Oblivious live in Boyfriend w/ Bad Home Training - what to do?
May 28, 2014 5:59 AM   Subscribe

My bf is back in the us and has been living with me for 3 weeks. At first I made it clear that leaving the toilet seat up, not pushing in chairs, leaving everything plugged in/lights on and not closing closet doors bothered me. Small things to ask for, right? However, I had to mention these things far too often in the beginning until the point where I had to suggest he start looking for a place soon b/c I am used to living by myself and like to be comfortable in my house. He apologized and since then has made a concerted effort. He's gotten better and I've backed off on constantly reminding him as per his suggestion (giving him the chance to self correct), but some of his old habits are kicking back in. I'm trying to be reasonable but looking for advice on how to get him to be more self aware

As mentioned, he no longer leaves the toilet seat up and he has washed the floors 2x, washes the dishes, shares cooking, and isn't a complete slob. This morning though I woke up to see the closet door left wide open, the chairs not pushed under at the kitchen table (I have a sign at the table to remind him) and unwrapped/open food in the fridge. I just don't want to be picking up after him like I'm his mother and don't want to be nitpicky or come off as a nag. I already expressed this to him. Is there anything else I can do to get him to be more self aware and get into the habit of doing things the right way, right away so there's no chance of forgetting thus leaving me to fix it?

** I've been really trying not to nag him about every occurrence and he has thanked me for that ... he really did get a lot better so there wasn't much need ... but he seems to be slowly slipping back into his bad habits instead of self correcting. What should I do/say to fix this problem? Tired of feeling upset about his terrible (lack of) properly home training
posted by soooo to Human Relations (85 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered that you're asking him to live entirely by your standards, without compromise? That's what it sounds like, anyhow. You're not even framing it as different standards, you're saying your way is 'correct' while he's 'poorly trained,' like a pet or someone who works for you. His habits are 'bad.' It's not a recipe for happiness.

Be open to compromise. Say 'please,' and 'thank you' a lot. If you can't do that, then this arrangement is a mistake.
posted by jon1270 at 6:06 AM on May 28, 2014 [126 favorites]

How much are you willing to compromise? Could you deal with him only being "perfect" at half of the things you mention? Maybe he could make significant progress with the toilet seat but never really master pushing in chairs. At a certain point, the only person you can "fix" is you. You have to figure out how much you can live with since "100% compliance in everything I want him to do" is probably not realistic. Pushing in chairs daily for a wonderful man you love doesn't sound so terrible to me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:08 AM on May 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Consider that while some of your standards are correct -- don't leave open food in the fridge -- most of them are just preferences. It's okay to have preferences, but don't mistake them for The One Correct Way To Live.
posted by jeather at 6:10 AM on May 28, 2014 [43 favorites]

Is this a temporary living situation?

Your way isn't the only way, and living with your partner and building a home together should mean that both of you are compromising, not just him.
posted by ohmy at 6:11 AM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

What harm, exactly, does an open closet door do to your life?

If it opens into a walking path, and is something that, say, you can easily faceplant into in the middle of the night, OK. If the open door blocks an air vent and prevents AC circulation, OK.

But if it's just that an open door annoys you, I guarantee you your life will be happier and easier just taking the .2 seconds to close the door when you walk past it instead of the 5 minutes to talk to him about it, get annoyed, and make a sign. I promise you your stress levels will go down if you take responsibility for your own idiosyncrasies.

But anyway, to answer your question, thanking someone for doing something you like is much more effective than scolding them for doing something you don't like.
posted by phunniemee at 6:13 AM on May 28, 2014 [43 favorites]

Decide what is more important to you, him more present in your life or closet doors closed. It seems like he has worked on the important bits (using my own internal scale) of toilet seat and sharing household work, but is slacking off on bits he doesn't quite value as much as you do like closet doors closed and chairs tucked away. (The sign for the chairs is really much, I think)

If it's a dealbreaker for you, that's fine. You just need to tell him to move out. But do remember there is a middle ground between nagging and doing nothing. It's asking politely. "Hey, when you go downstairs, can you make sure to put the dishes in the dishwasher? I don't want to get ants." It's all about tone.

But...do remember this. Living with someone is compromise. You don't get to dictate from on high what goes. If you're going to play the "my house, my rules" thing on everything, you're going to find yourself alone sooner than later.
posted by inturnaround at 6:13 AM on May 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

And it's okay, too, for these preferences to be a dealbreaker to living together. (Some couples live separately.) Or you could decide these preferences are enough for you to break up. But if you frame it as "this is the right way to live", you're fooling yourself; "this is how I want to live" is true and fair.
posted by jeather at 6:15 AM on May 28, 2014 [13 favorites]

There is nothing you can do or say to "fix" this "problem." Only your boyfriend can "fix" it, and he can if he wants to. It's said that it takes 40 days to create a habit, so give him a bit of time, but you really need to think clear-headedly about what your world would look like if he never changed. Could you be happy? Could you resolve to be happy? Or will this always be a conflict for you?

Your control based model for compliance is probably bleeding over into other parts of your life. Do you often seek to control other people's behavior, either for your benefit or because you perceive it as doing them a favor? Are you overly formal, as in, you believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things and deviation is a character flaw, not a behavior transgression? Do you believe that we only deserve nice things and rewards and recreation once our responsibilities have been completed to some objective level of satisfaction? If that sounds like you, even a little bit, you might benefit from some CBT type therapy. Group therapy is actually great for controllers, too, because it makes us accountable to other people who are just like us, instead of to one formal authority figure.

I have seen many relationships implode using the "my boyfriend is a pet" training model: girlfriend trains, boyfriend leaves, finds new more pleasant girlfriend who treats him with respect, uses all his training.
posted by juniperesque at 6:15 AM on May 28, 2014 [15 favorites]

When you live with someone, you both have your ways of doing things. It can be very helpful to approach this with the general understanding that, barring dangerous or unhealthy practices, no one's "ways" are better. Your way of doing things is equally good as your boyfriend's way. No one needs to be "trained" - it just sounds like your way of doing things is pretty different from his.

You might be thinking, "But I know I'm right! Chairs should be pushed in and doors need to be closed!"

Is this truly a dealbreaker for you? What positive things do you get from this relationship? I'd hope that they outweigh pushing in chairs.

When I want something done, and it is because it is the way I like it, I do it myself. My boyfriend hates how I wash dishes, so he always washes them. He was polite and sweet about it and we laugh at my crummy dish-washing abilities now. I also had him teach me how to do it his way and we had fun and now I can pitch in if I want to. There was never a moment of anger or tension over the dishes - it just unfolded pleasantly. He didn't try to train me; I just observed and took notice and one day asked about why he always rewashed everything!

He also never puts down the toilet seat but... why should he? It's not like I put it up for him after I use it.

Small things do not matter, really. Do you love and appreciate this guy? Living together is not just living alone but with easy access to sex - it's his home, too. He needs freedom to be himself at home. You can push in his chairs when he forgets and he can try to remember but at the end of the day if you really love one another you have each other to cuddle with and be next to and talk to and to me that is worth all the "he left the lights on again"s in the world.

Also the book What Shamu Taught Me about a Healthy Marriage might be helpful for you. Basically, thank people for positive behavior and ignore what you don't like.
posted by sockermom at 6:16 AM on May 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'm kind of a slob, like your boyfriend. You sound like a total neat freak. Neither of these things are necessarily inherently bad, but unless you compromise, this can be a relationship deal breaker. It was definitely a roommate-breaker for me in dorm housing.

Figure out what matters most to you. For me and my bf, it's being sanitary. We can let the closet doors stay open and the packing boxes clutter up the living room until one of us breaks them down for recycling. The floor gets vacuumed once every couple of weeks? We are lax on these things, and that's how it works for us.

