#353 & #354: Bathrooms, Butts, and Boundaries

Thanks to everyone who came to yesterday’s gelato-eating and gab session. The best part was sitting at the table and being able to identify who was there for the meetup by their 1) excellent fashion choices 2) friendly demeanor and 3) carrying-of-books. I’m sure we’ll do other Chicago-based events, though as a reminder, you don’t have to wait for the team of Logic/Awkward/Machine if you want to plan something.

Today’s questions involve some gross bathroom problems so they are going behind a cut in case you’re reading this at lunch.

Captain Awkward et al,

I have a bit of a scatological problem with my partner. It’s not a big deal, but…he doesn’t have a very clear rear end. His boxers are skidmark heaven. This is not just a case of missing a little bit sometimes (which happens to the best of us!), but an ongoing situation.  I know that this seems like an open – and – shut case of “Just Talk to Him,” but it is a little more complicated than that.

Some background:

He had a major colon infection in college. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that it ended with two major surgeries where they removed a decent portion of his colon. He always talks about that experience as a terrible thing that happened to him, but treats it as something that is over, not something that has a lasting impact on our lives. 

One more thing: His parents house is, on a cleanliness scale of 1-10, a 3. I’m not talking about clutter, I’m talking about mildew in the bathtub. When my partner and I moved in together, he was surprised to hear that using a toothbrush with mold on the handle was not an okay thing.

So here is my dilemma: If the doody undies are a result of his surgeries, I will consider this a low price to pay to get to wake up next to this guy. However, because of how he grew up, he legitimately may not know that the rest of us do not walk through life with burnt sienna drawers, and if it is changeable, I would like to alert him to this fact and get him to clean up.

It isn’t a huge deal, really.  I only notice sometimes. The biggest real impact that it has is that he likes a little prostate stimulation now and again, and I would be way more okay with that if it wasn’t so gross back there.So, how do I say to my wonderful partner “Honey, your sleep shorts smell like shit and this is not normal?” without embarrassing him about what may be a legitimate physical condition? Or do I not say anything because it isn’t a deal breaker?  I don’t want him to feel self-conscious around me!

Okay, I feel very comfortable saying this:

If you know you are going to have sex with someone, you should do your utmost to make sure your butt isn’t covered in poop and maybe also make sure that your overall “area”…especially any parts you want someone to touch with their mouth…is clean. If you want your partner to touch your butt in any way, this is not only suggested, but mandatory.


Sometimes sex happens spontaneously, before someone can complete such ministrations, or people are shaped in a way that they can’t reach everything, or disabled and need help, or they miss a spot for whatever reason. (I’m trying to get through this answer without saying, “Shit happens!” but obviously I’ve failed.) In such cases, if you notice something, it is entirely reasonable to say “Honey, can you clean up a bit more?” and if that sends the other person into paroxysms of shame, that’s not something you caused with your extremely reasonable request. Bodies are awesome but they are also weird and sometimes they leak.

And please, if someone asks you to clean up a little bit, it doesn’t mean they hate you or aren’t attracted to you or want you to feel ashamed of your body and gross and trigger all your insecurities at once. It means that they want you to clean your bottom so they can get back to the sexy things they were doing to it.

Of course every time you make a blanket statement like this, someone comes forward with an exception, so I’ll head you off at a couple of passes:

1) Any time you insert something into a bottom you risk encountering some trace amounts of poop. Okay, sure, the Risks We Run and so forth. Let’s let those be trace amounts, okay? As much as possible, start with a clean slate.

2) It is my understanding that certain fetishists enjoy poop or a dirty bottom. As long as you are consensual, careful about safety, and negotiate such play ahead of time with your partner, do your dirty deeds. It shouldn’t be a poop ambush, though.

Letter Writer #353, I weirdly love this question, both because the subject of your email was “It’s Howdy-Doody Time!” and because it so neatly lays out the case for boundaries.

Because even though you insist over and over that it’s “not a big deal,” you are allowed to have a reasonable expectation that your partner will clean his ass-area. It doesn’t have to be a make-or-break-up situation for it to bother you or for you to bring it up.

And even if it’s the result of some kind of medical condition or failure of upbringing that isn’t his fault, you STILL need him to clean his butt before bed.

The most respectful, least manipulative way to address something like this is head-on. Talk to your partner. Not during/immediately after/or right before sex – at some other time, when you’re both at home and awake and focused on each other.

Partner, this is awkward, but I’ve noticed lately that there have been some cleanliness issues with your butt – both around the area itself and with your underwear. Have you noticed anything like that?

(let him talk, adapt follow-up as necessary)

It helps when you bring up a problem like this if you can suggest concrete things that the person can do to make you happy. If they’re feeling defensive and helpless, you can refocus the conversation on actions. Their feelings are not yours to manage, but their actions affect you.

In the short term, I need you to make sure you clean that area well before bed (so I can feel comfortable doing those things you like, which I also like). In the medium term, can you please make a doctor’s appointment? Even if it’s just to rule out any bigger problems, it would be good to get it checked out.

Have the talk, see what he says, and the next time you notice a problem say gently “Hey, can you take a second and clean up?” The more direct and clear you are, the better. It’s okay to ask for this. And since we’re talking about hygiene: Inside a long-term relationship it’s good to get really comfortable with the other person’s body and understand that everyone farts sometimes and no one wakes up with minty-fresh breath, but the way you stay comfortable is to learn how to ask questions like “Can we continue this after we’ve both brushed our teeth?” or “Will you jump in the shower with me for a minute?

Onward to #354.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a bit of an unusual relationship question that I was hoping you could help with.

I’m a mid-20’s straight-ish woman and for the past five years I’ve been in a wonderful relationship with a great feminist guy who works in the same field as me.  We met in college. We’ve lived together since the middle of college and moved into a lovely but very small 1 bed 1 bath apartment last year near our offices right after we graduated.  My problem is that in the past two years he has begun to spend a tremendous amount of time in the bathroom. Some days he will wake up in the morning, grab his laptop or our iPad and spend 2-3 hours sitting on the toilet in our bathroom.  Some days when we get home from work he will grab his laptop or the iPad as soon as we get home and then spend the entire evening on the toilet until we go to sleep.  

I told him that I don’t care how much porn he watches or reads because I like porn too, but he told me he’s actually usually just reading american comics or manga in there anyway and he sits on the toilet because his ‘stomach hurts a little or he ‘has a bit of gas’ and ‘wants to be comfortable while reading.’  I’ve peeked in a few times when the door has been cracked and he’s literally just been sitting there reading comics on the ipad. I told him that even if he just wants to read comics all evening every evening it would be a little nicer if he didn’t have to spend all that time locked up in the bathroom.  I asked him if he was holing himself up in the bathroom all  the time because he wanted to avoid me and he told me “no” and seemed hurt at the suggestion.  I told him that if he wanted some quiet time alone I understood, but it would maybe be a bit better if he spent his alone time in the bedroom instead of the bathroom because sometimes I need to pee.  

We went to a doctor and the doctor told him he was perfectly fine aside from a bit of heartburn and stress, then gave him some heartburn medication and sent him on his way.  Despite taking the heartburn medication and feeling better, my boyfriend has continued to spend excessive amounts of time in the bathroom. 

My biggest problem with the whole thing is that sometimes this presents a bit of a logistical problem for me because we have only one bathroom.  Whenever I ask him when he will be out he only ever responds with “soon” and “soon” can mean anything from 2 minutes to another hour.  I’ve told him exactly this, but his response has been to get defensive and say “But I told you soon! Soon means soon!” This has come to a head on two separate occasions when he came out of the bathroom only to find me crying because I had to pee in the sink out of sheer desperation.  Each time he apologized to me and promised to be more considerate in the future, but then over the course of a week or so slipped back into his old ways.  Not only does his time in the bathroom keep me from peeing in a timely or normal fashion, but it also interferes with our social lives.  Some weekend mornings I’ll have to spend hours pacing around the apartment or reading the internet while waiting for him to get out of the bathroom because I need to brush my teeth or take a shower or something before I go out.  He won’t let me into the bathroom while he’s in there because he “can’t pee while anyone is watching.”  Most nights I can’t go to sleep until he leaves the bathroom because I need to brush my teeth or pee before sleeping. Sometimes this keeps me up pretty late at night and I’m very tired during work the next morning.  A few weeks ago we missed brunch with his sister on her birthday because he spent all morning in the bathroom.

Captain Awkward, please help!  I don’t know how to tell him how much this hurts me without offending him!  I told him a few times that sometimes I need to use the bathroom too and spending all of his time in there is a bit inconsiderate and each time I brought it up he was very annoyed and defensive and told me that he always moves “as fast has he can” and that I should just wait because he will be out “soon” but, as I said before…sometimes his “soon” can take half an hour or an hour.  

What do I do?  At this point I’m at my wits end!   I would love to move to a two-bathroom apartment, but that’s just not in the cards for us right now.


-Boyfriend Won’t Leave the Bathroom

This dovetails nicely with the last question, not just because of the bathroom connection.

Something is going on with your partner’s health – whether it’s physical health or mental health, we can’t say (and as a reminder, site policy is that we do not try to diagnose strangers through the internet) – but it’s probable that, even if this started out as a weird-but-benign habit, his relationship with bathroom time has spiraled out of his own control.

So again, something is going on that may not be entirely your partner’s “fault.”

But again, you need to be able to go to the bathroom in your home where you live. You need to be able to get ready for bed, for work, and for social engagements in a timely manner. You NEED this stuff. You can’t make yourself not need this stuff, and you need it pretty much when you need it.

Whatever the cause, his behavior is affecting you adversely. Holding in your urine for long periods of time can cause serious medical conditions – bladder infections, kidney infections  –  and lead to incontinence later in life. You don’t want to die like Tycho Brahe. So this letter made me really, really angry at your partner. You shouldn’t be peeing in a sink. You shouldn’t be staying up later than your bedtime. You shouldn’t be crying from frustration over a basic biological necessity. Most adults urinate 4-7 times/day, so that means that this is a problem for you 4-7 times a day.

I know you love this guy very much, but I really want you to take care of your own needs and put some boundaries in place for yourself. You said that you want to do this without offending him, or without making him (more) defensive and angry, but I’m afraid that’s not possible. He is INJURING YOU. He is disrespecting you. He is controlling one of the resources of your shared home so that you can’t have access to it. When you ask him to get out of the bathroom and he says “soon” but does not get out soon, he is LYING TO YOU.

You can’t control anything about how he will feel, but you must speak up for your needs or risk doing real and lasting harm to yourself. I know it feels like speaking up firmly about this means that you risk hurting his feelings or making trouble in your relationship, but there is already trouble in your relationship. A lot of trouble. If the relationship isn’t working for you, then it isn’t working. If you can’t take a piss in your own house within reasonable expectations, it is not working, and the fact that he’s a “great feminist guy” matters not.

Oh, I am so angry, LW. So angry. But let’s keep this concrete and focused. Here are some suggested things to ask for.


1) When you knock on the door and say you need to get into the bathroom, that is a two-minute warning for him to wrap things up and let you into the bathroom. “Soon” is bullshit. You will set a timer, and when it goes off, he vacates the premises without complaint. He can go right back in after he lets you pee or whatever. Script: “It’s been two minutes. I need you to come out right now. You can go right back in when I’m done, but I refuse to pee in the sink or hold it until you decide that I get to go to the bathroom.

2) Between x o’clock and x-thirty in the morning is your shower/getting ready time. He cannot be in the bathroom during that time.

3) On work/school nights, between x o’clock and y o’clock pm is your bathroom time. He cannot be in the bathroom during that time.

And let’s be clear: Should you miss that window for some reason – oversleeping, staying out late at a social engagement, your 30-40 minutes of uninterrupted bathroom time starts when you say it does.

Who is a friend or family member who lives close by that you could stay with? Because I think that if he does not respect these requests and makes you fight about them and push for them all the time, you need to be able to say “Okay then” and take a bag of your stuff and go somewhere else for (at least) 24-48 hours.

Within Two Weeks:

You will be making an appointment with a couple’s counselor. The topic: His bathroom time and how it affects your relationship. He will pay for at least 1/2 of the counseling sessions, he will attend them and be honest, and he will work with you on getting to the bottom of what’s going on here, even if it means seeking additional mental health treatment/medical treatment on his own.

Within One Month:

He is demonstrably working with you on fixing this and actively pursuing some kind of treatment. You have noticeably less friction around the bathroom and have no trouble using it when you need to. He has apologized thoroughly for his behavior.

If it is not demonstrably better, please get yourself out of that house where you can’t pee. I think Evil Bees might live there, for real.

Update as of March 2017: LW #354 is just fine and dumped this dude long ago. Yay!





268 thoughts on “#353 & #354: Bathrooms, Butts, and Boundaries

  1. It doesn’t have to be a Big Deal Dealbreaker Forever for you to tell your partner about it. If your relationship is a healthy relationship, your partner will want to make you happy; if they’re doing something that is making you unhappy, then they will generally want to fix it. They may have a reason that they aren’t able to fix the thing that’s making you unhappy (“I know you’re upset about the boxes still unpacked in the living room, but I’m incredibly busy with work and when I get home I don’t have any energy to do anything except watch bad reality TV”). But then you can come up with a workaround for it (which in this case could be anything from “could you give me a date when you’ll be working less and able to unpack the boxes?” to “tell me where you want to put your things and I’ll unpack the boxes”).

    Also, I am pretty sure that most people you are dating would prefer to be made aware that you’re being made unhappy, even mildly, by something they’re doing, even if it makes them uncomfortable in the short run.

  2. Oh, LW #354, I want an update on your situation one day. I would love to hear that you are no longer crying and peeing in the sink. That is SO not OK. Jedi hugs for you x

  3. #354, I am another person who spends inordinate amounts of time in the bathroom.

    It’s a combination of things. When I was young, I would read in there. Then I had a bad job and the bathroom was the only safe place. Then I also have assorted biological issues that vary based on a lot of things, but come down to feeling like I really have to go, even when it’s not moving. I could just get up, right? But then sometimes, it all, er, comes out in a rush, and keeps coming in fits and starts for way too long. “Feels like I need to go and won’t for another hour” feels exactly the same as “Feels like I need to go and whooooooosh.” It really does feel like I am about to go, and several times a week I’m like “Ok damnit I have been on the pot for way too long, I am about to get up!” and as soon as I’m standing, it’s like “oh crap!” Whooosh.

