My Cleaning Habits (or Lack Thereof) Are Bad for My Marriage

husband cleaning wife on couch"If this is going to be something you end up bringing to a couples' therapy session, I don't even know what to tell you!" my best friend said, shaking her head. We were discussing how I wanted to hire a cleaning service -- maybe every other week or once a month -- but my husband wasn't on board. Better ways to spend money when we could easily DIY.

I had been trying to explain to her how important it is to my husband that our home be clean and neat. Proof: Mise en place -- the French expression meaning "putting in place" that's often used in professional kitchens -- is one of his favorites. But not just when it comes to cooking. He would love if mise en place could apply to all things in life. And at the very least, in every room in our house!

My husband was raised in a home where Neat + Tidy = Peace of Mind.

I, on the other hand, was not. The last thing I usually feel like doing is cleaning.

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My husband will, out of the blue, pick up a Swiffer and work it around the kitchen to soothe nerves fried by everyday stress. I like to go for a walk or escape into an enthralling book. My husband sees and immediately itches to sweep up little crumbs that must be made from cookies or chips and magic. Because they might as well be invisible to me! My husband takes great pleasure in building things to keep all our stuff organized -- bookshelves in our office, shelves in our garage, drawers filled with alphabetized files that have been marked with a P-touch labeler, you name it. I (like a lot of creative types, you know!) take great pleasure in accumulating books, magazines, correspondence, and miscellaneous memorabilia that accumulate all around our house ... and drive my husband nuts.

We're perfectly matched to balance each other out and to drive each other crazy!

You likely won't be surprised to learn that we've struggled with the latter. How clean and organized our house needs to be (and who should do what to keep it that way) have been points of contention between us since we first moved in together. Possibly even before, because while he kept those thoughts to himself then, he's told me in the years since our dating days that my single girl digs in a New York City basement apartment totally skeeved him out.

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Yes, I'm completely and utterly embarrassed by the fact that my roommates and I never thought to tend to the mold in our shared bathroom, and the door to my closet wouldn't close, because it was busting at the seams with unhung clothes.

Fast-forward eight years: No mold, and I hang my clothes (err, well, most of them). Yay! But it pains me to admit that I left the bowl I ate my lunch out of at my desk (I had to run to the dentist!) before realizing I'd left it sitting there all evening. Appalled with myself, I took it downstairs to the dishwasher.

And when a friend of mine recently complained that her husband drives her nuts with his unsorted pile of clothes that have only been "worn once," which he deems the intermediate pile, I laughed and cringed. No doubt my husband has the same gripe about me! Ugh!  

So, given how embarrassed I am about all this, and the fact that a put-together house is so important to my husband, you would think cleaning up my act would be something I'd do without question. But it's kind of like telling an atheist they suddenly have to believe in a higher power: It's just not them. So suddenly turning into neat-freak Monica Gellar on Friends is just not in the cards for me. (Plus, I enjoy my full-time job and the benefits afforded to me by three waves of feminism, so obviously, my life is NEVER gonna look like June Cleaver's on Leave It to Beaver!)

It's funny: We didn't clash so intensely about this when we were living together as an engaged couple or boyfriend/girlfriend. Like many issues, it seems, merely the monumental weight of marriage can make either spouse a bit edgy about expectations. Maybe it's that what you grew up with is suddenly WAY MORE IMPORTANT. After all, you're now officially building a home life together, one in which you hope you're going to raise some other little people, and they'll be influenced by what they "grew up with." Oy. Clearly, this is about a lot more than vacuuming and laundry!

Realizing that and wanting a less-stressed spouse -- because while a happy wife may make for a happy life, happy husbands do, too! -- I've worked to become increasingly conscious of my habits. I'm trying to pay better attention to papers and dust piling up. Vacuum and wipe up counters right after making myself breakfast, and throw in a load of laundry before the basket is overflowing.  

But the fact of the matter is that even as I've made these well-intentioned attempts to reform my slobby ways, I am never going to be as innately neat as my husband. It's always going to be a work in progress. Just like it's not as natural for him to do certain things I do that I've never really thought twice about -- like cooking a flavorful meal or finding a kick-ass travel deal.

You know what, though? That's okay. Learning to accept one another's strengths and weaknesses and have faith that the other is doing their best is part of the marriage deal, right? But then, if your best still doesn't cut it, you may need to hire that maid. (Just saying, sweetheart!)

How do you handle cleaning with your husband?

 

Image via ©iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewcz

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