But the dishes get washed regularly, the counters are wiped down, and the fridge is kept closed and everything that's not eaten before it goes bad gets tossed. The toilet seat is left down, trash is disposed of in proper containers, and we're both trying to get better about hosting parties and inviting people over so we're enticed to keep things at least baseline tidy.

We're also very nice to each other and try to divide tasks according to who hates them least. I cook because I love it. He folds laundry because he's better about doing that sort of chore in front of the TV whereas it just gives me hives. We both take lead on dishes and other chores on our days off.

But you've got to talk about these things, and you've got to compromise.
posted by PearlRose at 6:16 AM on May 28, 2014 [13 favorites]

It sort of sounds like you don't really want to live with him. Those are all minor things people compromise on.

He washed the kitchen floor twice in three weeks? Jeez, I'd be pretty psyched if somebody washed my floors twice in three weeks.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:17 AM on May 28, 2014 [74 favorites]

I'm with you on the toilet seat and chores thing, as well as the corresponding "ugh" tag because seriously ugh can you please just live like a human being? But the rest of it is, unfortunately, personal preference and in order to have a functioning relationship with someone you respect and who respects you, you will need to learn to compromise.

It is difficult in these situations where one person moves in to the already established residence of the other because it's YOUR home with YOUR stuff that you like having in YOUR way. You expect him to change all of his usual ways without realizing that you too need to change, to change your expectations from YOUR OWN home to YOUR SHARED home.

I agree that it sounds like you are not ready to live together and that he should find his own place. Another possibility is to find a brand new place in which the two of you will live as equal partners.
posted by elizardbits at 6:17 AM on May 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

"Small things to ask for, right?"

well yes, but 100 small things = 1 humongous thing.

You're not being reasonable. Pick your battles, if you really must, and concentrate on 1 or 2 things - ignore the rest for now.
posted by I_read_somewhere_that_. . . at 6:18 AM on May 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

Cleanliness ± Godliness, depending on your decisions.

Here, you've developed some specific rules that seem to equate to Godliness, in your eyes. But seriously, the descriptions aren't of filth, just of disorganization. It's fine to ask your husband to remember to put the seat down, but leaving notes with rules for him to follow is a little overly elevated for a request to push in chairs at the table.

I have a 4-year old, and I don't even treat her like that. We do have the same rule as you about pushing in a chair, but if she forgets (or I do, or my husband does), we are all respectful in our reminders.
posted by miss tea at 6:21 AM on May 28, 2014

Is there anything else I can do to get him to be more self aware and get into the habit of doing things the right way?

Huh? Your way isn't the right way, it's just your way. The way you frame this question indicates absolute rigidity on your part.

I was sort of with you until I saw that you have a sign on the table telling him to push in his chair. You really made a sign? Why?

This isn't what you want to hear, but I would completely interpret that as being micromanaging and annoying. But that's me.

It's an adjustment period when people first live together. You have to decide what's really important to you and what you're going to let go of. But you're painting this as your way and he's wrong. I'm not seeing any flexibility on your part and frankly, you're not describing a slob at all.

Dude, if he's actually washing the kitchen floors, the dishes and shares in cooking, he's trying to meet you halfway.

If you can't then you're not being very flexible. You're allowed to live as you want, but it's not cool to put all your cleanliness expectations on him as the right way to live and UGH when he doesn't fall into place.
posted by kinetic at 6:28 AM on May 28, 2014 [23 favorites]

Small things to ask for, right?

If they're such "small things", why don't you let them go?

Listen, I get it. You like things tidy, he doesn't even see the mess. But the tone you take in this askme is really off-putting, dismissive and arrogant. If I were your boyfriend, I'd put reminders on top of your reminders to "not be a nag" and I would be packing my bags, looking for a messy, relaxed, sexy relationship to move into.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:29 AM on May 28, 2014 [52 favorites]

I'm all for compromise, but if that's not working for you- remember to reinforce & ">praise actions you like and ignore what you don't.
It's really fucking hard to ignore annoying behaviors but it's much better than nagging...
Ahh... what sockermom said
posted by missriss89 at 6:29 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

It drove me nuts that no one I lived with but me remembered to close the bathroom door after s/he used the guest bathroom.

So I went to a hardware store and invested in a self-closing hinge device that I was able to add to the top of the bathroom door hinge. So the door automatically closes itself now.

Your boyfriend is making an effort but you can't expect him to be you. He is never going to be you. So suck up what you can, ask the hardware store for help with the self-closing hinge thing, and say thank you every time he does what you want.

We don't seem to be wired to notice when people do what we want them to do. Because that is supposed to be "normal." And yet that recognition is something we crave and does reinforce the behaviour we want to see.

But if having those kitchen chairs pushed in every morning is key to your happiness, ask him to move out. I love my bf very much and I am thrilled and happy to see him. Then thrilled and happy when I get to go home. Maybe you're simply like me.

I lived with my husband for 20+ years. These days, I just want my own little fiefdom and to live exactly as I want except for my forays to his place and his forays to my place.

Over a weekend, I can tolerate that he leaves the toothpaste cap off the toothpaste. Over the rest of my life? Nope. And I don't feel bad about that. I feel happy I have the choice to live, mostly, as I choose.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:30 AM on May 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

I am used to living by myself and like to be comfortable in my house

Fair enough, but is this "my house" or "our house"? It isn't really clear WHY you are living together; did you have a conversation that this was the next step in your relationship/commitment, is it so you can save money by splitting bills with someone, or is his financial situation precarious right now and getting his own place or a place with roommates it not financially possible or some other reason?

If you are not on mutual ground regarding finances it can bleed into other aspects of the relationship - especially chores, and if your goal in living together was to test-drive partnership/marriage while his was to just have somewhere to stay with a person he loves while sorting out his life, with marriage as a far-away thought (which are both equally valid attitudes to have) then you may be reacting to that.

Before living together did you do trial runs with spending time at each other's homes for a few days at a time; how did that go? Are you getting time to be in your home alone without him around or are you now always up each other's grill? Some people just aren't meant to live with partners or children and maybe you are just one of them; if so accept that about yourself live accordingly.
posted by saucysault at 6:31 AM on May 28, 2014

Are the two of you equals in this relationship or are you the master/owner? The tone of your question and the language of "training" him suggests the latter.

I agree that he should do his fair share of chores (or what he perceives as more than his fair share because often that's what's required to actually get to equal), put down the toilet seat, and not be a slob. I'm also with you on the unwrapped food. However, the thing with chairs and closet doors is just a preference you have. He haas his own preferences. Living together as equals requires compromise and some degree of putting up with each other's habits.

If he was posting a question about your note, nagging, and talk of "training him," I think you'd see a fair number of responses telling him to consider leaving you.
posted by Area Man at 6:36 AM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you are reasonable to have preferences, but it is unreasonable to expect him to adhere to your preferences - and they are mostly preferences.

he no longer leaves the toilet seat up and he has washed the floors 2x, washes the dishes, shares cooking, and isn't a complete slob.

Dude sounds like a keeper to me. You have to decide if he's a keeper for you.

Look, I feel you. When I first moved in with my husband I would go cross eyed whenever he left wet towels on the bed (!!), squish the toothpaste tube from the middle (!!), or leave shaving foam in the sink (!!).

I don't remember the last time he's done the towel thing with a bit of nagging on my part and a lovely heated radiator in the bathroom now, he doesn't really do the toothpaste thing anymore since I bought a gadget that you pushes the toothpaste down, and the shaving foam thing I've let go because I view it as a signal that I'm about to get a kiss from a freshly shaved hot guy.

