Whose mess is it?
May 4, 2012 7:33 AM Subscribe
Cohabiting couples, how do you handle the housework? Is there a clear distinction between your mess and their mess?
posted by emelenjr to Human Relations (52 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This could get long. Thanks for reading.
My girlfriend bristles at the thought of tidying up things that aren't explicitly hers, preferring to focus just on her own stuff. This works OK when we are both at home at the same time, working on cleaning the apartment at the same time. She wishes I would respect her boundaries more by focusing primarily on my own tidying up. We continually butt heads about this.
I don't deliberately leave my messes around for anyone else to clean up, and I don't think she does either. But at the same time I'm not opposed to tidying up things that don't belong to me. I feel this way because we share our living space. It doesn't make much sense to clear only half the dishes off the table, or empty half the dishwasher, or make half the bed.
To give a recent example, I came home one evening to find that I had left my bath towel from that morning on the bed, where I had sat while getting dressed. She had been home for most of the day, and had taken a nap earlier. My first thought was to feel dumb for forgetting to hang up the towel myself because I don't like mildew on my sheets and I'm sure she doesn't either. My next thought was why didn't she hang it up instead of napping on the bed while there was a damp towel on it? If the tables had been turned, I would have instinctively hung up her towel before climbing into bed. No big deal, as far as I'm concerned.
I presented a hypothetical to her last night by pointing to a coffee table that had on it an empty drink can of hers, an empty glass of hers, an empty drink can of mine, a magazine of mine and a camera of mine. I asked her what she would do if I wasn't home for whatever reason, and some friends were coming over to see her. She said she'd take her stuff to the trash and leave my stuff there. I understand her point about not wanting to make assumptions about what I intend to do with the camera or magazine. On the other hand, only cleaning up half of the coffee table draws attention to the untidy half and specifically to the stuff that isn't hers. It strikes me as a little passive-aggressive, honestly.
She grew up with an underfunctioning/overfunctioning paradigm with one of her parents, and she sees tidying up more than just her share as a form of overfunctioning. On the other hand, I see it as simply functioning as one half of a couple. But I could have it all wrong. Ladies and gentlemen of the Ask Me, I'm just a caveman.
Maybe some helpful background: We've been together for a year and a half, almost. She's divorced. I've never been married, and this is my first cohabiting situation (she moved in in January.) The previous man in her life was her husband for seven years and they lived together for five years prior to that. She's in therapy herself, and we are both in couples counseling because we've wanted to be proactive about addressing problems before we get married.