Are Your Partner's Cleaning Habits Driving You Insane?

sX72RZuM8gxZssOeGjAM-kez8v9kjeFHoeBdAEenCyQPhotographed by Ruby Yeh.
My new roommate (ahem, life partner) is super messy — I'm talking leaving bowls of food and beers out messy. On all other fronts, she's awesome and fun to be around, so I’ve been sucking it up and trying to lead by example (invariably picking up her messes). Lately though, I’m resenting cleaning up after her. What’s the best way to approach this?
Dr. Candice Seti, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Just about everyone can relate to the frustrations of having a messy roommate. And, it can be even more frustrating when that roommate is a significant other. If she truly is dude-level dirty, then it’s time to take action. Dealing with the issue sooner rather than later is advised, lest you risk building resentment and ultimately messing up those early doe-eyed days of cohabiting. Below, some key points to addressing the mess.
Create The Right Environment
When you talk to her, make sure it's in a calm, quiet environment with just the two of you. Don't do it when one of you is rushing out the door; make sure you both have the time to have a serious discussion. And, remember: even though you’ve adopted a default caretaker situation, you are not her mother. Don’t be condescending or rude, and try to keep emotion out of it as much as possible.
Don't Forge A Direct Attack
When you broach the issue, make sure you don't attack directly, as that will only put her on the defensive. Instead, simply give her a few examples of things that bothered you and state your desire for a cleaner living environment. You can suggest things that you can both do to help contribute to that goal.
Expect Feedback
Opening up a discussion of this kind may create a situation where your partner wants to open up and express her concerns as well. (Not everyone likes to listen to '80s music in the morning, you know.) Keep in mind that she may have concerns or issues with you or your behavior that you were unaware of. So, be prepared for that and be open to her feedback and potential opportunities for you to improve as a roommate as well.
Provide Structure If Needed
If you don't think addressing this directly will be enough to create a change in her behavior, you can always suggest a cleaning schedule or a chore chart to create structure. If there are certain jobs that she loves or hates, manage your respective cleaning duties so that you do the things she doesn't like and vice versa. Maybe you do the dishes, and she takes out the trash — teamwork!
End on a Good Note
Take the time to let her know how much you appreciate her as a friend and partner, make some mac and cheese together, and clean as you cook.

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