Question: My Boyfriend Won’t Clean, What Now?

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Question: Concerning cohabitation – dividing up housework. My guy and I share most of the cooking and laundry duties but when it comes to cleaning, the lions share falls to me (I’m female). His responsibilities are taking out the trash and vacuuming. Our apartment is about 1000 sq ft so I don’t think this is a major task yet he drags his feet. I’ve offered to trade cleaning toilets and using with him but he continually insists that he wants to vacuum. I don’t want him to WANT to vacuum, no one wants to clean, but he’s getting on my last nerve when time to clean comes around and he brings up hiring a maid! It takes less than 10 minutes but I feel that I get my jobs done and he is still sitting around, playing Halo or reading a book. Side note – I work full time and he is a student currently on summer break with no internship/job/responsibilities outside the home. I don’t want to nag him or yell or fight. I’ve tired asking for a deadline as in “by the time I come home from work on Wednesday, that’s three days from now, the house will be vacuumed” but he still puts it off to the last moment. It really irritates me and I don’t want to fight every week about a simple task.

Answer:

I’m sorry to hear that you’re having a rough time in your relationship. There are all kinds of things that can send you up the wall when you’re living with someone. Sometimes those small grains of irritation can build up into larger, more substantial irritants. I would suggest that this is likely one of those cases. Is the issue really about vacuuming, or is there something deeper going on that is making this such an issue for the both of you?

We all have shit we don’t like to do. It’s the stuff we put off until the very last minute. I’m pretty bad at this. My to do list gets crossed off in order of fun, not necessity. I’m pretty cognizant of this and make an effort to do things that I need to do. In your boyfriends case, that thing would be vacuuming the fucking carpet. He doesn’t want to do it so he does what he wants to do, perhaps with good intention. I’ll do it eventually, that’s what counts, why are you getting so mad? 

Unfortunately for him, it’s not just on his to do list, it’s on yours too.

That’s a shared space and that means that this particular task needs to take higher precedence. Not only that, but he needs to realize that this particular matter is causing you distress. Perhaps because you know that you cannot rely on him to do something so small and simple and so fundamental to the mental well-being of you and your relationship.

The problem is that you now expect this negative experience.

Truly, that’s one real big problem. You don’t believe that he’ll do it so much that you’ve set deadlines. You steam about it while you’re not there. You just wait for him to disappoint you. That’s not fair to him just as it is not fair to you.

Is your partner depressed? Sometimes when we are depressed we can show similar behaviors as your boyfriend is showing. Sitting around all day, unable to do the things we need to do, frustration when we are called out about it. Is he having trouble using all this free time he has in ways that are productive? That in itself could be cause for worry.

It’s one thing to have lots of free time and find ways to enjoy it, it’s another to lose complete track of time and realize you’ve really dropped the ball.

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It could also be a problem if you have a different maturity level. Are you at a point in your life where you just want a clean home to come home to so you can focus on getting things done, and he’s… at a point where he wants to play video games? That can cause friction in itself.

It’s also valid to point out that perhaps you just have different ideas about cleaning. To you cleaning might be a basic necessity, something you do because you need to do it. He may not have grown up cleaning, he might not know how to clean, he might not recognize when things are dirty. To him lets hire a maid might be a clean solution to the dirty question.

Let him know that hiring a maid is not a reasonable response, but try to do it in a way that recognizes that to him, it might have been reasonable.

When you talk to him again try to make sure that this is the last conversation you ever have about vacuuming. No one wants to talk about vacuuming that much, not even you, I bet. Find a place of mutual understanding and respect and work towards discovering new and more exciting disagreements to have with one another.

Before you do any of this, think about whether or not the conversation really has to do about vacuuming. If this one simple thing could be solved, would you be happy? Or would you still have that core feeling that you couldn’t trust your partner to do these things? Would you still feel like you were behind the scenes orchestrating his basic adult functions? Would you still feel… lopsided? If the vacuuming isn’t the issue, find out what is. I offered a few suggestions (re: different maturity levels, depression, inability to organize time, different ideas about cleanliness) above. Best of luck.

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