ashamed--like I am never going to be a real functioning adult here, and I will be looked down on because it can take me a whole day to mop the damn floor sometimes. That feeling is a pretty powerful smackdown sometimes, and maybe he's in its throes. He needs to realize that you will help him out of that feeling of being mired, but that you have your limits.


@Megano! No skewering. Absolutely. Therapy. I think even for both parties--what I've found as my ADHD has come to light is that my parents, my friends--well, no one thought of me as ADHD until I talked about how my head worked (or didn't, ha) and how I struggled with small tasks and how much I coasted in life because I was smart and didn't have to pay attention. Or how going to a movie is torture for me. Going through some counseling for involved parties can help people understand the thought process/lack of. Behavioral therapy for the ill person, absolutely. Over the years, I've come to see my therapist more as a coach, helping me figure out new strategies to deal with myself, etc. But yeah, I have a responsibility to myself and those around me; one of those "I am not my illness" deals. So yes, agreement, no skewering.


@catsuperhero Yes! I have to tell people how my ADD brain works sometimes too, because like you, I coasted on my smarts and charm and people skills for most of my life. But sometimes a situation calls for more than that and my head just spins. :/


@catsuperhero Not to completely side-track... but I have a question about depression and reading "well medicated" from you made me think you might have an answer for me. Please disregard if my question annoys you somehow...

My husband and I just moved to the US from Europe. My husband has depression issues, which were semi-well-handled while we had our lives figured out in Europe. Well relocating to the US, him being put in a management position for an awful (awful awful awful) project has exasperated everything and he has a meltdown at least once a week. I help him as best as I can, but I think we need to go see a therapis. Fear of failure, stress at work, anger management, depression... one big bundle of hell.

How do you find a therapist?? One that isn't just out for money? Does health insurance pay for some of this? I hate this game :/

Thank you for any advice you may have....

Koko Goldstein

@catsuperhero LW1 writing to chime in support! I've been doing some internet research/reading about ADHD and it fits exactly with what you're saying. Shows me that he needs treatment, but I also need to be more understanding about the crazy brain limitations he's dealing with. Thanks for sharing :)


@joythemanatee Oh, I wish I could help you more. Unfortunately...I don't know how to find a good one other than trial and error. :( That's how I found mine. Whether it's covered depends on your health insurance, but generally, yes, at least part is covered. You can talk with your husband's HR representative about insurance. I don't think you'll find many therapists out for the money--mostly because they don't make a lot of money--but you will want to find one that you and your husband can talk with easily.


@Koko Goldstein Thanks, lady. :) I'm glad to know I was of some help. All the luck and love in the world to you guys.


@catsuperhero Thanks for taking the time to respond... I think I'll just take some time over the holidays to research therapists and in the new year we'll trail and error through them.

mousie housie

@catsuperhero You're the best. Thanks for writing your novel. :)


@joythemanatee I echo what @catsuperhero said. Also, perhaps his employer has an Employee Assistance Program, which provides some free phone or in-person sessions with a therapist? They can also help you find a longer-term therapist. Not all employers do, but I work for a company that does, and so does my dad. It's nice to have that option. Good luck!


@mousie housie Aww...now I'm blushing. :)


@catsuperhero Wow...me too! You described my whole experience so well. On top of the focus issues (allowing yourself to get distracted from a chore by doing another chore! YES I DO THAT!), the skepticism from friends and family is REALLY problematic. They can't understand if I don't tell them how my brain works, but every time I try to explain why all of a sudden I have this disorder they never knew about, I end up feeling like an excuse-making pill popper. But the truth is, the only reason they didn't know is because I was putting on a pretty good show.

It's been two years and many therapy sessions and I still don't feel like I'm "allowed" to have ADHD. I was quite successful in school thanks to a combination of structure, high pressure, luck, and random fits of creativity that allowed me to pull off big projects at the last minute, so it wasn't until I got a "real job" where I'm in the same environment, working on the same projects all day over many days that it really started to be apparent. (Even my boss pegged me as ADHD, something no teacher had even remotely picked up on) But my friends and family do not come to work with me, they don't watch me walk in circles around the house, and they can't read my mind...so to them I must explain.

Sorry about the long tangent, but I'm sure you know how that goes :)

explanation points

@catsuperhero Hey, did you ever ask your husband about how he deals with it? I'm stuck in the beginning's of LW1's position and it's ALREADY starting to drive me insane.


