How does your comfort level in relationships show?
November 22, 2009 7:46 PM   Subscribe

This is REALLY not about the toilet seat...or is it?!? Men, I need your advice!! Women, there is a question inside for you too!

Help! My wonderful boyfriend of 2+ years has ALWAYS been considerate and has put the toilet seat down when he is done. I've never asked him to do this; he just did, which I really appreciated and expressed to him in the past.

We are very close. Have a solid relationship and have learned to adjust to each other.

Here is the weird part: All of the sudden, out of nowhere, he starts leaving the toilet seat up. All. The. Time. I've fallen in. I've shrieked in the middle of the night. I've asked nicely. It still stays up. AND AFTER TWO YEARS OF ALWAYS PUTTING IT DOWN!!!!!!

I've always believed that a change in behavior signifies something....I'm just not sure what in this case!

So I asked him about it in a relaxed, "Hey honey, I've always appreciated how you've been so thoughtful about this. Can you please make the effort again?" kinda way.

His response is that he is now comfortable with me to a degee that he was not before. I appreciate this and I want him to feel comfortable, but to me I feel like I'm being taken for granted. (GF has been around 2 longer need to make the effort. That's how I see it.)

This issue of asking him to try and he saying he will and then doesn't has been going on for over two months now.

FWIW, I've been wanting to get married. He is completely committed to me but needs small steps to get there so part of me thinks that there is truth to his new level of comfort...and he DOES act as if he is more comfortable too. He is 43; I am 38.

My questions: Men, I want to know from you: is this REALLY an issue of comfort? Do men really get to a plateau that is truly indicitive of a level of comfort--that shows in an overt way?? Is this a passive-aggressive way to piss me off (ha ha)? For women: When do my feelings factor in? How do you factor comfort with the courtesies of keeping a relationship alive? And yes... I even told him I'd be willing to leave the seat up for him when I was done.

I HAVE seen all the other posts about the toilet seat, but my question is really one of reaching comfort levels in relationships without turning in to roommates....this just happens to be coming through in way of a plastic toilet seat.

Any advice and personal experience will be most helpful. Thanks everyone!
posted by hollygirl to Human Relations (72 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Any adult should be able to honor this request.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:51 PM on November 22, 2009 [9 favorites]

Ask him. There is no overall rule for "men."
posted by Ironmouth at 7:52 PM on November 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

Admittedly, it is strange that it's being left up after this long into a relationship.

It is also strange that after asking him about it, he using the comfort excuse to defend it. It is strangely passive agressive. Only he can answer why that is an appropriate excuse. It doesn't sound like one to me.

Finally, it is very strange that you don't look at the toilet seat prior to sitting down.
posted by purephase at 7:53 PM on November 22, 2009 [14 favorites]

I am a bit confused by the change and his response, but I also feel like...if this is the only thing a woman has to complain about, then things must be going pretty darn well. You are excited that he puts the toilet seat up when he has to pee, no? I do think it's a pretty smart move to think about things before you sit on them (I say this after flattening a pair of a friends glasses and on another occasion sitting on a violin bow and cracking it in half).
posted by sully75 at 8:00 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

We covered this to death in my Psych class. Men ask why women can't look at the spot they are about to sit on (and it's not like men complain about the seat being left down when they need it up), while women ask why men can't just leave it up already.

There will be no agreement between the two. It's not passive-aggressive, it just doesn't register with men.

As a man, I think it is summed up in this Slate column:
I share an office with a man who doesn't really want me there. Because I do my job well, it creates more work for him (which is actually great for business!). I ignore any smart comments he makes, stay professional, and get my job done. My work is beyond reproach. Here is the problem: We have to share a bathroom. He changes into his uniform and leaves his dirty socks there during the week, then takes them home on Friday. (Yuck, I know!) I think he leaves the bathroom this way to protest me being there. The issue is really about the toilet seat. He refuses to put it down." (emphasis added)
posted by niles at 8:01 PM on November 22, 2009

You asked him why, he told you why. You seem to be pretty quick to look for the deep hidden passive-aggressive significance of it where there probably isn't any. As a woman, I think it's no great burden to look at something before you sit down on it. Why don't you just try living this way for a little bit and see if you can tolerate it. And maybe think about whether or not there's something else bothering about you his behavior and you're fixating on this because it's both obvious and trivial. The actual deep hidden passive agressive significance may be in your head rather than in his.
posted by amethysts at 8:04 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

This is really odd. It seems like if he's been doing this for two years it would take more effort to stop putting the seat down then to just keep what he was doing. It seems like he's acting out in someway.
posted by kylej at 8:04 PM on November 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

This seems really weird to me. I was "trained" to always close the toilet lid by my ex-husband. (He thought it was more fair, because that way both men and women would have to put something down after being. Yeah. Go ahead and roll your eyes.) After a couple of years of that it took major effort to remember to *not* put the lid down when visiting my parents, who hate having the lid closed for some reason. Anyway, this is just to say that I am suspicious that after two years of putting the seat down he is now suddenly "forgetting" to do it.

It is pretty inconsiderate to not do something that you've asked him to do. That said, if he is overall courteous and considerate then this may just be a quirk you'll have to put up with.
posted by apricot at 8:05 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

He probably leaves it up at home all the time and has achieved a new level of comfort with you and is reverting to his bachelor ways. He needs a wake up call. If he doesn't respond, reconsider your future. Seriously. It is such a small thing. If he doesn't adjust, he is telling you he doesn't give a shit and you should move on. Because it will only get worse.

This response is written by a man.
posted by charlesminus at 8:05 PM on November 22, 2009 [10 favorites]

The winning argument is that the toilet needs to be closed before it is flushed.

Toilets are aerosol devices. Plant that image in his head.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 8:08 PM on November 22, 2009 [26 favorites]

asking him to try and he saying he will and then doesn't

This sounds pretty clearly passive-aggressive to me.

