should i be worried about my SO's messiness?
August 7, 2013 3:21 PM   Subscribe

My SO is very messy, to the point where they can't have visitors. They let me visit once after cleaning their apartment. They have an entire wall lined with boxes of unused comic books. They have a several-years-old stack of takeout boxes about chest high...

And have to keep all food in the fridge to protect from mice and cockroaches. They feed the mice to prevent the mice from chewing electronic wires. They have a thick- maybe measurably thick- layer of dust on everything. They no longer sleep in their bed and haven't washed the bedsheets in a few months at least, since last use. They won't have the mice and bugs dealt with because they feel guilty killing the creatures. There are structural repairs that they can't have done because they are afraid of the consequences of alerting property management to their situation. This is how bad it was when I saw it.

They refuse to hire a cleaner or let me do so. They refuse to allow my help cleaning. They frequently talk about "when they clean up the place" but there's no evidence of any steps being taken. They frequently complain about their living conditions, although these complaints have become less frequent as I have started responding with cleaning suggestions. I am no longer allowed to visit which means it is even worse than when I saw it.

I have asked what is preventing them from taking action, they cited tiredness and a lack of time.

I'm starting to worry that there is something more than just having gotten into a bad situation, like perhaps depression or hoarding. I don't know what to do or how to help, but it really upsets me that someone I love is living this way. I'm also hesitant to suggest this possibility to my SO, as my SO is very resistant to doctors, and hasn't had a medical checkup in a very long time.

I usually bring this subject up gently about once a month or so. Perhaps I should do it more often? Less often? I'm trepaditious about hurting or upsetting them, but I'm also worried that if they change only to appease me, the change will be short lived. Have you dealt with this before? What did you do?

Breaking up is not something I am willing to consider at this time.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If you can't change it, you've got to stand it.
posted by shew at 3:30 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

I was like this, and it only took me 43 years to figure out that it was a severe anxiety disorder. I'm getting help now, and it is slowing getting better. People don't just act like that for no reason. If your partner is otherwise a sane and caring person who you want to stay with, then I would encourage you to help them get help. And don't be like me, and wait 43 years. It isn't "tiredness" or "lack of time"-- it is an escape mechanism from stress and fear. The problem is that this short term escape ends up causing a lot more pain and distress in the future. Also, this sounds trite, but did you know that the Hoarding shows are on Netflix instant streaming this month? It really helped my wife understand me a little more to see the same behaviors in a different context. Maybe watching them can help you understand why your partner is doing these things, and provide some reference points and ways to find help. Also, if your partner could have fixed this by himself/herself, he/she would have. It's time to get some help. I just wish I hadn't waited so long. Best of luck to you.
posted by seasparrow at 3:31 PM on August 7, 2013 [20 favorites]

I would put up with it, if breaking up is not an option. However, if your plans in the future include you co-habitating, you're going to have to address it. Sooner rather than later. It sure sounds like an obsessive disorder or a hoarding type of situation to my untrained eyes, and if your SO has no issues living in filth, then you're going to have to either see if they'll make an effort to change, realize that you'll someday live in filth, or break up.
posted by xingcat at 3:31 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your loved one is a hoarder. Hoarding is a type of OCD that is extremely hard to treat. As the child of a hoarder I would strongly urge you to consider what impact this will have on your life. You cannot help unless they want to change.
posted by Requiax at 3:32 PM on August 7, 2013 [25 favorites]

This is textbook hoarding. This individual needs professional help. As far as the relationship goes, you have the choice of either leaving to live with it, which isn't healthy for either of you, or ending the relationship.... you have a tough choice ahead.
posted by HuronBob at 3:32 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

"SO, I love you, but I can't be in a relationship with someone who lives like this. You need to either accept my help to clean your place up or you need to see a doctor about why you can't do it yourself."

Then either they get help or the don't. If they don't, and you don't want to break up with them, it's on you to accept the situation as it is.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:32 PM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

And, if you've never done so, watch some episodes of Hoarders on TV, it will give you some perspective on how serious this is.
posted by HuronBob at 3:34 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

The Help for Hoarders website has advice for friends and family of hoarders.
posted by penguin pie at 3:35 PM on August 7, 2013

I only have some questions that maybe can clarify your own thoughts..