@explanation points Ooookay, hello, sorry for delay, been too sick even to handle the intertubes the past few days. Better now; resuming function.

Well, my husband has a few things. None of which, unfortunately, are magic bullets. To sum up:

1) Deep breaths.
2) Figure out with your SO what's actually important and what's just bugging you. In my case, for example: I leave beverages EVERYWHERE. Fucking everywhere. I forget I have them, I get interested in something else, I leave them where they are. It bugs the husband, but not as much, say, as my inability to get laundry done in a day because I quit folding the clothes to pet my cat. So he leaves the beverage thing alone--just lets me clean them up--and we worked out a laundry plan: If he helps, I am not allowed to get offended and think he's trying to passive-aggressively stick it to me. He's just trying to get shit done. It's not letting me off the hook--it's not like I'm dumping things on him to do or he's taking over for my deficiencies--I'm still trying here, and he's quietly collaborating. So I'm not allowed to be all "Hey you I can do this I SWEAR I HAVE IT HANDLED DON'T YOU BELIEVE ME" and he's not allowed to just sit and seethe that it's not getting done because I'm just a jerk. Because that's not the case, in either respect. Plan. Planning is key. Keeping ego out of it is another. At the beginning, I would always feel hurt, like he was trying to say I wasn't up to snuff at what I was "supposed" to be doing. He'd feel like I wasn't folding his boxers until Friday on purpose. And while the thought of him without undies is appealing, the reality is I'm spending a shit ton of mental energy trying to keep my house clean and orderly, and to keep it the way we both really would like it (I'm not being sexist here, either, I'm home right now and he's working), and he acknowledges that he'd rather have me thinking about getting clothes clean than making sure I don't leave Cherry Coke Zero all over the place. In that way, in a weird way, it becomes about just getting the tasks done collaboratively, rather than a personal thing.
3) The more each of you talk about how your minds work, the better. This is probably par for the course in a mental-illness-free relationship, too, but it can be even more important when one partner has illness and the other one is trying to comprehend it--and how much it impacts every. single. little. thing. Example, again: The flip side of my mind being everywhere is hyperfocus. When I'm reading, I've FINALLY managed to get myself into something. Interrupting me is the worst thing ever, because I have worked hard to get where I'm at. The husband acknowledges that he doesn't get bugged if I ask him a question while he's reading, because he can just look up and get right back into it. Me? Doesn't work that way. He knows how my head works, because we've talked about it, so he does his best not to interrupt when I'm actually focused. Talk about your mental structures with each other. It might not make it easier, but it will help you to know why he works the way he does.
4) And, of course, therapy and medication. Which is a YMMV thing. As always. My husband isn't comfortable going to therapy with me; he's acknowledged as much, but he does encourage me to talk about what went on in counseling sessions. As much as I'm okay with. And he respects the boundary between my counseling and himself; he doesn't try to force his way in to know everything.

God, I hope this makes sense. I'm trying to transcribe his and my conversation as best I can. I hope some of what I got down helps.

ETA: It's important for the person with a mental illness to grasp how a mind without that illness works, too. Honestly, people who don't have thoughts of suicide regularly--just as a passing thing--or who are able to start projects and plan and dive into them, finishing them on time and spectacularly, well, those thought processes are totally foreign to me. I don't get them. It's important for him to understand how you think, too. It's not all one-way. I don't understand sometimes why what I do, how I live, even the little workarounds, can get to my husband. The effort goes both ways; I gotta try to put myself in his shoes, too.


@CSD@twitter I'm actually really glad to hear you chime in, because damn if it doesn't get lonely sometimes. My mother is convinced that I don't have ADHD because I did so well in school, read a lot as a kid, and did varsity swimming in high school. I'm still trying to get to her that I did horribly at whatever I had to actually study (but was lucky enough to be gifted, so I coasted for most of the time), read because I could hyperfocus on it and that's why I'd read hundreds of pages at a time as a child, and swam because practices changes a ton and you're always moving. And your mind can do whatever in the pool.

I was the one who was writing 25-page research papers in 24 hours, nailing them, and not a single person thought that was odd. I spent two years as a technical writer, 9 hours day in, day out, and it ended in my nearly getting put on probation, throwing up from anxiety attacks, and feeling completely trapped in my own head.