Sure, lots of people might do things differently once they get comfortable. There's nothing passive-aggressive about that alone.

But agreeing not to do something over and over and then never seeming to do it is straight out of the passive-aggressive playbook.

Why he is being passive-aggressive, I won't even begin to guess.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:08 PM on November 22, 2009

His response is that he is now comfortable with me to a degee that he was not before.

Early in a relationship, you try to make the best possible impression all the time--maybe it means putting the toilet seat down, or keeping a spotless apartment, or not burping in front of the other person, etc.--and that naturally relaxes over time. However, if you start off doing some thing (say, putting the toilet seat down) and you eventually get comfortable enough to let your inner slob show, when your partner says "I really appreciated that you always put the seat down, can you keep doing that?" it's within your power to choose to put the toilet seat down even though you know you're comfortable enough around your girlfriend to leave it up. In short, he's an adult and he's capable of putting the seat down.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:11 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

At a certain point in a relationship it is very very nice to no longer feel like you have to make the effort. That is not about taking someone for granted, it's about being allowed to be 100 per cent who you are with the other person. It's about lounging around the house in your comfortable clothes not your attractive clothes; about eating with your elbows on the table when you don't have guests; about burping when you gotta burp or farting when you gotta fart.

There are limits of course. Does he no longer compliment you, treat you well, respect you, remember your birthday, buy you things, touch you, kiss you, love you etc etc .. ? But the toilet, this personal thing, this private (albeit shared) space ... it's nice to be able to do with it what you will.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:13 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Is there reason for him to treat you as a roommate? Do you do the cleaning and cooking with little help or appreciation? Have you lost respect for yourself or independent life and interests? Hows sex? Frequent, enjoyable, or more rare?

I think that comfortable can come from two different avenues: intimate connections from mutual respect, and "meh who cares it's just her/him". Think about this situation: Sally farts in front of Billy. Is this cool because, lets be real, humans fart and it's OK, Billy farts too. Or is this ok because Sally knows Billy doesn't care and niceties are over. (or its never ok, and I'm gross.)

Do men really get to a plateau that is truly indicitive of a level of comfort--that shows in an overt way?

To stereotype things in a 90's sitcom way, women do this too. It's called sweatpants/ flannel PJ's.
posted by fontophilic at 8:13 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

To address the question of why he hasn't changed his behavior after you asked him: he has expressed why he leaves the seat up and why it's meaningful to him. You asking him to alter his behavior after he's said that can be pretty invalidating. He's "acting out" because you haven't responded to his feelings.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:21 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

So I asked him about it in a relaxed, "Hey honey, I've always appreciated how you've been so thoughtful about this. Can you please make the effort again?" kinda way.

But you didn't really ask him why, you just asked him to go back to putting it down. That's an instruction rather than a request for information.

Personally I think the change is what's weird and that also seems to be what's triggering your worries about the relationship. So ask him directly about it. You can still be relaxed about it but this time go into the conversation to get information and find out what he's thinking, maybe discuss what you think too, rather than with an end goal in mind (i.e. him putting the seat down). Hopefully you guys can come to a compromise once you've talked about it together and then it would be something you worked out together, which he may be more likely to stick to. And if he doesn't put it down you'll at least have an idea of why and have a better idea of what that means and what you want to do about it.

We recently tried one of those toilet cleaner things that you put in the cistern and makes the water dark blue. It really brought home how much the water flies around the place when you flush, blue everywhere. So yeah, lid down in my household and anything else makes me shudder a little just now. Maybe this could be a compromise for you guys?
posted by shelleycat at 8:22 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Compromise? After having the "Leave it down when you're done" and the "Just put it down when you need it - leave it up for me otherwise" back and forth, we agreed to leave the seat and lid down at all times (ostensibly to prevent the cats from drinking toilet water).

It's a question of how willing you are to compromise for the other person. Sure it was convenient to do $BEHAVIOR, but since $PARTNER prefers it otherwise and it's minor, I'll change.

Especially given the negative consequences - for him, he accidentally pees ON the toilet seat and has to clean it. For you, you accidentally fall into yucky water and that toilet rim is pretty disgusting if there's a man in the house unless you're a clean freak. Since the consequences are so much worse for you, then hopefully he can understand why you'd like a minimum level of consequence-preventing.

I knew my now-husband was getting comfortable when he started farting in front of me and giggling in addition to apologizing.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:22 PM on November 22, 2009

I've always believed that a change in behavior signifies something....I'm just not sure what in this case


I've been wanting to get married. He is completely committed to me but needs small steps to get there


Maybe he's checking to see if it will be the sort of marriage where he'll have to put the seat down.
posted by bricoleur at 8:24 PM on November 22, 2009 [11 favorites]

Is it a big deal for women because we don't look at the toilet but back up to it when going to use it? Men, obviously, when they need to put the seat up, are facing the toilet to use it.
posted by titanium_geek at 8:24 PM on November 22, 2009

If he's put it down for 2 years, and now is leaving it up, that seems to me to be deliberate: 2 years is enough time to get in the habit, I would think. Whether he's just being playful with you or this really pisses you off is up to you.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:25 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

My $.02: Our great, great grandmothers had to fight an ongoing battle to get the men and boys to put the seat up. Some of them (many) finally got it. It took decades. That was their compromise. The seat is now up. I think this is an issue of deep resentment for many men. From their point of view: 'you wanted it up, it's up; what? now you want it down?'

It seems like this is the area where they get to be passive-aggressive. It sounds like that's the case with your bf. From the point of view stated above, it's a blameless act. (I mean, you want the t.s. up when they pee, don't you?) Your bf, and everyone, knows that it's uncomfortable for you to have to bring it up. It's like they're 3yrs. old again and trying to have an effect on s/t or s/o.