Would the threat of breaking up make your SO visit a doctor or therapist?
Are you hoping to live with this person some day or will you always keep separate residences?
Could you live there now with the structural damage,mice,dirty sheets, take out boxes and insects?
Are there any other friends or family who could encourage them to seek help?
Maybe this link can be of help.
Realistically though, SO will not change unless they want to.
posted by Snazzy67 at 3:36 PM on August 7, 2013

My suggestion is to work on the fear of doctors, first. Baby steps and slooooooooooowwwww. What are they afraid of about doctors? Is it that the doctor will touch them? Is it that the doctor will find out secret things about them? Is it that the doctor will judge them and say something rude and nasty? Is it that they fear they will be pushed into painful or scary tests or treatments against their will?

When you find out that, maybe you can then start looking for ONE doctor that they can slowly build up trust with over a lonnnnnnnnnng time. It doesn't have to be a western medical doctor, it can be a nurse practitioner or a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine or anything. The point is it's good for them to start slowly building up trust with someone.

After working on the fear of doctors by slowly building up a relationship of trust with one doctor or medical professional, then you can segue into finding them a therapist who they can build up trust with.

Once you have done that, I think THAT is the point where you might start to have any success addressing the living situation.
posted by cairdeas at 3:36 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

It reminds me of training nervous/stubborn/resistant dogs. I have had so many times where I have made really good progress with a dog by taking things very, very, VERY VERY slowly, like anticipating the point where they will pull back and always stopping before that point. And it has been ruined so many times by someone else who just gets impatient and declares "You just have to MAKE THEM DO IT!!!!" and tries to like force them into it and then all progress is lost. This reminds me of that. Be patient with this person.
posted by cairdeas at 3:40 PM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]

I cannot diagnose your SO, but this is an issue that has the potential to get worse over time. If it is a hoarding situation (and it really sounds like it might be; not just due to the stuff, but the deflecting of concern about it), this is generally not something that gets better without some type of intervention or counseling.

Again, I'm not diagnosing your SO. But one thing that I might recommend doing is watching the show Hoarders just to get a feel for what this kind of thing can become. For most people, it starts off with small hoarding issues, but untreated, it can get pretty bad (and for some, that's a major understatement).

Love your SO. Treat them with kindness. But be informed regarding what this could be, and also what it could turn into, and if you are willing to potentially put up with that with no effort at a deeper discussion about it. At the very least, you can express your concerns with your SO about what it might be, and use that as a place to talk about your fears about the future, if unresolved.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:40 PM on August 7, 2013

This is called hoarding. Hoarding is best described as a mental illness. It has components of both delusion and anxiety, and hoarders are extremely resistant to intervention or treatment. I've never heard a happy hoarding story. I'm sorry. Run.
posted by Nomyte at 3:42 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Two books that offer concrete suggestions:

Buried In Treasures by Randy Frost and David Tolin. This book addresses both hoarders and the people who love them.

The Hoarder In You by Robin Zasio ("contributing expert to Hoarders"). Aimed more at hoarders and clutterers who are trying to change, but still, you might find some suggestions in here helpful.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:45 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, there's a Yahoo group called Friends of Hoarders that you may find helpful and cathartic. (I'm not a member but I remembered hearing about an online group for this sort of problem and this group turned up when entered some search terms.) I see their front page mentions a book called Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring. Actually this book looks better than the ones I suggested. The Amazon description says, "Digging Out is for the concerned and frustrated friends and family members of people who do not fully accept the magnitude of their hoarding problem and refuse help from others."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:55 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can I just get some clarification on what are "unused comic books"? "Unused" as in they aren't all being read simultaneously all the time? Or they are for another purpose that they aren't being employed for?

That said, this is all symptomatic of a) hoarding, b) depression and c) laziness. My only concern here is that your SO has an animal or animals of some kind - cat or cats, or dogs, or even birds or fish - that you should kidnap and care for properly. That done, insist that they get their shit together, give them a time limit ("This needs to be done this weekend"), offer to help them out, and tell them they need to go to a doctor once the place is cleaned up.

If they won't do anything about it, and you don't want to break up with them, then, well, shit. Good luck with that.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:09 PM on August 7, 2013

I'm in a relationship that is best called "Living Apart Together" so it's completely okay with me that he has not actually unpacked the boxes he moved from a storage unit into his new apartment in March. Since we're past child bearing age and wouldn't want children anyway, I see no drawbacks in living apart. We also are about 6 blocks apart at this point, so we can see each other as often as we want (or not, as the case may be).

