Conflicts with his roommate recently resulted in my boyfriend moving in with me for the rest of the semester. We’ve only been together for a short time, but even though we probably wouldn’t have decided to live together outside of the current situation, it’s not a problem in terms of too-much-commitment. The real problem is that I think I may kill my boyfriend. He’s a complete slob. He’s incapable of doing simple things like throwing away his used candy wrappers or putting things back where he got them. I try to mention these things without nagging, and he tries to change his behavior for a couple of days, but inevitably he relapses and my coffee table is littered with Hershey wrappers and I can’t find anything in my cabinets. Is he just marking his territory? Am I being too possessive of my space? Am I being completely unreasonable?
To be honest, you do sound kind of crazy. And if I couldn’t completely sympathize, I would probably tell you that you were being unreasonable and were in dire need of some medication. Xanax, maybe? I don’t know. Everyone else seems to be on it. However, I live with two guys, and as such, know exactly what is going on. The problem is that you are a woman, and, as such, you notice everything. Unfortunately, your boyfriend is a man, thus he notices nothing.
Let me tell you a little about life in my apartment. I love my roommates. Really, I do. They’re great guys. However, on a daily basis, I become fixated on things like how my roommates load the dishwasher. I mean, is it really so hard to wash a freaking pot? It takes like two seconds, while on the other hand the pot takes up so much space in the dishwasher. Five plates could go where one pot is! And after a year and a half, don’t you think two Harvard Law students could pick up on the small-plates-in-back, big-plates-in-front system. When you mix the plates, they get all scratched. Come on! It is basic home economics. It drives me crazy. Or rather, I probably already am crazy, and it drives me to be hostile towards my roommates. Also, at least once a month, Going-to-be-useful-when-he’s-a-Senator roommate and I play chicken over food left out on the kitchen table, or in the living room, or – my personal favorite – on top of the dishwasher, but not in the dishwasher. It’s usually a battle-of-wills as to whether I am going to put the dish away or wait until he does it himself. Except that my roommate is completely oblivious as to the fact that any battle is going on. I remember last semester there was a half-eaten blueberry pancake that sat on the kitchen table for a whole week. Every morning when I got up, the first thing I did was check to see whether it was still on the table. And it was. I would brood in my room about the plate. In contrast, Going-to-be-useful-when-he’s-a-Senator roommate barely knew the offending plate was there. I think I may have stopped speaking to him for a couple of days because of the plate I vowed never to make my roommates blueberry pancakes again. It was a sad week. Eventually, I think Useful roommate got ride of the plate. The irony is that I am actually an extremely messy person. On the one hand, part of the problem is that I am incredibly irritable. I mean, travel companions as pleasant as Katie Biber/Jon Rotter barely made it out of Paris/Montreal alive because I start focusing on their infuriating insistence at audibly breathing while they slept. But another part of the problem is the basic difference between men and women.
So, you’re not being unreasonable. Your boyfriend sucks. Because he’s a guy. And he’s not marking his territory or being passive aggressive. He’s just an idiot. Because he’s a guy. And there’s really nothing you can do about it unless you constantly nag him, which will just make you both miserable. Even if you kicked him to the curb, the next guy who came along would be just as bad. It is in their genetic code. The best advice I can give you is to establish your own space within the apartment. If he has his own cabinet, he can’t mess up the contents of yours. And maybe stop giving him Hershey bars?