Pick your battles. These are minor minor minor skirmishes you are talking about and it does sound like the guy is trying. Are you ok with a lifetime of trying with this guy? I decided I was with mine.
posted by like_neon at 6:38 AM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here is the What Shamu Taught me about a Healthy Marriage article from the New York Times, and here is the Amazon link for the more detailed book by the same author.
posted by sockermom at 6:39 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you have a lot of contempt for him, honestly. Twice you refer to his leaving doors open and chairs out as "bad home training." This is a value judgment, in which you deem your way of living The Correct Way and conclude that he wasn't raised right because he leaves the toilet seat up. This attitude is going to be toxic to your relationship. If my significant other started putting up signs in the house to remind me to push chairs in I would feel completely demeaned.

If you aren't always this rigid in dealing with people, then this conflict may be a symptom of a larger problem in your relationship.
posted by payoto at 6:40 AM on May 28, 2014 [13 favorites]

This might be a fundamental incompatibility because some people are wired to care a lot about neat and tidy and some people are wired to care a lot about other things. Neither way is "right", they are just different. But that difference can make living together very difficult if not almost impossible.
posted by Dansaman at 6:41 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

So, everyone has preferences. Big things for me are toilet lid down (because stuff, expensive stuff, is prone to falling into open toilets which my husband already did, since he was raised to do that) and helping with chores. And it seems like he's already doing that stuff. I get that you want food to stay fresh, so instead of saying "You left the food open again" say "I would really appreciate if you closed/covered food so it doesn't go to waste."

But, honestly, I would HATE living with someone who nagged me about closet doors or had a sign up to remember to push in your chair. All 4 of my dining room chairs aren't pushed in right now.

So is that really the hill you want to die on? It takes more emotional and physical effort to nag him to push in a chair or close a closet door rather than just doing it yourself.

On preview: Have you only been nagging him about these things for 3 weeks since he moved in? That's an extremely short amount of time to get this annoyed about a door being open, and a short amount of time for him to do his best to meet all your requirements, which he seems to have done most of.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:42 AM on May 28, 2014 [9 favorites]

For those who may not know 'home training' is a vernacular phrase meaning poor etiquette. It doesn't necessarily have the freighted meaning some may be ascribing to it.
posted by winna at 6:51 AM on May 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

I have two suggestions, one of which many people have already made.

First, when we did our pre-wedding training, the workshop leader asked us what the right way to squeeze the toothpaste was. Predictably, some said "work your way from the bottom" and some said "wherever you grab it." Then the leader said, and this was the memorable part: "Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff--the toothpaste, the toilet paper, the towels. It's all small stuff." So now when I pick up the toothpaste tube and it's all squished in the middle and I start to think, "well, that's not really an efficient way to move a semi-liquid.." I remember to smile and not sweat the small stuff.

Second, for more important things, we worked out a four-day rule. This works for clothes on the floor and things like that. I remind him about the clothes. Then he has a grace period of four days (we negotiated this period) wherein I zip my lips. After four days, I get a free pass to nag him about the clothes on the floor.

I get you. Sometimes I think my husband was born in a barn, the way he leaves doors and drawers half open so I bash my knees on them. But he also hates how I stand next to him and comment about how he does the dishes. So I don't stand next to him while he's doing the dishes anymore. It takes a lot of biting my tongue, but the dishes get reasonably clean (even if he loads the dishwasher WRONG WRONG WRONG!) and I don't have to do it myself.

Work out a negotiated plan for reminders, and bite your tongue for the rest.
posted by Liesl at 6:53 AM on May 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

He should find his own place to live. It doesn't sound like you are ready for co-habitation.
posted by chrillsicka at 6:56 AM on May 28, 2014 [9 favorites]

If you are stressed about him doing tiny irrelevant things that annoy you, imagine how stressed he is living with a totalitarian neat freak who treats him with contempt and refers to him as being badly trained as if he was a pet.

Just let it go. Despite what you think in this situation, you aren't perfect and you do things that annoy him too. It seems he's just mature enough to not sweat little things that don't matter, whereas you have some learning to do about having things your own way.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:56 AM on May 28, 2014 [9 favorites]

Anyway, you guys need a full-on talk about what the rules are.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:57 AM on May 28, 2014

As others have mentioned, you kind of talk about your BF like he's a pet dog.

If you're going to treat him like a dog, go all the way. You can't train dogs solely through corrections and punishment, you have to praise them and give them treats to positively reinforce good behavior.

So, give ol' boy a treat when he does something right. I'll leave what that treat should be up to your imagination.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 7:00 AM on May 28, 2014

I used to be a massive, unbelievable slob, now I'm pretty ok. This came about through years of living with roommates with higher standards than I had, and just gradually realizing that clean homes are great to be in. It took me a long time to just... learn how to clean, and keep things clean on a regular basis.

But what really, REALLY didn't help was nagging. Occasional reminders, sure. Chore charts, love 'em. But "ugh, aGAIN with the jacket on the couch" just made me feel, alternately, "I am worthless so why even try to improve" or "this person is a fucking asshole so why even try to please them."
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:01 AM on May 28, 2014 [23 favorites]

You clearly state that you are accustomed to living on your own, being in control of your environment, and that he's made a concerted effort. I came in the recommend the Shamu article; behavior modification works reasonably well. I think it's for you to decide how much disorder you can tolerate, as weighed against the pleasures of having him with you, and any goal you may have for the relationship. I would de-personalize it, as you may already have done; for him, it's just habit.
posted by theora55 at 7:14 AM on May 28, 2014

Have you lived alone for a long time? I did. Sure got me set in my ways.

Then I got a cat. That cat walked around everywhere! He sat on things! How dare he, right? Drove me nuts. Couldn't he just lay in his cat-spot and not make a fuss?

It hit me how unrealistic that expectation was. I can't invite a living being into my home and expect them not to take up any space. I can't expect nothing to change. And, the pets & purring are worth the inconvenience of cat hair & a scratching post in my living room.

So.... on to people. I'm like you. I like things how I like them. At first I thought, like you, to control the other person. But that's ruinous to a relationship. Instead, I decided to control myself. If I don't like it, I change it. If we disagree, we talk it out until we're both happy. And we let some things slide. The control resides with you; don't try to place it on the other person. Trying to externalize perfection will make you miserable, and alone.

It helped me to recognize how patient & flexible my guy is. He doesn't natter at me. He changes what he doesn't like. If the bathroom is a mess and he doesn't like it, he cleans it. I don't hear one bit of bitch about it. If I don't like the dishes, I do the dishes. (And if there are any resentful thoughts brewing, I nip them quick! He does plenty without me having to ask.)

Please don't nag. It ruins relationships.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:14 AM on May 28, 2014 [35 favorites]

This would drive me mad too, and unlike most people (here, not IRL in my experience) I don't consider leaving all the lights on and being messy a different and equal lifestyle choice. It sounds like your boyfriend has good intentions and realizes that his parents or whoever raised him never taught him to be neat and considerate. (Did they have servants who did it all?) So I would actually explain, not in a patronizing way, not with notes, why you want him to change his habits. E.g. if the lights are always on, the electric bill is higher and the bulbs burn out faster, which is a pain. Open doors and chairs placed haphazardly around the table look messy and therefore make it harder to just relax at home, and they also increase the risk of tripping over/bumping into things. Tell him the logic behind this stuff; even though it seems self-evident to you, he may have never heard it. And don't expect him to be perfect. I think there's always going to be a certain amount of "if you want something done, do it yourself" to living with him, or else you risk turning into the nagging person you don't want to be.

Chores like cleaning are easier, I think, because you can always make a schedule that you both agree to, and you're not relying on him to spontaneously wash the floor.

Also, if you're planning on having kids with him, maybe talk about how you'd raise them wrt living at home. I could see this becoming a huge frustration if you don't agree about it and the kid gets the message "mom always makes me clean up after myself but dad lets me leave food in my room and sleep in a plie of unfolded laundry and do whatever I want, whee!"
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:14 AM on May 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

P.S. Consider... you notice all the times he doesn't push the chair in but don't notice all the times he does.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:15 AM on May 28, 2014 [11 favorites]

Is it possible you really just don't want him in your house and for whatever reason can't/won't communicate this directly? Behavior that says I don't want you here can very well mean I don't want you here.