If he were a hoarder, I would want to learn more about the disorder so that I could be aware of how it might manifest in our one-on-one time, but absent something other than how his home appeared, I wouldn't ask him to change or even consider it as a factor in our relationship.

You clearly don't live with your partner. If you want to live together at some point, this issue does need to be addressed at some point. And if you're of an age in which you are actively seeking a permanent kind of live-in relationship and potentially children, I would say address it sooner rather than later. But if, like me, you don't live with your partner and have no plans to, I would consider and research and investigate the extent to which this could spill over into the relationship and, if nothing arises, let it lie.
posted by janey47 at 4:10 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Living with vermin is your SO's life style? Feeding the vermin to prevent gnawing on electronics does not sound like the decision of a rational mind. The advice above about getting therapy for your SO is probably good, but if SO is intransigent about altering his substandard, dirty, lifestyle, then maybe you should think of protecting yourself.
posted by Cranberry at 4:12 PM on August 7, 2013 [16 favorites]

Entropy wins. It's easier to talk about it than to do anything. If you're comfortable with the level of denial being displayed here then enjoy the company and don't carry it out the door. The sanitation aspect of it is a matter you should address immediately. Something that doesn't need talking about as you discard things which manifest themselves with detritus from parasites, vermin and other critters. Clutter is one thing, hoarding is another. Make a choice as to what's acceptable, what is dangerous and weigh the options. Enjoy.
posted by ptm at 4:15 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your boyfriend has a very tough to deal with mental illness. Keeping comic books is one thing, but what's the rationale for keeping old nasty take-out boxes?

The obvious thing is that "You'll never have a place big enough to keep everything you ever used in life."

Hoarders can't part with anything.

The question you need to ask is: Am I willing to live with filth and vermin? If not, can you deal with having a relationship with someone who is living this way? That means no co-habitation.

You are not in the relationship you think you're in. You have a relationship with someone who has a serious problem that he is not willing to address.

If you were with a heroin abuser or an alcoholic, would you say that it wasn't a deal-breaker?

This won't get better. Even with treatment, your boyfriend may never be comfortable with taking out the trash.

Think long and hard. Good people can have mental illness that just can't be lived with. Do you want to be 5 years down the road with this, in exactly the same situation? Only with more pizza boxes, roaches, rats and comic books?

Suggest couples counseling as a way to find a way to cohabitate or to take your relationship to another level.

Personally, I wouldn't step foot in his apartment and his neighbors should be raising holy hell and calling the department of health on his ass. His landlord can evict him.

This is a terrible situation and I suspect you know that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:16 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

I found it really useful to read Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. I think you would find it useful too, not because your SO is a hoarder necessarily. I don't even know him/her and am not a mental health professional. But this book is so interesting because when you think about it, everyone keeps stuff. So what makes hoarding hoarding? What makes our collections of "stuff" unhelpful or psychologically harmful? It might give you some insight as to what's up with the comic books and the takeout boxes, and possibly a new way to talk to SO about them.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:24 PM on August 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

My mother is a hoarder. I grew up in a house where rubbermaid containers full of random crap were used as furniture because we couldn't reach the actual furniture. Your SO appears to have a mental illness, and there is no gently reasoning them out of a lifestyle that they didn't reason themselves into in the first place. This is the way they cope with the world, and the only way to fix it is really intense therapy and medication, and that's only if they're willing. They are clearly not wiling. For your own sake, please never, ever contemplate living with this person unless they have successfully gone through therapy and changed their coping mechanisms.
posted by crankylex at 4:36 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

(nota bene: the pronoun game gives me hives so I flipped a coin and I'm going with male pronouns this time)

Your significant other requires professional help. There are books you can read on how to help a hoarder and they may provide you some useful strategies in the short term but you, by yourself, cannot just fix him with your love and support. He is deliberately living in squalor. The colloquial, and somewhat rough, term for his mental state is pee-bottle crazy. There really can't be any lasting change here without the assistance of a trained professional.

