Dear Tzippora,

I am married to Mr. Clean. This wouldn't be such a problem if he was the one who took care of the cleaning, but he expects me to do it and do it to his standards. There's no way I can do it to his satisfaction. I am just not into these things like he is, and I don't even notice small things like dishes in the sink, shoes on the floor, or even cobwebs in the corner. What should I do?

Born a Slob

Dear Born a Slob,

You need to speak this issue over with your husband, and discuss the problem together. Luckily the skills you need to communicate well are already evident in your letter. Speaking calmly, concisely, and with a gentle touch of humor should help you to keep the conversation on track and focused on the issue at hand. The conversation should be aimed at finding a mutually-agreeable solution to your dilemma. It is not a question of whether it is preferable to be a Mr. Clean or a slob, but rather how the two of you can live together without allowing this basic difference to become a point of contention between you.

You raise two possible solutions in your letter already. Is it possible for all or part of the cleaning to be handled by someone else, whether that someone is your husband or a hired cleaner? Is it possible for your husband to accept that when you clean, you won't be cleaning to his standards? What are his cleaning priorities, i.e. would he prefer you to do the floors or the dishes etc?

I would recommend a compromise involving a cleaning rotation between the two of you. On your day, you would clean according to your standards, and on his days, he would clean according to his standards. The general cleanliness level would therefore be at a midpoint between the two of you.

I would like to focus now on the meta-issue. You humorously call him "Mr. Clean" while referring to yourself as "Born a slob." This places the two of you on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Beware of this type of polarization. Instead, think of yourself as having a shared identity as a couple. Are you part of a couple for whom cleanliness is important? His need then becomes part of the couple's need.

This type of thinking will strengthen your relationship, and this is what marriage is truly about. When you push yourself to be a little more careful and observant about cleanliness, you will be actively solidifying your connection. You will no longer be a born slob, but rather a married woman with a healthy recognition that all marriages involve compromise and change.