Every time you try to "train" him you are depriving yourself of an opportunity to teach yourself all kinds of useful and important stuff: emotional flexibility, treating partners as an equal, good old fashioned boundaries, prioritizing, collaboration, how to communicate the respect and affection you feel or dive into the muddy waters of how/why you're in a relationship with someone you don't.

Don't confuse acquiescence with consideration. The former is about avoiding pain, the latter about taking care of one another and the relationship.
posted by space_cookie at 7:20 AM on May 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

Right now it sounds like you have a "you vs. him" mentality, and I think it would help for you both to reframe this as a "Team You Guys" one instead. Because really, this should all be about both of you figuring out ways to live with one another so that your relationship enhances your lives. Towards that end, I agree with the folks saying that it would be to your benefit to BOTH pick the things that are really important to you and try to relax on the others (IF you want to make living together work - if you'd just rather live alone, that's equally valid).

I also think tone matters here. My wife and I each have things that are important to us that the other doesn't entirely get, but we generally treat them in a playful manner. I'm the "lights boss" because I get all twitchy when she leaves the kitchen light on; she's the "laundry boss" because I am genetically incapable of understanding the rules of or reasons for sorting the laundry (I didn't even realize our washer HAD settings for both hot/cold and gentle/whatever until she pointed them out to me). Instead of taking it personally that the other doesn't feel the same way about these things, we joke about the other's base incompetence and our own "angst" over them, and that helps us both be able to express that these are important to us while still keeping them in perspective.

For smaller things, we just take on the task ourselves - I "fix" the toothpaste tube from time to time because oh my god how can you NOT know it needs to be flattened and rolled up, she cleans out the sink drain that I'm just too much of a special special princess to ever want to touch, etc. The important thing is that there's no sense of winning or losing when we do these things - no sense that we're "letting" the other person get away with something - it's all just a matter of figuring out an approach that makes us happy as a team. In doing so it's important that we both know we respect each other and that we generally do an equal amount of housework, even if we differ in the specifics; it sounds like your guy is doing his share, so maybe try to focus on that instead?
posted by DingoMutt at 7:20 AM on May 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Compromise is VERY important in these situations.

Things I won't compromise on:
*Him leaving beer cans under the coffee table and on the computer desk
*Him leaving the entrance to the crawlspace open (a hole in the floor that I have come VERY close to falling in)
*Him leaving the doors unlocked at night

Things I will and DO compromise on:
*Him leaving the toilet seat up
*Him leaving his socks all over the place, under the couch, under the cushions, on the bedroom floor
*Him leaving kitchen cupboards open
*Him not taking out the garbage

etc. etc.
No-one is going to be a perfect room-mate. NO-ONE. But, you have to pick your battles. It's OK to have standards and insist that the toilet seat MUST be put down. But then, you have to let other things go such as the chiars not being pushed under the table. You need to acknowledge that maybe, while that's VERY important to you, it may not be important to someone else.

When I'm picking up my fiance's socks, I don't even think twice about it. Occasionally when I'm PMS-ing, stupid little things will irritate the Heck out of me and I'll bring it up to him. After 3 minutes of me berating him for leaving a cupboard door open, I realise how stupid I sound and shut up.

Like I said, it's OK to have standards (beer cans under the coffee table... just NOOOOOO) but pick one or two things that are really important to you, and let the little stuff go.
Is it better to be right, or happy?

(p.s. if my other half left notes around the house "reminding me" to do something, I'd be REALLY F-ing annoyed. You say you don't want to become his mother, well.... as long as you treat him like a child, there's really no way around feeling like his mother)
posted by JenThePro at 7:26 AM on May 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

I can do to get him to be more self aware and get into the habit of doing things the right way, right away so there's no chance of forgetting thus leaving me to fix it?

I don't want to come across as too harsh, but my advice is for your boyfriend to not live with you an more. Not because he's infringing on your preference as much as your framing of the problem is condescending and it makes me think that a healthy solution would not be forthcoming. It might be that you don't see this, because you see your preferences as being an issue of right and wrong, and so it's something of a battle on moral grounds.

Right now, I see your boyfriend as being condemned to live with someone who treats him like a child. And I'll be honest, that's something of a relational death sentence that most men have learned to avoid at all cost. If you want to move in a better direction, I would frame it entirely in terms of compromise, and whether or not you can live with certain things, and then make adult decisions form there. You are allowed to decide what you will put up with in your own home, but please (for the love that all that is good) stop treating him like he's a child to be manipulated into right behavior with just the right incantation.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:27 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm the slob in my relationship and my partner is neater. I would be super on-edge if I was being asked to be 'perfect.' He has selected a few things for me to really concentrate on and I almost always succeed at them. (Dishes go into the kitchen after use; bobby pins can't be scattered everywhere; a certain table top has to always be cleared).

If I had many more things to concentrate on, I probably couldn't do such a good job at all of them. I'm only able to succeed because he narrowed down on the few that he really cares about.

I know it's hard for a naturally neat person to understand the ways of a slobbier person (why don't they WANT to be cleaner?) so maybe frame it in terms of being 'welcoming' and allowing your partner to feel 'at home in his home.'
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:29 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Open doors and chairs placed haphazardly around the table look messy and therefore make it harder to just relax at home

The alternative, though, is that feeling like you absolutely have to have everything pin neat all the time makes it harder to just relax at home. Those things might help her relax, and it's fine for her to explain that to him and ask for his cooperation, but that isn't at all universal.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:32 AM on May 28, 2014 [15 favorites]

I think you're going to be better off if you just recognize that pushed-in chairs and closed closet doors are something *you like* rather than a sign of a well-managed home, and you take responsibility for that. I mean, really, how long does it take to push in the chairs?

Decide what you want to compromise on. If you want to live with this guy you're going to have to compromise on some things.
posted by mskyle at 7:39 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's ok with everyone here if you decide you can't compromise on having the house exactly as neat as you want it and ask your guy to move out. If that's your choice, go for it. But it's an unusual set of priorities.

If he had posted a thing saying "I washed "her" kitchen twice in the first three weeks, and she still made a sign to remind me to push the dining chairs in" people here would be advising him to move out because obviously his gf doesn't want him there and isn't able to compromise on even the tiniest of things.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:49 AM on May 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

It sounds like your boyfriend has good intentions and realizes that his parents or whoever raised him never taught him to be neat and considerate. (Did they have servants who did it all?)

Some households just... don't always push in the chairs. I know it might be mindblowing, but this isn't a case of "he expects someone else to do it," it's "it literally isn't a thing that crosses his mind because who cares if the chairs are pushed in?"
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:53 AM on May 28, 2014 [43 favorites]

My bf is back in the us and has been living with me for 3 weeks.

Is this a temporary situation? If so, then maybe you can just grit your teeth until he gets settled in his new place.

If it's not temporary, than he hasn't been living with you for three weeks, you've been living together for three weeks.

What compromises are you making for him? If you feel you are making too many compromises then you both need to renegotiate. Otherwise, this sounds like a very stressful place to live for both of you.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:05 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Might your need for things to be a certain way be coming from feeling anxious if they are not 'just so' or somewhere else entirely? Your belief that your way is the right way may be coming from anxiety, stress, not admitting you need to be alone, etc.

