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Can Couples with Different Standards of Cleanliness Get Along?

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Between my wife and myself, this is a recurring problem. The fact that we have wildly different standards of cleanliness causes no small friction in an otherwise smooth cohabitation. I’m not talking about personal cleanliness – after all, without that we would most likely have not gotten married in the first place. Rather I’m talking about activities required to keep the house clean.Different standards of cleanliness cause friction

It’s not possible for everyone to have the same expectations of what it means to keep a house “clean”. Many things, like our upbringing and the circumstances in which we lived before, contribute to what our opinion of being “tidy” is. Routines like cleaning the carpets or cleaning the bathtub can be viewed as necessary by one and optional by the other. in such a situation, who’s right and who’s wrong?

To make matters worse, the partner who possesses a greater standard of cleanliness can feel taken advantage of since they inevitably end up doing the cleaning in the first place. The other person on the other hand is able to go far longer without feeling the need to scrub things up.

It gets worse. There can be a difference between “cleanliness” and “tidiness”. So one partner might like to keep everything in its proper place and at the same time not want to vacuum the carpet, while the other sees no sin in a cluttered environment but believes firmly in the virtues of stringent cleanliness.

This can quickly turn into a battle of moral superiority with each accusing the other of being unreasonable. Far be it from me to offer a solution to this conundrum – it’s possible there is none. A compromise can however be reached. In fact, such negotiation is vital, for without it, things can get ugly very fast indeed.

Advice is easy to give. It’s easy to say that each of us should understand the point of view of the other and be accommodating. But very often these are deep-seated ways of thinking which cannot be changed by any of us. Perhaps the habits of the other can be ignored for a while but they always lurk under the surface and if left unchecked can build up intense feelings of resentment that can suddenly explode without warning.

It helps for both to realize that this is normal and that they’re hardly the first couple to go through this. Even that might not be enough. Respect for the other person’s point of view is, I think, the key. You might not understand or even accept a point of view that is so vastly different from your own. Respecting that point of view however and treating the other person’s feelings, preferences, and emotions as just as valid as yours will probably be the only thing which will achieve a measure of peace between the two of you.

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