Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I've been dating a girl for two months and we're spending more and more time together. It's awesome and revealing. But I'm really bothered by her living situation. Her home is full of clutter. Her kitchen has dishes and containers and paperwork everywhere. There are books and magazines and cat toys and remotes all over her living room. Her shower has more shampoos and gels than she'll ever use in her lifetime. She usually has a few books on her bed.
To her credit, there isn't a major health risk or anything crazy here. There is no moldy food sitting around or a terrible kitty litter situation. She's a clean person but has issues with clutter. I'm a bit of a clean freak and to see clutter everywhere drives me a little crazy. And every time she comes to my place I end up spending an hour picking up DVD cases and magazines after she leaves. I want to keep exploring this relationship with her but I'm not sure I can live with the clutter. I might go nuts. At this point do you think she's set in her ways or can she change? Is there a good way to point this out to her? Or do I have to change my expectations and tolerance levels? Thanks.
-- Mr. Tidy
First of all, there is no such thing as "more shampoos and gels than she'll ever use in her lifetime." Sheesh. That's like suggesting a woman can own too many pairs of shoes. That said, the picture you paint of your partner is a tad messy. Maybe she's not a card-carrying hoarder yet, but she sounds slightly past the pack rat phase.
It's valid that her sloppy home leaves you feeling anxiety and irritation. We are influenced by the space around us and to each his own. Some crave austerity and simplicity. Others need color and art. And some enjoy -- either knowingly or subconsciously -- being surrounded by stuff. (I'm assuming your girl's style isn't due to a lack of closet space.)
Relationships demand compromise. Should you eventually move in together, you'll have to negotiate the right balance of stuff versus space so that you both feel happy and comfortable. In the meantime, her space is her own, and it's not your place to tell her how to organize it. Likewise, your house is your own little castle, and if she's leaving stuff around to the point that it bothers you, just tell her: "Babe, you may have noticed I'm kinda a neat freak. If you help me keep this space tidy, I promise that when I'm at your house, I won't follow you around with a feather duster and closet organizer."
Well, we've finally found it. Wanda and I have heard hundreds of hang-ups in our years of answering letters, but we may have discovered the most pressing and destructive roadblock to happy, healthy relationships: books on the bed.
It's bad enough that the "50 Shades" series has all but stifled the collective libidos of women around the world, but now we've got stray Nora Roberts novels appearing on your girlfriend's pillow and crushing your groove. Books -- the No. 1 killer of romance.
Look buddy, I'm not a big bookworm either but I can read the writing on the wall here: You're a dunce. You're lucky you're even getting invited over to her place on a regular basis at this point, much less into her bed. And now you're going to tell her how to run her household? Good luck with that. While you're at it, you might as well tell her you hate her cats, her voice is annoying and her favorite dress makes her look big.
Or you could shut up, come to terms with the fact that everyone isn't Mr. Clean like you and enjoy being in a relationship with a girl you like. Now that's novel.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.