    So, I got my butt to the butt doctor, who diagnosed a thing and gave me meds and it helped? Kinda? It depends on what I eat and how much fiber I’ve had. I have also discovered that my food sensitivities are pollen allergies, and so it’s easier to predict when it’s gonna be a whoosh night.

    The tricky thing is, even with all this working-with-doctors business, I still get stuck in the can. A big part of it is habit, and yeah, I do take the ipad in there, or a book, because when my butt is stuck, it is so damn boring. But sometimes, it’s not my butt that’s stuck, it’s my head, in the book or the ipad or whatever. Also, sometimes, it’s emotional and I’m just happier in my safe space.

    Fortunately, we have two bathrooms. Also, I have no shyness about keeping the bathroom door open, so my spouse and I have had good conversations when I am on the can. He is getting good at poking me to see if I’m stuck because of my brain or my butt, and I am making efforts to reduce my occupancy.

    So… you know, this is a real thing that happens to other people. It’s a set of habits and conditions that probably sucks for your boyfriend too. But he’s dealing with it in a particularly negative way, by refusing to discuss it and by preventing you from doing what you absolutely need to do. That is just not okay.

    Aside from the captain’s advice — which is harsher than I’d go with, but OTOH, you peed in the sink! WTF? — you should insist that he get his ass to the butt doctor and possibly also a therapist.

    And unfortunately, you should understand that this is probably not something he can change quickly, because it’s a hard and complex set of habits that he is shameful about. Even fixing the operation of his guts and related systems can take a long time, because of the complexities of eating habits and gut flora.

    Will you move? Will you both move to a place with two bathrooms, or just you to a place all your own with your own bathroom that you can use any time you want? Will you insist that you get to shower and brush your teeth when he’s in there? Will you insist that he not take entertainment in with him, so that he can be bored out of his gourd?

    If all else fails, you could get him a potty and a couple of folding screens and stick him in the corner.

    1. The LWs are not suffering from a lack of compassion or empathy. They have all the compassion in the world.

      The thing is, you can have all the compassion in the world and STILL need what you need, like the ability to fulfill basic biological needs without it being a negotiation. Crying isn’t working. Asking nicely isn’t working. They are apologizing in these letters for even making it a problem and trying to think about how to not offend the other person.

      So I’m the Bad Fairy today. I know that the LWs will be gentle with their partners and nowhere near as harsh as me. But I want to say, bluntly, Go ahead and offend. Risk offending! Don’t apologize for your own needs!

      That doesn’t meant the partners’ struggles/feelings/issues are not real or important or hard to deal with, or that your struggles, etc. do not deserve compassion.

      I hid in the bathroom reading as a kid, too, because I wasn’t allowed to shut my bedroom door. I understand that it can feel like a safe, happy, place where you get to be alone without negotiation. I understand that people have genuine health problems that make them need long periods of time in the bathroom. But something has gone way off the rails in letter #354. Once you’re crying, peeing in the sink, and endangering your own health by holding in your pee, you have to have more compassion for yourself than for other people.

      1. Right! It stopped mattering a long time ago if the LWs are being compassionate enough, especially 354–basic needs means she just cannot live with this person unless it can become a livable, safe situation within a matter of weeks. That doesn’t necessarily mean breaking up, but it certainly means not living in an apartment together with just one bathroom anymore. (It also may mean breaking up for a different reason–it sounds like they don’t have much time left to talk to each other anymore except through the bathroom door. But the couples therapy sounds like a good first step before deciding that in this case.)

      2. Harsh? My feeling about Bathroom Man was that LW should pee in a bucket and then pour it into his laptop. Or over his head. Or both. Yes, I know, totally unhelpful and probably abusive but this whole thing of his is way beyond empathy, for me; it’s totally WTF and effectively abusive itself.


        1. I’m with you too. Bathroom Boyfriend is an arsehole, pun totally intended. I understand that he has a problem, but when you have a problem and you do NOTHING to solve it even though you KNOW you are interfering with your partner’s health and happiness, you do not deserve more compassion. You deserve to be given an ultimatum, and if in a month he hasn’t started caring for his partner, he deserves breaking up with.

          By the way, LW#354: Your boyfriend is not a feminist if he is unable to grasp the concept of basic boundaries and respect for a partner. Ranting about sexism in advertising means absolutely nothing if he does not respect your needs as his human being partner in life. Seriously, now. Enough with the fake feminist boyfriends.

        2. My thought was walking slap into the bathroom and peeing in the bathtub/shower while he’s there, ignoring whatever complaints he makes about “not being able to pee when someone’s in there”. I mean, WTF, I spend a lot of time in the bathroom (GI issues + alone time/downtime issues) but when my SO asks to use it, I GET UP IMMEDIATELY AND APOLOGIZE FOR TAKING SO LONG.

    2. I’m also feeling somewhat less-than-compassionate for this dude, because he has a job. Presumably, not one where he is allowed to spend the entire time in the bathroom. This means he is physically capable of spending substantial amounts of time OUT OF THE BATHROOM. So, whatever may be going on with him mentally, physically, or whatever else, he’s being massively selfish, inconsiderate, passive-aggressive, and a huge fucking nightmare to live with.

  4. You said that you want to do this without offending him, or without making him (more) defensive and angry, but I’m afraid that’s not possible. He is INJURING YOU. He is disrespecting you. He is controlling one of the resources of your shared home so that you can’t have access to it. When you ask him to get out of the bathroom and he says “soon” but does not get out soon, he is LYING TO YOU.

    You can’t control anything about how he will feel, but you must speak up for your needs or risk doing real and lasting harm to yourself. I know it feels like speaking up firmly about this means that you risk hurting his feelings or making trouble in your relationship, but there is already trouble in your relationship. A lot of trouble. If the relationship isn’t working for you, then it isn’t working. If you can’t take a piss in your own house within reasonable expectations, it is not working, and the fact that he’s a “great feminist guy” matters not.

    I feel like the idea of a “dealbreaker” is really dramatic for some people. But really, this is it. When you’re walking on eggshells, putting your needs (physical and emotional) on the back burner, and your partner doesn’t really seem to care about your distress, or makes noises about caring about your distress but does nothing to alleviate it, this is a dealbreaker.

    It doesn’t matter that it’s something “silly” like bathroom breaks. That’s just the topic of the conflict. The real conflict here is that your partner doesn’t care about your needs, and is training you not to care about your needs either.

    Here be evil bees.

    1. He’s certainly making sure his own physical needs are taken care of but denying LW’s.

      I think the lock needs to come off the bathroom door yesterday, and he’s just going to have to deal if LW barges in.

      1. Yes. I think that this isn’t a workable solution–I mean, you can’t always be seizing control of the bathroom. But you can’t let him lock you out of the bathroom for hours at a time, for months at a time.

    2. I am also less than compassionate for the boyfriend. I think that they should get a chamber pot for him.

  5. And even if it’s the result of some kind of medical condition or failure of upbringing that isn’t his fault, you STILL need him to clean his butt before bed.

    ^ This, this, this, LW. You are awfully compassionate and lovely, and I hear what you’re saying when you say that “If it’s upbringing, then I’ll have feeling X, but if it’s medical, then I’ll feel Y.”

    Suppose you had a lovely friend who had a partner named Fictional. Your friend loves Fictional SO MUCH, and really wants a life with him. However, Fictional has a bad habit of breeding and hoarding velociraptors. Their shared apartment is filled with the funk of lizard loving and raptor pee, and is a minefield of *literal* anklebiters. Your friend is allergic to velociraptors, nobody will visit them, and the whole affair is terribly uncomfortable.

    You meet Friend for coffee, while Friend cries into a hanky, nose all red from the raptors. “You’ve got to do something about the velociraptors,” you say, and Friend just sniffles.

    “Maybe it’s a medical condition,” Friend says doggedly. “Fictional had a very difficult childhood and he hates talking about giving pets away. If this is the price of admission then I will pay it. And anyway, it’s not really so much of a problem, having disgusting laundry and a cramped style.”

    “Velociraptors are not really a price of admission,” you say, “For one thing, they’re socially unacceptable, and for another, they are seriously cramping your love life.”

    “It’s more complicated than that,” Friend says, moodily looking at a bite mark on her wrist. “But I’ve seen his parents’ house; it’s full of pterosaurs. He had a really difficult childhood, you know. He had to share a crib with the hatchlings, and I think he was really scarred when they were sold off for sausage.”


    Friend scowls; this isn’t what she wants to hear. “But I’m holding out for the Prize,” she says. “Everyone knows that the Most Patient and Accommodating Girlfriend receives a $10,000 reward and a large golden plaque after Smilingly Putting Up With This Bullshit for Five Years.”


    1. Something about the minefield of literal anklebiters is giving me the giggles. +Fourty-Eleven to elodieunderglass’ comment!

    2. I’m actually looking at a bite mark on my wrist right now from the cat we live with that I’m mildly allergic to. (mostly my fault, she really didn’t want to get picked up) Emotional trauma that goes with it? His grandmother bred cats and when she died, this was his inheritance, the last kitten she bred successfully. Only she doesn’t mess up the house and we do get visitors. And there’s only one.

      And what I mean by all this is that I find your story very funny and a good analogy.

    3. <blockquote.
      Everyone knows that the Most Patient and Accommodating Girlfriend receives a $10,000 reward and a large golden plaque after Smilingly Putting Up With This Bullshit for Five Years.


      Sadly, usually the award for Most Patient and Accommodating Girlfriend is another five years of bullshit, stinkier than the bullshit from the first five years…

      1. “Sadly, usually the award for Most Patient and Accommodating Girlfriend is another five years of bullshit, stinkier than the bullshit from the first five years…”

        And a velociraptor. WITH RABIES.

    4. “Velociraptors are not really a price of admission,” you say, “For one thing, they’re socially unacceptable, and for another, they are seriously cramping your love life.”


      Socially unacceptable velociraptors! Yeah!

      1. Yes, I love that “Velociraptors are not really a price of admission”. I think it could be good advice in so many circumstances, I have to remember it for when I am in a quandry.

      2. “Velociraptor breeding” needs to be the shorthand for “big, unacceptable thing, apart from which the relationship would be all joy and fluffy bunnies and rainbows/partner would be Partner Of My Dreams”.

    5. Where would you like your internet to be sent? That internet that you have won, I mean.


    6. ‘“It’s more complicated than that,” Friend says, moodily looking at a bite mark on her wrist. “But I’ve seen his parents’ house; it’s full of pterosaurs. He had a really difficult childhood, you know. He had to share a crib with the hatchlings, and I think he was really scarred when they were sold off for sausage.”’


    7. I love this analogy so much. I am unendingly glad that my fiance has gotten the meds and psychiatrist he needs to end the compulsive velociraptor-herding. (Ok, spellcheck, velociraptor herding isn’t a thing, but *velocipede-herding* is??)

  6. LW 2, I don’t care WHY he’s doing this. If a good person realized they had reduced their partner to PEEING IN THE FUCKING SINK and left them in tears, they wouldn’t give you some mealy-mouthed bullshit about how badly they feel and continue to hog the bathroom. They would make an effort to change their behavior, up to and including seeing a therapist if that was what was needed. Someone who loves you, who wants you to be comfortable and respects you, will not reduce you to tears because he refuses to read his fucking iPad somewhere else so that you can pee. He will not make you late for work or events because heaven forbid he goes somewhere else so that you can take a shower and brush your teeth and use the toilet.

    It doesn’t matter WHY he’s doing this. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mental health issue or whatever. You live there TOO. You count TOO. If he refuses to acknowledge this AND FUCKING ACT LIKE THIS IS THE CASE, then I suggest you think to yourself: Can I live with this for another month? Another year? Another five years? Ten years? The rest of my life?

    1. Yes. This behavior is just not right. My spouse has celiac disease and that gives him a host of digestive issues. He can spend over an hour in the bathroom easily, but if I knock and ask if I can get in there, he will get out asap. And we have more than one bathroom!

      Also “I can’t pee if someone is watching” is ridiculous. He’s not peeing for 3 hours. Peeing time was probably over in the first 5 minutes. AND YOU CAN’T PEE AT ALL SO TOO BAD FOR HIM!

      1. Indeed. Respect needs to be a two-way street, and LW2 describes a one-way. LW2, you deserve so much better. I hope the steps the Captain suggested will help, but if things don’t improve, please talk to Team You and think about your options.

        And manybellsdown, I love e.e. cummings and your username =)

        1. Aww thank you. Said spouse used to recite that poem to me when we were dating, and it’s a weird sort of love poem so it was perfect. It’s become a favorite online handle for me.

        2. I wanted to point out that the Geneva Convention from one of the world wars decided that not letting a prisoner of war use the toilet in a conventional manner AS NEEDED constitutes torture. You could check with Amnesty International about this, too…I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to prevent a person to go to the bathroom in a reasonable way.

          Not that you’re going to call the police on him or anything, but please, take yourself seriously. Your needs matter at least as much as his. I am so sorry this is happening in your life, LW2.

          1. The Geneva Conventions don’t give some useful information about exactly how serious this is, given that world leaders got together and decided that the right to use the bathroom was so important they needed to write it down to protect captured enemy soldiers in a warfare situation that is inherently horrible.

            Yeah, but normal people aren’t prisoners of war or entitled to POW protection under the Conventions. Ask the folks in Guantanamo. Otherwise, elementary school children with controlling bathroom break evil teachers would be a lot better off. It’s not illegal in this context, just horrible.

          2. You’re right, of course. I wanted to make the point that the issue is serious enough that people have had to be protected from that kind of abuse. Sometimes it’s hard to put one’s needs in a proper perspective.

      2. I had an ex with IBS and while there was still periodically some awkward bathroom jockeying for position, we negotiated and we made it work and if I needed to duck into the bathroom to brush my teeth or get my contacts or just pee real quick, I was damn well let into the bathroom! That level of basic decency should absolutely be expected, regardless of what mental/physical health issues may be at work.

  7. If your partner is oblivious to your expressed needs for cleanliness, bathroom access, common courtesy, or anything else, then your partner has no right to be annoyed or angered (for more than a brief moment) when you bring it up and ask for accommodation or resolution. That’s emotional blackmail and has no place in a good relationship.

    1. Yes. I get that people get defensive when their partner tells them hard truths, but those requests aren’t unreasonable so the partners should get over themselves. Especially in the case of partner number two, they have effectively made it impossible to find a solution by getting cranky a whatnot. You just can’t treat your partner that way. Not okay.