Tangent was welcome. I think I just did one of my own. Glad to know I'm not alone in feeling like I'm "not allowed" to have this disorder, just because I didn't fit the mold of the jumpy kid.


THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EMOTIONAL CHEATING. And accusing someone of it is called thought police.

Miss Maszkerádi

@kac Can you elaborate on that? (Genuine question, genuine curiosity.)


@kac Hm. Siphoning off a lot of your emotional intimacy to another person is inappropriate and damaging to a relationship, whatever you want to call it. I don't think it's the same as being the thought police. She said she was hurt by it, and I believe her. Do you not?

@kac I disagree. Being the Thought Police is different. If my significant other was falling in love with another person and being incredibly emotionally intimate with them and getting close in a romantic, pants-feelings way, and then claimed it was okay because they didn't get naked together? OH NO, I would NOT be okay with that.

You can't do whatever you want except sex/nakedtimes and claim it's ok. Relationships don't work that way.


@Countess Maritza As the dude mentioned, monogamy is a choice that we make. It is a natural thing to develop feelings for other people, and to become close to other people. Monogamy, by definition actually, is not taking action on those emotions. And the idea that one person can fulfill all of our needs for intimacy is a recent one that is simply not sustainable over a lifetime. To maintain such a strict definition is just setting oneself, or one's relationship, up for failure, because it's not realistic to deny those feelings. Control them, sure, but to deny that they exist is only going to exacerbate them.

Obviously this girl is legitimately hurt and should definitely get rid of this guy. But I think that "emotional cheating" is a contradiction, and giving weight to it is dangerous.

Miss Maszkerádi

"I've developed jealousy issues in the last year that I'd never had before."

Oh honey. When you're face to face with a hungry human-eating tiger and are scared out of your wits, you don't have deep-seated irrational issues about big cats, you have a survival instinct.


LW5 - I've been you. I had to stick out the rest of the lease because neither of us could afford to break it. Fortunately, we had a guest room that I moved into, but we were basically roommates prior to the official "break up talk" anyway... just... weird roommates who share a bed. Sure, the remaining months of the lease may feel like a long time, but if you truly can't afford to leave now, it will be over before you know it. And then you can start over in your own place. And it will be awesome.


@coolallison I know someone who stayed living with an ex for a while, and it sucked a lot, because she yelled at him without provocation and even shoved him sometimes. And he had to sleep on the couch for months, because it was a one-bedroom place. But if there's respect and no abuse, and you can gird your emotional loins, I think some people can endure it for a few months.

artificial owl

I'm pretty grossed out by the perpetuation of this "train your husband" rhetoric that you're buying into here! I'm pretty grossed out by the institution of marriage in general but what I CANNOT STAND are people (like shamu article writer lady for the consistently dated and poorly written modern love column) who regard their partner as somehow NOT an equal in the relationship, incapable of changing without "wifely" intervention, unable to own up to what they SHOULD be doing (equal share of housework is a no-brainer, if you lived with him before marriage, probs should have addressed it then? and if you didn't, well, i'm not even gonna go there).

YOUR HUSBAND IS NOT AN EXOTIC ANIMAL. If you have spoken to him about his ineptitude on the cleaning front, and nothing has changed, the conversation becomes how his income will go towards hiring a cleaner to do what he can't be bothered to. NO TRAINING WHEELS REQUIRED!

Also, whatever the straight-lady internet is, I want to stay the fuck out of it, so please don't bring it here.

@artificial owl I'm so torn on this one because my dad was totally that asshole who still can't do housework and it was An Issue. And sometimes he's enough of an idiot about it that it's a conversation with a 2nd grader -- "You're pissed that the house isn't perfect looking? How about you participate and help fix it instead of whining."

But I find the narrative really fucking awful, and if men talked about "training women" HOLY SHIT there would be massive feminist backlash, and rightfully so. And this idea that men "can't" do it is bullshit. BULLSHIT. You have ADD so you can't clean? Um, it's a toilet bowl.


@artificial owl grrr that shamu article made me twitchy. Your husband is behaving like a child and distracting you from the pots on the stove? So you train him like a dolphin? WTF.

Mr. Kitty

LW3: I'm kind of concerned that you two were "fighting about something related" when it came up. Fighting about sex? Fighting about the awful sex you had when you first started dating 3 years ago? That's kind of a terrible thing to do! Why are you fighting about something sex related that prompted him to tell you that he was actually a virgin? That's concerning. Something tells me there's A LOT more going on here and this whole "open relationship" thing is really something you want for YOU, not him.