Little things often have a bigger background.
posted by Vaike at 8:07 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

This comes back to exactly the same thing as your previous question about why you don't like having female friends because you perceive other women as Doing Things Wrong in such a way that it precludes your being friends with them. It is totally okay for you to do this the way you do this, and it's also okay if you can't presently be comfortable living with someone else. At some point, though, if your standards for "right" are such that people you otherwise like can't meet them, you need to look at whether the problem is those other people or your inability to tolerate imperfection. Going back further, even in dating you've mentioned on a number of occasions having fairly clear black-and-white rules about how things are supposed to be: He pays and has to plan all the activities! You can't contact him because it's insufficiently feminine! Maybe things that led to only temporary distress, but there's still distress, there.

In all these past things, have these absolute rules for right behavior actually helped you and made you happier, or have they interfered with your relationships with other human beings? If it has generally turned out previously that black-and-white rule-making is difficult to reconcile with working relationships, do you think it is going to go better this time with housework, which is already a traditionally contentious subject with cohabitating couples?

The chairs, the closet, red herrings. He's a human being and the chances are vanishingly small that you are ever going to be able to get him to conform exactly to whatever model for the perfect boyfriend your head requires to let you relax. Fixing one thing, you will notice others. You need to find some ways to start getting comfortable with other people not always following all your internal rules.
posted by Sequence at 8:15 AM on May 28, 2014 [28 favorites]

Slob here. It can be surprisingly unhappy to be a slob. Everyone just sees us as lazy, but a lot of us actually feel overwhelmed and guilty. Many of us were never taught how to manage a modern household by our parents. Sometimes we aren't sure what to do. And when we dive in we often just feel even more overwhelmed and anxious, which makes us avoid it in the future.

For me I also had a childhood where cleaning was associated with massive amounts of guilt and anxiety. No matter what I did, it was never good enough. I was "disgusting." Not surprisingly I became highly avoidant about household tasks as an adult.

I managed to escape this by teaching myself that any cleaning is always better than no cleaning. Cleaning for one minute is great! Cleaning for 15 minutes is great too! Every single day I set a timer and just clean for that timer. Sometimes I use a checklist too just to make sure I don't miss things that might be important. In making the checklist, I asked my partner what was the most important things to him.

I know I'll never be perfect, but these days my house actually looks pretty good. But it's also important that I have an understanding partner who is OK with the fact that I'm learning, I'm trying to do a better job, but there is absolutely no way ever that I will be a perfectionistic neat freak. He helps me by setting clear goals with me and not being judgmental. It means a lot to me and it also means we've managed to have a household where I don't have to scramble to make things look even halfway decent if someone drops by.
posted by melissam at 8:22 AM on May 28, 2014 [22 favorites]

I think you are not understanding that some people really do see things differently. It's not that he sees the chairs not pushed in, knows it annoys you, and deliberately leaves them that way to bug you. He truly doesn't see it. For him, it is the same as you walking by the same cluster of trees every day and not stopping to pick up the stray leaves. He does not notice the problem any more than you notice the leaves.

The one issue I do push is him leaving medication out, because we often have small children over and I feel like that is a safety thing. I will nag him on that one if I need to. And when I find his habits sliding and we get things like dishes left out so I can't make lunches without having to put them away myself, I may gently suggest that we BOTH do a little five-minute tidy up together before bed.

But for the most part, I have found that the amount of energy and trauma and unhappiness it would cause both of us to have a fight over wiping the crumbs from his bagel off the counter is so vastly out of proportion higher to the amount of energy it takes to just pick up a sponge and do it myself. You really do have to pick your battles on this sort of thing, and spending your whole life leaving nagging signs out for him and monitoring his compliance with them is probably not the route to domestic bliss.
posted by JoannaC at 8:30 AM on May 28, 2014

Do you want your boyfriend to live with you? It kinda sounds like you just don't want him around period (maybe you're someone who just needs to live on their own, or maybe you need to break up), and you're fixating on tiny annoyances that wouldn't be issues if you were happy overall. If that's true, you can ask him to move out.
posted by Asparagus at 8:30 AM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

While yes, you can only change your own behavior, I think it's completely rational to work out whether you want to live in a shared space in which you are doing the majority of the cleaning -- and cleaning-up-after -- all the time. Many many many women end up resentful, and in some cases divorced, because they got sick of their husbands acting like children who expected someone else to pick up their socks.

There's definite societal support for his continuing to ignore housework and your continuing to pick up after him, so this is going to continue to be an uphill battle and it's worth thinking about whether it's one you to wage.

Compromise is important, but so is having a partner who respects your time, energy, and values.
posted by jaguar at 8:39 AM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

you need to find a boyfriend who will obey you when you put signs in the shared living space (!) ordering him to do things, and he needs to find a girlfriend who will show him the slightest scintilla of respect.

not a word in your question about whether he's emotionally supportive, funny, an interesting conversationalist or terrific in the sack. it's gonna be very difficult to find the whole package.
posted by bruce at 8:42 AM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

"(I have a sign at the table to remind him) "

Do you have one in the bathroom, reminding people to wash their hands? He's your lover, not an employee. I understand about wanting things the way you want them, and the toilet seat is supposed to be down. But the rest of the list doesn't seem quite so hard and fast--not every household cares about closet doors.
I think you need to decide what hill you want to die on--do you want a live-in life partner, who might not always concern himself about the housekeeping or do you want a boyfriend who you see on date nights? There's no wrong answer, but if he decides to move out, I'd guess that the relationship is not going to be as close.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:42 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you are considering moving out because your boyfriend leaves the closet doors open and doesn't push in chairs, I'm not sure if you really want to be in this relationship.

Relationships are about compromise. What compromises are you making? You say he puts the toilet seat down (which you asked him to start doing), washes the floors, shares in the cooking and dishes responsibilities, and isn't a complete slob. If you want someone to compromise and put in an effort for you, you have to make compromises for them. Putting notes that you want the chairs pushed in is not a compromise--that's nagging in note form.

Remember that when you're boyfriend does something like pushes a chair in, he's only doing it for YOUR benefit, not his own. He doesn't care about the chair being pushed in. Pushing a chair in isn't the right thing to do, it's your preference.

You don't house train a boyfriend, you house train a dog.
posted by inertia at 8:55 AM on May 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Some households just... don't always push in the chairs. I know it might be mindblowing, but this isn't a case of "he expects someone else to do it," it's "it literally isn't a thing that crosses his mind because who cares if the chairs are pushed in?"

Exactly! Toilet seats I get, but I didn't even know "closing closet doors" or "unplugging things" were household chore Issues. I leave everything plugged in pretty much all the time. In my opinion, you're at one end of a spectrum. You have every right to be, but having standards that strict is going to be more stressful than relaxing a bit. You could talk about these things as "the way I like to live" and not in such a judgmental way.
posted by salvia at 8:57 AM on May 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

Everyone else who has urged you to think about compromise is right. And yes, there is a profound lack of respect coming through in your post.

However, an answer to your question: Have a loving, open discussion with him about all this. Don't just frame it as "my way or the highway" -- that sounds weird and scary and controlling. Treat this, first, as a conversation about getting to know each other better. Learn about his preferences and practices. Talk about your own. Have you lived together before or spent any time at his place (has he had his own space since you started dating?) I'm a little surprised that you don't mention talking about these issues/differences in the past. If you've been dating seriously for some time, you should have a pretty good idea about your different perspectives on household cleaning.

Ask him more about his home training and describe your own. Figure out what's most important to you both. For me, I really need my living room and dining room surfaces clear and tidy. I hate seeing clutter. My bed has to be made. I can't have dirty dishes in the sink all day. But I don't really mind my laundry room being a disaster zone, and I keep my kitchen less tidy than my partner keeps hers. I'm not a neat freak. We've discussed our differences and try to compromise in a way that keeps us both happy and communicates respect and love for each other.