  8. LW 354, I have a couple food issues which once in a while mean I do spend an hour-ish in the bathroom being very very uncomfortable. But if DH or the offspring have to go, I manage to give them the time they need, within a “soon” that really is soon – no pee-pee dances required. I think it’s likely that if you were to look in you could tell that I’m not there to get away from it all. And it isn’t for uninterrupted hours and hours every single day.

    Thinking about it, when DH (formerly suffered from bouts of diverticulitis) or I have been been suffering from digestive distress, reading material often keeps us company – it’s a distraction from the discomfort. Your partner’s reading may be part of the problem, or it may be another symptom/side effect.

    1. Yes, my dad’s the same way. He gives us all fair warning that he’s going to monopolize the bathroom, to allow the rest of us time to get our business done first.

  9. LW #354, your letter just broke my heart. I agree with the Captain that couples counseling is absolutely in order, and I think individual counseling (for both of you, but especially him) is as well. It’s not normal to spend all of your free time in the bathroom–to the point where MORE THAN ONCE your girlfriend has had to pee in the sink, and has been repeatedly kept up late at night, and you’ve missed important social engagements–and since it sounds like physical issues were ruled out, there is something else going on.

    His behavior is really, really not okay, and he knows that it’s hurting you, and he keeps doing it. He may need help to stop what he is doing, which is why counseling is a good idea, but the Captain’s right that you need to see both an immediate change that lets you use the bathroom when you need it and also some evidence that a longer term change is in progress that will result in him not hiding in the bathroom for hours on end every day. And I think that her timelines are spot on: you being able to use the bathroom when you need it has to happen immediately and it has to happen every day after that, and if it doesn’t you need to stay somewhere else for at least a few days and think about finding a permanent living situation elsewhere. And if there isn’t counseling and some evidence he’s making progress on the bigger issue within a few weeks, then you may need to think really, really hard about whether this is a relationship you can stay in.

    (And because you mentioned wishing for a two-bathroom apartment, I just want to say: that would not solve this problem. I mean, it would solve the most immediate and obvious harm of you not being able to use the bathroom, but it would not do anything about the fact that he holes up in a bathroom for hours on end on a regular basis and that he causes the two of you to miss things like his sister’s birthday because he is in the bathroom and that he gets defensive when you raise reasonable concerns about it. And it would absolutely not solve whatever it is that is causing him to do what he’s doing — because although I have no idea and won’t try to guess what’s causing his behavior, I suspect it’s not just “really likes sitting on the toilet.”)

    1. I think it would be understandable if she had to miss things like that once because he was monopolizing the bathroom–like, if he was sick or something. But if it’s become a repeated problem and he’s got a monopoly on the bathroom, that’s really disgusting.

      I’m disabled with chronic back pain. I spend a lot of the time in the bathtub, but I try to let my husband and roommate know when I’m taking a bath so they can get their stuff done first. And if one of them has to use the potty or get ready for work, I step out briefly. (Although my husband and I have and understanding that we can be in the bathroom at the same time and that’s not a big deal.) The fact that the LW’s guy knows how much he’s hurting her and has done nothing to stop it says that he doesn’t care enough. If he doesn’t get why it’s important to be able to sleep, shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and use the toilet…well you can move to a place that only has one bathroom but no annoying boyfriend hogging it. He can have the apartment and his precious bathroom all to himself.

      Seriously though, I imagine this guy hugging the toilet all like, “MYYYY PRECCCCIOOOOUUUSSS!!! It’s pretty messed up. I hope he gets some help for whatever is going on.

    2. “and since it sounds like physical issues were ruled out,”

      Um. Look. I agree with everyone else that whether or not #354’s partner has a real physical problem, there is definitely something else going on too, namely abuse. But can we please not assume that there is nothing physically wrong with him because he went to one doctor once and that doctor dismissed his complaints? I’m saying that not for his sake but for my sake, and the sake of other people who’ve gone to the doctor and been told that nothing was wrong when it was.

      1. Very good point. Doctors miss things. But they have authority so we believe them over what we experience sometimes to our own detriment. Sticking with the spirit of the OP – 1) health problems (of some kind) probable. 2) Way the partner is handling them: TERRIBLE 3) LW still needs free access to the bathroom no matter what.

        I think people are within bounds to wonder “How does he handle this at work? Why only at home when he’s with the LW is he like this?” but ruling out a problem entirely would be the same as internet diagnoses which we don’t do here.

  10. LW #1, I have to laugh, because my ex had this problem. We didn’t live together, but his general cleanliness… eek. The problem was he JUST DIDN’T NOTICE. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it was completely true. Once I made him notice, he made a genuine effort to clean up. (We broke up when I moved away for work, and a year later I was back in town and visited him. I stepped into his apartment and realized that he’d been letting his dog pee on newspapers, and hadn’t changed them in weeks. Somehow he didn’t notice the smell.)

    But LW#2, your guy is aware that his behaviour is causing you harm, both physical and emotional, and he doesn’t care. Also, you are clearly not doing many things together if he spends nearly 100% of his leisure time on the toilet. Not healthy for a relationship.

    I’m not sure I would pee in a sink. I’m a little more confrontational. If I were at that point I would probably break down the door and bodily heave him off the toilet.

    Yes to the 2-minute rule instead of “soon”, and yes to evaluating his progress at certain checkpoints.

    1. Or hey, go get in the shower and pee in there. You get to go standing up and not make a mess!

      (Not real advice. Unless it sounds like fun, in which case go for it.)

    2. Y’all are nicer than I am. I was thinking pee in a cup, walk in, and pour the pee over his head.

      1. I was thinking head and/or laptop.

        A laptop fusing from a pee deposit is an image that really appeals to me …

    3. Yes. Sometimes I’m in the hallway, saying “I really need in there,” “now” “seriously, it’s starting to trickle down my leg” It doesn’t hurt that i have had more than one accident where I couldn’t make it in time and he wasn’t always in there. But still, 45 minutes to an hour, and he only takes a magazine or book. I try to get in there before he does but sometimes he’s already there.

  11. Seriously LW2, I would be walking in on him, I mean definitely knock, say that I need to pee now, give him the two minutes, but then walk the fuck in.

    1. Exactly – this letter makes me so mad and I’m not intimately involved. If my partner started to do this, I would break that fucking door down. Obviously LW has a different outlook on this (which is fine) but I definitely want LW to know that this is something that doesn’t need to be put up with. This is something that needs to be dealt with STAT. It is not unreasonable to need to pee in your own home in the receptable that was designed for it!

  12. LW #354, Do you see that your “great feminist guy” is acting like he is King of the Lavatory, while you have been reduced to humble-petitioner-for-occasional-bathroom-access? That is seriously messed up when you are talking about a basic, non-negotiable biological function — even if it is the only context in your lives in which he acts like he is in charge and you have to ask for what you need. That is NEVER a feminist dynamic. When it comes to the bathroom, it isn’t even a decent dynamic. (Would a “great feminist guy” lock up all the food and make his lover request food, and often wait for hours ’til he offers some up??)

    I don’t care what his Reasons are for wanting/”needing” to hog the bathroom to such an extreme extent, anyone who expect you to accommodate him this way when it comes to the *toilet* is, shall we say, not demonstrating a spirit of empathy and equality with his mate? If he’s such a great guy, HE should be making it a priority to make sure his odd issue impacts you as little as possible, not expecting you to cross your legs harder.

    My reflexive response was to tell you to holler, “I need to use the toilet. If you don’t vacate the pot in 5 minutes I’ll pee/poop on your frickin’ lap if I have to… but I’m *going* to use the toilet!”

    Good thing Captain Awkward had more constructive advice. Because the issue is only partly about getting you access to the bathroom. It’s even more fundamentally about the fact that something like this is an issue at all.

    The only thing I’d add is that if GFG can’t see that he is NOT putting his feminist principles into practice, and very actively work with you to rectify the situation on an urgent basis, he is not what he is advertised as, either as a feminist or as a great guy.

  13. As someone with a history of serious intestine-related bullshit (ha!) problems that have left me, at various times, hospitalized and/or on ridiculous diets for stupid lengths of time, I have found that, in my experience, my intimate relationship with my inside-parts-that-lead-to-outside-parts makes me more, not less, considerate about butt hygiene and also about making sure OTHER people are comfortable should they have some elimination-related needs. A couple friends of mine who’ve gone through similar health issues are also like this, and we often bond over it which is gross but whatever, everybody poops. (I am also a repository of information about the best bathrooms in 3 cities on two continents! Where is my book contract, Fodor’s!?)

    Some people are super comfortable talking about all that mess, and I am one of them, but I think the Captain’s scripty advice to LW 353 is excellent.

    But really this is to give some context for my reaction to LW 354, which is to say NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    I have actually HAD to spend hours in the bathroom because I didn’t have a choice, and I find it very difficult to believe that LW’s partner is simply more physically comfortable parking it for hours (ALSO HEMORRHOIDS AHOY, come on dude! don’t do that to your body!) because he has poop needs than he is just going to the bathroom when the need arises. A “little” stomach ache or a “bit” of gas doesn’t *require* anyone to sit on the toilet for three hours. In my experience, a three hour toilet time involves counting the shower tiles because it’s the only thing that can take your mind off the fact that your butthole is on fire. Real talk.

    Which is to say that it sounds to me like LW354’s partner is exhibiting some very controlling, manipulative behavior–who in the world would prevent someone from peeing in her own bathroom!? from getting dressed in the morning?!–that is not related to an actual physical need to be using the toilet. I don’t think moving to a two-bathroom apartment will solve the problems that LW has with the partner, because I don’t think the partner’s problems are really ABOUT the bathroom, even though that’s how they manifest themselves currently. It sounds like the partner has a serious issue with controlling her access to comfort/basic resources, and he’ll find a way to do that elsewhere.

    1. “It sounds like the partner has a serious issue with controlling her access to comfort/basic resources, and he’ll find a way to do that elsewhere.”


      1. Yep, this was a fun little stunt my now EX-father in law was famous for. I can’t tell you how many times I would wind up peeing in a trash can in MY OWN HOME because he was sitting in our only bathroom for over an hour at a time during yet another of his uninvited, badly timed, overstay (while *I* wait on unwelcome people like a servant), ‘visits’.
        This is classic abuser stuff–they want to control your time and your resources and make it very, very plain that NOTHING about you is important, including your own very real physical needs.

    2. I have a medical condition too, and I concur – I’m paranoid about keeping myself clean.

      Also, for LW 354… as someone who, on occasion, has to spend over an hour on the toilet, I find it suspiciously strange that he won’t let you in to take a shower or brush your teeth. Especially if he’s PEEING! My partner may not enjoy being in the bathroom while I’m stuck on the toilet, but he knows why I’m there, and we’ve agreed that he can walk right in just about anytime he needs to. Something here is very much Not Okay.

      1. Well, and he can’t be peeing! You can’t pee for hours at a time. Where would it come from? He is sitting on the toilet. You don’t need absolute privacy to sit down; there’s no such thing as gluteshy.

        I think Captain Awkward is right: this is a ludicrous problem, and an embarrassing problem, and a bizarre problem, but it’s also a very serious non-negotiable problem. You have a boyfriend who doesn’t acknowledge that you have a bladder. It’s not different from having a boyfriend who doesn’t understand that you need to eat or sleep or stay hydrated. It would also be bizarre if your boyfriend blasted death metal into your ear during the wee hours, or refused to let you use the stove to cook meals. It would also be humiliating and unbearable.

        It’s impressive that you’ve put up with it so long. I would be tempted to start peeing on his belongings at this point, never mind the sink.

        You shouldn’t have to put up with this, and his behavior is totally unacceptable, no matter what deep-seated psychological problems underlie it.

        1. Ugh my ex wouldn’t let me use the kitchen. I’d worked in food service exclusively before that relationship, and sometimes got injured! Coz you know, if you spend all your time around sharp things, sometimes you slip up. So he turned it into this “you’re so clumsy, I’ll handle the food stuff.” And yes, it was abusive and terrible, especially when he deliberately gave me food I didn’t like (thick slices of cheese in sandwiches, etc) and I wasn’t allowed to throw things out because we were poor and couldn’t afford the waste.

    3. When I read the second letter, I had a bad feeling but thought, “Nah, I’m just seeing abuse everywhere!” but I don’t know, having read your post, Boots, I’m thinking maybe my first instinct was correct. My ex did lots of abusive and controlling things, including things that interfered with my ability to eat, rest, sleep and use the bathroom (the only one of which doesn’t apply to the LW354 is eating – although I wouldn’t be surprised if this is influencing how much she drinks, if it’s more comfortable to be thirsty than the agony of a full bladder). Part of this was my ex ensconcing himself in the bathroom with his laptop, sometimes even the phone (!) for up to a couple of hours. My ex claimed to have no problems with his bowels, it just took a while.

      For various reasons, my digestive system will come to a complete standstill without intervention. Then of course, the more constipated you get, the more out of shape your bowels become and the more prone to constipation in the future – plus piles, rectal fissures, which all increase the joy of passing solids. But powerful laxatives are hard to control – you take so much with no effect and then suddenly things start moving at a pace. When I was with my ex, I couldn’t really use them properly, because I couldn’t risk needing the loo *this minute* and not being able to get to the toilet. I also had to drink a lot and there probably isn’t a muscle in my body that is fully functioning, so yes, I have peed into the sink.

      I have since lived in a single bathroom four person household where one person was having an IBS flare and another a bout of diverticularitis and at no point did I feel that I had to alter what I ate, drank or the medication I took in order to work around it. There *was* a rather frank discussion about bathroom use (who thought they were likely to need it when), but we were all adults and there was a lot of sympathy in the room.

      But yes, at the very least this is someone being very selfish about some kind of problem they have. But it sounded like something I’ve experienced as part of wholesale abuse.

    4. I often do my thing in two sessions when my bowels are playing up, partly because I know someone else might need the bathroom (and we have two as well) and partly because sitting and waiting and trying to work your muscles to get things moving is BORING. And yes, painful, with hot flushing and sweating – I tend to get excruciating bowel cramps that precede mild constipation and then diarrhea and are generally between a 5-8 on the pain scale where 10 is literally passing out. It’s not fun. I don’t bring in entertainment, either – I’d be nervous of squeezing it too hard or dropping it or something!

      1. Chris, I have the exact same thing. When I’m like that I literally can’t concentrate on any entertainment, it’s just clench fists, and try not to punch a hole in the wall from the pain.

      2. Doesn’t sound like my IBS is nearly as bad as what you’re going through, but I can relate to the sweats and chills and bowel cramps.

