I've been on a couple dates with this guy, and when he invited me back to his apartment, I said yes. He's artistic and musical and a programmer and a guy, all of which is to say that his place was kind of a wreck. I have my own clutter. It wasn't the clutter that bugged me, and I thought I was okay with it...until I used his bathroom. It was so gross! It looked like it had never been cleaned, and I couldn't imagine taking my shoes off. It grossed me out, made me feel unsafe (health-wise), and made me feel completely unspecial. The visit to his place was very spur of the moment, so part of me wonders if he would have cleaned up if he planned in advance to have me over. Is having a clean apartment something I could reasonably expect him to do for me? How do I have a convo about how much his mess depletes me and makes me not want to get physical with him?
June L. Houston, TX
So, I cohabitate with someone who’s artistic, musical, in tech, and also a guy, but he manages to keep a bathroom pretty damned tidy and definitely clean enough to walk into with bare feet, so let’s not let these characteristics be your dude’s “good reason” for living in filth. Housekeeping standards vary drastically from person to person, but if we were to generalize, statistically speaking, straight guys don’t pay as much attention or put the level of detail and effort into cleanliness as we do. This doesn’t make being a slob okay, though.
I don’t think you need to worry about taking it personally or feeling “unspecial” due to his lack of housekeeping skills, especially if the visit was a spur of the moment drop-in. He didn’t avoid cleaning as a way to show you how little he cares about impressing you. It doesn’t work like that. This doesn’t have anything to do with you.
Honestly, seeing if he’ll change and clean for you to make you feel special is not a route I would take, either. Instead, let’s deal with the facts and see if we can set some healthy boundaries.
The facts (well, fact): This dude’s house is gross!
If everything else about him is amazing if your values, goals, and lifestyles match up, and if you two kids end up being crazy about each other in every other way, then this won’t even be a problem. How? Because while you date, you will only ever go to your house. Before you move in together, you’ll negotiate how your life will be structured—and hey, part of that might involve striking a deal where he pays more for the house than you do, and you manage the cleaning of your shared home. You could pocket the money and clean the house yourself, or you could use that money to hire in some help.
This only works if you can block the memory of the nasty-ass bathroom out and not hold it against him. The problem is it’s sometimes hard to un-see what you’ve seen. If his space is so filthy that you now feel like he can’t be trusted as a potential partner due to his lack of good judgment and his blatant disregard for healthy standards of cleanliness, then it’s worth having a tough conversation at some point (sooner or later is up to you).
That convo could go a little something like this: “Hey, so I noticed when we went back to your house that you and I have different minimum standards for a clean house. Here’s the thing—I like you and I don’t want to judge you, but damn! I don’t think I can ever go back in your bathroom! Did you know that you could hire someone for about $65–$90 to come in and take care of that for you every week? Taskrabbit.com, it’s a thing, babe! If that’s not an option for you, can we just have dates at my house for now? What do you think?”
Then stop talking and listen. Let him give you an idea of what he can be counted on for, and the two of you can see what’s possible.