One thing that might help is to make a list of perhaps five things you really want him to focus on (maybe put the chairs on the list) and put the list on the fridge. Ask him if there's anything he wants you to compromise on and put that list on the fridge as well.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:59 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also: People are judging you about the closet door thing, but I feel you completely. When my partner and I discovered early on that we both value keeping closet doors closed, it was pretty fucking awesome. These little things matter.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:05 AM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I love leaving my closet open, so I can see my gorgously organized work, and all of my outfits. If we push the chairs under the table, the cats can't get into THEIR seats and join us at dinner.

You kind of sound like a picky-pants about your apartment. That's cool if it's normally just you. It's different when you live with someone.

When you have guests, you don't stress too much about this, because their guests and it's rude to make them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. So, you need to decide, if your BF is a guest, in which case, suck it up until he gets his own pad. If he's moved in with you, pump the breaks, because you're at 11 on the "How I like My House" scale. Most of us are at 7 and we're good with it.

Is your BF staying permanantly? If so, you've got to relax a bit on this, otherwise, it's yours to deal with. You aren't asking for things that are within the realm of "most of us would do this." Things of this ilk would be, take out the trash when it stinks, scoop the cat box daily and put down the toilet seat.

Unplugging things? Closet doors? Chairs under the table? That's pretty high up there on Maslow's Hierarchy of Housekeeping.

So, if you're taking an Internet poll, you're a clean freak. Which is fine, but most folks aren't as actualized in that area as you are. If you find that you MUST have your place just so, then it may not be in the cards for you to live with other people (Heaven forbid you ever have children.)

Do you really want to be Kate Gossalin? An inflexible harpie, more concerned about how things look than of appreciating her family?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:07 AM on May 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

I see three messily intertwined issues here:

Firstly, is the division of the work that just needs to be done to keep the home in a sanitary and livable condition. Things like doing dishes and cleaning eating surfaces just need to get done and this work needs to be divided equitably (for whatever value of equitably works for your relationship). It sounds like he's at least starting to step up in this area, though you may face some resistance because society still tells us that men doing this stuff is some sort of special extra above and beyond the call of duty, while women are just expected to take care of this.

Secondly, there's the issue of different standards of cleanliness. Do the floors need to be scrubbed every week, or is it ok if they just get swept and swiffered once or twice a month? There will always be some difference in ideal cleanliness level between living partners, and some sort of compromise which involves all parties giving a little is essential. If you can't recognize that there's more than one right answer and compromise on this, then you're just not cut out for living with other people.

Finally, there's the question of whose home this is. Speaking as a mild slob I actually get a little anxious staying somewhere that's too clean. If I can't have a disorganized stack of books and papers on my desk and a small pile of worn clothes in the corner of the bedroom, then I start feeling like I'm in a public place where I need to be on my best behavior and not a home where I can let my hair down and relax. A lot of what you've written makes it sound like you see your boyfriend as a tolerated guest in your home, who's required to adhere rigidly to your standards of cleanliness, rather than a partner with some ownership of your shared space. Again, if you can't compromise on this, you're probably not cut out for living with someone (which is totally fine! but it's an important thing to figure out about yourself as you make big life choices).
posted by firechicago at 9:19 AM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

sooo, there is no reason not to want your home to be an orderly oasis. Nothing wrong at all. I can't live with people because I hate having to continually be the one tidying up so that I can feel soothed and happy in my tiny kingdom of serenity, so believe that I know exactly what you are feeling. Closet doors open is just wrong, I agree! And chairs left out are ugly.

But if you want to live with this man, you are going to always be running around tidying to your standards, because if people don't start out with the idea that home should mean clean and ordered, they pretty much never will. This is on top of the social expectation that women keep the home tidy and men just sort of do the bare minimum (not that this is always true, but it is the stereotype).

So you have a decision to make. You don't have to live with your boyfriend. You can still date him if he has his own place. But if he lives in your house, you are always going to be tidying, and he is never going to learn. If you can be okay with that, live together. If not, don't.
posted by winna at 9:21 AM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some behaviors aren't going to change and trying to force them will just make the relationship suffer. It's up to you to decide what is or isn't important to you. And to perhaps find someone else that shares your mindset. If this isn't that person then perhaps you need to move on.

But at the same time realize that everyone has flaws, yourself included. Take a hard look at just how 'important' things like this are to you on a broader scale. It's entirely possible there's another point somewhere between where you are now and where your boyfriend(s) are/have been that might be a happier place for you.
posted by wkearney99 at 9:23 AM on May 28, 2014

I'm hoping this is a temporary arrangement, because it doesn't sound like you're ready to live with someone. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that - some people just need their own space on their own terms. I know some very lovely people who are the same way, and still have satisfying relationships.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:44 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Small things to ask for, right?

You could also see it the opposite way -- small things to get this worked up about, no?

Seriously I'm a grown up lady with my own apartment. I feel like I'm fairly well civilized. And yet I never do any of this stuff, don't care about it, wouldn't even notice. The toilet seat is one thing -- nobody likes to fall in when they get up to pee in the middle of the night -- but the rest? Dude, get over it. This doesn't even rise to the level of "flaw" or "bad habit".
posted by Sara C. at 10:02 AM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I also think you're not ready to live with someone, or at least live with this person. And that is ok, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll never be ready to live with someone. But living together is challenging under the best of circumstances, and it's more challenging for some people than for others. And you, as someone who likes things to be "just so", are going to find it more challenging to accomondate another person in your space than others might.

I think when (or if) you meet the person you want to spend forever with, then you should consider cohabitation. Doing the work to compromise will be worth it then. You don't sound like you're there yet with this guy (recently, you were wondering if it was "doomed" because he was going to be away for 2 months), so I would dial it back, each get your own place, and continue to date him if you want to.
posted by Asparagus at 10:07 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

He should get his own place. But that's not what you asked: YOU should stop treating your partner like a pet.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:10 AM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I just want to say since people seem to be so appalled - I've done at least one sign for my husband about not throwing wet towels or dishcloths into the bottom of the hamper. Because he just can't remember. They need to dry a bit first so that things don't get mildewy. I did a sign that was impersonal 'No wet towels' with an arrow pointing to the hamper.

I don't feel that it's an awful thing to do - in fact, I wouldn't mind some signs myself to help me with some developing some of his preferences into habits. But that's just me. If he is ok with signs then I think it's fine. But I would try to keep them impersonal, and try to keep them only for the most important things. Pushing chairs in wouldn't qualify for me, but that's just me.
posted by kitcat at 10:35 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh my god, just make him find his own place. Men who can't take care of themselves are a dime a dozen. Don't move in with a man unless his own place is tidy. You can date people without living with them. Problem solved.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:43 AM on May 28, 2014 [11 favorites]

Do you want him to feel like this is a home you share, or that he's a guest or employee there on sufferance? Because the way you're laying it out, he's a guest or employee.

Like, I'm not a neat freak, but my parents keep a very tidy home and expect a high standard of cleanliness, and there are still chairs not pushed all the way in, magazines and books in slightly untidy stacks, the (clean) detritus of everyday life on tables, etc. This is stuff that makes a home feel and look lived in, and that literally does not impinge on most peoples' consciousness as "mess" or "uncleanliness." If you're at the point where you want to leave notes and signs about every little thing, then I guarantee you, it does not feel like a home to him. Compromise and drop it, or have him move out.
posted by yasaman at 11:27 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just don't want to be picking up after him like I'm his mother and don't want to be nitpicky or come off as a nag.

Well, you probably have to because his parents didn't seem to teach him any of this.