On a separate note, I think it's completely messed up that society expects men to have played the field as much as it expects women to be "pure". My 29 year old boyfriend has only slept with 1 lady before me and I have slept with many dudes in the past and it doesn't matter at all. Together, we have the Best Sex, so who cares about the past?


Hah, well number 1 is my boyfriend. Still haven't solved the issue. (the difference is that I am also the only person earning any kind of money in our household). I think though that we may have had a bit of a breakthrough this weekend when I managed to communicate how exhausting this situation is for me.

la renarde

#5's letter was really dripping with disdain for this guy who has been "living off his parents" while going to LAW SCHOOL and graduating by age 26! He may indeed be the loser she's describing but I think the fact of going to a post-grad school and accruing debt in doing so is not something that categorically warrants the judgy 'tude that she seems to be giving. That said, the fact that he hasn't gotten a job yet is a definite problem and if she's not feeling confident in his ability to get it together, plus if the relationship is otherwise down the tubes, she should definitely end the relationship.

fondue with cheddar

@la renarde Yeah. My last boyfriend got laid off and moved back in with his parents while he went back to school. I thought that was a smart decision because it allowed him to go full-time and get his degree more quickly. I didn't consider it sponging.


@Countess Maritza ARE WE SISTERS? (No - because I'm an only child). My parents are MANIACS OF CLEANLINESS and the house looks like a magazine 100% of the time. There is NOTHING out of place. When I come to visit (I AM AN ADULT OF THIRTY MY GOD) there is much "teasing" about my messiness, which is fine. But then it's not fine sometimes when I get lectured or told "I wish we'd made you do chores", or, the WORST, "you'll care when you own your own home." LOL GUESS WHAT I WON'T CARE! I've actually given up after I cooked a 3 course meal, tidied, and my parents re-cleaned the kitchen and told me I hadn't even tried. Sanitary conditions are what I need and can provide for myself. I don't want to live in Dwell. :::SOBS::: (yes this is probably the number one "issue" in my fam)


@#1: Set aside time each week for the two of you to clean *together*. Turn on some fun music, split the tasks but try to stay in the same room, maybe even make some drinks.....Obviously it's not ideal, because it turns you into a mom-figure who has to turn room cleaning into a game (or at least, it turns you into MY mom who had to do that), but it's very effective. And I can testify to it, because I'm the messy roommate who'll leave the dishes in the sink for a week, and this is what works for me. Good luck! :)

Koko Goldstein

Hey guys I am LW1! I just wanted to write in a few extra things, and also thanks for getting my back. I was cringing a bit at the cliche-ness of my letter and was afraid you'd all jump on me as a mean harpy shrew. . .but should've known better.

A quick caveat - I am NOT a clean person, but cleaner than my husband for sure. My mom wept for my future roommates when I left for college. But being an adult, I've changed habits and taught myself to be at least semi-decent, and just do a few consistent straightening-up things every day and bigger cleans on the weekend. I do like having a clean-ish space to live in, and I think as a grown-ass person, it just shows I have a minor amount of pride in my house and belongings to try and actively take care of them.

I def have a lot of rage over this issue but I think I'm getting it under control! Not to continue to be cliche (whoops) but this book is going to change my life, I can feel it: http://www.amazon.com/The-ADHD-Effect-Marriage-Relationship/dp/1886941971/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355177009&sr=8-1&keywords=marriage+adhd Husband and I are going to read through it together because every single word seems to be about us. Anyone going through similar issues, I highly recommend it! It's making me realize he needs to seriously get his ADHD under control, and I need to be a bit more patient and forgiving as long as he's making an effort.

So yeah - thanks everyone! You are all pretty awesome.


