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Can His Squalor Be Squelched?

Moving in together is a big decision for any couple, but when your S.O. is a big S-L-O-B, that decision can be even harder. The 4-Way discusses cohabitation, cleanliness, and man-children.

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Dear 4-Way,
My boyfriend and I have started to talk about moving in together. I love him and am open to the idea, but I’ve noticed a few things unrelated to our relationship that are making me hesitate. First, he’s a big slob, and I’m not talking about just an unmade bed and some dirty dishes. Piles of papers, books, magazines, etc. are stacked all over his floor and his entire house is filthy. He claims not to know how to make a bed or clean a bathroom (even though I’ve repeatedly shown him), and I’ve never seen him dust or sweep. When I spend the night at his house, I always have to clean the bathroom just to use it. Also, I always cook dinner for us, but he’s never once made a single meal for me/us in over a year, even when I was sick. Are these things worth worrying about when you truly love someone? Can they be taught or should I just forget about moving in? —TB, Denver, Colorado

The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
First off, I disagree with your statement that his lack of cleanliness, disorganization, and general laziness to do simple household chores are not related to your relationship. They absolutely are. You’re not okay with these things or you wouldn’t be writing us. You’re also not okay with him not making a single meal, even when you were sick. And I don’t blame you. He sounds lazy and stupid. He actually says he doesn’t know how to clean or make a bed? Is he six-years-old? Does he have a racecar bed?

Don’t enable his laziness in your relationship. He doesn’t do things because he knows you’ll end up doing them for him anyway. Why would he do the work when you’ll do it for him? He can do nothing and you still love him. What a deal for a man-child! Do you truly love him? It sounds like he may be inconsiderate. You definitely need to clear the air—and from the sound of it—a place to sit down to talk about your expectations of him if you move in together. 

That said, he’s comfortable in his less-than-clean surroundings. Men aren’t as tidy as women and his mess doesn’t bug him as much as it bugs you. This guy is probably not going to change his ways much … at least not to the point you’d like him to. He’ll never do an equal amount of work—you’d probably be lucky to get him to do 10 percent. Are you okay with that or will you carry around a grudge? Find the answer. Because if you make his bed, you’ve also got to lie in it.

The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
What is this guy, a caveman? Here’s my question for you, TB: what little boy is not taught to pick up after himself and make his bed? To claim he doesn’t “know how” is bullshit! Everyone knows how to make up a bed. If he has problems learning how, I’d bet he could find an instructional video on YouTube. They also probably even have a video or two on how to clean a bathroom.

I would caution you to think long and hard about moving in with this cat until you see significant signs of improvement for a lengthy period of time. Otherwise, you might as well count on a life of servitude. The bottom line here is this: yes, these things can be taught and they usually are—at a very young age. Don’t fall for this for a minute. He knows how, he’s probably just seeing if you’ll do it for him and for how long. If you really want to test the waters, tell him you’re going to start staying at your house more because it’s clean, and because he’s a slob and you can’t take being at his place. Then when he comes to your house, make him pick up after himself. Good luck with that one.

The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
Oh dear, don’t do it … unless you get turned on by being someone’s maid for life. He sounds like he’s determined not to learn how to pick up after himself. He’s a grade A-1 slob and selfish person. This is not a good starting point. Yet there are some larger issues here for you to think about, TB. Not only does this man seem unwilling to pick up after himself, he also seems unwilling to take care of you. Why would you want to be with a man who treats you this way? Have you been attracted to men with these qualities before?

Ask yourself, do you feel as though you deserve someone who knows how to take care of himself and is willing to take care of you as well? You do, my dear. We all do. What about this guy do you truly love? Take a look at how you define what love is, TB. I doubt you want it to be a lifetime of servitude. Love is about giving and taking, and from where I stand, this guy is doing all the taking and none of the giving.

Take back your life. Move on, honey … move on.

The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
Please let my words serve as an obnoxiously loud alarm with flashing red lights. This is a DEFCON one situation, TB, and you need to run like Usain Bolt on speed away from this man.

Can these things be taught? Yes, they can—to children, and probably to your boyfriend, too. (How old is this guy anyway?) But why should you have to teach a grown man how to make a bed or bake a frickin’ potato? After giving explicit instructions on how to scrub a bathtub, I wonder how pumped you’re going to be to bust out your sexiest unmentionables and fulfill any special favors he requests. My guess is not pumped at all. And you know why? Because after you do all the housework, buy all the groceries, and cook all the meals (and probably nag him to help with all of those), you’re really nothing more than a glorified mommy.

I hate to burst your bubble, but this is definitely worth worrying about. Living with someone you love is exciting, but unfortunately, excitement and love don’t power a vacuum cleaner. Cohabitation is also about partnership, which means accepting equal responsibility for life’s not so fun, but necessary chores, like picking the goopy trash off the lawn after the neighbor’s dog attacks your garbage can, cleaning strange marks off the bottom of the toilet bowl, and spending four hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon shopping at Target and Whole Foods. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? It can be, if you’re in it together. If not, you’ll probably end up feeling a little more Lorena Bobbit than loving toward your boyfriend.

I’d hold off on moving in, but talk to him about your concerns, and be specific. Tell him living like a slob is a deal-breaker and not knowing how to perform basic housekeeping functions is unacceptable for a self-sufficient adult. Because it is. His laziness around the house could be indicative of how he might handle bigger partner responsibilities in the future. If he doesn’t improve, kick his slobby ass to the curb and don’t look back.

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