Dear Margo: Mr. Clean He Is Not

Margo Howard’s advice

Mr. Clean He Is Not

Dear Margo: I’m not sure whether this is a problem, but it sure is annoying the heck out of me. I am newly married (less than a year). My husband and I did not live together before we tied the knot, so it’s come as something of a shock to learn he is in no way neat. In fact, he is a slob who thinks nothing of tracking in dirt, sand, gravel or whatever. He seems totally unaware of the mess he makes. I suppose there were hints before we shared a dwelling, but I guess they didn’t register. Now that “our house” is my house, I am noticing, probably because I am always cleaning up after him. He responds to neither hints nor direct requests. Do you have any advice for me? — California Neatnik

Dear Cal: Grit happens. Because your guy does not respond to hints or requests, you may find it easier and less stressful to take matters into your own hands (along with a broom and a vacuum), which would make it a non-issue. If there are things he does for you, and I hope there are, in your mind make them a trade-off. I pass on to you something I learned from my mother. It is easier, in terms of aggravation, to just pick up his socks, sweep up the dirt, wash the dishes in the sink, etc. When the irritation goes away, you will be minus one problem. I think the fact that your spouse spaces out about what he tracks in is small potatoes. I suspect the equality brigade will come after me, but truly, I think it’s easier to train a dog than a man. — Margo, historically

Picky Eaters

Dear Margo: We have an 8-year-old grandchild. He’s a good child; however, he is picky with foods. Like many children, he loves all the foods that aren’t the best nutritionally. My concern is that when our grandchild visits us, come mealtime my husband becomes angry to the point of not speaking to the child and making faces at him when he doesn’t eat foods he’s never had before. In addition, he rarely finishes what’s on his plate, usually eating less than half of the meal. I have limited his snacks so that when it comes to mealtime he is hungry. I’m trying to help my grandchild, but I am at a loss to understand my husband’s way of handling the situation.

He says discipline is needed, but I find this type of “discipline” not only harsh, but mean. As a result, our grandchild becomes anxious and worried when it’s mealtime. I have told our grandchild that the rule is to at least try one new food each time he visits. A little history: The child’s mother has some emotional issues that unfortunately interfere with her ability to be on top of her game in parenting. As a result, this child often has to fend for himself, which includes getting himself up and ready each morning for school and most often leaving the house without any breakfast. In the meantime, how do I cope with my husband’s behavior toward this child? — Torn Between Two Loves

Dear Torn: There’s a lot going on here. For one thing, I am wondering who is the child. Making faces at a kid thinking it is instruction is juvenile. Tell the old boy to cut it out, and also to bag his anger. He is making things worse. I like your rule of “try something new.” If he doesn’t eat it or doesn’t finish, say nothing. Hungry kids will eat. As for the situation at home, show your grandson, when he’s with you, how to fix cereal and milk with fruit or grab a health bar. If you stay on the case, time and teaching will ease the problem. — Margo, sensibly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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84 comments so far.

  1. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) How much dirt can any one person track in?

    LW2) Dinner at your place sounds like a gas. Don’t be surprised when, as the years fly by, your grandson opts out of visits to your home. No warm, fuzzy memories of din-din at grammy’s house for him, thanks to your silly notions and your husband’s childish behavior. Serve the kid foods he’d enjoy.  

    • avatar bamabob says:

      what silly notions? she wants him to eat something besides chicken mcnuggets. Sounds like dinner includes veggies and a salad instead of fried foods and twinkies.

      • avatar JCF4612 says:

        Silly notions? How about “I have limited his snacks so that when it comes to mealtime he is hungry.”
        Most kids that age are always hungry, snacks are not. Gram may mean well, but she’s coming off like an ogre. Between the two of them, both grandparents are making meals a nightmare not a pleasant experience.  The casual slam at their offspring — “the child’s mother has some emotional issues that unfortunately interfere with her ability to be on top of her game in parenting  –” apparently makes grams feel entitled to step in and make sure this kid eats like she thinks he should. Way to go grams, that way maybe he can grow up with emotional issues, too.      

      • avatar JCF4612 says:

        Meant to say “… snacks are not mere ‘carrots’ for withholding to induce a child’s hunger. They are necessary nutritional components for most fast-growing kids.”  

      • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

        I take it then that you’ve never had to bite your tongue watching an 8 year old chow down 12 cookies when he gets home from school and then listen to his parents complain about how he’s “so picky” and never finishes his dinner?

        Kids today do not suffer from a dearth of snacks. They suffer from, as grandma said, an over abundance of junk food snacks. “Limiting” snacking is not cruel, it’s basic common sense.