I know this is probably not the kind of thing over which you'd break off an engagement but maybe it's worth waiting to see what else changes as he reaches greater comfort levels before getting married.
posted by exveg at 8:29 PM on November 22, 2009

either go with lid goes down for everyone or let it go. i learned to look after falling in a few times as a small child. as was said upthread, if this is the only issue, it's an incredibly minor and petty one.
posted by nadawi at 8:33 PM on November 22, 2009

I tend to shy away from grand generalizations about men or women, but I will say this: most men don't deal in subtext. Really.

There is almost certainly nothing to what he's doing beyond what he tells you. Take him at face value. And ask yourself this: is this the hill you want an otherwise great relationship to die on? I, too, have nearly fallen in the toilet in the middle of the night -- but considering that he's the funniest, warmest, most generous and supportive guy I've ever met... you know, all things considered, getting in the habit of being cautious in the middle of the night is a small price to pay to be in the greatest relationship of my life.

In other words, if him leaving the toilet seat up is the biggest problem in your relationship, you can officially count yourself among the lucky.
posted by scody at 8:34 PM on November 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

Is there anything else he's doing just because he feels "comfortable" with you now? Has he starting belching and farting in front of you too? If not, it seems odd that the only way is comfort is expressed is through the toilet seat. If so, I'd be willing to believe him. Still though the fact that you've asked him to leave the seat down and he doesn't is really the issue.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:39 PM on November 22, 2009

Huh. Men in general don't act a certain way so I have to extrapolate from my own experiences.

I always thought that the closer you get to someone, the nicer and more considerate you should be. You know their wants and needs, and you care about them more. So becoming less considerate is not something I expect of my close friends or partners.

Of course relationships change, people can communicate, negotiate, talk about things and compromise, but suddenly starting to do something, out of the blue, when you know that your partner dislikes it is not cool.

So, this is not cool. Stop asking. Tell. Stop being "nice" and be straightforward, and 100% clear that it's not acceptable for you. No qualifiers, no self-deprecation, no "please".

"Stop leaving the toilet seat up. It pisses me off. It's a turnoff. Stop it. Seriously."

If he gives an excuse, say "I'm glad you're more comfortable, but this behavior is not okay."

You have to deal with it multiple times a day, it's serious. Maybe I live in a small apartment, but it's the little things, day-to-day, that make relationships fun or miserable.

If you're not comfortable being straight up and assertive and hardassed about it, then you have to accept it and let it go.
posted by kathrineg at 8:41 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've always believed that a change in behavior signifies something...

Well, there's your first mistake.

OK, second. The falling-in thing is the first mistake.

Rather, the change in behavior can signify something, but not what you think it does. It could be totally random. He could be standing there, doing his thing, thinking, "When did she start hanging the towels differently? Boy, I wish the Steelers would make up their mind about their 3-4 defense. Do I have a meeting at work tomorrow? I need a sandwich."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:42 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

no "please"

No boyfriend. No wedding. No avoiding the "spinster" label.

Seriously, make an honest effort at communication and collaboration before lowering the boom and giving the "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you" speech. Otherwise, it's the kind of out-of-the-blue attack of which wacky sit-coms are made.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:45 PM on November 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

If he goes back to putting the seat down for you, will you in turn offer to move the seat back up each time when you are finished?

That way you each have the same responsibility and necessary interaction with the seat, and you're each performing the same kindness for the other. Fair is fair.

(This suggestion was stolen from a Miss Manners column that I had clipped to my office wall many years ago.)
posted by rokusan at 8:52 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

It seems a little weird to me. I live alone right now, but have experienced several years of cohabition/marriage, and at some point I just got in the habit of leaving the seat down. Some tiny degree of passive aggression seems plausible in the OP's situation, if only because it involves the conscious breaking of an established habit and "protocol" with respect to the default position of the seat. But it's not necessarily a big deal if you can come to an understanding.
posted by scatter gather at 8:56 PM on November 22, 2009

You two will get a pet or a baby someday. You will both always put the lid down after that. Just start now.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:04 PM on November 22, 2009

Best answer: Maybe it is a stupid thing. We all have stupid things that bother us even though they're really stupid. And we all do annoying shit that we probably shouldn't do. But we have to accommodate each other because that's what friends and families do. We put up with each other's weird preferences.

We stop cooking with onions, we don't watch horror movies, we use headphones, we put away those old photos, we vacuum twice a week. We make the practical little sacrifices that say "I love you even when it's not easy and fun, I think about you all the time." And you feel like he doesn't feel that way for you anymore, and that hurts.

This change in behavior doesn't mean he doesn't love you or that he is going to leave you. Maybe it isn't even about you. You can't really know. Furthermore, you can't guarantee that he'll love you forever. Even marrying him wouldn't guarantee that he'll love you forever. Even if he put the toilet seat down and brought you your favorite flowers just because, it's not proof that he feels or thinks a certain way. So you have to let that mindset go--that mindset that you can be certain of what he will do in a year, in ten years. You simply can't know.

So work on enjoying the present, enjoying the little wonderful ways that he adds to your life. And if this is really getting in the way of that enjoyment, let him know, let him know how serious it is to you, and be prepared to deal with his response.
posted by kathrineg at 9:28 PM on November 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

Seriously, make an honest effort at communication and collaboration before lowering the boom and giving the "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you" speech. Otherwise, it's the kind of out-of-the-blue attack of which wacky sit-coms are made.