@Koko Goldstein Ooh ooh ooh! I am late to this party but LW1, you are SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE. I am a grown up lady; I have ADD; I am the WORST at cleaning/cleanliness. Liiiiiiiterally the worst. My living spaces have been described as "a cry for help". But NOW I have a pretty good system currently worked out with my roommates, which I will share with you in the spirit of "here's an example of something that works for someone else": 1. I have one assigned room to clean per week, whenever and however I want to. No one complains about how I choose to clean as long as I do SOMETHING -- we rotate rooms so they can scrub the grout next week if they think it must be done. 2. Usually, I clean my assigned room in 5-minute spurts throughout the week. Some weeks I get all jazzed up and do it all in one go, but more often, I set a timer on my phone for five minutes and just take care of anything my eye falls on until the alarm goes off. Some weeks I do this once a day every day; some weeks I do it seven times in a day and don't clean again all week. I like the flexibility. 3. As long as my assigned room is basically cleaned at some point that week, no one ever nags, reminds, or advises me on ANYTHING related to cleaning. (This hands-off approach is ESSENTIAL for the mental health of me and my roommmates.) This system is fairly painless and results in me spending 30-60 minutes a week cleaning. That's not enough to live in a spotless home, but it's enough keep things manageable in a small apartment. If I held myself to the "spotless" standard, I would NEVER START cleaning because I'd be so overwhelmed by the sheer mass of project to do. So -- never more than 5 minutes!! I can always convince myself to spend 5 minutes!
(A friend suggests writing "to do lists" on individual index cards, piled in order of importance. Just one task per card reduces visual distraction and makes it easier to break down a PROJECT OF DOOM (CLEAN WHOLE HOUSE, AVOID DIVORCE) into manageable steps (move the laundry into the dryer). I hate being told what to do so that didn't work for me, but if your husband doesn't know where to start, he might prefer that system over a long, detailed, and therefore overwhelming list!)


@MT Oh god, the projects of doom! What could be worse than thinking about those colossal beasts? (A: the idea of starting one) ADD lady here myself, and I HEAR YOU on that one. They always end up being my own personal test...IF YOU DON'T DO THIS ALL TODAY AND MAKE UP FOR YOUR LAZINESS, THEN YOU ARE THE WORST EVER...which of course makes the task seem even bigger and scarier.


@Koko Goldstein I feel your pain. After being married to that man for a decade, I divorced him. I grew to be in charge of everything; he became a dead weight. Looking back I say to you, it is important that he learns to step up. Even people with ADHD, PTSD, bad parents, or Downs Syndrome have to learn to pull their weight in the world and have balanced relationships. Doing so feeds our sense of self; relying on someone to carry us is disempowering. For his own sake and yours, he must learn to hold up his end, not just do what you tell him to. He is lucky to have you to lovingly help him learn to do stuff. If he won't, if he claims he can't, he is ripping off both of you, and you mustn't tolerate or enable it. Now my son spends half his time at his father's house, which has a garage full of rodent-infested trash, full sinks, and scattered, unpaid bills, among other things. If you think it is hard to insist on a fair partnership now, imagine my upset in sending my son there every other week. I will not terminate his joint custody--my son loves and needs to know his father. If I could go back in time though, I would have dealt with my slovenly new husband quite differently. A cleaning lady is not the answer, although she will help you get started by making the mountain of labor to be divided between your hubbie and you less daunting. Good luck to you, and don't take too much cr*p.


I married/moved in with this guyyy and he's not changing to my satisfaction and I AM SO UNHAPPY OMMMGGGGG WHO REMOVED MY BRAIN


I've never responded to a HP post before, but I wanted to respond to LW3.

I was a late-bloomer sexually, and was embarrassed to tell my 1st. It took me a while after we had started sleeping together to tell him.

Also, my current BF, and love of my life, was a virgin when he first slept with me. He actually told me while we were having sex, which was kind of awkward.

The point is . . . choosing to lose your virginity is a strange and personal moment, and some people feel weird about admitting that it's their first time . . . especially if they want to impress the other person, or if they are a little older than the average.

I don't think it's that big a deal that he waited so long to tell you, and I don't think he's suddenly going to get curious about other women. I've only slept with 2 people in my life, and my BF has only slept with me. We are both happy and secure in our relationship, and have no desire to have sex with anyone else.

Be open with your BF about your concerns and fears, and if he tells you he only wants you then believe it. I think you two will be fine.


Can link to a few of the posts here as they are quite. Thanks much. Zoey Olsen"clonlineshopde

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Don't ever give up on who you are. If you like a clean house, keep it that way. If you don't get help, find other things they can do to contribute, ie. cooking, yard work, etc.
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Try to fix and give him a chance, but he cheated you in the first place, so it is not impossible that it will happen again. To forgive means to forgive and learn how to trust again. Thank you for sharing your blog, keep it up.
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