Let me reiterate that you cannot fix him by yourself. This is not an opinion. This is a fact. I have seen so many things like this play out and I promise you that there is always his burning hope that maybe you can fix him yourself, but you can't and he's only going to get worse because this is basically a very slow, terrifyingly deliberate form of suicide. This is not something you can handle alone, and he's not willing to lift much of a hand here.

So if you won't include breaking up as an option, then here are your choices:

1. Call a trained professional and give them a rough outline of your situation and be prepared to comply with what they tell you


2. Accept the fact that your significant other lives in squalor and just keep trying to calm your incredibly reasonable worries about this whole situation

But if breaking up isn't on the table, your significant other has no reason not to decide, on your behalf, that you're going to go with option two. I guess what I'm saying is, think it over.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:49 PM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

I don't know if it is hoarding, or just laziness, depression and anxiety. or both. Hoarding is a specific compulsion to keep things. But just having a lot of crap isn't necessarily hoarding. If there was any criteria for figuring out the difference, I think it would have to do with what value the person places on the stuff.

There is a certain comfort in keeping a messy house: you are never bored, you can beg off uncomfortable social engagements because you've "got shit to do", nobody ever comes over so you don't have to fret about people being in your space or being a bad host, and most of all, you just don't have to pick up after yourself. It's already a mess, another beer can on the pile isn't going to make cleaning it up any harder. Then there is the terror of being "found out". They don't want any help with the cleaning because that would involve them feeling terribly judged by whoever the helpers are. Even doing it himself means people seeing him in the hallway, lugging out garbage and judging him. (Or her, as the case may be.)

I would wager that your SO has some form of depression or anxiety. Or ADHD and depression and anxiety. It could be something as simple as having been through a rough period where crap built up and he has never been able to pull himself out from under all the literal and figurative garbage.
posted by gjc at 4:59 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think part of the issue is that you have narrowed yourself into a corner:

1. You are focusing on how you can help them change their behavior (because you want them to change).

2. You are not willing to leave the relationship.

Which means you are going to be caught in a constant struggle with them. Options you have not considered include asking 'how can I live with this', which some people have alluded to - including never co-habitating, not calling them out on their issues, perhaps you seeing a therapist to help support you in your desire to be with a partner who may have a mental health issue, and finding resources/support groups to help you live with this.

But the love it the way it is sentiment might be the prevailing principle here - that it isn't clear that your partner wants to change their behavior, so your desire to have them do so will probably only continue to cause friction, if you can't figure out how to live with this and them as they are.

I'm sorry, your situation is so difficult - it's hard to see a person you love hurting themselves/in pain.
posted by anitanita at 5:02 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Understand that you staying with them will not change them. You leaving them might change them, but it may not.

You staying with them will almost certain cause you stress and worry and anxiety as you hope hope hope they change, hope they don't get in trouble with the law, hope they aren't getting worse.

Please try to remember, as you decide what to do, that leaving is always on the table.
posted by jenlovesponies at 5:06 PM on August 7, 2013

The way you have phrased this question makes me worried that you are in denial about the seriousness of this situation.

This is not 'messiness'. Nor is it a 'should I be worried?' scenario. Collecting empty food boxes, measurable layers of dust, a bed that is too filthy to sleep in, feeding vermin? I don't say this to make you feel bad, but this is seriously disturbing. I'm not going to diagnose over the Internet and I know next to nothing about hoarding, but your SO absolutely needs help.

I would treat this the same way I would treat a relationship with someone who had any other serious, untreated psychological problem. They would need to get therapy of their own volition, or I would walk.

Love yourself, here. This is not something that your SO, or you, should choose to live with long-term. It's physically, and psychologically, extremely unhealthy.
posted by Salamander at 5:28 PM on August 7, 2013 [19 favorites]

Watching Hoarders can be good insight, but do NOT try to treat it like they do. It doesn't work--even they admit that the long-term results are poor. There are approaches to this that work, but they do not happen overnight. They take tiny, tiny steps over very long periods of time. Do not, do not, do not give an ultimatum that involves your SO needing to get everything accomplished to make the place habitable in a very short period of time. Do start to frame this to them in the mindset that they have an illness that is going to take some time to heal, but that you're supportive of whatever needs to happen to make it better.

It is at its most fixable with younger people, but still not with that 'oh we just need to haul everything out of here and you'll be fine' kind of thing. 'I have to fix ALL THE THINGS' is exactly what makes it feel overwhelming and impossible, whether the technical cause is OCD, anxiety, depression, or something else.