        I have had two completely natural no-drugs childbirths, and when my doctor asked how I did it, I said that contractions weren’t as painful as my IBS.

        1. Oh I sympathise. I had two natural no-drugs childbirths too, and when I was in hospital for cholecystitis and related chemical irritation (Infection/irritation of the gall-bladder based on lots of stones blocking the bile duct and chafing away at the walls of the damn thing), the triage nurses asked how painful was it on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 being childbirth. “Oh, I’d say about FIFTEEN THEN. GIVE ME MORPHINE PLEASE.”

          PS to Captain Awkward – I adore this blog and have been frantically procrastinating from uni while I read through the archives.
          You and the commenters have really helped me crystallise some of the vague anxious thoughts going through my head over the last few years of unhappy marriage/breakup/new partner/uni/living with mum and dad/kids/etc.
          Thank you all very much!

      3. Once I did literally pass out from my IBS. Wait, no, twice. Once in public, once at home. It usually doesn’t get that bad, though. Sweating and chills, yep. And also mood swings right there on the toilet – I haven’t heard anyone talk about that as a symptom of IBS, but it’s been one of the worst parts – the horrible emotional feelings that come with it while things are pouring out or cramping. A doctor told me that gut nerves are extremely closely related to your emotions, but I didn’t know the connection went both ways before then.

        1. Yes! This is why your stomach “drops” when you are afraid or shocked — your gut uses a ton of neurotransmitters. This is also, apparently, why the first thing my GI doctor did for me was prescribe an antidepressant.

          I feel like we are starting a Yes I Have A Digestive Disorder But I Still Know How Not To Hold A Doucheparade club here.

          1. Ooh can I join? I have horrible acid reflux and something going on with my er, lower intestines, but due to my charming and delightful lack of insurance everything is undiagniosed and largely self-treated. But I let my partner use the bathroom. Because I’m not a douche. 🙂

          2. Can I join too? I have IBS, all from long-term stress, but boy am I grateful it’s nowhere near as serious as what some of the Army go through! 😦

    5. I just want to mention that I would TOTALLY read that guidebook. I would read the shit out of it, and have often found myself wishing for a better guide to the condition of public restrooms. And I think a lot of other people would, too– I remember when I worked for my college newspaper, one of our weekly tasks in Ed Board meetings was to come up with a question for one of those “person on the street”-type features– you know, where you have someone go up to five random people on campus and ask them some question like “what’s the best class at our school?” or “who are you voting for in the upcoming presidential election?” and then print their answers and pictures. Anyway, one week someone suggested that our question should be “What is your favorite bathroom on campus?”, and in discussing it, everyone– literally, everyone– had an answer, and most of the answers were different from one another. The editor in chief ended up vetoing that suggestion for inappropriateness or whatever, but it was a very interesting discussion.

      (And that’s totally unrelated, sorry!)

      1. I would read the shit out of it,

        IDK if that was intentional or not, but I laughed immaturely at work. 🙂

    6. Didn’t we have a LW a few months back whose asshole boyfriend would call her up when she was asleep just because he wanted to chat and it was cute that she got mad about it? Same story, different day, I think–she needed sleep, he wanted control.

      1. There’s a really dystopian short story or novel in this somewhere = The Torturer At Home. Interrogators starting to think that their way of relating to people is normal and bringing it home to their partners.

        1. In my previous life, I did some background checks on military interrogators. Let me tell you, interrogators married to other interrogators resulted in some truly frightening circles of gaslighting hell for me to untangle.

          1. My (beloved, departed, difficult) Grampa was a CID agent and a military investigator skilled in interrogation.

            I don’t know that he gaslighted me, but he could really make me feel pinned down with an otherwise simple “What are you going to major in in college?” question that I now realize is eerily similar to Walter White asking Skyler/Jesse “WHAT’S YOUR PLAN.” And he definitely passed those skills on to my mom.

        2. Ooh, I can see it as a short story anthology.

          Ideally with Gavin deBecker or similar writing the foreword and providing useful critical analyses after every tale.

      2. Yes, we did, and I remember because I freaked the hell out and barfed up my whole life story about my ex who liked to hold me up as long as fucking possible when it was time to go get food all over the comments, and I had about the same freak-the-hell-out reaction to reading the second letter. WHAT THE FUCK IS WITH THESE DUDES?!

  14. LW #354, you say you both work in offices, which makes me think that your boyfriend either spends a lot less time in the bathroom at work, or he has already discussed his bathroom time with his boss. If he has an accommodation at work, it most likely references a specific disability and there is a specific plan in place that you could borrow from at home.

    So, when you’re getting down to the why of it all, you might try asking what’s different at work that lets him leave the bathroom.

    1. This was my first question, too. Unless his job has him set up with a desk in a toilet stall, he’s able to function off the can for at least whatever time he works every day. Since he’s apparently not seeing a doctor about it, he’s not in so much distress during work that he thinks something needs to be fixed.

      So, “actual genuine physical need” seems to be ruled out right there, which makes what he’s doing with respect to how it affects LW2 especially egregious.

      BUT! Even if it wasn’t? Even if it was an actual genuine physical need? Even if he is literally pooping and peeing every single second that he’s in that bathroom so he can’t take a two minute break to let someone else have a pee? He’s still (a) prioritizing his physical needs over yours, LW2, every single minute of every single day, and (b) apparently not too bothered by that fact because he’s not looking for any sort of solution.

      If he’s not seeking some sort of professional help with respect to the bathroom issue, that means he is okay with the situation as it stands. That means he is okay with you peeing in the sink even though he knows it causes you very real distress, and even though he knows that you have no way to alleviate that distress yourself short of moving out. And from where I’m standing, that is both emotional and physical abuse.

      He may well have pretty good, solid feminist opinions. That doesn’t rule out him being a disrespectful asshole, and unlike LW1, I think this is pretty objectively a dealbreaker.

      1. Right, the work question occurred to me, too, and it’s a puzzling one–but then I just fundamentally stopped caring what his reasons might be. It doesn’t matter. And the more comments I’ve read in this thread about examples of blatant abuse along these lines, the more I kind of disagree with the original advice and just want LW 354 to get the fuck out of there as soon as physically possible. YMMV, of course, and LW, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what you need to do, but I’d be a lot more at ease if you were the hell away from this situation.

        1. Yeah, I don’t think his reasons mean he’s allowed to monopolize the bathroom. It just seems like it would be a fruitful place to start making a new bathroom plan IF the boyfriend is willing to do that.

          I also feel like LW might want to get out her handy screw driver and take the lock off the bathroom door.

  15. So the second letter here rings some bells for me. I’m going to detail this a bit in case hearing a similar story might be helpful for your boyfriend, LW#2, but in terms of concrete behavioral actions to take, I bow to the Captain’s advice: boundaries and counseling are in order.

    Once upon a time, when I was a wee one, I too spent hours in the bathroom! (Until now I was pretty sure I was the only person in the world who’s had this problem.) With accompanying reading material, and refusing to leave on the basis that I was NOT DONE YET. Though mostly I was, and eventually I would give up because it was clear that nothing exciting had happened near my rear in a good hour or so. This understandably left my parents rather distraught, wondering what exactly was wrong with me. To this day my mother is convinced that I have some sort of serious bowel issues that caused all of that.

    It’s still a little unclear exactly how that started happening for me, or the details of why. (Though for me at least, it’s likely some sort of anxiety disorder – I won’t attempt to diagnose your boyfriend, LW#2, but since I’ve had anxiety issues in other parts of my life it’s almost definitely related for me.) It lasted for several years for me though, and definitely was causing problems that kept me from interacting with normal human beings on an everyday basis. I definitely missed a soccer game or two on the basis of this, which now seems ludicrous.

    What eventually cleared it up was realizing that despite the safe feeling that being conveniently by the toilet brought me, I really did not have bathroom issues so urgent that I couldn’t be bothered to stand up and go into the other room when I needed the toilet. I learned some counting strategies and some meditation techniques that helped me figure out when it was okay to leave the toilet, even if I might have to return to it later. (That last was apparently the scariest part – that for whatever reason I wouldn’t be able to go back.) Yes, gas and whatnot can be uncomfortable — but it turns out sitting on a porcelain throne for hours? Doesn’t really fix anything. I’ve now resumed entirely ordinary bathroom habits.

    That all said: LW#2, I feel for you! Also for your boyfriend. I strongly suspect that with some counseling he could probably learn a better way to deal with whatever he’s going through. In the meantime, though, please please take care of your own health and make sure that you’re getting what you need. Regardless of the reasons behind his bathroom excursions, you really do deserve access to a bathroom on a regular, uninhibited basis.

    Best of luck to you both figuring this out, and fighting the associated demons!

    1. But you weren’t emotionally blackmailing someone else by knowingly denying them basic toilet access, sleep, a social life, etc., were you? Because when that’s the result, it doesn’t matter how understandable the cause is anymore. Plus you were a child, and he is an adult responsible for achieving (and, if necessary, seeking help achieving) a level of self-control over his problems that allows him to avoid abusing the people around him.

      1. Yep, I completely agree. The only reason I told this story is if it happens to help. Understandable causes do not equate to excusing behavior.

        1. They don’t; but as someone who also spends a lot of energy trying to understand other people when they upset me or act horribly, I admire why you took the effort to share. There’s a difference between holding people accountable for their actions and drawing everyone as either black or white. I truly believe acknowledging the source of people’s behavior is the first step towards compassionate social correction.

          Also, those who have suffered from them are not beholden to help them 🙂

  16. For me, that second LW is definitely getting into dealbreaker territory. I know we’re not into saying it here, but… what’s keeping you in the relationship?

  17. LW 2, both my husband and I have gastro issues on occasion (pretty regularly, actually…joy). This does not mean that anyone has had to pee in the sink.

    That is so, so not cool. Even if it REALLY AND TRULY isn’t his fault that he has to be in there for hours, you still have basic needs and you shouldn’t live like that. That seriously has to be a form of torture.

    You’re a Sim who has been walled in without a bathroom, and it’s upsetting enough virtually. It’s definitely really bad for meat people. This seems as cruel as removing the swimming pool ladder.

    1. I love this comment. Great analogy. She should make as much if not more noise than Sims do when this occurs.


  18. If mildew in the bathroom rates a 3, o don’t want to see a house that rates a 1.

    Also, hogging the bathroom to the point where your partner PEES IN THE SINK is just plain cruel.

    1. It’s not actually that uncommon where I live – a lot of rental houses particularly are damp and poorly insulated. Most people try to use a system of opening windows or getting a dehumidifier to prevent it or just clean it regularly, because you don’t want to be breathing in any kind of fungal growth. Our shoddy housing causes health problems enough as it is – IIRC we have fairly high rates of childhood asthma here.

    2. If mildew in the bathroom rates a 3, o don’t want to see a house that rates a 1.

      Nope, you totally don’t. (Hint: it involves feces.)

      1. My husband once worked for the local health department. They were called to inspect one house where the tenant couldn’t bear to throw anything away, ever. The house was filled with whiskey bottles and empty boxes of graham crackers, which is what the poor person subsisted on once every plate and bowl and pot and pan was encrusted with food and piled in the kitchen. In the closet, they found tupperware containers of the person’s feces. And in the shower–all the toilet paper this person had ever used. Plus, there were cats and assorted vermin.

        I think that house must have been a -1 on your scale.

  19. LW1 — it is awkward as hell to ask someone to wash their butt, but you need to ask. He’ll feel slightly embarrassed and then wash it, and everything will be good. Also, do a ‘good person test’ thinking about this; if he thought you needed to wash your butt, would you rather he pretended otherwise forever and kept thinking about how your butt needed a wash or that he told you and you could deal with the situation? I think the (albeit unknown) embarrassment of an in need of a wash butt for months is worse than the known embarrassment for the 30 seconds it would take to wash it. I’m site he’d prefer to be told.

    1. especially because, LW1, he communicated that he likes the prostate massage. He has some positive connections with his butt — it’s not all post-surgical trauma. “I’m happy to bring the magic finger(s) of fun if you ensure you’re all wiped off.”

      More generally, as a disabled person with intestinal blah, I know I work hard to make sure I’m clean. Dry TP can be quite painful, as well as only partially effective. When I discovered “wet TP” — moistened wipes, Tucks, Wet Ones — I got a happier butt, cause my hands + TP couldn’t reach it all. Those of us with digestive issues may not always have the personal care help we need to maintain the clean, but that’s another issue

  20. Just wanted to comment to #354 as a person who doesn’t have medical issues and legit spends a lot of time in the bathroom. For me, it’s just a weird personality quirk — I would spend a lot of time on the pot even when I was little, I would read whole books and do sudoku and stuff. Now I’ve moved into a 2bed/1bath apartment with my boyfriend, and am finding myself spending even more time there.

    For me, I think it does have to do with being able to find my own space, even if it’s sort of a weird, somewhat uncomfortable space. For your boyfriend, I don’t think this is the case — when my boyfriend knocks and asks when I’m going to be out, the appropriate response is “within a minute or two, just let me wash my hands,” not this bullshit “soon” business.

    Good luck resolving things! I hope he’s responsive to whatever you decide to tell him.

  21. LW #354, if you have a lock on your bathroom door, then I would advise unscrewing it. He may be uncomfortable with this, but he is quite clearly abusing his right to privacy here, whether he means to or not. You have a right to be in there too, and at least this way you can get in there.

    I should point out that on its own this is nothing more than a bandaid, and I really would recommend the official Awkward Advice.

    1. Very much this. And not having a lock does not mean no privacy! We’ve never had a lock on our bathroom door, but we’ve also never needed one because if the door is closed, that means someone’s in there and you should knock. It does not fix the problem of him monopolizing the toilet for three or four hours every morning and evening, but at least it will give you access to the bathroom while he’s working on fixing his toilet issues. And if he’s not working on fixing his toilet issues then hopefully you don’t need to worry about removing the lock because you won’t be living with him any more!

      1. We have the sliding bolt locks on the bathroom doors but growing up we were told very firmly that we were never to use them so that if something happened people could get in – whether that be fire, someone passing out in the bathroom, or just the lock sticking and our little child hands not being strong enough to get it free. And I’ve lived in houses that didn’t have locks at all. It’s not really necessary in a private residence unless you live with someone seriously scary, and then you have more issues than just not being able to lock the bathroom door.

  22. Hey, LW #353…here’s a perspective from someone with a medical condition. I have Crohn’s colitis, and three of my family members have either some variation of Crohn’s disease or colitis. Two of them have had their colons removed, one wears a colostomy bag. So I know first-hand that intestinal auto-immune diseases come in all shapes and sizes and affect people in vastly different ways.

    Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, I’m going to tell you that, from my experience, your partners’ cleanliness issue seems like more of a learned hygiene thing rather than a medical condition thing. It may be that he was super traumatized by his surgery, and just wants to Ignore Anything that’s Going On Down There. And yes, people with colitis or irritable bowel or Crohn’s disease do sometimes have to take extra precautions to ensure that things stay clean, but most people do that.

    One thing that might help a LOT is if your partner starts using flushable moist wipes. Not baby wipes, but the flushable moist wipes for adults. One thing I’ve noticed is that regular toilet paper can be painful or provide inadequate wipe-age for people with this type of medical condition, luckily that is why someone invented moist flushable wipes.

    This does *not* mean that you should go out and automatically buy them and set them all up for your partner as a hint that he may or may not take. It’s his responsibility to keep himself clean; this should not be your problem. When you speak to him, if he gets all embarrassed and helpless and asks what he’s supposed to do about it, this is something that you could suggest, and that he can follow up on himself.

    I don’t mean to presume that your issue can be solved with a simple, technical solution – it really does sound like a frank conversation is in order – but maybe this is something to have in the back of your mind as a suggestion when you have that chat with him? I also second the Captain’s recommendation for him to eventually seek another medical opinion. If it’s not just a cleanliness/upbringing/hygiene issue, there might be more going on here.

    1. My mom also had some issues with this due to a stroke. They ended up buying what is essentially a bidet that sits on your regular normal toilet seat and has a little remote thing. (That is all the detail I know about it, but I think it has helped.)

      1. I have IBS and a toilet bidet (a.k.a. Washlet). Love it! Both my husband and I get amusingly cranky on vacations about not having access to it. “Yeah, this hotel is pretty swanky, but I want my butt washed!”

    2. I was wondering if, as Butt Issue’s partner, LW1 could just keep a box of wipes discretely by the bed, and kindly offer to use them on BI’s parts before sexual activity? It would bring up the subject in a non-critical way in the context of actual play, as *part* of the play, and then BI can take up the hint without feeling embarrassed. I’ve kept wipes boxes by the bed just for last-minute hygeine touch-ups anyways. Anyways, sometimes gentle hints take better than awkward sit-downs.

      1. I get how this seems gentler, but I don’t think it’s the LW’s responsibility to wipe her boyfriend’s butt. It actually seems shitty (groan) for both of them since she still has to get up in poop if she wants to have sex with him, and he gets treated like a child who can’t solve his own problems. He might have more difficulty with cleanliness than the average person, but I think we should still assume he’s capable of it.

      2. I agree, keeping his butt clean is not the LW’s responsibility. But I think there’s a way to have the sit down and still be gentle and compassionate. It sounds like the hygiene/cleanliness issue is a bigger problem than just the butt wiping, since the LW mentioned that overall, her partner has little awareness of cleanliness and hygiene due to his upbringing. She also said that his shorts smell when they’re in bed together… and even if she’s occasionally doing their laundry, she is still having to wash his underpants at least sometimes, and that kind of sucks for her.

        Since they’ve already talked about the toothbrush mold, the stage has been set that maybe he doesn’t know better, but is willing to listen and make improvements as needed. I think that having the talk would do more to improve her overall quality of life, beyond just when they’re having sex.

  23. LW1 – very recently, I discovered I apparently have somewhat of a blind nose when it comes to my own BO. (Ugh, even writing that sends me into paroxysms of shame but whatevs). It’s not horrendous, but apparently it has built up very specifically in my t shirts that I wear for training (I train grappling so this is v. pertinent as my armpits often get all up in other peoples faces). I had absolutely no idea about this until my husband very gently but quizzically pointed it out, first on the t shirt I was wearing and then on every other one I pulled out of the closet to replace it.

    I was fucking mortified, to say the least. And I apologised and I was angry because I was ashamed so I flailed around a bit. Then I went into mega-let’s-fix-it-overdrive (TY, UFyHabitat) and now I demand a smell test from him before I leave the house. And he teases me about it and I take the piss out of myself about it and life goes on.

    Basically, he told me about a weird, slightly embarrassing thing and it was awkward and horrid but it was awkward and horrid for the LTR equivalent of a blink of an eye and now everything’s fine again. So please do tell him and use the Capt’s scripts, cos we stinky-pitted, dirty-bummed partners really need (and, if we’re honest, want) to know!

    1. FWIW, while there is a lot of variability in smell sensitivities & etc, human brains are wired to stop noticing odors we smell frequently! The theory is that when the same chemicals land on the smell sensors in your nose’s olfactory epithelium over and over again, the neurons stop firing and/or your brains stops directing attention to it. This process is termed olfactory adaptation.

      This is part of the reason some people get into a perfume/cologne Arms Race – they can’t smell it, so they put on more, which makes them smell it *less*, which makes them put on MOAR…

      If you ever need to “reset” your smell to check the pits on your workout shirts (a problem I also have – solidarity fistbump to the Society of Smelly Pits) coffee beans work.

      1. Yes! Thank you for the SoSP fistbump of solidarity 😀 and right back at you!

        I knew there was a thing where if you smell something a lot, it stops smelling (like for people who work at rubbish dumps) but it has never occurred to me to apply it to myself! I went through a period at school of being the weird kid who smelled because [FAMILY REASONS] so there is a history of smelling bad and going about my day not realising it.

        I am definitely trying the coffee bean thing, that is amazing, thank you!

      2. IrishUp’s science is 100% correct. Four for you, IrishUp. Solidarity makeouts of varying intensity!

        I have a pair of shoes that are magically and erratically imbued with the smell of Wiltshire, i.e. cow shit. I don’t notice the smell, and I’m never quite sure what combination of stress/activity/temperature sets them off. My husband has evolved a certain thoughtful expression that he directs at my feet, so that I know they’ve gone past their sell-by date. Actually he stares into middle distance and expresses surprise. “perhaps someone is laying manure in their flower beds?”

        I am grateful to know, actually. Nobody wants to evoke the smell of cow shit and not be told.

    2. Since you read UFYH, you obviously know about vinegar. Every so often, I do a pre-load vinegar (yes, diluted!) soak of my tee shirts, because I am paranoid about them smelling bad, and it does seem to help with that “build up” problem. I also routinely put vinegar in the fabric softener holder.

      You are not alone!

      1. Aw shucks guys, me and my stinky pits are getting all sentimental from this support! Thank you 😀

        Also, I call The Sentimental Pits as a band name

      2. I love vinegar! I’ve also had good luck using Borax as a laundry additive for particularly stinky (cycling clothes, ewwww) loads.

        1. My sister uses baking soda and swears by it. She says it lasts all day while conventional deodorants don’t. I find it deeply disconcerting because I find it works _too_ well. When I use it I don’t smell like anything at all, and I start to feel like I’m not really there (I’m a very smell-oriented person).

          1. Thanks! That seems like a pretty cool project that I’m definitely not going to do in the next year, but might think about when I return stateside. I also found (because after I posted the question, I remembered that I am capable of Googling) sites like http://www.mit.edu/~rei/deodorant.html which answered my question about how you’re obviously not just putting the powder straight on your skin where it wouldn’t stay, or where it would be all granular and itchy. I tried the water-baking soda paste (which is probably about the amount of effort I want to put into making anythingthese days) this morning and it seems to be working pretty well so far today.

          2. Yes, exactly. She wets her fingers, dips them in baking soda, and rubs it on her armpits. Maybe it sticks better because she doesn’t shave there?

          3. I’ve tried this out for the last few days, and I can confidently report that my reaction is “WHAT SORCERY IS THIS” because WOW does it work well!

            Captainawkward.com, always offering ways to be better at life!

  24. Wow. When I lived in a shared house with one bathroom and had an illness that meant I spent pretty much all my time pooping, I got a bucket with a lid to keep in my bedroom. Pooping in a bucket wasn’t exactly fun (and poop-disposal brought with it some logistical challenges) but it was better than forcing everyone else in the house to hold it while I monopolised the bathroom. What I’m getting at is: I don’t think the LW’s boyfriend’s behaviour is really about bowel problems, because there are ways around that. It’s hard for me not to see his behaviour as being about control and emotional abuse.

    1. i was pregnant in a house with 5 adults and one bathroom, plus all of us had to be at work at approximately the same time.

      I peed in the compost heap more than once on mornings when someone was in the shower when i woke up. But in general when no one was ill or pregnant, we all shared just fine. Except for one woman who for some reason had to be in the bathroom for like an hour and 15 minutes every morning. So for a while I started waking up before her and getting in the bathtub (something I would not normally do on a busy morning) to block her from the bathroom. I was aware it was an asshole move but reminding her we all had to get ready didn’t help, so I went with asshole. She got really mad at me and yelled and cried about how UNFAIR it was for me to be in there for an hour when she needed to use the bathroom.

      It’s TOTALLY a power struggle move, on both sides.

      1. For several years I hung out with a group of people who all went to weekend events together, and we’d sleep 2 couples to a room to split expenses. Which was fine except for one guy who had the habit of getting up earlier than anyone else and getting into the shower, and taking an hour or more to get out. And of course the shower running would wake other people up, and they’d need to pee, and it got fairly awkward sometimes. Eventually I took him aside and explained the problem… and y’know what? HE STOPPED DOING THAT. He genuinely hadn’t thought it through, was all, and once the issue was pointed out to him, he didn’t *want* to piss people off.

        That’s a normal-person response. What I’m seeing from LW#354’s BF is not.

  25. I feel such empathy for #353… I’m a nurse and I happen to be acutely aware of body odor (mine and others’). I was stunned to find out people don’t bathe daily, and they’re blissfully unaware of smeared poop between their cheeks. I started using toilet paper *and* flushable moist wipes after each bowel movement. I’m also much more attentive to thoroughly bathing the perianal area with soap and water daily. The bigger picture, though, is how will you manage daily life with a person who grew up without the very important life skill of knowing how to keep house? He has had no model for how to clean a home. I think this is huge red flag. Skid marks may well be the least of your problems.

    1. I think you’re blowing things way out of proportion here. Adults can learn things. Just because a person grew up in a messy or even dirty house doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to keep a clean one.

      Also, not everyone needs to shower every day. Some people are better off if they don’t. It depends on how much you sweat, how much you smell, how dry your skin and hair get. If I shower more than two or three times a week I get terrible dry, itchy skin and my hair gets weirdly greasy. I don’t sweat much and I just don’t get that stinky in two or three days, so that’s a schedule that works for me. Other people are different. There is no universal rule of bathing frequency.

      1. People don’t have to bathe daily, but as a nurse, B.A. gets way more exposure to BO than you do (unless you are also a nurse) and gets to be put-off by it here so that s/he can keep a straight face at his/her job.

        My friend who is a bikini waxer also gets to wish aloud that people would bathe more.

      2. Agreed with everything Jake says. I know LOTS of people who don’t bathe daily, for lots of reasons. Being judgmental about it isn’t going to fix their sensitive skin, or disability, or whatever.

        1. You guys, *I* don’t bathe daily.

          People don’t have to bathe daily. You can have compassion about why people might not bathe on any given day or why they smell – health, access, poverty, culture, mental illness, age, whatever – there are a lot of *very* good reasons. But when you’re dealing with them up-close-and personal, you get to think “I wish this person had taken a bath today” inside your head and it doesn’t make you a dick. And if you’re a bikini waxer you get to send a client to the bathroom with some wipes and ask them politely to clean things up. And if you’re having sex with someone, you get to say “Wash your ass please, dear” or “Let’s wash your ass, dear” before you put your parts near their parts without being an ableist judgmental dick.

          1. I agree with all of that. What really got my back up was “I was stunned to find out people don’t bathe daily …” and “… how will you manage daily life with a person who grew up without the very important life skill of knowing how to keep house?”

            It just seemed excessive. Not huge-fucking-deal-we-have-to-throw-down-now excessive, just, hey-there’s-some-room-for-some-flexibility-here excessive.

          2. I went to a public school in a very small town. We had 2 music teachers, 2 art teachers, classes in darkroom photography, college-level equivalent courses in Shakespeare, Epic Literature, English Literature, Drama, and poetry, advanced Chemistry, Physics, and Biology, multiple foreign languages including Latin.

            I thought everyone’s school was like that. We all have our moments when we learn when our expectations are based on privilege. The commenter was sharing one of hers.

            And it DOES suck to live with someone who never learned how to keep a house. Even if it’s not their fault.

          3. It can suck, but don’t you think calling it a red flag is going a bit far? I mean, if they ignore the very simple “I have different standards of house keeping than you, so for me to feel like this is a nice place to be, I need you to do x,y,z in a,b,c time-frame, ok?”, then you’ve found an asshole, but I don’t think something that can be fixed with a simple conversation can be a red flag unless the conversation fails.

          4. Joan, having lived with a partner who almost never grocery shopped or cooked or cleaned the kitchen, having dated someone who was otherwise lovely who had dusty paths through the dusty piles of things and whose ancient stinky threadbare towels left bits of towel on me when I dried myself off after a shower and where I woke up with red sore eyes and a scratch throat because I was actively allergic to his home, and having read stuff like this, yeah – how someone keeps their house can be a bright waving red flag.

            Check out this comment for a portrait of how it looks when two people with radically different standards of clean *do* make it work.

            If you’re talking about red flags as strictly *abuse* warning signs I agree that it’s harsh, but red flags can also mean “Pay attention, this may mean you are incompatible or make you unhappy.”

          5. I *do* shower every day, and I agree with you (and with Joan of Anon below, although the comment threading won’t let me reply to her). BA’s comment just seemed….overreactive.

          6. ” BA’s comment just seemed….overreactive.”

            Not to me, BA is a nurse and is up close and personal to your body than the regular Joe outside the personal bubble of space. Before I go to a dentist I always brushed my teeth and clean my nose, the latter because a dental hygienist friend of a friend was complaining about seeing up people’s snotty noses while she’s cleaning their teeth.

          7. Yes, this. As someone with some housekeeping issues and also an anxiety disorder that frequently takes the form of “I will never be functional enough to be a relationship so I shouldn’t try,” that felt shaming to me even though I wasn’t the target.

          8. You should think twice about cohabitng with an obsessively neat person, for sure. I’m not saying it will NEVER work out (I am personally getting a lot better after discovering UfYH) but it will take time and patience.