She stated in her question that she has asked him politely several times over the course of two months. She has also offered to put the seat up when she is done with it.
posted by kathrineg at 9:30 PM on November 22, 2009

Response by poster: Hi Everyone--
Thank you so much for your comments and insights. You have really helped me gain better perspective. Yes, he is wonderful, warm, funny, engaging and considerate to me ALL of the time. I DID directly ask him why this suddenly changed and he said that I was noticing it more because I was spending more time at his house. I told him this wasn't true. The time was the same. Then he said he was more comfortable. It seemed to me like he was grasping at straws but at least this answer could be plausible...unlike the time one. After some time, I told him that this was great he was more comfortable, but I would like it down. We'll see what he does.

He is EXTREMELY passive-aggressive and he has a streak of rebellion to him. If I DEMANDED it be put down or did the "lower the boom speech", I can guarantee it would never be put down again. I used the term "handled" in describing how we dealt with each other very dileberately...I "get" him and he semi-gets me. I know the buttons to avoid pushing and that I am money ahead to just back off and give him space rather than demand.

Yes, his other "comfortable" behaviors show: he farts, burps, etc., and honestly, I don't mind this at all. (He does laugh and say excuse me.) He also just acts more at ease with my being at his house...has invited me to use it when he's not home, etc., but the toilet seat is driving me nuts--ESPECIALLY because it was NEVER an issue for almost two years!! It just seems so strange to me that one day he would decide not to do this.

I've always wondered with passive-aggressives if it makes it worse to disclose to them that you notice the behavior. If anyone has any ideas for dealing with passive-aggressives, I'd love to hear them! A different thread...I know....

Anyway...thank you for ALL of your advice. I appreciate your taking the time to share your own thoughts and experiences. Thanks everyone!!
posted by hollygirl at 9:40 PM on November 22, 2009

And yes... I even told him I'd be willing to leave the seat up for him when I was done.

i'm confused at what this solves. it shows you're willing to go halfway or whatever, but what if you pee twice in a row? won't you encounter and up seat?
posted by nadawi at 9:41 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

It's his house, he's probably upset because you moved his things or you sprayed perfume in it or you left your jacket there or something.

Or he's trying to feel like he's in control at the same time that he lets you into a more intimate part of his life.

Or it's his place, he's sick of you nagging him about what he does in his place, and you should cut it out.

The amount of consideration you need from each other is completely different when you each have your own space. I don't think my earlier answers are particularly helpful now that I know you don't live together.
posted by kathrineg at 9:45 PM on November 22, 2009

Well, I guess you found it helpful, so I stand corrected. Good luck and I hope it all works out.
posted by kathrineg at 9:47 PM on November 22, 2009

wait? this is HIS house? my advice for letting it go goes double, triple, quadruple, even.

even if it was your shared house, if you are offered a beautiful marriage with someone you get who is learning to get you - could you live the rest of your life putting the seat down sometimes?
posted by nadawi at 9:48 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

It probably is just a matter of being comfortable with you now. He doesn't feel like he has to examine his every move to think about how to impress you. Most guys just don't think about the lid being up, down, missing, who gives a damn as long as it isn't blocking the bowl. It's not that he feels free to leave it up, he just isn't walking on eggshells paranoid that he'll screw something up, so he just walks away thinking about something else.

The invisible spray when you flush is a legit reason. I've never found the "falling in" issue to be compelling, though. If I ever fell into a toilet bowl, that would be a vivid enough experience for me to remember to look or check with my hand before sitting after that. You know what else is strange? Lots of guys leave the seat up, and guys have to sit from time to time as well. Have you ever heard of a guy falling in? Not me.

That's all beside the point. Ask him if he really cares whether it's up or down. Chances are, he doesn't. That's when you explain that, if it's all the same to him it would mean a lot to you for it to be default down. That's the mental leap that gets these things done; going from "wtf this is such a trivial thing for her to get all bent out of shape over" to "this is such a trivial thing it makes no difference to me one way or the other. May as well do it her way."
posted by ctmf at 9:56 PM on November 22, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry--I should've included we do not live together. I spend the weekends at his house and he has been calling it "our house" for several months now and I feel extremely at home there. I think we are both simiiar in that we both want to know EXACTLY how marriage will be and even though this is impossible we try to have really open conversations about everything. I do know that we won't figure it all out before...but we both have been burned, so we're trying... I AM not so much afraid of putting down the toilet seat my whole life, but of not having mutual compromises for each other. Does that make sense???
posted by hollygirl at 9:58 PM on November 22, 2009

That makes sense. Maybe this is a good time to talk about your different communication/argument styles and start learning the other person's language. You seem to be nervous about his passive aggressiveness, for example. Ask him what "signals" he gives out to you when he's angry and how you can read those better. If you overanalyze every moment for meaning you'll go crazy, and he'll go crazy if he thinks he's sending totally clear unhappy signals and you're not catching on.

To answer the other question you posed, as a sometimes passive-aggressive person I desperately want the other person to notice when I act differently. I don't feel safe oftentimes starting the argument on my own, so I'll funnel my anger into some sort of passive-aggressive signal and wait for the other person to notice (I'm fond of the silent treatment). And then it just makes me angrier when they don't say anything because dammit, don't they notice I haven't said anything to them in half an hour?! Sometimes it's because I want the high ground in the argument, sometimes it's because I don't know how to start it, and sometimes I just want the reassurance that the other person cares enough to notice changes in my behavior. It's a terrible way to start an argument, I know, but there you go. In a relationship I think the only way to resolve an issue is to openly talk about it, so I wouldn't recommend ignoring passive-aggressive signals. You need to talk with your boyfriend about what his common signals are so you can stop driving yourself crazy by overanalyzing every minor act like leaving the toilet seat up (and then eventually finding him some better ways to express his frustration).
posted by lilac girl at 10:34 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's amazing to me that you're asking him to do something *you* want in *his* house just because you feel "comfortable" there. Then you're upset because he is not being considerate of your feelings. I don't see you being very considerate of his. After all, the lid swings both ways.