This is not a guarantee that it absolutely will get better; it doesn't, always. But it can.

(I have some personal experience with dealing with this sort of thing sans therapists; the therapist is a better idea, but if it's an absolute no for the moment, shoot me a message, I don't want to dump a novel here.)
posted by Sequence at 5:30 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

What really strikes me here is the proactive feeding of vermin.

Admittedly, all I know is what I've seen on the two hoarding shows, and also read about, but that's a new one.

Does your SO have adequate facilites or access to fixtures to attend to their own hygiene? If you are having intimate contact, your own health could be at risk.
posted by jgirl at 5:33 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

The way you have phrased this question makes me worried that you are in denial about the seriousness of this situation

Stole the words right out of my head.

OP, please put on your own oxygen mask first. You can better assist your partner if you get the help and support you need (and deserve) first.
posted by rtha at 5:40 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

You can't make your SO do anything, including going to the doctor. But, you presumably do spend time with your SO in situations outside of their place and you can help to cultivate more feelings of health and wellbeing by modelling behaviour with your house and by eating healthy where possible (nutrient deficiency can create this inertia).

You don't say anything about your relationship or your life together outside of their home, but I would see their home as being a manifestation of particular negative internal feelings. Not everything requires a diagnosis and intervention, though. And you shouldn't feel the need to rush into their home and save them - that's not your responsibility (btw, people who feel like shit don't like people helping them because it makes them feel worse). What you can do is to help them enjoy themselves, relax, de-stress, eat well outside of their home, love them, etc. That's really the best you can do if you want to stay with them.
posted by heyjude at 5:44 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have to live with this. You cannot - and should not, unless you are a trained professional - try to force, manipulate, or wheedle a change.

Every time you bring it up, it's basically like pointing out to him that water is wet. He knows. He may not be willing to say out loud how bad it is, but he knows, out of the corner of his eye, that he has a really serious problem. But it is his problem. You need to leave it alone until he expresses a clear desire for help.

Your SO has a very serious mental health problem. And a physical health and safety issue that could lead to serious legal and financial repercussions. Or death. You should be worried, but worry is all you can really do unless you think he is an active threat to himself or others. That's a weird and hard line to draw with hygiene issues, unfortunately. It's possible a hospital or city/county social worker could tell you where that line is.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:54 PM on August 7, 2013

several-years-old stack of takeout boxes about chest high...

And have to keep all food in the fridge to protect from mice and cockroaches. They feed the mice to prevent the mice from chewing electronic wires. They have a thick- maybe measurably thick- layer of dust on everything. They no longer sleep in their bed and haven't washed the bedsheets in a few months at least, since last use. They won't have the mice and bugs dealt with because they feel guilty killing the creatures. There are structural repairs that they can't have done because they are afraid of the consequences of alerting property management to their situation. This is how bad it was when I saw it.

They refuse to hire a cleaner or let me do so. They refuse to allow my help cleaning.

This is hoarding. It requires professional help. Hoarders are as nice as anybody else, but they have an illness that seems to be a mix of anxiety, OCD, and probably other stuff.

So, sweetie, have you thought that you may be a hoarder? And that your home makes you feel bad, but you're unable to cope? I like you so much, and I think you could be happier, and, literally, healthier (feeding mice is allowing mice to poop and pee, etc. in the home, and mice carry fleas as well as disease). I could help you find someone to help. I don't know if this issue is a dealbreaker for us, but I don't want to spend time at your home, and I would not be happy if my home had any of these elements. This is something that's up to you. I respect your choice in this, and I hope you respect my choice.
posted by theora55 at 6:01 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not messiness, it's mental illness. There is nothing you can do if the person is not willing to seek out treatment. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but you seem to be in serious denial about the gravity of this situation. There is a world of difference between "I can't be bothered to tidy up" and actively feeding vermin in one's home. The living conditions you describe sound so extreme that I would respectfully suggest you re-examine your own thoughts and feelings about this situation. Have you exhibited co-dependent behavior in the past? Why don't you deserve to have a partner who exhibits basic hygiene and who doesn't live in self-imposed squalor?
To answer your questions more specifically, it doesn't matter how often you bring it up. You are now in a cyclical pattern of excuses and emotions that can go on for the rest of your life if you continue forward in this manner. You probably don't have to worry about them changing just to appease you, if they do not seek therapy it's very unlikely that the situation will improve at all.
As suggested above, I'd recommend you watch as many episodes of Hoarders as you can, and think very hard about the challenges of long term relationships with people who have this particular condition.
I work in tv and know people involved with the production of Hoarders, so let me assure you that the show is shot documentary style and although it's produced and edited for tv, the level of reality portrayed is very high. Meaning, the conditions and situations are so bad that the producers don't have to fake any drama, it's all there. If anything, the depths of the family dysfunction and mental illness are minimized...there is simply not enough time in an hour-long show to cover it all.
I really think the wisest thing you can do is look for some therapy for yourself. Try to understand how and why you're willing to accept this situation in your life and if this is the best possible thing for you.
posted by FeralHat at 6:23 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your SO has a problem, but it isn't that s/he doesn't know how to keep a clean house or that s/he lacks the motivation to do so. It's deeper than that. Offering to help clean, bringing up the mess once a month, etc. won't help.