Sure you may also have to compromise on some things that are so excessive to the point of being a matter of preference but you should not have to work in order to get your boyfriend to do basic things. Unfortunately though, you are. Yeah maybe he "no longer leaves the toilet seat up and he has washed the floors 2x, washes the dishes, shares cooking, and isn't a complete slob" but it's his responsibility to make sure he does at least half the house care/maintenance/cleaning/cooking and does not act like a child, but a caring grown up boyfriend. I would not date someone who makes me feel like his "mother", then makes me feel guilty for it, and then says thank you for not nagging me about it and respecting my decision to be a careless, inconsiderate slob, while YOU take care of the house because of course it's YOUR issue, since I don't care about it, I like things messy. I like having you do most of the cooking and cleaning. Since YOU like the house clean so MUCH, like it's some weird idiosyncrasy.
posted by Blitz at 11:33 AM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

You have a sign on your dining room table that instructs people to push the chairs in? No. This is something you see in a daycare center or a lower-grade elementary school classroom, or in a home run by a very controlling mother. You don't want to be this guy's mother? Step one is to stop running your house like it's a preschool. As many many others have said, living together is about compromise. He is doing TONS of compromising, you are doing none. Either start compromising, or have him move out.
posted by palomar at 12:00 PM on May 28, 2014 [11 favorites]

I know you have so many comments you probably aren't reading them by now but I sense the overwhelming tide is in response to some of the word/phrase choices in your email and not the overall issue so I wanted to add my vote to that there is nothing wrong with you having certain standards for your home and living space. Surely there would be a line over which most would agree that someone is too messy (hoarders, for example) so I'm not sure we can judge on where you draw your lines as comfortable for your surroundings.

Additionally, along the lines of you not being ready to live with someone - well that might be this "someone" and not another "someone" who shares your tidiness level. I also add that this is unlikely to change and I suggest only going to worsen as years go on. I let the open closet issue go and now I am 18 years in and still irritated about the closets among 100s of other similar issues. I still think that closing the closet is less annoying than my having to see the open closets as messy - one wouldn't leave all the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen open right? So, maybe I am also not "ready to live with someone" too but you and I are not alone.
posted by RoadScholar at 12:15 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

one wouldn't leave all the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen open right?

This got me thinking.... I'm not always good about closing the kitchen cabinets, and growling up my parents were always getting on me about that, asking if I was raised in a barn...and then it hit me. Is there any chance that your boyfriend has undiagnosed or untreated ADD?

It doesn't sound like he'd otherwise be living in filth and squalor, and he does seem to be trying, but speaking for myself, a lot of the things you mention like pushing in chairs I could totally see as being ADD-related.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:31 PM on May 28, 2014

I know it might sound silly and obvious, but maybe you could just try being more light-hearted about it.

I feel for your partner--I am not what people would consider a "slob," but I work from home so I often have to take a work call midway through a task that I will later forget to finish. I also am incredibly absent-minded, and the combination of these things means that my boyfriend will often arrive home to a half-unloaded dishwasher, a half-cleaned litterbox, and a bunch of water glasses around the apartment that I have just forgotten about throughout the day (as I drink water obsessively). Granted, it's not common, since I'm getting better at remembering things, but it happens from time-to-time.

We don't have serious Talks about cleaning, or notes, or anything like that. He'll just come home, laugh and gesture at the glasses around the apartment and say something like, "You know you live with TheHappiestSadist when..." or simply, "hey, would you mind grabbing all of those glasses and putting them in the dishwasher?" to which I just go, "oh, right!" and we both kind of giggle at how absent-minded I am at putting away glasses of water and finishing tasks on days I have a lot of work. I think because we just kind of make it into a silly thing, it's never been a point of contention for us--I'm happy to laugh at it, and neither of us feel bad about it.

I think your approach could make someone very defensive, and I find when someone I am talking to gets defensive, I get defensive back, and we end up getting really tense and unhappy and possibly even fighting. I don't think I'm the only person like this! Is it really worth your time and energy to be vexed about chairs being pushed in? Or anything else, really. I'm not trying to trivialize the importance of sharing household work, but I think your approach can totally change a lot, and also impact how you BOTH feel about it.
posted by TheHappiestSadist at 12:32 PM on May 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Just as a data point: I leave all closet doors open, even the one that juts out into a room far enough that I have to move around it to get past. I have cats, and they can get into a closet space so fast I don't see them. Closed doors = potentially trapped animal, possibly for hours. I don't think about it, I just leave them open, or pull them open a bit more when I go past them if the opening looks too narrow, to be sure that no one's stuck inside.

I would lose my mind if I lived with someone who kept closing the closets, even if we didn't have animals, because it's so ingrained in me. Your boyfriend could have similar training.
posted by current resident at 12:48 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Given that this is MetaFilter, I'm frankly shocked at all the people who are trying to shame you into backing down from living the way you prefer to live. Amazing. You have the right to live as you see fit.

People have different expectations and styles in dealing with their living space, and it sounds like yours are very different from your bf's. Neither of you is wrong or bad, but big differences in this regard can lead to perpetual friction between people (in relationships or in platonic housemate situations).

Only you can decide whether you want to continue in a relationship with someone you feel you have to take a possibly long-term parental role in. (Do you have any sense yet how responsible he is with money, cars, leases, hanging with friends in the apartment, etc.; I guess I would be worried about that, too, if longer-term cohabitation is a possibility.)

In my book, compatibility in household expectations is as important for a relationship as sexual compatibility.
posted by aught at 1:02 PM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

pick your battles, Pick Your Battles, PICK YOUR BATTLES!

Also, try this mental exercise: Picture your boyfriend gone, completely vanished and out of your life...do you fondly remember the chairs not pushed in and suddenly find the little things that bug you now endearing or is your reaction "oh good finally all my chairs are in the correct place." That should tell you which battles are important to you/more important to you than your relationship
posted by Skadi at 1:04 PM on May 28, 2014 [11 favorites]

I'm going to be one of the lone voices of dissent and say, I'm with you, OP. I live with someone who left doors/cabinets open, and food unwrapped. Result: I walked into things that were not where I expected in the middle of the night, and he walked into traps he'd left for himself in broad daylight. Leftovers tasted like fridge. Yuck.

Eventually he met me halfway after I did some innocent, "Oh, you banged your shoulder? Really? Hmm. I wonder why that cabinet was open...." He had spaces where he could create "hamster piles" that were out of my sight/footpath (like his side of the bed). We fought about "all windows and doors should be locked when leaving the house" for seven years...until we got robbed. Now he locks up. (I am not recommending being robbed, but that's what it took, alas.)

I bought a robotic vacuum to clean the floor while we're at work so I can come home to a clean carpet and floor, which is good for my mental health. Try to find hacks that make it almost impossible for him to fail, and forgive him when he slips up. Try to imagine that you moved in together and he now requires you to leave all doors open, and for Zod's sake stop pushing your chair in.... Totally unnatural, right?

I have tried to make things as easy as possible in the house to stay organized, like (almost) everything has a home and lots of things have labels. (There is a pickle shelf in the fridge. ONLY PICKLES LIVE THERE. He can find his favorite pickles really fast! Win win!)

I will concede that living with loved ones does take battle picking, but also positive reinforcement. It's a two way street, though. I have become more mellow over the years as well. I want to get away from him and my messy, beloved, destructive children sometimes, and I mitigate these URGE TO KILL RISING feelings by having as much sex/intimacy with him as time allows. Remember that you are on the same team and keep that bond strong and stress down.

Good luck.
posted by Lardmitten at 1:18 PM on May 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm really pretty messy. And I'm also really lazy about cleaning. My partner is probably neater than I am, and I know that he is bothered by some of my habits. It bothers me too, but almost never enough for me to actually do something about it. What keeps our peace is that we have a cleaning person who comes in, cleans, does laundry and mostly puts things away once a week. That way, at least once a week, everything is reset, things smell fresh, and the bed is perfectly made. It slowly deteriorates over the week, but usually it doesn't quite hit intolerable before the housecleaner comes again.