This is so seriously a non-issue that I'm surprised people still argue about it. Both of you should put the seat and lid down when you're done and voila! compromise.
posted by patheral at 11:08 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I "get" him and he semi-gets me.

How arrogant. It sounds to me like he "gets you" all too well. I'd dwell on that a lot more than I would on the toilet seat itself. It is entirely possible that this is the relationship hill HE is choosing to die on and honestly? It's his house. He is probably telling you to back off a bit and get a little less comfortable in it.
posted by Rumple at 11:17 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

"Who left the toilet seat up?" is an all-too-often asked question in many households where men and women share a bathroom. It's an argument that can be ended once and for all with one simple solution:"
a self-closing toilet seat.

Also: "Install a home urinal and never again lift a toilet seat (or remember to put it back down, if you are a woman)."
posted by iviken at 11:24 PM on November 22, 2009

My partner is really awesome, all-around a much better person than I am, and generally teaches me about social interactions and being in a healthy relationship. That said, he does have a problem with being passive-aggressive, which is made worse because I can be oblivious. Here's what we've worked out together.

I will not respond to passive-aggressive behavior from my partner. We've talked about it a lot when we're both calm and happy, so he gets the message that I love him and care about his feelings, I just refuse to communicate in that way. He is on board because he knows it doesn't really work for either one of us. It escalates things unnecessarily. So he knows what to expect from me when he behaves passive-aggressively. He knows that I am going to assume everything is OK unless he says otherwise. We don't want him to get used to using that as a tool because it makes me paranoid and erodes the trust between us. Even if he's mad at me, he doesn't get to treat me poorly. We built up to this understanding over the course of a few years, it didn't happen overnight.

If it's really obnoxious to the point of hurting my feelings, I acknowledge the passive-aggressive behavior, but I still refuse to play guessing games or do the work for him.

"You're giving me the silent treatment. It really hurts. I love you and I want you to be happy. You do not need to treat me this way."

That's it. Then I move on. He usually comes around within a half-hour or so and talks to me about what's wrong. A lot of the time I don't even have to go there, he just tells me he's been cold or snapping at me because he's upset about whatever.

When he communicates openly, I do my best to be open, positive, happy, and accepting. I thank him for telling me what he needs so that we can talk about it. Seems to be working so far, as well as just building trust in each other. The last time we had something really bad, well, now I can't remember what it was.

And I make a more proactive effort to not be oblivious, to be more gentle and do things without asking, and not overburden him because he tends to say yes and take on a lot of responsibility.

Again, I can only really speak from my experience, but maybe there is something helpful to you here.
posted by kathrineg at 11:26 PM on November 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

Finally, it is very strange that you don't look at the toilet seat prior to sitting down.

Even in the middle of the night when you're all bleary-eyed and on autopilot and the seat just happens to be up for the first time in two years?

most men don't deal in subtext.

I hear this a lot. But you know, it seems like the guys who are most adamant about this supposed quirk of the male psyche also tend to be the most passive-aggressive people I've ever met. With my ex, I spent a long time having the intuition belittled out of me with this exact defense: "What! Why, my male cavebrain is simply incapable of harboring the sort of sublimated intentions you suspect me of. Such mind-games are the domain of womenfolk! 100% upfront all the livelong day, that's me!"

So, I guess I would say that if this is the only such issue, then don't worry too much. But if he's generally passive-aggressive...well, it might or might not be a big deal, right? And you can't know for sure. Passive-aggressiveness short-circuits your faith in your own self-perception. That's how it makes you insane.
posted by granted at 11:44 PM on November 22, 2009 [9 favorites]

I AM not so much afraid of putting down the toilet seat my whole life, but of not having mutual compromises for each other.

it sounds to me like someone is being passive aggressive and fighting a fight that has nothing to do with toilet seats and it's not him.

maybe you should say to him "i'm sorry i've been nagging you about toilet seats. it was my way of avoiding a conversation about mutual compromises and our partnership. i will work on trying to speak directly to you about things that bug me and not wrap it up in a silly argument that belongs on a sitcom"
posted by nadawi at 11:54 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

Reality check: you have an inconsiderate mate.

Is this the kind of mate you want? This is the kind of mate you are choosing. This behavior is a data point regarding mate's perceptions of your preferences/desires and will probably surface elsewhere in matters of more consequence. It is a data point regarding mate's willingness to expend effort on your behalf, however minor.

Is this level of inconsideration a deal breaker and is it counterbalanced by other, more important things that are being done acceptably? This is also a data point of your ability to discriminate important from unimportant, depending on where you categorize this.

FWIW, a considerate mate is one who responds to information about his/her impact on you.... minus the occasional accident/oversight, etc.

FWIW #2, no pairing of humans is perfect. There will be incompatible behaviors in any union, differing in severity and importance. Here is one item. Other areas include child rearing preferences, financial behavior, substance abuse, general lifestyle issues, geographic preferences, sleep habits, humor, friend selection, ad infinitum. There are abundant opportunities to uncover aggravations. Wait until you have been married a quarter of a century or so. You lose count.

(In our house, I am the one who does toilet seat management and have given up on training my wife to put the lid down. It bothers me that the cats/dog drink from the toilet, and I've asked her for years. She is a lawyer. Apparently, she is incapable/uninterested to do this task reliably. Hence, I do it for her. This is not a man/woman thing. This is a considerate/inconsiderate thing and it is also within the power of the offended party to deal with it....i.e., check before taking a seat. You'd do that in a public restroom, right?

