My relationship with my ex-boyfriend was pretty great for a couple of years… until we decided to move in together. Little did I know that not only was he a neat freak, he was the worst kind: the kind that expected me to be a neat freak too. Spoiler-alert: that ain’t me.
It started the day we moved in. We had to clean the house before we moved our things in, which was totally normal. However, I suddenly wasn’t cleaning enough. And then I wasn’t doing it the right way. I chalked it up to my boyfriend being nervous and stressed out. This was the first time either of us had moved in with a partner and it was a big deal. He probably just wanted to make sure our place was neat and clean for our new life together.
Our rocky start continued through the next day. I wasn’t hanging my clothes in the closet correctly—they all needed to be facing the same way. My shoes had to be lined up on the shoe rack perfectly. My books and CDs needed to be organized alphabetically or by color. My makeup needed to all fit in the drawer or cupboard. I started to get worried that I wouldn’t be organized for him but I told myself it was just moving that was stressing him out. It would get better once we settled in.
Things only got worse. Once we were settled in, I had a brief reprieve before things quickly got worse. Cooking together was a nightmare; he had to clean everything up as he cooked. The bed had to be made every single morning. And forget about trying to get ready in the morning! I had to start setting my alarm for an hour earlier so that I could erase any trace of being in the bathroom before he used it. I invested in some bleach and felt like I was cleaning up after a murder scene.
I had to confront him. I couldn’t continue to live that way so I decided to talk to him about it. “I’m just not as neat as you are,” I explained calmly. “It isn’t as important to me. I’m willing to try but I feel like we need a compromise.” He agreed to try and compromise with me and for the next week or so he was silent when I didn’t make the bed in the morning.
He held all his emotions in… I thought for a while it was working. I would clean a little more than usual while I cooked and finish cleaning afterward. I didn’t make the bed or hang all my clothes the same way in the closet but I did make sure to not leave my makeup scattered over the bathroom counter before he got ready in the morning. I saw him notice the things I didn’t do but I figured that was normal. We were compromising, right?
…Until he couldn’t anymore. One day, while I was studying on the couch, he lost his temper at me because I hadn’t taken the dirty laundry downstairs and put it in the washer. Instead, I left the full hamper of dirty clothing in our bedroom. “I just don’t understand why you couldn’t put it in the washer and let it wash while you were studying! You’re lazy and dirty!” he raged at me. I was horrified.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I loved him but I couldn’t live with someone constantly yelling at me for what I perceived as meaningless chores that just weren’t a big deal. I could surely throw the laundry in later. Who cared if our bed was made if no one was coming over? And why did the kitchen have to be perfectly clean before we ate dinner? Most of all, why couldn’t we talk about this without screaming at each other?
We were at an impasse. I felt like he was trying to change me; he felt like I was trying to change him. Neither of us was willing to budge and looking back, I think we just needed more time to live on our own to develop habits that we thought were sustainable. We had too high of expectations of each other and it just didn’t work out. I’ll always have a place in my heart for him but I think I’m happy with my unmade bed for now.
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