Your boyfriend is funny. He can be charming. And he makes you feel happy and safe –which is why you decided to move in with him.
But dang – can that boy be messy. He leaves dirty dishes in the sink and lets the garbage pile up. His dirty (or clean?) clothes are scattered on the floor. And other areas of the home are littered with items that should be put away somewhere else. How can he possibly live in conditions like these? And how do you get him to change his messy ways?
Here are some initial suggestions on addressing the problem with your man.
- Have a talk with him. Yes, he probably hates “talks.” But communication is still the best way to handle situations like this. Just sit down and explain (without attitude) that he could stand to be better at tidying up around your place. Be specific; either discuss division of labor (“If I do the dishes, you take out the
trash”) or which behaviors you want changed (“Just put your shoes in the closet when you get home”).
- Focus on common areas of the home. Another approach is to stress the importance of keeping areas where people congregate – like the den, living room, guest bathroom, and kitchen – clean and presentable. Bring up how a home that appears dirty reflects badly on both of you, and may affect their relationships with others. If appropriate, mention that your mother (or even his mother) is likely to notice messiness and might even embarrass him by asking him about it.
- Appeal to his sense of logic. Men are logically thinking creatures, and this is one of the times that this can actually work to your advantage. Talk about how messy habits at home can carry over to other parts of his life – where it can have tangible negative effects. For instance, if he keeps his desk messy at work, he may
lose standing in the eyes of his supervisor (which is especially true if his boss is a woman). Or if his car is full of trash, his buddies may not want to ride with him and might not call him the next time they go out.
- Give him his dirty space. If you think compromising might work better, then just get him to promise to confine his messiness to certain areas of your home – like his study, garage, or closet. If he thinks that he doesn’t have to be a neat freak all the time, he may be amenable to cleaning up other rooms while keeping his “inner
slob” squirreled away out of public view.
- Reward him when he cleans up. He’s like a puppy that needs positive reinforcement to learn new tricks. So when you see him put a coffee cup in the dishwasher or take his wallet and keys to the bedroom, don’t be sarcastic
(“Finally! It’s a miracle!”). Recognize his triumph and thank him for caring about your feelings. He’ll be more likely to remember your response next time.
If these five suggestions don’t work, and he continues to ignore your pleas and act like a general slob, here are some “nuclear” options that might help the message penetrate his thick skull.
- Cry. Guys hate that. They’ll do anything to stop the waterworks.
- Go on strike. Refuse to do any cleaning yourself and watch the mess pile up. He may get grossed out quicker than you think. (Of course, you may have to live in squalor for awhile until he sees the light…)
- Hire a maid. After the maid is finished, the home will look beautiful. Your boyfriend may think this is wonderful – until you show him the bill. Once he starts thinking about what he could have done with that money, he may have a change of heart.
- Eliminate the distractions. If he loves watching sports on TV, surfing the Web, or playing video games, unplug the service or get rid of the remote or game console. Make him take proactive steps toward tidying up before you let him have his playtime back.
- Withhold sex. Enough said.
Chris Martin is a freelance writer who has written articles on numerous topics ranging from business phone service to consumer finance to home improvement.
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