A MARRIAGE DILEMMA: What do you do if one of you has the natural inclination to be messy and this greatly upsets the other spouse because he or she likes things neat and tidy? That’s the subject of this Marriage Message because of the “nagging” problem it sets off in a lot of marriages —on that isn’t always dealt with in peaceable ways.
If this is your dilemma (or it’s something someone you know struggles with and you can share it with him or her) the following are insights into some peaceful solution for working through this problem. They come from a “Relation-Tip” (USA Weekend Magazine, March 2003) written by Dennie Hughes:
Messy VS Tidy
“My husband married me knowing I’m not one for housework. When we both worked, I cooked and he cleaned at the end a hard day. But his attitude changed once I became a stay-at-home mom. Now he just complains about the mess. This has become a huge issue. He feels our home is my work area and should be kept neat. Why do I feel this is unfair?”
Here’s the advice Dennie gave:
“For your husband to expect your inner maid to miraculously appear just because you’re now a stay-at-home mom, and for him to think he no longer has to pitch in, is very unfair. However, your stubborn stance against altering your cleaning aptitude (probably brought on by his new, surly attitude) isn’t good either.
“Marriage is a compromise situation. You were smart enough to discuss your limitations and expectations before you made your vows— and you should have talked about your new roles as homemaker and breadwinner before that life-altering decision to have a child.
“That said—it’s not too late now. Discuss your feelings, and brainstorm ideas to reach a happy middle ground. For example: Your husband wants to relax in a clean living room after work. You sympathize, then (because he referred to the home as your office) remind him that when he comes home you’ve also been on the job all day with household errands and your child. The plan: Share the overtime. You cook; he washes dishes. You make his relaxation area clutter-free while he bathes the baby and gets him ready for bed.
“And don’t forget: In addition to being ‘mommy-caretaker’ and ‘daddy-breadwinner,’ you’re also still husband and wife. So schedule a little romance between the daily chores.”
Messy VS Tidy Thoughts
To help you further, here are some additional thoughts to consider:
• “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterward.” That advice can sure apply to housekeeping habits as well as other areas of life together! Don’t forget to give each other grace and overlook that which can be, for the sake of the relationship. As for that, which you can’t overlook, ask God for wisdom in how to approach the situation with a forbearing spirit. First prayer —then share.
“Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace“ (Ephesians 4:2-3).
• “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved” (Barbara Johnson).
“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other“ (Galatians 5:14-15).
• Keep in mind that in marriage you’re a team. Your goal is to attack the problem—not each other. Sit down at an agreed upon time (when it isn’t a H.A.L.T. time —when either of you is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired). Then strategize how you can work it out together to bring order into your house into your home so you’re both satisfied (to the degree it is possible).
Here are Additional Thoughts
• If at first you don’t succeed —try, try again! You may find this to be a life-long problem that will need to be dealt with again and again. Just remember to be patient with each other as you can with the grace God can give you as you call upon Him. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and surely that would also apply in keeping it clean!
• Rather than focus on each other’s habits, approach the problem as objectively as possible. As author Mary Hamilton wrote, “We both want a home that’s attractive and appealing. So we look for ways to help each other accomplish that goal.” (From the Marriage Partnership Magazine article “Work it Out —A Messy Marriage”)
“You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love“ (Galatians 5:13).
• “Old patterns will persist if serious effort is not made to change them.” Seriously and patiently work on this together.
“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2 TLB)
For an additional insights into this subject, please click onto the following article to read:
Of course, we believe these principles of giving grace and communicating openly over differences apply to more than just dealing with who’s “messy” or who’s a “neat freak.” In every relationship there are going to be differences. The challenge is to learn how to work through them in a healthy, God-honoring way.
Steve and Cindy Wright
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