      • avatar persey78 says:

        And I wonder what snacks the kids will eat? Are the snacks that this kid is picking as nutrition as carrots. I love to bake so we have baked goods often, but we also eat well. My mother gave us a great variety to our diet and as I got older I was more willing to try even more exotic things. My daughter sometimes doesn’t want what I make and if she is hungry she eats. At 13 she can get a snack if she wants one, but I don’t have huge amounts of junk.

      • avatar Anais P says:

        Who’s coming off like an ogre here? Methinks it’s the commenter who doesn’t realize the grandmother (LW2) is trying to give her grandchild some nutritional meals FOR A CHANGE, instead of the junk it’s apparent his mother feeds him.  Perhaps she can ease up a meal or two and make him something he likes that is a little more nutritious. Margo’s advice is very good. LW2 is operating with a couple of killjoys here, her intolerant husband and her somewhat irresponsible daughter. I say, kudos to her for trying against odds to help her grandson, who is lucky to have a caring grandmother.
        As for LW1, I would go on a silent strike and not pick up any of his clothes. Then, come laundry day, just launder the clothing that’s in the hamper. If hubby does the laundry, then he will have to pick it all up in order to have some clean socks. She may have to grit her teeth for a few weeks, but he may come around. And when he picks up anything, she should praise him lavishly. Even dogs respond to positive reinforcement. 

    • avatar lebucher says:

      RE LW#1:  I live in the country.  This house of mine gets more filthy than any other I’ve lived in.  One person can track an amazing amount of dirt/mud inside if one is not mindful of either removing shoes or scraping them on the way in.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      You’d be amazed, depending on where you live. Interestingly, Dear Abby had a similar letter, but this one was the boyfriend wanted to live together before marriage, she did not. I would not marry someone who I did not live with first, for the very reasons LW1 found. It’s just foolish not to.

    • avatar Anais P says:

      If a person lives out in the country, he can track in a LOT of dirt from gravel driveways, etc. People of many Asian cultures have the right idea: take off your shoes as soon as you get in the door and leave them there. Problem solved. LW1 should set this rule and make sure the messy hubby follows it. If he doesn’t, there are ways to make sure he does …

  2. avatar Artemesia says:

    How sad. It is so easy to provide a pleasant mealtime and varied foods some of which a child will enjoy. What does your husband hope to accomplish by being a total jerk to a little kid — he raised one child with emotional problems — does he really want to guarantee another? Grandparents need to be havens of acceptance. You don’t need to serve junk food, but you do need to make dinner non -contentious. Serve a variety of foods some of which you know he will enjoy, have a one bite rule if you can (although grandfather vicious may have poisoned that well) and then ignore what he eats and talk about something else. ‘Cleaning your plate’ was always a stupid idea; serve tiny tiny portions and let him have seconds if he wants.

    And time to have him help you plan meals and cook — an 8 year old is the perfect age to learn to put a meal and they learn some nutrition and it is fun.

    And tell grandpa vicious that you don’t want to hear another word about what the child eats, particularly directed at him or at the table.

    REgarding the messy husband and ‘men like dogs are hard to train’ and other such complete nonsense. I am guessing both these people work — the problem is not that he is messy but that he thinks the housework is her job and that she is cleaning up after him.

    Time to sit down and decide explicitly how they will manage their household — and for each of them to be responsible for their full share. My husband and I did this over 40 years ago — and in the beginning many things were split down the middle e.g. we each did half of the cooking, (and whomever cooked was off kitchen duty — the other person cleaned the kitchen after dinner) our own laundry, were responsible for particular chores during Saturday morning house cleaning (e.g. he vacuumed while I cleaned the bathroom) When you start like this, it is easy to adapt to people’s preferred chores and talents later — but to let things slide often means men assume it is all woman’s work and they smugly occasionally ‘help.’

    For day to day mess — if the place needs to be swept or vacuumed every day because someone doesn’t take their shoes off or clean their feet before entering — well make that part of what gets done in daily chores. I am the messy one in our life — so in our first place, we laid out a clean zone — the living room, kitchen and bathroom had to be kept picked up and basically visitor ready because my husband liked living in an orderly environment — the mess could occur in the bedroom or my office.

    This is not a ‘boys will track in mud’ issue — it is a ‘are we going to be grownups together, equal partners or are we going to be a 50s sterotype of Mommy and her ‘Big Boy” — the later is pretty much the end of love or desire for me.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Agreed, I normally agree with Margo, but this was way off. A wife should not have to be a mother and slave too. This would kill my sex drive pretty quick.

  3. avatar mayma says:

    Dad acts like a four-year-old in an adult body? And mom is “torn” about telling him to grow the eff up? And — wonder of wonders — daughter has “emotional issues.” You don’t say.

    And LW2 thinks it’s the eight-year-old — the one who gets himself to school every day — who needs help??!