I also pick up the socks, make the bed, clean the kitchen, change the kitty pan, drain the dog, pay the bills on time, etc. Not a boy/girl thing. That MEN! theme is pure bullshit.)
posted by FauxScot at 12:44 AM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm with granted on this one. The reason women accidentally sit on toilets when the seat is up after months/years of being down is that when you're accustomed to having it be down you can wander bleary-eyed into the bathroom in the middle of the night to pee. That has happened to me a few times and it's really quite unpleasant. Sure, I could make an effort and be alert every time I go pee in the middle of the night, but usually I'd rather be able to stay as drousy as possible so I can go back to sleep as soon as possible afterwards. Of course it is still his house, so that is a relevant factor. If he wants to make it a less hospitable environment to you, he can do that. You just don't have to come back. (But yeah-spraying toilet water nastiness has caused us to happily opt for the tolet lid down most of the time. Neither of us wants shit on our toothbrushes.)

I call bullshit on the new "comfort" excuse. Especially following the recent "time/frequency" excuse. It doesn't explain the change in what must have developed into a habit over the past two years. Is it so important to him to leave the seat up that he's willing to let you occasionally fall in because now, after 2 years, he's comfortable in that way? Sure, everyone gets comfortable eventually and that's often a good thing. But if it really bugs the other person, it's not such a great thing. So my SO and I make an effort to "keep the romance alive" even after seven years (that's our laughing/chiding reminder when one of us burps in front of the other, e.g. or I wear frumpy underthings too many days in a row, e.g.) even though we're extremely comfortable together because we think it runs the risk of ever-so-gradually turning a romance into a roommate/sibling type co-habitation situation.

Back to passive aggression. My SO does this toilet seat thing very very occasionally when he's mad at me. He's not generally passive-aggressive but every once in a while it rears its ugly head. I've asked him about it and he has fessed up although he purports that it's his inner psyche at work and "oh, I guess I really AM more mad at you than I thought." So when he leaves it up it's a little clue to me that he IS mad or we didn't quite resolve something after all. Annoying but I can live with it.

In your case, it's the continued changed behavior I'd find frustrating. And what may be passive aggressive lies to explain it away. Or just lies. I'd try to get at the root of this if only to deal with the passive aggressive behaviour which-if he really does tend this way-would drive me crazy and (I believe) jeopardize the health of your relationship. I think kathrineg has the right approach there although YMMV if he really is that stubborn.

One more thought. I fight off my own passive aggressive tendencies but I think I tend to cede to them when I feel somehow at a power loss. Could you be somehow overbearing? If so, could your compromise be that you try to be more respectful of his needs/wants in exchange for him to articulate his anger/frustrations rather than acting out passive aggressively?
posted by n'muakolo at 1:02 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nadawi's right too though-this works both ways.
posted by n'muakolo at 1:04 AM on November 23, 2009

(GF has been around 2 longer need to make the effort. That's how I see it.)

That's kinda what happens in a long term relationship (not all, but most).. especially if you get married - on both sides too.

This whole thread is making me wonder whether my habit of wiping the seat clean every time is a little bit OTT though.. :-)
posted by wackybrit at 2:37 AM on November 23, 2009

His answer makes no sense. He's not putting the toilet seat down now because he's "more comfortable"? What doest that even mean? He's done it for two years and now he stops and when you ask, he consistently forgets? And he's passive aggressive? Yeah no. There's something going on with him, no question. Either you're doing something new and weird in his house, such as hanging your bras up in the bathroom or some such, or he's quietly freaking out over the idea of marriage. Maybe both.

This is small warning sign. The guy either feels he doesn't have to do certain things once ya'll are married (which is exactly wrong, you have to try harder) or either can't or won't articulate what's really bothering him. Either way could make make for a long and exhausting marriage as you constantly try to figure out what this or that really means. I'd weigh this incident carefully if I were you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:47 AM on November 23, 2009

I AM not so much afraid of putting down the toilet seat my whole life, but of not having mutual compromises for each other.

How is him putting down the seat a "mutual" compromise? Mutual would be putting the lid down, equally inconveniencing both of you, right?
posted by Forktine at 4:08 AM on November 23, 2009

This has always corn-fused me about the Toilet Seat Battle Of The Sexes: in almost all cases, both sexes use the toilet for two different evacuation needs. In a male/female household with two people, generally, the seat will need to be down 3/4 of the time.

So my curiosity is, 1, why isn't down the default position for everyone? And 2, why don't men have the falling in problem when they leave the toilet seat up on themselves? I mean, I've done it and I don't like it, but it's almost always because it was the middle of the night and I didn't check.

(If I was going to generalize, I'd say that men generally aren't planners-ahead with silly things like this. When you are going to do a job, you make sure the tools are in place for that job. So before you cop a squat, you make sure there is TP and a seat available. What is the point of pre-staging the bathroom for your next use if there is someone around who may use it in the interim and require the following user to have to check it out anyway?)

Now, in this situation, it sure seems like when he was closing the toilet seat, he was doing it consciously. For those two years, he never developed the habit of closing it, he was doing it only when you were there, and out of courtesy. Now, for whatever reason, he has stopped doing that courtesy. I agree that it probably is passive aggressive about something, but unless he can say, you can't know why. My guess echos the comment made above- maybe he wants to see if a marriage between you two would be an arguing-about-the-toilet-seat kind of marriage?

granted: "Even in the middle of the night when you're all bleary-eyed and on autopilot and the seat just happens to be up for the first time in two years?"

I admit that probably is a surprising moment. But while it is a lack of courtesy, it's not like that absolves people of the basic bathroom procedure of making sure the toilet is configured for what they intend to do with it. If you wanted to get all gender-theory about it, what does it say about women when they demand men to relieve (pun intended) them of that dreary task? It says to me that (when it is made into a men versus women thing) women are too delicate and dainty to be expected to do all that thinking and heavy lifting, and that men ought to protect them from such drudgery...