            But you get to choose that just as much as they do. They can look at your house on a date and think “No way, Jose.” You can look at their color-coded sock drawer and think “I would not be happy living with this person and they would not be happy with me, we are too different about these things.” They would be squicked out by ______ problem. You would feel nagged and judged and uncomfortable in your own house. Both are bad.

            Here’s an example:

            I once rode with someone whose car was full of fast-food wrappers that still had trace amounts of rotting food inside them and the smell made me instantly gag and have to get out of the car and take the bus home.

            I’m sure the person’s feelings were very hurt, especially since s/he was doing me a favor by offering me a ride. The person had some major depression issues going on at the time. I’m sure s/he didn’t even notice the smell anymore since everything had accumulated over time. I’m sure s/he felt ashamed. I also felt horrible and cruel.

            But I also couldn’t stay in that car, and I’m not obligated to stay in that car to prevent the other person from maybe feeling shame, and I’m not obligated to pretend that I’m okay with riding in cars full of rotting food stench in case someone somewhere might feel shame. I don’t have to stay in the car because: fairness.

            I hope you find a relationship with someone who embraces your quirks readily. Not everyone will. But as much as possible try to remind yourself that you also get to choose. You are also choosing. And you will also have things that are dealbreakers for you on the way to finding the person who fits you best.

  26. LW#354, a few points to consider:

    1) “Soon” means within 15 minutes or so. Two hours is not “soon”, and “soon means soon” is a copout.

    2) You are being the frog in the pot here. Think about it — if you were just starting a relationship with someone and he spent hours in the bathroom every night, how long would that relationship last? But because it’s come on gradually, you don’t see it for the level of problem that it is.

    3) Sooner or later *you* are going to have the flu, or a case of food poisoning, or something else that means you need the bathroom RIGHT NOW and for more than just peeing. Is he going to make you do *that* in the sink too?

    4) You are under no moral obligation to damage yourself while waiting for [a miracle to occur | him to get better]. This is not something that you just have to put up with because you love him — and it’s also not something that you can change; he has to do that. And this goes WAY beyond “inconsiderate roommate” behavior; not even the most inconsiderate of roomies would have let it get to you having to pee in the sink even once, let alone more than once! That’s just more levels of wrong than I have words to describe.

    1. Think about it — if you were just starting a relationship with someone and he spent hours in the bathroom every night, how long would that relationship last? But because it’s come on gradually, you don’t see it for the level of problem that it is.

      I think sometimes in these situations we get caught up in not seeing the sunk cost of the relationship for what it is. We get to a certain point and we keep putting up with things because we’ve already spent all this time and put all of this effort into a relationship! Unfortunately we miss the fact that that time and effort is expended whether we continue to put up with things or not, and what we have at stake is our FUTURE happiness, not feeling like we got some sort of appropriate value out of the past.

      (Not that I’m saying whether or not the LW should get out, that’s obviously hir choice, but your standard of “if we were at a different point in this relationship, what would I think?” is a good reality check.)

  27. LW1

    I’m going to share something with you about my other half, who I adore, that ties in to a degree with you. My partner sometimes wets the bed. He was born with a whole host of medical problems and deformities, spent most of his childhood in and out of hospital while they built him his very own custom bladder/bowel/genital system, and will use a catheter to pee for the rest of his life. He doesn’t have the stomach wall muscle development most of us use to hold our pee and, since he has an artificial bladder and urethra, wouldn’t be able to use them to control it even if he could. 99.9% of the time he is fine, but just once in a while we’ll wake up in a wet bed.

    It happened the very first night he slept with me.

    What we did, was talk about it. I made sure he knew I wasn’t freaking out or anything. We talked about how/why it happens, and over time we’ve developed some simple strategies for dealing with it. Most of his embarassment went away once he realised I wasn’t going to laugh in his face or scream “ewwwww!” or otherwise react like a horrible person, and that instead I actually accepted this as part of the price of admission for getting to be with someone awesome.

    Believe me, if your partner isn’t an irredeemable arse, he cares about your comfort. And if he’s ever had any kind of intimate relationship and had naked time with anyone other than you, he’s already had at least SOME conversations with previous partners, and knows to expect them.

    That said, and I’m ENTIRELY projecting here, hygiene issues are different with him, and I’m thinking they might play a part with your partner, too. My other half’s Handmade Body was a work-in-progress for quite a while. He got used to having temporary holes for peeing in his side that would leak at the slightest touch. He became accustomed to the idea that he’d be dirty for part of the day. So he’s not someone that, generally speaking, sees personal hygiene the same way most others do.

    Even if medical issues play a part for your partner, it might also be the case that the messy side-effects of his medical history are also relevant, especially considering the lack of positive hygiene role-models he had growing up, based on what you’ve said.

    At the end of the day though, it all still comes down to you need to talk to him. Things will be better for BOTH of you when you do.

    As for LW2…

    Your other half is just an arsehole. Even accounting for personal issues, physical or emotional or otherwise, that he might be having. If he cares so little about you that he’d rather see you crying after peeing in the sink, or in pain from a bladder infection, than give you a few simple minutes of time to access your ONLY BATHROOM, he’s an arsehole.

  28. May I suggest an additional rule, or possibly a condition taht you discuss with your couple’s counselor?

    No more laptop/ iPad on the toilet.

    No books, no newspapers, no phones, no whatever.

    The bathroom is for going to the bathroom, it is not a leisure space. If he does have a health condition that may make his trips to the bathroom a bit boring, but the bathroom is supposed to be boring. You’re supposed to get bored reading all of the instructions on every product under the sink, and then you are supposed to leave the bathroom until you feel sick again and go back.

    I think the electronic media in particular is a major contributor, because you never run out of stuff to read. If he finishes a comic book, or a movie all he has to do is download another one, there is no need to even leave briefly. There is no “end” to the internet, he never gets to a “stopping point” with the iPad where he thinks, Oh I’ll just wipe my ass and go do xyz. Because there is always more iPad!

    I don’t love this, because I don’t love having to make up rules for adults. But also I don’t think your bathroom’s default setting should be “occupied except during these designated times when I get to use it.” The bathroom should be open except for those few times where you both have a big dinner and have to argue about who goes first. (clearly my partner and I also share 1 bathroom.) I think a major step to making the bathroom a shared space would be making that shared space less appealing, by making it no longer a private space for infinite media consumption.

    Also, major ew to laptops on the toilet. Maybe it is just a personal thing, but keyboards are really hard to clean.

    1. A sort of compromise half-way point might be only one magazine in the bathroom or something similar, too, LW, if you feel like “no entertainment at all” in the bathroom is going to be too much too soon. It leaves SOMETHING there for distraction, but it has a definite (and at least reasonably brief) end point that could help.

      1. I just can’t with the rules/compromise idea in this case. It’s true- rules for adults in a sitch like this is bad news. This BF is, as far as I can see, being abusive and controlling. There is no compromise to this abusive controlling behavior, because it’s not about the bathroom. It’s about the controlling. Agh. I just think, dude, stop controlling or partner leaves. If he’s being a reasonable person about bathroom use, he could have knitting or playdoh or whatever in there and it wouldn’t matter because her access wouldn’t be limited. AKsjaskljdhflkajehlkerjhfklwefwef.

        I mean, if a therapist or whoever establishes rules with BF so he knows how to manage his potty time better, okay, whatever. But for LW, the only thing she should have to say is “you need to make this resource accessible to me and I don’t care how you find the skills to do it.”

        I am also so angry on behalf of LW2. Obviously.

        1. Agreed. Also, I don’t think the BF will listen to reason or consider the very intelligent questions posed to him WRT what he does at work, etc. (Those are questions the LW could ask HERSELF and then follow up with: if he can be considerate at work, why am I not worthy of the same consideration?)

          You know why I don’t think he’ll listen to reason or well-worded appeals to empathy, etc.? Because the LW was reduced to tears because she had to pee in the sink. TWICE. And her BF still gets stroppy and goes off on her when she says she needs to use the toilet. He did not react with horror at what he put her through and IMMEDIATELY change his behavior FOR GOOD. Oh, he apologizes, but he’s right back to doing this and doesn’t seem to give a single fuck about his girlfriend’s comfort or health. No, he’s okay with injuring her. And if it’s not the bathroom, it will be something else, I guarantee you.

          I am (NOT) sorry for saying this: a good person wouldn’t put their partner through that. This guy’s behavior is so fucking infuriating that I’d be tempted to pee on every single article of his clothing.

          1. This. Totally this. Physical condition or no, he is an abuser, nothing less.

            I’d be pouring pee into his laptop. While it’s sitting on his bare legs.

        2. That’s a very good point. I think rules would help modify the behavior, since it seems like it’s so heavily ritualized at this point as to be difficult to control, but that’s a coping mechanism that it shouldn’t be LW’s job to establish, it needs to be boyfriend actively seeking help to change the behavior.

        3. in this case, she could make rules until she’s blue in the face….its not going to help. if its not going to be the bathroom, its going to be the food, or the tv, or the computer, or her friends, or sex/affection, or the car….he will find some way to exert control over her. people like this DO NOT CHANGE. its sad but true. i dated someone like this for almost 8 years. everything had to be on HIS terms. its like the dude thought his word was gospel or something. i finally grew some balls, and kicked his controlling ass to the curb. i refused to continue to be looked at as a weak willed woman, willing to put up with his array of bullshit just because i was *comfortable.* amazingly, 2 weeks after i gave him the boot, i met my husband. 🙂 i’m now with someone who is truly my partner in life, in every sense of the word. i’m a lucky bitch. 🙂

  29. Letter #354 nudged me out of lurker status to comment. I was steaming while reading that letter! In addition to all the wonderful points that were made above about possible health problems, I suffer from chronic UTIs and even though you don’t (or I assume not bc you likely would’ve mentioned it?) I literally cringed for you. I felt myself reaching for the bottle of Cranberry pills and D-Mannose in my desk!

    Please tell your partner that your urethra is far more important than his desire to read manga in the bathroom. But more importantly YOU are far more important than his desire/condition/whatever he has convinced himself makes it ok to be abusive to you in this way.

    Me and my urethra are angry for you and your urethra.

  30. LW2, I completely understand the desire not to put your partner on the defensive. It can be awkward and unpleasant. In this case, he SHOULD be defensive. You are profoundly uncomfortable already—make it uncomfortable for him. Listen to his responses because they give you clues. It ultimately doesn’t matter WHY this behavior is occurring because the result remains: you can’t pee on your own schedule in your own home, and you are crying and losing sleep and missing opportunities over it. That is unacceptable. If you went hungry because your partner either ate all the food, never gave you money to buy any, or kept a lock on the fridge, the solution wouldn’t be to buy another fridge for yourself. The solution would be to GTFO ASAP because WTF.

    I say this as someone without a relevant medical condition that frequently spends hours on the toilet just because I get distracted by a book or a phone game. Would I rather relax on a couch than have my legs fall asleep in the bathroom? Of course I would. My brain doesn’t always work like that, because I start out with one intention (read a few pages while I do my business) and then completely forget I’m even in the bathroom at all. (Once when I was a kid, I was reading at the kitchen table and legit didn’t notice the smoke pouring from my mom’s saucepan of warming milk until she came in and shouted at me that the stove was on fire.)

    So yeah, it could be a personality quirk that’s gotten out of hand, or a clue to any number of deeper mental or physical health concerns. But you still have to deal with the behavior, which is really not okay. If your summary of the relationship is “he’s a great guy but he leaves the toilet seat up,” that’s one thing; when it’s “he’s a great guy but I’m forced to pee in the sink,” that is a huge but and is telling you something important. Please trust your own wise self.

  31. Okay. I’m not as mature as everyone else here. The next time he pulls this stunt, LW#2, pee on his things. Preferably his pillow or his favorite clothes. And leave them directly in front of the bathroom door. Or in his shoes. Or on something that would totally wreck his life. The work briefcase might be a good thing.

    Forget the crying and using the sink garbage. That’s hurting you, and at what cost to him? Nothing apparently. If he’s not willing to open his eyes then, he’s never going to.

    1. Good answer to “What would a cat do?” and highlights the way he is treating the LW like a pet he forgets to walk.

    1. I wish it would have been the astronomy instead of Death By Sad Pee Situation but we work with what we have.

      1. I am sleep deprived and read that as Death by Pad See Situation and couldn’t figure out how we ended up talking about Thai food. (Also, usually Pad See Ew isn’t that hot – it shouldn’t kill you. Lard Prik on the other hand…)

  32. Wow, LW354. Your boyfriend’s behavior reminds me of the dynamic I had with my dad as a child. Every school night, he’d tell me repeatedly that it was time to turn the lights off and go to bed. I’d be all “Okay, just a a minute!” and just keep on reading until he finally just took my book away. And every school morning, I’d be tired from staying up reading and I’d respond to each of his time-to-wake-up knocks with “I’m already up, jeez dad” and keep on sleeping in until he’d finally come in at T-15 minutes and threaten to pour a pitcher of water on me. Except, y’know, your boyfriend is a freaking adult, you are not his mommy, and his selfish and transparent denials don’t just inconvenience you, they actually keep you from fulfilling your goddamned biological needs. And you crying out of frustration isn’t a sufficient wake-up call to him??

    Clearly something’s going on with him that he’s not saying, but as much as I’m tempted to speculate on what it is I know that won’t help you, so. Maybe in couples counseling you could discuss setting a house rule that reading devices aren’t allowed in the bathroom for X weeks? I have a hard time imagining it being as rewarding for him to spend all that time on the toilet without his iPad there to entertain him.

  33. I generally agree with the Captain, but for #354, I’m going to disagree slightly

    I like the “immediately/in two weeks/in a month” structure, but I’m going to go one step further and talk about what to do if those improvements don’t happen. (or, more likely, if they happen for a little when, and then stop)

    1.) Start saving money in a place where the partner cannot find it.
    2.) Starting building “Team You”, LW. People who can provide emotional support, places to hang out and/or stay, and possibly carry boxes when needed.

    I was ready to come up with scenarios where the guy spending hours in the bathroom wasn’t abusive. You know, taking about how it’s hard to have “alone-time” in a 1-bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment, or how some guys have a hard time asking to be left alone when they’re at home with their girlfriend.

    But that’s not what’s happening here. LW, you need to move out of that house, and you need to do it soon. You don’t have to break up with this guy, but you should not be living with him, not now, not until you both get some counselling.

    …on two separate occasions when he came out of the bathroom only to find me crying because I had to pee in the sink out of sheer desperation. Each time he apologized to me and promised to be more considerate in the future, but then over the course of a week or so slipped back into his old ways.

