I admit it, I'm not the greatest of housekeepers. In fact, some might call me a bit of a slob. I do try--in fact, I feel like I'm constantly doing the dishes and picking up stuff around the house. But somehow the mess just keeps piling up behind me. Which is why I'm glad my husband isn't a neat freak. Don't get me wrong--he likes a tidy house--as do I. But a little clutter here and there won't drive us to divorce court.
But what if you're a true neat freak--unable to settle down until things are in their proper place? Can you marry a known slob and live happily ever after? Or are you just signing yourself up for a lifetime of anxiety and a house that will never be clean? We asked "Dr Romance", otherwise known as Tina Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of the book "Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage."
"Yes, you can marry a slob, but you need to be realistic about what that means," she says. "You might negotiate about some things, but you won't be able to change your partner's basic habits."
Tessina says sloppiness is most commonly a learned behavior. Either your parents were sloppy or someone cleaned up after you, so you never learned how--or at least never learned how to be bothered by the mess.
"Many men were not taught anything about housecleaning or picking up after themselves," she says. "Most women were taught to see it as their responsibility to keep the place picked up, although there are also women who are sloppy."
For others, clutter can even feel comforting. Remember, a slob might feel just as anxious in a home that's super neat as the neat freak might feel in a cluttered place.
"For example, if you had parents who saved things because they were poor, or because their parents had been, you might also be reluctant to throw things out," Tessina explains. "Or, if you had a difficult or frightening childhood, hoarding things can give you a temporary sense of comfort."
So before you start nagging, try talking it through. Remember, your partner might not even realize his dirty socks are driving you crazy--unless you let him know.
"The key is not to insult, hurt or demean your partner by what you say, but to communicate pleasantly," says Tessina. "'Honey, I'm not comfortable with our division of labor. Can we talk about it and work out a different system?' This way, you're not accusing your life partner of being inconsiderate or lazy, you're just working out the logistics of a problem."
Ready to get started? Here are four tips from Jessica Stebbins, M.S., Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern for making marriage work between a neat freak and a slob:
1. Draw territory lines together: Slobs will be slobs and need a place where they can be messy. Decide which areas of the house (the man cave, office, etc) can resemble a pig sty, and which need to be spic and span!
2. Find ways to make cleaning fun: I know this sounds nearly impossible, but turn cleaning into a game, such as a race. It's even more enjoyable when there is something at stake such as getting to pick what is for dinner.
3. Skip the nagging: Although you may think cleanliness is next to godliness, reminding your partner of this all the time will not get you any closer to those pearly gates. Lay off the nagging and find better ways to get your partner to respond to your requests.
4. Discuss your views: Understanding that your partner likes things clean because he/she takes pride in the life you created together or that your partner puts spending time with the family over cleaning just may help you see eye-to-eye more.
Are you in an Oscar/Felix scenario? How do you work things out so there's harmony at home?