But I'm totally with you on the men aren't capable of subtext thing. Bologna Sausage. We are capable of it, and relish in it. Just listen to men talk about sports or war. All about out-thinking the opponent; sending one signal and doing another thing. The head-fake. If there *is* a difference, I'd say we don't do it generally to effect positive change. Totally generalizing, if you add it up statistically, I'd bet that women deal in subtext and passive aggression to try and get people to change their behavior. Things like changing the feedback and reward structure of a relationship so the other person does what they want. Where men do it to win something. We do it to win power, like the creepy "you're imagining things" thing that some men do to try and keep women on edge, or to win some perk, like no longer having to pre-stage the toilet for our partner. (Obviously, this isn't predictive and the differences between individuals is greater than the overall measurement of gender differences.)
posted by gjc at 5:24 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can totally see his point that this is a "feeling comfortable" thing. After 2 years, I've started using the bathroom when my partner is in the shower (after asking if it's ok) when I would never, ever have done that before. Bathroom habits are a sign that yeah, you're truly comfortable.

Don't make this into a larger issue. Yes, keep asking him to put it down and if he doesn't, he's being difficult - but I can in no way see a toilet seat being indicative of his feelings for you.

And yeah, after you're with someone for two years, there are areas in your life where you don't "put in effort," but that's just because you don't *need* to. He doesn't need to put the toilet seat down to show you that he loves you because he shares his life with you and cares for you in other more significant ways.

Sometimes a toilet seat is just a toilet seat.

On preview: You're not living together? This is HIS toilet seat? You are creating mountains out of molehills. Wait until this is a *shared* toilet seat before you get all worked up. When you're around, he's acting completely naturally - take it as a compliment and gently remind him every you fall in that you really prefer NOT falling in. Until it's a shared toilet, I would also suggest looking twice before sitting.

Small anecdote: Before I moved in with my partner, he had a curtain instead of a bathroom door. This meant that every time I visited, I would wait for him to fall asleep before I would poop. Definitely annoying. But I never asked him to change it until I moved in and it also became my bathroom. (The reason for the curtain being someone put the door frame on backwards and the door is set up so you have to do some acrobatic maneuvers to get around it - legitimately irritating.) It was HIS door/curtain. The bathroom is the final frontier in living arrangements. I changed his sheets and his towels, I changed his grocery buying habits - these things I negotiated before moving in. But the bathroom? A man's home may not be his castle, but a man's toilet is certainly his throne.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:37 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

1, why isn't down the default position for everyone?

Because I want it down only once a day, and the rest of the time up is more convenient.

Whatever agreement you guys want to make about the toilet seat is cool -- open, closed, replace the whole thing with a squat toilet, whatever. But I definitely agree with GFM that it seems weird to be putting so much effort into controlling his toilet in his apartment.
posted by Forktine at 5:56 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am a man, and I put the entire seat and lid down. I find the habit of leaving the seat down and the lid up lazy, and the habit of leaving them both up slovenly and disgusting. I have lived with men who leave the seat up and women who leave the lid up. My solution is to just put the goddamn lid down myself every day instead of making it a Big Deal.

However, since you expressed it to him, and he's remarked that he's more "comfortable" now, that strikes me as code for "you're not going to leave me over a toilet seat's position, so why should I care?" I submit that this is not something worth leaving someone over, and that you should just privately roll your eyes and put the seat down yourself like I do. The total time of your life you will spend putting seats down is less than the time you have already spent thinking about it, writing about it, and discussing it.

So, onto the real question: "Do men really get to a plateau that is truly indicitive of a level of comfort--that shows in an overt way??"

Answer: most people do, men and women alike. But unless he gains two hundred pounds or stops bathing or leaves the door open when he has a bowel movement (god) or generally becomes an unpleasant boor, this is a normal part of a long-term relationship.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:19 AM on November 23, 2009

Count me with the others who note that this is on the same planet as farting in front of you, or ceasing to do a last minute cleanup just because you're coming over.

If you want the seat left down:

I'm not all men, I'm me.

If I were a seat-leaver-upper, I would find it hard to take your concern seriously, because it seems deeply unreasonable (unless you have severe vision problems). You're essentially saying that you're so deeply unaware of your own surroundings that you sometimes blindly sit on things and start pooping, and demanding accommodation in this. But here is why that underlying lack of awareness is insane:


Or, if you're in the parts of the country where saying this doesn't particularly impugn your/his cleanliness, there could be cockroaches there. Or there could be a mouse there. Holy shit. There could be a mouse RIGHT THE FUCK THERE WHERE YOU'RE ABOUT TO PUT YOUR NAKED BUM. It could bite you 'twixt your nethers. Anyway, I think it would be hard for me to take this problem at all seriously. I could imagine doing it, but if I weren't already a seat-leaver-downer for unrelated reasons I'd view it as a pretty unreasonable request that says that I need to modify my perfectly reasonable behavior to suit your whims and bad habits. Falling in the toilet is no different than eating moldy cheese or Cheerios with a bug in them: the solution is to be minimally aware of your own surroundings. Again, you get a pass if your vision is bad enough that you legitimately can't immediately discern the position of the toilet seat.

So, two things.

One, if you haven't burned this particular bridge by insisting that the toilet seat is about your right to just blindly sit on things and start pooping in the hopes that the thing you're sitting on is a vermin-free toilet in the appropriate settings, try this, which is also as it happens 100% gospel truth and complete fact: The seat needs to be down. The seat doesn't need to be down to humor the bad habit you've gotten into of not being remotely aware of your own surroundings. It needs to be down because there is only one circumstance where the small amount of time needed to diagnose the seat position and alter it if needed matters, and that circumstance, compadre, is a seat-down circumstance. I mean the shits.

Two, if you want to compromise about this, you can't compromise about it directly. There's no in-between toilet seat, and the benefit from his point of view is not that the seat be up or down but that he doesn't have to think about it; he can just do his business and leave. A compromise here should be between the toilet seat being down and some household habit you have that he doesn't like, and you don't get to vet the reasonableness of his underlying concern.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:21 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

> This is really odd. It seems like if he's been doing this for two years it would take more effort to stop putting the seat down then to just keep what he was doing. It seems like he's acting out in someway.