    That right there? That’s the same pattern a lot of other types of abuse follow. Tension builds up, something awful happens to the victim that causes trauma, the abuses apologies and promises to be better in the future, and then old habits reassert themselves.

    Let’s see if there are other red flags…

    I asked him if he was holing himself up in the bathroom all the time because he wanted to avoid me and he told me “no” and seemed hurt at the suggestion…

    I don’t know how to tell him how much this hurts me without offending him!

    I cannot tell you how worried I am that after having to pee in a sink, in tears, your concern is not offending him. That suggests some very scary dynamics about where you both rank your health and happiness versus his comfort and security.

    1. “I cannot tell you how worried I am that after having to pee in a sink, in tears, your concern is not offending him. That suggests some very scary dynamics about where you both rank your health and happiness versus his comfort and security.”


      LW2, please, please take a look at these dynamics. This seems pretty clearly abusive to me.

  34. LW #354: I just want to throw out there that even if the label “abusive behavior” doesn’t feel right to you, it doesn’t really change what your best course of action is. If abuse isn’t in fact at play here, then something equally troubling is, something that is keeping your partner from behaving in a reasonable way. No matter what the cause, the end result is the same: he is treating his *ritualized* need for the bathroom as more important than your *actual* needs, and that’s Not Okay. Whether the root cause is malicious or not, it looks like you’ve got to be the one to make a change.

    1. Very well said. Even if you don’t want to think about it as a case of abuse, it IS a case of someone who has some significant issues that make him not an acceptable partner at this time, or at the very least not one to live with. Someone can have issues that aren’t explicitly their fault but that still make them not a good partner.

    2. “he is treating his *ritualized* need […] as more important than your *actual* needs”

      Thank you thank you thank you. This distinction made me realize just what bothered me so much about some things in my relationship with my ex.

      1. Glad it helped! It’s funny how sometimes figuring out the exact way to describe a thing lets your brain finally shuffle all the pieces together. That happens to me all the time.

  35. LW #2’s boyfriend pisses me off so much that I kind of…want to go pee on him.

    (Also, this is really juvenile, but I was a bit amused that letter #1 is about #2s, and letter #2 is about #1s…)

    1. Right there with you. I went so far as to try to figure out the logistics of how it would work for a woman to be able to effectively do so.

      1. I have never peed on an actual person, but for other instances where peeing standing up is immensely helpful, I like this. (Not graphic, but might not be really work safe.)

        1. Go-girls! Yes, I was thinking of these too, though of course I would advocate for LW #2 to actually, yannow, have access to a bathroom. This is for camping or foul public toilets or gender-affirming-standing-while-peeing stuff, NOT a tool to adapt to Partner’s total lack of consideration for her needs.

          1. Oh, I absolutely agree.

            I was responding in the very narrow context of the nuts and bolts of stand-up peeing with a vulva — not intending to suggest that this was a possible solution to the LW’s issue.

      1. It’s nice to have a caring cat. Mine would just go “Huh, human making stupid noises again.” 😉

  36. #354


    …sorry! I couldn’t help it.

    Even if your partner is dealing with a serious physical or mental health issue (like this lady, that doesn’t give him a pass to treat you like, well, shit. SORRY! Apparently I am four. If you want to give him another chance the Captain’s advice looks really sound. I second whoever said upthread to start saving money he can’t access. If you’re concerned about things going south quickly a safe deposit box is a good place for important documents and a little spare cash.

  37. LW2:

    I would just like to mention that I have at times lived in a one bathroom house with eight (EIGHT!) other people and we had no problems sharing. Even though one of those people was a barely potty-trained kid and another had intestinally upsetting health problems. Sometimes it’s a matter of letting someone else poop while you take a shower or visa versa, even if it’s awkward. Sometimes it’s a matter of letting people know in advance that you’ll be in there a while, or of taking a break even if you’re not completely “done.” There was much cooperation, consideration, and frank discussion of various personal needs.

    I would not say that nine people sharing one bathroom is comfortable or ideal. But it CAN work if everyone tries…. which means if your situation isn’t working, it’s because he’s CHOOSING not to try.

  38. I feel like I have some expertise in this subject. I have Graves, with lots of extended stay bathroom issues. My best friend/sister has crohn’s disease of a severe nature. We both stayed in a one bedroom apartment. Since I’m a long term bathroom camper, and she’s more of an emergency evacuator, we had to come up with ground rules. Not to mention my poor husband who was living there too. We just made sure whoever had to use the toilet, got it. Since I was the camper, I moved when needed as fast as possible.

    Oh, and never freaking once, did anyone have to pee in a sink. We

  39. A loved one using the word “soon” when they really mean “when I damn well feel like it” and getting angry when called on it and saying “soon means soon” is 100% gaslighting. It has the effect of making you question your own sense of reality vis a vis the passage of time, and of making it clear that your sense of the passage of time is irrelevant and unreal, and only their own is relevant and real.

  40. Oh, LW 354 … this is Not Okay.

    When I was married, my now-ex pulled similar stunts with me. I noticed after a while that he always had “digestive issues” when he was angry with me (excuse me, when I had Done Something Wrong, which was often). One evening, he locked himself in our only bathroom for over 3 hours. In that span of time, I had to go to the bathroom so badly that I walked to the closest gas station, relieved myself, walked back, and then (then!) got in more trouble for leaving the apartment without telling him where I was going and without fixing my earlier mistake, whatever it had been.

    This whole comment thread is full of similar horror stories.

  41. Okay, I ran the basics of #354 past my partner to get a male perspective. His immediate response: “He’s surfing porn.” I mentioned that the LW thought not, and his second response was, “He’s playing WoW or some other interactive online game.” That may make more sense, because it definitely explains the hours-on-end thing. It does not explain why he has to do it *in the bathroom*, though! My guy suggests that if he’s on a laptop, or an iPad that’s not a 3G or better, you learn how to shut down the router in your apartment when you need to get in to shower or pee. That will stop the web-surfing and get him the hell out of there.

  42. Wow, 354, that whole “soon means soon” is bullshit. It’s mean and controlling, and aggressive. And I don’t like him for it.

  43. In the second letter, well, I hate to say it, but the likeliest explanation is that there’s some serious toxic emotional shit going on. I get the feeling he’s trying to punish her. He can’t be unaware that she needs the bathroom. If he’s a feminist, the bare minimum is accepting the premise that women are people. If women are people, that means they need showers and toilets. After forcing her to pee in a sink once—once—if he wasn’t pulling some weird power trip, then his shame and horror at hurting someone he loves should have scared him off forever.

    It is possible he has a mental health problem. But he would still display shame and a desire not to hurt her. His indifference to severely humiliating her suggests otherwise.

    Driving someone to act like a scared animal just reads like a power trip and a weird form of abuse.

  44. I will say if she’s not ready to accept that he’s a particularly creative abuser—he even found a way to humiliate and control a feminist that is both hard to recognize for what it is AND is hard to mention to friends!—getting two bathrooms might help. Especially if she also stops allowing him to isolate her from friends. Right now, the bathroom is a convenient excuse to accomplish that favorite batterer goal of isolating her from others. By interrupting her sleep and making her miss social occasions, he is alienating her from her Team You.

    If they get two bathrooms, I would bet he finds another strategy to isolate and humiliate her. I bet he will even become “cured” of this problem. Maybe then she can see it.

    I recently had food poisoning so bad I slept by the bathroom. Even then, my partner was able to shower and pee normally. So, no, it’s not likely biological, especially as a previous commenter pointed out that he can work without this and he was able to avoid this behavior while wooing you.

    1. “I will say if she’s not ready to accept that he’s a particularly creative abuser—”

      Just this past Sunday our minister talked about creative sufferers, like those who have been dying for thirty years and are healthier than you and me. The goal is the same for these creative abusers and sufferers, to passively-aggressively control and isolate their targets. I wouldn’t be surprised either if they got a second bathroom and the “great feminist guy” is suddenly cured of hogging the bathroom. My dad used to beat my mom because she put too much salt in the food. When she left and Dad cooked dinners, he over saturated the meat with soy sauce but that’s okay because soy cause isn’t salt, it just contains alot of salt (roll eyes).

    2. “he’s a particularly creative abuser —”

      Just this past Sunday our minister talked about creative sufferers, like those who have been dying for 30 years and are healthier than you and me. The goals of the creative abusers and creative sufferers are the same, to control and isolate their targets.

    3. LW, I wonder what would happen if you go by transit or foot to use a bathroom somewhere else? His response might give an indication to whether this is about punishing you or about some unremedied internal issue he is facing that is making him unbelievably oblivious to what he’s doing to you.

  45. I can’t help but think of “The bathroom” by Jean-Phillipe Toussaint. I do not know if the English translation is good but it is worth a try. It is the story of a guy who starts living more and more in his bathroom.

    It is quite funny in an understated, inronic way so it might help you defuse some of the stress of your situation.

    I can only encourage you to solve this situation rather quickly. Maybe he is suffering of a lack of a space where he can retreat to himself. It might be an interesting question to ask him. But this behaviour needs to change quickly.

    1. Maybe he is suffering of a lack of a space where he can retreat to himself. It might be an interesting question to ask him. But this behaviour needs to change quickly.

      LW 2 asked him about it and he said no.

      1. Aside from that fact, there are plenty of far better ways to get space if someone needs it. Most people who need space will do something like go for a long bike ride. They’ll go meet a friend a few times a week without their partner. They’ll maximize their time alone in the house to read or nap or meditate or do floor slides or whatever they need to do when they’re alone. They will not lock themselves in the only bathroom for several hours multiple times a day. Far from allowing them space, this behavior in fact puts them in a situation where their partner is literally clamoring for their attention in desperation so that they won’t piss themselves.

  46. LW1, I feel for you. This can be one of the hardest things to talk about, even if you are generally good at using your words, even without the added complication of his colon surgery. When I was younger, with my first boyfriend, I realised that while we had excellent communication in the bedroom (he was good about telling me exactly what he wanted in bed, which was great as it helped me to talk more too even though I was shy) I could not think of a way to tell him he had terrible breath. Everything I had heard about relationships told me that telling him this and how it affected me, as someone who would get up close and personal with his mouth, would mean I was being mean to him. I also suspected he would be very offended because he was quite sensitive, and I didn’t know how to ride that out or if I even wanted to because our relationship was hitting difficulties in other areas. In the end we broke up because of the other problems but I was never brave enough to tell him. So I understand how hard it is to talk about someone else’s hygiene.

    But as the Captain and many commenters have been saying, his bodily hygiene is your business because you are sleeping with him, and it’s ok for you to say something. Your letter makes it clear that you really love him and your relationship sounds solid, so use the Captain’s scripts and I’m sure things will turn out fine.

  47. Also this… “Some days when we get home from work he will grab his laptop or the iPad as soon as we get home and then spend the entire evening on the toilet until we go to sleep… I asked him if he was holing himself up in the bathroom all the time because he wanted to avoid me and he told me “no” and seemed hurt at the suggestion.”
    He is avoiding you and won’t talk about it. This is not a “great feminist guy.”

    1. This. I find it amazing how many guys can convince the world that they’re “great feminist guys” because they know feminist theory or make a big deal over rape culture and how they’re so totally against it or whatever, and somehow this “great feminist” label that’s all talk manages to stick despite them acting in some pretty un-feminist ways.

  48. I once accidentally almost made my best friend pee in a sink (she was staying at my flat where the bathroom was out in the main building, I went to work and absent-mindedly locked the door on the way out, then had to dash all the way home again when I got her angry and panicked phonecall an hour later). I still feel terrible about that years after the fact, and just cannot conceive of how much inconsideracy it would take to let that happen TWICE, in circumstances where it could be fixed by merely *stepping away from the can for a few minutes*, no cross-town travel required!

  49. LW2, I’ve been thinking about your questions and just feeling worse and worse for you. I hope you’re okay right now and that everyone’s advice is being helpful. I feel so angry for you and your boyfriend is…is just horrible beyond description.

    He’s told you he’s staying in the bathroom for hours because “he has a little gas” and is “more comfortable”. Now, I suppose we can’t know what his real reason is, but what we do know right there is that he thinks his being a bit more comfortable while reading is a good enough excuse for the amount he is hurting you. True or not, he thinks this is all the explanation you need or deserve. He’s a bag of dicks.

    At the end of the letter, you ask how to deal with this without offending him. LW, what has he done to you in the past 5 years to make you so worried about offending him that you’d rather pee in the sink?

    I’m projecting like hell because something I can’t put my finger on makes me feel like your boyfriend is similar to my Vader-ex. I think it’s because you say he’s a feminist guy, even though he doesn’t treat you like a person any more. Or because you seem to be scared of him and not even realise it. Why are you so worried about offending him? What is he going to do if you hurt his feelings? Because I reckon either you’re afraid of his angry, sulky shit-fits, or you’ve spent the past 5 years being trained that his needs are more important than yours and that is the way of things.

    I don’t think you want to be a person who feels either of those things, LW. I think you probably want to be a person who gets treated like a person and expects to be respected by everyone.

    The Captain’s advice is solid, but back up your needs with the anger and demand for respect that is entirely appropriate right now. If you want to stay with this man, not only do you need to be able to pee when you damn well want to, you need to feel like this isn’t something he’s graciously allowing you, or like it’s a compromise, or something you ‘work on together’. You need to feel like you’ve regained control of your own home, and your own body, which is what he is taking away from you here.

    Be harsh. Make him uncomfortable. Make him feel guilty because he fucking should. Make it clear that you won’t let him deny you your basic physical needs. Make it unpleasant for him to stay in the bathroom when you need to use it, by standing outside the door and counting down how long he has to leave. If he doesn’t leave, go in and pee in the shower, or pee in a cup outside the door. Narrate it. Make him fully aware of what he is doing to you. Don’t sound upset, sound matter of fact, say “Ok, I gave you a warning to get out of the bathroom and that time is up. Now I’m getting a cup. Now I’m peeing in a cup outside of the bathroom. This is happening because you think it is more important that you can read comics on the toilet than for me to be able to complete a basic, functional, human need. I am not going let you have control over when I pee and I think it is terrible that you think that this behaviour is okay.” Do it every time you need to pee. Keep your voice level and be confident.

    He needs to see what he is doing to you. And you need to take ownership of that fact that what he is doing is wrong, you know it and you won’t pretend otherwise to protect his feelings.

    Good luck, take care of yourself, and think about what all of the comments here say, because they are good, and these people all want you to be safe. You should be able to expect the same from your partner, and right now, you can’t.