I guess to me, some of those things are real issues (unwrapped food, tripping over furniture) but the rest seems kind of trivial...? (opened closet doors, seats out if they're not tripping anyone). I mean, I guess if it's an aesthetic thing, I get it. And if it makes you uncomfortable in your own space, that's not cool. But if he's not just moving in temporarily and it's supposed to be also *his* space, consider that you may be making him uncomfortable in his space, just so that you can be comfortable in yours. And I'm not saying one of you is more right than the other (though you seem to think so), but that when people live together, they have to figure out how to live in harmony, and that's a thing that you have to *both* sit down and figure out *together*. The "my way is right" approach doesn't usually work, even if your way is actually better (financially/health-wise/etc).

It's possible that you two are not compatible housemates. That's ok. (There are couples who live in side-by-side houses. And it's very common to have separate bedrooms.)

If it's a temporary situation and you want to continue the relationship, then I would just sort of deal with it until he moves out again.
posted by ethidda at 1:28 PM on May 28, 2014

My husband did a lot of stuff that I didn't prefer when we started living together, and he didn't do some things that I wanted him to do. Some of it I loosened up about, and he developed new habits with a lot of behaviors. The key is to pick one thing and ask him as a favor to do it your way, and give a reason if you can. (If you put your towel on the rack, it won't get a mildew smell.) If he says okay, then remind him when he forgets -- but do it (again) as if you're asking a favor "Would you mind wiping off the mirror after you floss?," instead of, "You forgot to wipe off the mirror." When he does do what you asked, thank him, praise him, or notice out loud how tidy things look. The positive reinforcement is important, not just as a "reward" for him but also as an indication that you recognize that he consciously did something to please you. It reminds you that you're glad to have him in your life.

You move on to the next request after a decent interval -- as if you didn't actually have a list of things you want him to do differently. It's not going to work with everything, but this method works better than any other I've tried. Of course, I've changed a bunch of my own habits, and you may have to do the same.
posted by wryly at 2:26 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

here's a tip. You probably DON'T want to live with a fellow neat freak.

Why? From observation, anyone who is as picky as you about how things should be, is going to be really, really unhappy with someone equally picky.
Because they are going to be just as OCD and picky about different things (because they will be more or less pointless things), and you will both be convinced yours is the right way, and will probably drive each other nuts.
(Cue vigorous arguments about not using the same colour peg on same items of clothing, and therefore re-pegging an entire load of washing vs the other person pegging things 'incorrectly' to start with - no, I'm not kidding. Although I did learn some tips about pegging pants upside down, which was kind of cool).

Note, this isn't about cleanliness. You want someone clean and tidy. Pushing chairs in when they are going to be pulled out again to sit on, isn't about cleanliness, or standard housekeeping.
Some people might even find it a pointless inconvenience (I dislike things dragging, and scraping, and bumping - I find it mildly irritating having to pull a chair out in the first place, more so than putting it back in. Extremely small kitchens are understandable, but it's what makes them irritating).

You probably want, if not this boyfriend, someone who is basically clean and tidy, and easygoing enough to be flexible about going with your preferences, over their own.

But anyway, that's not what this is about. I think you don't want them in your space, and you're expressing it through irritation at doors and cupboards. What if they mostly did all those things, and were still in your spaaace. There. ALL THE TIME.
And they keep doing things, tiny, different things, and you can't make signs for all of them! Or the list of things you want them to do/not do, keeps growing. And they keep making a genuine effort, but they're only human and forget sometimes.
Do you hate it? Really hate it?
It's probably not about the chairs.

Either put up, and advice for people with OCD on coping with the annoyance of everyone and everything can be helpful here.
Or, stop making their moving out conditional. If you provide hoops they can jump through, they're going to try jumping through the hoops. If you don't actually want that, admit it.

But, seriously. Your life will be restrictive in ways you don't like if you don't combat your own impulses there. It plays out in really stupid ways. Friendships, work, things you want to do in life, but you can't, because it's not just the way you want.

Case example: The person I know who stopped eating pepper. Then everything kind of spicy. Now they can't handle McDonalds ketchup, because it's too spicy.
Then they complain about how hard it is to eat out, or at other peoples houses - especially because people are supposed to guess that 'ketchup' = 'spicy' in their book.
Note: They have no physical problem with pepper. They used to like Salami and pepperoni.

I'm gonna stop now. Anyway, best of luck!
posted by Elysum at 6:10 PM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I want to respond again and share my story:

For over 12 years, I lived with just me and my three kids. Without nagging (although my kids might disagree on that point) my home has always been kept within my standards.

These standards (clean countertops, your things have a home, everyone wipes up their toothpaste and sink spit, clear floors, do your own damned laundry and clothing left on the bathroom floor DOES get thrown away) gave me a certain amount of mental peace.

Keeping my home a certain way allowed me to feel relaxed. When the kids left their stuff all over the place my home felt chaotic and disordered and it stressed me out. I get the UGH feeling, I really do.

So we all lived according to my standards.

A few months ago, my fiance moved in and he did not share my standards. He had been living on his own for a long time and had his own household standards, standards that would commonly be described as slow-witted-teenage-boy-who-has-never-tidied-or-cleaned-his-entire-life.

He left things EVERYWHERE. Dirty socks, dirty dishes, toothpaste squirts, shaving cream, tiny hairs and razor detritus in the sink and on the bathroom counter, tossing the tv remote on the floor, shoes right behind the front door, dirty and clean clothes all in the same piles all along the bedroom floor with moldy towels in the mix, food on the counter, open beer bottles left hither and yon, pizza scraps on the floor, not only leaving the toilet seat up but didn't flush after peeing, PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION PILLS ON THE COUNTER.

So I talked to him about reasonable expectations for how I wanted to live. I understood that I had my own way of doing things, as did he, and I wanted us to meet halfway. I explained that the garbage all over the place, the pills, the mess...these things caused me anxiety and stress.

My fiance; the man I was going to marry, pretty much told me to suck it. He called me rigid and inflexible and felt that I didn't care about his comfort.

What I'm saying is this: Your boyfriend IS TRYING TO WORK WITH YOU and you don't see it. Girl, you better lock this down.

Give him the "push in your chair" sign and let him rip it up. Plan a treat for him. Maybe you can play sexy maid or something but damn woman, this guy is going above and beyond for you. (He washed the floors more than ONCE?!)

You need to apologize for trying to impose your standards on him and thank him for meeting you more than halfway because otherwise you are being a silly person.
posted by kinetic at 3:09 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Um, consider that if you keep this up, you may not have to ask him to leave...
posted by Jubey at 4:22 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Interpersonal relationships work by mutual assent, and so any question about whether it is "right" to leave the toilet seat up, etc. is not germane. What is germane is whether you can both willingly agree to adopt a set of behaviours which you are both happy with, which is something best done by talking.

If a toilet seat left up is long-term intolerable for you, for example, then your partner needs to know about that and determine whether they care enough about that to change their behaviour in your favour. However, it is likewise your partner's responsibility and option to decide whether a total inflexibility on such matters is something they are happy with in a relationship. Ideally you can talk about it and come to whatever accommodation makes you happy, or if no such accommodation exists move on.

So, my recommendation is talk about it, not in terms of "it is wrong for you to have done X" but as a discussion of what you both need and what you can do for each other to get there.

I would also say that things you say like
Tired of feeling upset about his terrible (lack of) properly home training
do not speak well about how you see him to me (people are not for training), but this may just be a use-of-language gap. If you are thinking about him as something to be trained, I would suggest instead trying to think about it as a joint effort to work on your mutual satisfaction rather than an effort on your part to modify his behaviour to be "correct".
posted by larkery at 6:02 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

a) I'm sorry but you sound like a nightmare to live with

b) Is he paying half the rent/bills/shopping/consumables/etc? Then he gets to live 50% his way

c) Having said those things, if he is literally being a feral (leaving food uncovered in the fridge is Bad, without a doubt) then you should kick him out.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:13 PM on June 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

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