I’m confused, and hoping you can help me.
My wonderful, amazing hot boyfriend and I got married and moved in together about a year ago. We had been dating less then a year, but were wildly in love, my parents love him, my friends all talked about how perfect we were together, his friends told me they had never seen him so happy, all seems fairy tale perfect, right? And it was! Except, now, it isn’t, and I cant quite figure it all out.
For a variety of reasons that I won’t bore you with, we have both hit a difficult place in our careers, though I should mention that my career is going better than his. Anyway, cash has been tight (his salary got cut), and he has been working odd hours so we don’t see each-other a lot. When we do, it seems one of us is ready to go out and the other is just exhausted. As a result, what was once a crazy awesome sex life had puttered away to almost nothing. Before we got married and shacked up, he gave me compliments constantly, left flowers and love notes in my apartment, we went out all the time, he basically made me feel like a gorgeous sex goddess that could do no wrong. Now, I feel like he criticizes me constantly, and is so sensitive to me criticizing him that some days I feel I’m walking on those notorious egg shells. Plus he never, ever wants to go out anymore.
I also find myself getting annoyed with his domestic habits; when I had my own place, everything was just where I wanted it, towels were always hung on their towel hooks, my mail was right where I left it–you get the point. He leaves his stuff EVERYWHERE and try as I have to make our home feel like our home, you know, cute dishcloths in the kitchen, a well placed shelf in the bedroom, lined up smartly on the mantle-I keep getting undone by cleaning up his messes–and yes, I totally get that most straight men couldn’t give a damn whether a dish cloth is checked or flowered-but the fact remains that after a whole year living together I still feel like our place looks like a frat house and I hate it. Shouldn’t the fact that I care about such things be enough to at least get him to fake it???
It’s not as if this whole year has been bad, but when I think back I do feel like our troubles began when we shacked up and got married. In fact, we went away for Thanksgiving and stayed in the coziest hotel on the planet and had the most amazing time, sex every night, long walks every day, it was like a second honeymoon! Then we got back to our frat house–I mean apartment, and within two days slid back into our old patterns. I worry I’m just bad at the domestic thing, my ex-boyfriend and I had a perfectly lovely relationship until we moved in together and all went down hill.
Has cohabitation and matrimony killed our perfect relationship?
DW, I need your help,
First of all, as reference, the DW would like to direct you to this classic bit of genius – Dudefile #22 -Will My Dude Ever Be Clean in which it is discussed how the wifey loves the DW even though a razor thin line of cleanliness separates him from a hobo. It is also worth noting that at the time of this current post the DW has in view one pair of underpants hung from a doorknob and three unwashed coffee mugs. And what looks like a peach pit. Or dried cat poo. Let’s call it a peach pit.
The good news is this. You don’t exactly find yourself in an unusual situation. Most couples who live together have the same Mount Rushmore of domestic disputes- Home life (Cooking, cleaning, decorating, etc.), Money, Family, Boning. The DW heard about a study a while back that concluded couples disagree with the same frequency, too. So, if couples disagree about the same stuff with the same frequency, what gives? Why do some couples sit on the same side of the table in restaurants and others insult each other on Wife Swap? It’s all in how the disputes get resolved.
So, what the DW is going to ask you to do is search for some middle ground with your dude. The good news about sloppy dude is that the way you describe him doesnt make him sound like a jerk or a troll or a wifebeater or a scamp. He’s just a dude who does some typical slacker upkeep dude stuff. Trust the DW- you can handle that.
First thing to do is this – take a deep breath and try to see the other side of this as best you can. The DW is not saying you give in to the dude’s way completely, but he does admit to being suspicious about the accuracy of assessments like We Were Perfect Before But Now We’re SOOO Shlumpy! You feel like the place is a dungheap, and with some reason. But the DW guarantees your dude is just as bummed about how he’s supposed to keep the place clean enough to assemble superconductors, also with some reason.
(Note: Pause here for a second. You have to really believe the DW that as much as Your Way and Your Level Of Neatness matters to you, The Dude’s Way and The Dude’s Level Of Neatness matters to him. If you don’t think his POV has as much validity as yours, you can just stop reading and know your situation will not end well.)
Second thing? Just hang in there for a bit. The DW was a little more freaked than he thought he would be about having a woman in the house when the wifey moved in. It’s weird to go from Your Stuff Your Way On Your Time to Sharing Frickin’ Everything All Day Long. Some of the items that had the DW on edge were just territorial nonsense like where the towels got hung up or which sheets went on the bed- things that he didn’t actually really give two s&its about and that just faded away after the initial general wigout. The DW’s not saying you let yourself get worn down and accept a sh&tty situation, just that you give things long enough to settle and be clear in your mind about what matters to you and what is part of a general fog of whatthef*ckness about your new situation.
Third- make sure you’re telling the dude what you’re thinking. And as the DW is wont to say, be direct and specific. Dudes do not get hints. Look, the DW knows it’s not satisfying to have your dude empty the dishwasher just because you asked, but here’s the thing. Dudes learn cleanliness habits by rote, and only for you. Stephen Baldwin will win an Oscar before a dude will intuit, say, the right way to fold the guest towels. At a dudes very core he does not understand about candles or table runners or fabric softener or whatever it is you’re thinking of. Communicate clearly and directly and a dude will do his best, he really will.
A way to bring your cleanliness concerns up without seeming naggy is to ask if he’s got some difficulties with the way the place is organized on his mind, too. You know, like how he feels trapped in house where he feels like he might as well wrap the couch in plastic since apparently he can’t fart without you calling your girlfriends to complain about it. joke. Joke! Well, mostly. Just remember dude’s seeing this from a whole other way around.
Basically, this is all just to say- here are the facts. You live with a dude now. This will not change. Does this mean you have to live in a frat house? No. But does it mean you can expect him to live in your previous perfect girly apartment? Also no. Stand firm on some things you Have to Have, but be prepared to concede some things he Has To Have, too.
There are lots of strategies for compromise and you’ll find one. Right now, for instance, the living room and dining room at DW central are so clean and shiny the cats almost don’t like to hang out in there. Bedroom? A little less so with some reading piles and some laundry. DW’s office- total stereotypical hellhole man cave that smells a little like curry B.O. and shoe. Overall, the house is way cleaner than the DW would have if the place was His and way dumpier than the wifey would have the place was Hers, but it’s a good equilibrium for Us.
Look, you’ll be fine. This has been a whirlwind and you’re taking on a lot of things at once. Job weirdness, adjustment from dating to marriage, moving in together, tight cash, combining stuff, etc, etc. Sit down of a bowl of ice cream, have a friendly chat, take some time together to get some naughty sweaty buttsmackin’ headboard rattlin’ hanky panky back on the menu, and it’ll work itself out. All that good stuff at the beginning wasn’t a mirage, you’re both just freakin’ out a little right now.
Here’s to settling in,