How To Love A Messy Person When You're A Neat Freak

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Who cleans and tidies up the house matters in a relationship. In fact, a 2015 study from the University of Alberta found that couples who didn’t split chores had less relationship satisfaction and less sex than couples who divvied up their chores. (Yikes, time to start tidying up, y’all.)

Still, seeing eye-to-eye on chores is easier said than done when you’re hyper organized and your partner lives a life of complete chaos and clutter. How do you bridge that divide and keep your home spick–and–span? Below, marriage therapists and people in messy-organized relationships share their very best advice. 

1. Resist the urge to lecture the messy partner. 

“De-cluttering is so trendy right now, it’s easy to think people who drop their clothes on the floor or treat furniture as filing cabinets are morally inferior to those who crave order. But before you start in with your lecture on how messiness is the root of all evil, consider this: your need to have things tidy and organized might actually be making your partner anxious. How would you respond if your significant other accused you of having OCD? You’d probably feel misunderstood and not particularly motivated to relax your standards. Instead of lecturing, focus on finding ways to address your different needs.” ― Virginia Gilbert, a marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles

2. Give the messy partner their own messy personal space, whether it’s a room or a drawer.

“If I left my pile of junk mail in the kitchen, my wife would get pretty frustrated, so I leave it in my office with the door closed. This way, the house stays clutter-free. I used to resist having a small space of my own because I thought it shouldn’t be a big deal to leave a few things lying around. Once I realized her cleanliness isn’t some sort of statement against me, it became much easier for each of us to reach a compromise.” ― Nick Pavlidis, author of Confessions Of A Terrible Husband: Lessons Learned from a Lumpy Couch 

3. Create a Google chore calendar. (Don’t forget to send notifications!)

”It’s common for couples to fight about when to take out the garbage or when to do the laundry ― timing issues. These can easily be fixed by having a chore chart or Google doc and letting the family, kids included, choose their own time to knock out their responsibilities.” ― Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of How To Be A Couple And Still Be Free 

4. Remember: You love this person, messiness and all. 

“It’s simple: If you have a partner who supports you, loves you unconditionally, helps you take care of the kids and pay the bills, is kind to your mother and even does your Costco returns, cut them some slack for the underwear by the bed.” ― Galina Nemirovsky, writer at Hearts Everywhere

5. Make a joke out of it. 

“Don’t get stuck in the mud when you find yourself frustrated by the mess. Find humor in the situation. This is who you married. If you can, laugh with your partner about their disorganized ways.” ― Anne Crowley, a psychologist in Austin, Texas

6. Come to a clutter compromise.

“I’m the tidier spouse. To make our marriage last ― and we celebrate 15 years in 2017 ― we’ve had to agree to meet halfway on a number of issues. I no longer complain about the toilet paper roll not being replaced. I’m also less interested in changing her behavior now than I am in helping her understand that for me, to be happy at home there needs to be a base level of order. She, in turn, promised to not leave her cups of half empty tea scattered around the home ― I despise the smell of old tea ― and to respect the man my mother made me: a guy who can not relax if jackets are strewn about the sofa or shoes aren’t side-bye-side by the front door.”  ― Jeff Bogle, blogger at Out With The Kid

7. Ask your partner to be more organized and be OK with their version of neat. 

“I ask my neat and orderly clients to stand back and look at how they came up with the idea that things should be a certain way in the first place. I also tell them if messiness causes them anxiety, they have three choices that are healthy: One: Straighten up the place with a loving heart. Two: Make a request of your partner to be more organized, but be OK with whatever results from this. And lastly, learn to overcome any anxiety their rules are creating for them.” ― Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas

8. Recognize that your messy spouse may be set in his or her way. 

“As far as I’m concerned, everything has a place and there is a place for everything. When I need a pair of pliers or some Super Glue, I know where to find it almost instantly. My wife will open some packaged item with a pair of scissors and leave the scissors and package remains on the table and walk away. I know there is no way to change her; it’s either in her DNA, or it’s a can’t-teach-an-old -dog-new-tricks thing.” ― Bill Flanigin, writer and teacher

9. If you’re the messy partner, try to contain the chaos.

“My partner can sometimes be overwhelmed by all the stuff everywhere. Once a day, I shift my perspective and see the mess as my husband might. I spend 10 minutes consolidating the chaos, whether that be finishing the task, putting the shoes away or simply adding the paperwork to my ever-growing personal to-do pile. This goes a long way toward creating a peaceful space for my husband.” ― Kate Chapman, writer at The Life In Process

 10. Have a sense of humor about the situation.

“When I put away the clothes my partner has left hanging over a chair or on a banister or on the floor, I treat is like a rose-petal trail of sorts. A dirty, ragged, rose-petal trail. As I go through the house doing this I think to myself, ‘she left this in this very spot because she wants me to feel close to her even when I am not.’ Sure, most of the time she is eight feet away from me as I pick these things up but it can become quite the romantic adventure to think that one day, I’ll pick up a pair of socks, look up and see a candlelit dinner set out on top of the washing machine.” ― Mike Reynolds, blogger at Puzzling Posts

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