I don't think you need to make this a deal-breaker right now, but you do need to see this as a serious issue: keeping garbage, living with vermin, letting the house fall into disrepair, and letting his/her health suffer (by avoiding doctors, by living in a filthy, infested house)--these are all symptoms of something bigger.

I do think it would be appropriate for you to have a conversation with your SO in which you state that you are concerned about him/her, and that you would like for your SO to consider talking to a therapist about his/her living habits. You can say, "I know that in the past I've focused on whether and how you clean your apartment, but I'm not scolding you for having a messy house. I'm concerned about you. I'm concerned about the implications of living with mice and roaches, and avoiding doctors, on your physical health, and I'm concerned about the implications on your mental health as well. I want you to be happy and healthy. Would you be willing to talk to a therapist?"

If your SO balks at the idea of professional health, I think you need to set a boundary: tell your SO that you are absolutely willing to help him/her get professional help, but that it is too hard to hear him/her complain about the mess, or make vague plans to clean and not follow through. So, you call a "truce" on the topic of cleaning--you won't press your SO to clean or let you help clean, and your SO won't talk about plans or a future s/he is unwilling to take steps toward. It's not an ideal solution, but it's a way of expressing that this is a big deal to you even if you're not willing to end the relationship over it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:55 PM on August 7, 2013

"SO, I love you, but I can't be in a relationship with someone who lives like this. You need to either accept my help to clean your place up or you need to see a doctor about why you can't do it yourself."

You have to figure if you want to live like this, or be the constant cleanup person while you watch piles of crap grow up around you.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:14 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just your description of the situation makes me want to go and get myself tested for disease. What you are describing is in no way normal. This is a case of someone who has a significant mental issue, and those things do not usually fix themselves.

If being tired was really the reason for not cleaning up, than you guys could hire someone to come in and clean up. It really is that easy.

The fact that he is feeding the mice is very very bad. If the Landlord finds out he will surely be kicked out immediately, and for good reason. It's one thing to not want to kill the mice, it's a completely different thing to provide food to them.

If breaking up is really not an option, than you need to accept that you are in a relationship with someone who is mentally ill, and move forward with your life knowing that it will not change unless they want it to change, which is not going to happen if things keep going like they are going.
posted by markblasco at 9:06 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

As with so many of these situations, I feel that the Al-anon motto may apply here:

You didn't cause it. You can't control it. You can't cure it.

Sorry- he's on his own. Live separately and make sure you are happy, healthy, and have some unrelated hobbies of your own. He can visit you at your place.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:10 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you're not allowed to go to their place any more -- which is fine, given the physical risks of being there -- all your time together is spent at your place, right? Don't you think it's just a matter of time before things start accumulating there, too? Roaches, to begin with, are going to hitchhike in your SO's backpack or whatever. And SO is going to want to keep some stuff at your place because their place is so darn full.

I know you say breaking up isn't an option but I really wish it were. You're not married (right?), you haven't made vows to be together in sickness and in health. If they won't go to a doctor and you're afraid to press the issue, I don't see any happy way out of this. Your SO needs help. This isn't something that's going to fix itself, or go away on its own. Please see a therapist for your own sake, to find out why you think this is the life you deserve.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:52 AM on August 10, 2013

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