Housework varies from the #1 to #3 cause of stress in marriages & families, right along with money, child raising, and sex. It is the topic of many a fight and has even caused the breakup of many marriages. Therefore, it is worth giving the topic some time and attention.
I believe the way to get the cleanie people to live in peace with the messy people in the house is a little bit of open and honest conversation with a good healthy dose of respect and tolerance. Then you can get past some of these stalemates and power struggles that have been going on for years.
Part of an honest conversation is to ask for what you want. What a refreshing concept! No more criticizing and blaming the the other person, no more passive aggressive manipulation, you just come right out and say what it is you need. Here is something I came up with for my family a couple of years ago. It's still written on a piece of paper on the side of the fridge as a reminder.
Statement of Intention: My desire for a clean house will be respected even if it is not understood or shared. This is my only home and I deserve to live in a place that meets my needs and my desire for a peaceful, clean place to relax. I do not deserve to be embarrassed when company stops by unexpectedly. Even if it’s not fair, they blame me when the house is messy and not you. I shouldn’t have to bear that shame when it isn’t my fault. I will expect your cooperation because you love me and want me to be happy and having a clean home is necessary to make me happy. I don’t expect miracles or extraordinary efforts, but everyone needs to do to some basic things on a daily basis to help keep the place in order. I would love to have your praise and compliments, but I will settle for you not criticizing my efforts and trying to bring me down.
That is calm, respectful, assertive, and to the point. And it did get results. After I wrote that, my family began to see that having a clean home was a priority for me and that I really wasn't asking for anything unreasonable or extraordinary, and they began to help more and complain less.
My husband isn't a deep thinker, so he wouldn't have taken the trouble to write anything down, but I would imagine that a similar statement for the messy person would go something like this.
Statement of intent: This is my home as well, and I deserve a place to relax and enjoy myself without having to be criticized every time there is something out of place. I am not a bad person and I do not deserve to be treated like one, regardless of the way I choose to take care of my belongings. If you love me and want me to be happy, my differences need to be respected and tolerated. In exchange for my efforts in keeping the public areas of the house to your standards, I need to be allowed to have areas of the house to do as I please, free from guilt or criticism.
With that as a starting point, do you think these two people would have a better chance of living together without killing each other or ending up in divorce court? Seems to me that seeing the other person's point of view would go a long ways towards developing some compromises that would work out for both parties and bring a little peace to the household.
What are your strategies for dealing with the cleanies vs. messies situation in your household?
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