    1. Hear, hear! Talk about working around a missing stair… if a realtor said “oh, by the way the toilet vanishes for several hours every morning and evening, right when you need it most,” who would rent that house???

    2. LW, what has he done to you in the past 5 years to make you so worried about offending him that you’d rather pee in the sink?

      QFT. LW, I hope you get to a safe, comfortable place in your life soon where you no longer have to worry about any of this.

    1. I am dating a ‘great feminist guy’. I do not usually feel the need to point out that he is a GFG because he has never done or said anything that would make it sound like he isn’t.

    2. A great feminist guy wouldn’t take advantage of the way women are socialized to be accommodating to a self-punishing degree.

      Seriously, there are men who put up with appalling crap in relationships, but I cannot imagine a man writing, “My girlfriend forces me to pee in the sink. How can I convince her to let me use the toilet without offending or annoying her? Because I don’t want to harsh on her life with my selfish need to pee or anything.”

      (On a related note, people who suggested that the first LW could playfully and sexily wipe his ass for him: no. I know you mean well, but no.)

  50. It seems like a lot of commenters are going back and forth over whether or not LW2’s partner intends to hurt or humiliate his partner–whether it’s a control thing–or whether he has some legitimate physical or psychological problem that makes him stay in the bathroom. This isn’t just kind of a red herring in terms of her reaction to the toilet embargo; it’s also a red herring in terms of his general attitude towards her.

    He can have perfectly good reasons to be in the bathroom; he can have an anxiety disorder or be depressed or unwell; he can also not care at all about his partner’s wellbeing.

    Abuse doesn’t have to seem like malice or hostility, and it doesn’t even have to involve a conscious desire to hurt or control people. Abuse is the inability or unwillingness to see someone as a human being with human needs and rights. Abusers can intend to be affectionate, sweet, or generous, on the terms they understand. And they can also be people with real personal problems of their own. But they neglect people: they treat them callously even when they aren’t being cruel, and they do damage.

    This is…well, like Captain Awkward said: this is seriously fucked up. It’s an obscene situation–it’s something you wouldn’t do to a dog. And even if he’s hurting or upset or unwell, he’s also a man who doesn’t know how to treat people.

    1. This. We don’t even have to call it abuse. This is a typical case of “If you’re standing on my foot, you need to get off my foot [regardless of WHY you’re standing on my foot].”

      1. Yes, I really like, this, as well as piny’s above perspective, and staranise’s below.

        Maybe this says more about me than about the situation, but when I read LW2’s story, my first thought was, “Man, this guy has a really serious emotional, physical, or mental issue and is in SERIOUS denial/lockdown about it.” I thought of an ex who described the compulsion of agoraphobia (that occurred and was dealt with before we knew one another) slowly creeping up on him such that it took him a while to realize what had happened. So I certainly think it’s possible that a person could slide into some kind of a compulsion or situation that is so completely overwhelming or that is so completely bound up with fear or anxiety that he can’t admit to it, much less take steps to deal with it. But the end result for LW2 is still the same: a humiliating, untenable situation and a partner who is unable or unwilling to work with her to change it… or who may even intentionally (consciously or subconsciously) subject her to its effects as a way of spreading the shit around… so to speak.

        So, LW2, if this is a sticking point for you, in a way I don’t think you should get hung up on whether it’s abuse or not. It is a wrong situation, it is a situation that no healthy and loving partner would ask his/her significant other to tolerate, and it needs to stop. He needs to get the fuck off your foot so you can walk over to damn bathroom and use it.

        Wishing you the best in moving forward, and soon!

    2. Yes, this! I’ve been kind of wincing at implications that abusers must MEAN to abuse, must be AWARE of their abuse. This is not a good model to go on, because then you can say, “Oh, he/she didn’t know! It wasn’t on purpose!” and then magically gets let off the hook.

      Abuse, really really often, is the misuse of other people to fulfill our emotional needs. It’s pushing or pulling them around, emotionally or physically, so they’re in a place that best suits us.

      I read a quote the other day in a book called Daring Greatly, in which a middle-aged woman is being interviewed about how she tries to numb her anxiety. It made me go “HOLY SHIT, PREVENTABLE ABUSE,” because it’s so clearly the kind of shit people write in to Captain Awkward about all the time, but also, it’s neither conscious nor wholly purposeful:

      “I used to take every good thing and imagine the worst possible disaster,” she told me. “I would literally picture the worst-case scenario and try to control all of the outcomes. When my daughter got into the college of her dreams, I just knew something bad would happen if she moved too far away. I spent the entire summer before she left trying to convince her to go to a local school. It crushed her confidence…”

      What this woman did to her daughter was NOT OKAY. It was her job to deal with her own anxiety, and use something other than bashing her daughter’s dreams up against a rock to do it. But her daughter might, quite rightly, claim, “My mother loves me, and was doing what she thought was best for me.” (And then, you know, feel guilty for criticizing her loving mother, and adamantly refuse the idea that maybe she deserved a mother who could get over herself and courageously encourage her, and think this kind of thing is reasonable and normal, lather rinse repeat.)

      I don’t believe, and haven’t encountered much research to support, the idea that most abusers are purposefully cruel and controlling people. Largely they are depressed, angry, lonely, ashamed, frightened people who have no way of dealing with that, without hurting other people.

        1. I haven’t seen anything in the research on abusive behaviour to make me think you’re right about this. At the very outside, I’ll grant that a lot of abusers lie to themselves about the effects of their actions, and convince themselves that their behaviour is okay, but that’s a stretch–overwhelmingly, abusers operate from a conscious place of “My actions are good and justifiable.” But what do I know; I’m just a trained professional.

    3. “Abuse doesn’t have to seem like malice or hostility, and it doesn’t even have to involve a conscious desire to hurt or control people. Abuse is the inability or unwillingness to see someone as a human being with human needs and rights. Abusers can intend to be affectionate, sweet, or generous, on the terms they understand. And they can also be people with real personal problems of their own. But they neglect people: they treat them callously even when they aren’t being cruel, and they do damage.”

      Thank you for this. This was exactly my experience with a former partner, and this clicked for me in a really excellent way.

      And yes. It doesn’t matter whether LW2’s partner *means* to hurt her that much. He is, and he is doing fuckall to remedy his hurtful actions, and that is a huge, huge problem.

      1. Exactly. My dad has no idea that he’s a neglectful, gaslighting, sorry excuse for a father who only loved me when I did what he wanted me to do and thought what he wanted me to think in exactly the ways he wanted me to do it. He thinks he loves me very much and is supportive–because all the ways I’m different from him are just me being wrong, and he’s helpfully correcting me and guiding me into being a better person, obviously. Except that he’s destroying my humanity and turning me into a lump of clay so thoroughly that even my taste in music is entirely dependent upon who I’m near. Hanging with Friend? I love techno. They leave? I hate it. I have no idea who I am because I’ve erased myself to make him love me. He’s a scared, cowardly, self-centered child and he didn’t mean to but it doesn’t matter.

        1. “I have no idea who I am because I’ve erased myself to make him love me.”

          Well, after replacing the pronoun from “him” to “her,” I will be crying all night, as that’s essentially the story of my life too.

        2. Wow, CheckeredFoxglove, I am so sorry. I hope you have or can find a good therapist who can help you deal with this. You don’t need to keep erasing yourself! You are unique and awesome, and the world wants you to be yourself and show who you are. Fuck your father.

          My father sounds a lot like yours, and you articulated the consequences of abuse so well, it made me realize I still have a tendency to hide what music I like from my partner including not listening to music in front of him because when I was a kid, if my father would find out I liked a certain band or whatever, he would freak out, mock and chastise me for weeks because he did not like it and then insist that I liked the same music as he did.

  51. LW, the first time he found you crying? That should have been his wake-up call. That should have been the point where he realized that his behavior was unacceptable. The fact that it happened TWICE without any lasting change following says to me that he’s probably not going to change, unless he has to face major consequences if he doesn’t. Maybe he’s given up, or maybe he doesn’t care. For your sake, I hope he’s given up. That’s fixable, if you follow the Captain’s advice. If he doesn’t care, on the other hand … well, if your boyfriend doesn’t care about your well-being, then you deserve better. But if he does care about you, and cares more about your feelings and health than his own habits, then he needs to show through his actions that he does.

      1. You are not being a dick, that was my thought as well. For these types of people, tears and humiliation are like heroin without the negative side effects, and after awhile they want to get high every second of every day.

  52. LW1 – Many great things have been said so far. Here are 2 things that came to mind for me –
    -I keep unscented baby wipes by the bed because I like to play with butts and sometimes the butts and/or the things I stick in ’em tend to get a bit messy. Having wipes by the bed means I can be like “oh, you just let me put things in your butt! here, let me clean that up for you.” Now, I don’t think you should be in charge of cleaning your partner’s butt – that’s SO his job – but maybe having something similar nearby can decrease any shame around banishing him to the bathroom to clean up. Here, look! Things aren’t quite tidy down there and I would like to do things that bring you pleasure, so take this little wipe and give it a go and then we’ll get down to business!
    -Thing the second: I read some advice from an acquaintance a while back about proper wiping and it has TOTALLY stuck with me and made my wiping way more effective.

    I myself have been playing with people’s asses for a long time, and I am a little casual about it. No, I am not into scat. Yes, if you want me to play with your ass, you should definitely clean it up. (I cannot tell you how many boys I have seen over the years who did not even wipe themselves properly. I’m serious. I think little boys do not get trained about wiping themselves as much as little girls do, or something.

    Here’s how you do it, gentlemen. While you are still sitting, wipe, and then look at the toilet paper. Is it dirty? Drop it, get a fresh handful and wipe again. Repeat this until the paper shows no smudges. Is that clear? The while you’re sitting part is important because it means your ass is more spread open and thus easier to clean.)

    Before reading that I’d sorta squat-up and that closed things off. Lo and behold! Spread cheeks = easier to clean up. The bears over at Erosblog got a little confused about the logistics of wiping while sitting, but one of the first comments figured it out first, you sorta lean forwards. Here’s the link: http://www.erosblog.com/2009/11/19/personal-hygiene-tips-from-venus/

    1. Some people squat up to wipe?

      Oh, my. That explains so much.

      I’m just going to suggest another alternative, which as I only recently learned, is called a lota: http://www.alternet.org/story/156296/what's_a_lota_let_me_explain_the_secrets_of_the_muslim_bathroom

      I discovered it on my own as a perhaps overly clean-obsessed child… but I *never* see a skid mark on my drawers unless I’m intestinally disordered, and more than one partner has complimented my “immaculate ass”. The wipe-till-the-paper’s-white technique works too, but can take so much wiping that it irritates my tender bits. (Tempting to try the moist wipes mentioned upstream, though. They sound very luxurious.)

      1. I still wasn’t much the wiser about what the lota is after reading that. Though I felt the annoyance of a left-hander for the old left-unclean association. I’ve always thought that if someone said that to me (unlikely, since I have no Muslim family or friends and I doubt they’d say it to a non-Muslim anyway) I’d point out that cleanliness also means Washing Your Hands Properly Afterward, therefore it isn’t a problem, thankyouverymuch.

        1. Yeah, the article is ridiculously poetic and roundabout when it comes to specifics. It’s any vessel you can fill with water, and then you pour it over your asscrack, cleaning it with the other hand. It’s nothing mysterious. Some people just reuse a soda bottle.

      2. Waaay late on this thread, but if you don’t have access to wet wipes (in a public bathroom with terrible toilet paper or something), you can flush the toilet and dip some paper in the clean water. Instant wet naps!

        PS also works great for getting blood stains off skin or out of hair not that I know from personal experience or anything.

    2. Repeat this until the paper shows no smudges.

      There are people over the age of five who don’t do this?

      Wow. Suddenly I feel like such a competent adult by comparison.

      1. I really don’t think that comments like this are productive. When you say, “there are people over the age of five who X?” you are effectively calling such people incompetent. People have different backgrounds, knowledge bases, and fundamental assumptions from you. That doesn’t make them stupid or immature or bad adults. It’s not helpful to shame people for not knowing stuff, even if you think that stuff is basic and obvious.

        1. I guess “assumptions” is the key word. Even after reading that, it didn’t occur to me that anyone else on this thread wouldn’t know. Apologies if I made anyone feel bad.

          If I did, please know that the “I feel like such a competent adult by comparison” came from a place of very much not feeling like a competent adult, because there are so many basic things I don’t do right. I thought, if bathroom hygiene is something not always to take for granted, maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up for not being able to get the grease off my stove (and a million other similar things).

        2. Sometimes what’s obvious to us seems as though it should be obvious to everybody. I used to be an English tutor working at a large community college. Many of my Vietnamese, Cambodian, and other students who were far from home had never seen a flush toilet before and didn’t know how to use it at first and would try to stand on it to defecate. Many felt humiliated that something that should be so simple and basic was unnecessarily complicated for them. You just never know. It’s a good idea to plan not to make too many assumptions with people you don’t know very well.

  53. Ladies!

    Guys who say they’re feminists?

    Are not so incredibly rare that it’s worth giving up basic bodily functions for the chance to date one.

    Peeing > Guys Who Say They’re Feminists

    This has been a public service announcement.

  54. #353- I lost my entire colon at 15, so I have some sympathy for your BF. It has left me with certain issues. However, I do not share my issues with my partner in this fashion. You are not being unreasonable to want him to keep things clean back there, both with the underwear and the skin itself. Tell him what’s going on- it’s a legitmate concern. He may need to see the doctor and get some kind of medication. He may simply need the “Dude, wash it and wear clean undies” nudge. It doesn’t matter. Not saying something is going to gross you out in the long run.

    #354- This is so beyond unacceptable that acceptable is currently taking up residence on Denali. If your boyfriend can’t be bothered to shift himself so that you can take care of a basic bodily need, and responds to your objections by getting mad, I think it’s time to rethink whether this relationship is worth saving.

  55. Honestly, LW 354, I am already at “you need to move.” To me it’s no longer a relationship problem; your partner has problems, which he’s got to deal with, not you. The current state for you is intolerable. If you were my local friend, I would put you up at my place as needed to get you out of there. And I’m a huge introvert, so that’s a big deal. I really hope things go much better for you really soon, by whatever means necessary.

    1. This was my first though too. If your significant other forces you to pee in the sink, you can probably do better. Like imagine you were single again and someone said, “how awesome would someone have to be for you to put up with their habit of using the bathroom until you had to pee in the sink?” I don’t think anyone is awesome enough for me to take that trade…

Comments are closed.