I’ve been dating my boyfriend for just over three years, and after a stint of long-distance, the two of us have recently moved in together.
Captain, it’s not going well.
Most of the ways it’s not going well are problems on my end, though, and they’re all pretty minor, falling into the category of ‘either suck it up and compromise or use your words to try to fix the problem.’
Captain, how do I tell the difference between us not being compatible and me not being enough of a grown-up to put in the work? I’ve never been in a relationship this serious before, so I don’t have much of a sense of how this is supposed to go.
Here’s the crux of the matter, I think: I am really freaking organised. I had a very chaotic childhood, where my ‘organisation’ sometimes determined whether my brother and I would eat that day. As a teenager I was then taken in by a foster family whose idea of fun was a multi-day backpacking/rock-climbing trip — great training in how to plan. My early career was spent working jobs where the health and welfare of myself and those around me depended on my ability to mastermind; due to disability, I now work an office job in a different industry, but my current role still boils down to ‘be the most competent person in the room.’
Anyway, I’m really on top of household stuff (and also an excellent cook, if I do say so myself). My boyfriend is…not. My boyfriend’s the type of person who constantly starts fires in the kitchen. Who loses household bills. Who forgets to go to important doctor’s appointments. Who is late to everything. Whose bedroom looks like a tornado hit. Whose fridge still contains leftovers from three months old that are now incubating the most amazing mold.
I would be delighted to take over all household chores. Really. I like cooking! I like cleaning! I would so, so, SO much prefer to, say, just take the trash out myself than to have to bug my boyfriend several dozen times to take out the overflowing, rotting trash. I would so much prefer to ask Boyfriend what he wants for dinner and then to make it happen myself than for it to be ‘Boyfriend’s night to cook’ which often turns into ‘it’s late at night and there’s nothing to eat in the house because Boyfriend forgot and LW only reminded Boyfriend twice rather than three times, and somehow it’s LW who goes to the store and ends up making dinner anyway.’ Boyfriend is welcome to take care of the garden (I freaking hate plants), the car (disability = I can’t drive), anything in his name (hey, it’s not messing with my credit score), anything that he himself owns, etc, but I’d really just as soon do any joint household stuff.
Boyfriend, though, keeps having tantrums about this. Like…we were having some friends around for dinner, and Boyfriend asked if he could help, so I asked him to set the table, but he didn’t, so an hour later when it was dinner time, I just set the table myself. MAJOR MELTDOWN. Apparently I was supposed to interrupt Boyfriend, who was entertaining our guests, and remind him to set the table. And I’m like: ??? It’s fine? It’s just a table? It’s not a problem for me to set it, I was in the kitchen cooking anyway? Or, a few times when Boyfriend has done our joint laundry, a bunch of my clothes vanished into the waist-deep chaos that is his bedroom (and then as near as we can tell, he later donated them to a charity shop, not realising they were mine???), and I don’t have the spare cash at the moment to replace these clothes, so I’ve started doing my own laundry separately. And now every single time Boyfriend sees me doing a load of laundry that is clearly just mine, Boyfriend freaks out. And I calmly explain, ‘Boyfriend, I’ve had X, Y, and Z items disappear, so I’m lot more comfortable washing my own clothes, but I really appreciate the thought, thanks,’ but that doesn’t really work. So now I’m doing my laundry in secret to avoid a Boyfriend!meltdown? Which is probably my own fault, but also kind of sucks?
So, Captain, what do I do?
I know from Boyfriend’s perspective, I’m being controlling. The answer may just be ‘chill out, LW, learn to live with a bit of chaos.’ I also know that there’s a lot else going on in our relationship that I’m not particularly happy with that is not going to be fixed by one or both of us chilling out. (We aren’t sexually compatible.) (I’m a politically active antifa SJW, whereas he comes from a pretty conservative culture and is fairly ‘meh’ about politics.) (He tends to monologue, and I find this exhausting.) (He doesn’t think ‘people like us’ should get married — think ‘I don’t think a Muslim and a Jew should get married’, though that’s not our specific demographics — and I’m still fairly saddened by this, both because I would love to get married and because I think this reveals a disturbing level of internalised bigotry.)
FWIW, my therapist thinks I should leave him. But I’m disabled and broke and his emotional and financial support are pretty great and he really is a lovely person.
I don’t want to do all of the household chores *and* navigate my boyfriend’s ego. (She/her.)
Welp, we can add “tried to do my laundry, managed to donate my clothes to a charity shop instead” guy to the list along with “broken glass” guy, “you can’t pee, I’m in here” guy, “water YOU use is wasteful” guy, and other members of our Awkward Rogue’s Gallery of ex-boyfriends.
If you prefer, we could call him “had a MAJOR MELTDOWN because I set the table once” guy?
Fundamental Incompatibility Guy?
I’m Frankly Astonished That He Had The Wherewithal To Bag Some Clothes And Actually Get Them To A Charity Shop Guy?
The part that is killing me is not even his series of household fuckups, it’s that he takes it out on you (via “meltdowns” and “tantrums” and “freaking out”) when you try to gently do things like make sure the table is set and the trash is out and you have clean clothes and you eat at a normal time. You don’t just have to take care of everything in your living situation you have to take care of his feelings about it? Nope. Nein. Non. And he’s got you doubting yourself, whether you’re being “too controlling?” Negative. Nopetepus. Noperocket.
As always, whether you leave this guy is 100% up to you, but you asked for my opinion and my opinion is that right now, doing your laundry in secret and living your life around his incompetence and his moods and his monologuing and being sexually, politically, and otherwise totally incompatible in every way is the best that it’s ever going to get. He is not going to change. You ask if you need to “grow up” or “chill out” or “put in more work” and, NO! You’re already doing all the work that could possibly improve it by expressing your needs and taking care of yourself. There is no secret level of Relationship Work that you could decide to do that would make it better.
You say he’s a lovely person and like, he’d have to be? I believe you that he has something lovable about him or you wouldn’t have made it this long? One of adult life’s tragedies is that two perfectly lovely people can be really incompatible as life-partners and roommates. Sometimes people date long distance and find out that it doesn’t work when they move closer to each other. This is one of those times. Your script can be “I care about you so much, and I know we looked forward to this for so long, but now that we’re living together it’s really not working, and I think we are just too incompatible for me to be happy like this.”
The finance and disability part suck, to be sure, and I wish that that didn’t have to be a part of your decision matrix. I wish I had a magic wand that would fix the situation. The best I can do is “Let’s break up, we’ll both be happier.”