I agree with this. I have been putting the seat down ever since I've been married; it is a very minor effort and makes my wife happy. If he is not willing to make a minor effort to make you happy, there may be something else going on. (And you have to ask yourself what other unpleasant behaviors may emerge when he starts feeling even more "comfortable.")
posted by languagehat at 6:24 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Uh, no.
After 27 years, I still put the seat down.

Disclaimer: We both do. And the lid too. Keeps the dogs out out the toilet. The dogs REALLY DON'T CARE, and THEY drip water all over the seat if you leave the lid up. On the other hand, I would still perform the seat lowering maneuver, I'm that kinda guy. I still fill her coffee cup when I;m up, I ask if she would like something when I get up, etc. Her friends have said that if/when the dies, they want me. *blush*
posted by Drasher at 6:34 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

You really have to understand that for us guys the trouble is not leaving the sit down but to put it UP in the first place, I would say if he is leaving the sit up then you already got something going for yourself and it literally only takes a second of your time to put it down...with all the bad stuff that goes on around if this is the only thing you have to complain about then be lucky....It sounds like you are nitpicking a bit now arent you?
posted by The1andonly at 6:50 AM on November 23, 2009

This doesn't solve the "WHY?" question, but maybe it'll make him put the seat down.
posted by cooker girl at 7:05 AM on November 23, 2009

I am female and have always been mystified by these toilet seat discussions. If I fall in the toilet, it is my own damn fault and not anyone else's. If I walked blindly into traffic, I should not be surprised if I got hit by a bus. Stupid things *will* happen if you don't keep your wits about you!

If you never want to fall into a toilet again, the best way to prevent that is to look at the thing before you sit. It is entirely within your power to prevent this situation. If it is indeed such a small thing, why are you waiting for someone else to fix it for you?
posted by emeiji at 7:39 AM on November 23, 2009

The toilet seat battle is a pretty small and worthless battle to fight. Here's an interesting story about my toilet seat life:

Im a girl so i sit down. My boyfriend (that I live with was raised to lift the seat to pee and close the entire lid if the poos (i think its so the smell doesn't escape as much?). If he pees he doesn't put the seat down. Not that I care, I have a dad and a brother and just learned to keep some tissues around to act as a barrier between the seat and my hand when i put it down. Myself, I always leave the seat down, lid open. That combined with my boyfriend's habits lets us both remember what just happened in the bathroom - if the seat is up he peed, if it is down i went to the bathroom, and if the lid is closed he pooped. This does not vary except on the rare occasion that we have someone over.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:53 AM on November 23, 2009

Read the whole thread, just gotta say: falling into the toilet is NEVER someone else's fault.
posted by Aquaman at 8:04 AM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

My girlfriend is very considerate and always leaves the seat up for me.
posted by Zambrano at 8:39 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

For the love of god just look behind you before parking your ass. It's not that hard!

Toilet seat up or down it just makes sense to give it a quick glance!
posted by lemonfridge at 5:49 PM on November 23, 2009

just learned to keep some tissues around to act as a barrier between the seat and my hand when i put it down

What? Why?
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:45 PM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: I'm late to the party (what else is new?) but here are my hard-earned relationship tips.

First, when conflicts arise, try to see them as a conflict between two people, not two sexes. Boiling your problems down to, "Men are like this and women are like that" makes them easier to dismiss as unfathomable. "I can't understand why wo/men act this way" is lazier than "I can't understand why my partner acts this way." As you can see from this thread people have all kinds of different motives for leaving the toilet seat in a particular position: hygiene, convenience, thoughtfulness, habit, and the answers do not break cleanly along sexual lines.

Second, never bring up problems in anger or the heat of the moment. Instead give it some distance so you can judge how important the problem really is and then frame it as your problem. I call this the "Honey, I've got a problem" method.

"Honey, I've got a problem. It bothers me that you don't put the seat down anymore like you used to and I'm not sure why it bothers me so much."

"Honey, I've got a problem. I keep falling into your toilet when I pee in the middle of the night and I end up with a cold, wet tush. Should I just assume that you are going to leave the seat up from now on?"

"Honey, I've got a problem. I feel like the whole toilet situation is some sort of test. Am I completely wrong about this?"

By framing the situation as your problem you a) get a better perspective on the whole issue instead of laying all the responsibility on him-- which is easy to do, and b) you turn what might seem like a personal attack on him into a chance to open the doors to better communication. It may not work every time depending on how much your partner is open to honest communication, but if he is quick to take the easy way out and dismiss everything as your problem then perhaps he is not the thoughtful, loving partner you want to spend the rest of your life with.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:57 AM on November 24, 2009 [6 favorites]

Am I the only guy who routinely sits down to pee? Unless I'm in a great big hurry, it's actually nice to sit down for a minute and have some quiet time. And then close the lid afterwards (to keep the cats out.) Standing up to pee is just a messy habit anyway.
posted by monospace at 12:17 PM on November 24, 2009

Monospace, you're not the only guy who does that. My SO sits down to pee occasionally, and when he does stand up he doesn't lift the toilet seat anyway. I asked him why upon viewing this thread and he said he's just "lazy."

How peculiar... not too lazy to put down the toilet seat, but too lazy to lift it up in the first place. I find it funny.
posted by biochemist at 8:15 AM on November 26, 2009

My girlfriend is very considerate and always leaves the seat up for me.

My boyfriends and I have always been very considerate of EACH OTHER, and we close the toilet entirely. Egalitarianism is a beautiful thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 PM on December 6, 2009

It seems you've found the Nash equilibrium of the toilet seat game..
posted by wackybrit at 7:20 AM on December 7, 2009

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