My husband, in his 60’s, is wonderfully devoted to his family. However, he’s been a slob since college days.
He takes no pride in his bedroom, or his home or work offices.
His car’s totally littered. He never hangs up his clothes or puts away tools.
I’m embarrassed to have visitors. Why can’t he be a role model to his children?
We’ve had two hugely expensive car engines die because he neglected oil changes and services.
My Crippling Struggle
You knew his messy habits early on. He’s always known your reaction.
Compromise is essential.
Negotiate boundaries – his home office is his space, but if the bedroom’s shared, he must pitch in and pick up with you, or sleep in a separate room.
Save your own energy. Hire weekly cleaning help if possible.
Get the cars serviced yourself or enlist an older child to help.
Be the practical role model for your family e.g. by explaining the financial consequences of household/car neglect.
A devoted husband and family man is worth searching for common ground.
If needed, consult a counsellor – alone if he won’t go, but preferably together.
Readers: Share any personal experience and your tips on how to live with a “slob.”
I’m mid-50s, divorced when my son was ten. His father was physically abusive.
He moved to another country and has only seen his son three times in 20 years.
I worked to support myself and my son, but still tried to spend good time with him.
I met my boyfriend five years later and we developed a deep, loving relationship.
His son from his previous relationship respects me very much.
Unfortunately, my son’s very confrontational with my boyfriend, which I attribute to my son’s inner anger.
Before leaving for college, he sucker-punched my boyfriend, who put him down and said that was the end of it.
But my son then punched a glass door which cut his wrist, so my boyfriend called police.
My boyfriend didn’t press charges. I kicked my son out for his violent behaviour.
Eventually we were able to bond and shared feelings about how his dad treated us.
I visited him at college. We had good times. He also started to talk to my boyfriend by text or phone.
Then last year he broke up with his girlfriend of five years, and quit his job, as he wanted to make a lot more money.
His ego was shattered, his moods increasingly up and down, he’d even text me saying that I’m a horrible mother.
It seems he blames me for everything in his life.
I’m concerned about his wellbeing. He’s almost 30 now.
You have strong reasons to worry. The physical abuse that your son suffered as a child still tortures him emotionally. He needed therapy to deal with his early trauma long ago.
Now a troubled adult, he may refuse a suggestion to seek help if it comes from you. Yet you must try.
Ignore his insults and blaming, they’re really about how he feels about himself.
Stay in contact. Be empathetic, and alert to whether his depression or anger is escalating.
Any hint at physical violence would call for you notifying police.
Encourage him to see his doctor - not to improve your relationship, but for his sake.
Say that a health check may help improve his sleep, give him a better approach to his goals, etc.
Meanwhile, talk to a mental health professional yourself for advice on how to proceed.
FEEDBACK Regarding the dog-walker who’s wealthier friends excluded her (April 3):
Reader - “Maybe the two ladies are petty and mean. That certainly happens!
“OR, maybe they know that she can’t afford some of their activities, so they didn't ask her to join them, to avoid awkwardness.
“If so, they surely could have handled it better, but there might not be any intent to hurt or exclude. The letter-writer could try inviting both ladies out for coffee or a similar casual (inexpensive) treat to see how they react. Maybe they could all still be friends…”
Reader #2 – “The other women may’ve had outings for various reasons.
“Perhaps they didn't want the financial disparity to cause awkwardness, or the pair have a closer bond.
“The dog-walker admits no interest in shopping sprees and fancy restaurants, so how is she being excluded?”
Ellie – Nice thoughts, but since she introduced them, she felt excluded and was hurt.
Tip of the day:
When slob behaviour’s “crippling” to a partner, make compromises and negotiate boundaries.