  4. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #1:  I suspect that Margo’s advice is probably wise.  Since you are newly married, however, now is the time to set up *jurisdictions* for household duties.  For example, he takes out the trash, he empties the dishwasher, etc.  And think of ways to keep the dirt outside like a very good foot mat that he has to cross when coming in, even if he doesn’t use it.  My father was not a neat man and to make matters worse, he worked as a machinist which meant he was standing in dirt and oil all day and getting his clothes very grimy.  He was *trained* to come in the back way over a tile floor, had a *work clothes closet* (it actually was one intended for guest coats but never used for such) with a pile for his dirty clothes and his *house clothes* inside) and changed and washed before joining *civilization* again.  Oddly and sadly,if I think of the smell of machine oil  I get teary eyed.  Basically, my very particular mother made it easier for him to keep the house clean and he cooperated.   

    Letter #2:  Has it occurred to you that your husband’s idea of discipline may have contributed to your daughter’s emotional problems?  Surely he hasn’t suddenly become this *harsh and mean* when dealing with children.  If he won’t stop, maybe you should feed your grandson separately.   I’m not a fan of pandering to children’s tastes to the point of becoming a short order cook…they should be served what the entire family eats… but neither do I think they should be force-fed or told they cannot leave the table until they clean their plate.   The rule when I was growing up and faced with new foods was *take one bite and if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it*.  I still remember my shock when I first tasted coleslaw, which looked like it would taste horrible, and discovered I loved it!

    At 8 years old he is old enough to get himself a basic and healthy breakfast, even if its a peanut butter sandwich and fruit or cereal and fruit and teaching him to make it is an excellent idea.  Another idea is that *gogurt* in a tube.     


  5. avatar Dan Bingham says:

    I’m a tad confused– why does everyone keep referring to the grandkid’s mother as the LW’s daughter? It doesn’t say so in the letter (that I can see) and the fact that LW refers to her as ‘the child’s mother’ would seem to indicate that she not their child.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Good point, Dan. Ah, the emotion of it all. Kid’s mom could easily could be the DIL. Or grams could be a step-mom … or, or, or. .

      • avatar LuckySeven says:

        Or the ex-girlfriend of their absentee son.

      • avatar redessa says:

        While certainly possible, it’s unlikely the parternal grandparents would be that involved if the son is not in the picture.

        Then again, if the father is involved and the mother has “emotional issues” that keep her from so much as making sure her kid gets breakfast, I’d like to know why he isn’t stepping up!

  6. avatar lisakitty says:

    If your husband is tracking in that type of stuff, you need to designate an area of your home as the “mud room” or transition area.

    First off, make him remove his shoes before entering the house.  If his clothes are dirty, put a laundry basket close to the door (they have nice covered ones) and have him undress before getting too far into the house.  Leave a robe or something for him to put on there.

    Since you are still newlyweds, you can even make this a sexy time.  I used to meet my husband (worked in construction) by the door every night and it was some of the sweetest times of the day.     

  7. avatar wlaccma says:

    No women should have to clean up behind a man. Make him remove his shoes. I have a sign on my beach house door, no shoes allowed or the guests would track sand all over my house. After a few reminders, it works.

    Letter No 2. I have the exact same problem with my grandkids. They only eat a few things and those things are not good for them but…they will grow out of that. In the meantime, I cater to whatever they want to eat to keep them coming over and keep them happy. Otherwise, believe me, this child will stop coming over for sure.

    • avatar Brenda S says:

      For LW 1, I salved my problem of doing all of the housework years ago.  I broke my foot to where I couldn’t get around.  My husband took over cleaning the house; and, I’ve let him continue ever since.  If he dies before me, I’m up the creek.  I’ll have to do more work.  Unfortunately, I can’t get around as well as I could when I was younger.

      For LW 2, please don’t force the kid to clean his plate.  Try to encourage him to take at least one bite of all things new.  Not any more than that.  My parents forced me to eat things and “clean my plate”.  Now, I have weight problems that I attribute to starting because of their initial demands.

  8. avatar Donna Sampson says:

    Kids don’t always “grow out” of eating chicken nuggets and french fries. Why do you think there is such an epidemic of obesity? Kids need to be exposed to a variety of healthy foods at an early age. Fast foods should be limited. NEVER EVER EVER MAKE A CHILD CLEAN THEIR PLATE!! All this does is create a person who has difficulty knowing when to stop eating. I agree with making the child taste new foods, but not having to eat all of it is they don’t like it. I also agree with the person who suggested teaching the child to cook. Involving the child in the decision of mealtime will give the child a sense of control over food. The bad food habits this child was allowed to begin have been set into the child’s mind now and will be very difficult to change, but they can be changed.

  9. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – So that I am clear, this letter writer has basically admitted that the grandchild’s mother is emotionally ill-equipped to care for her child and is neglecting their needs? But this letter writer is more concerned about the kid being a picky eater?

    SMH…..That’s like finding a man with a massive head womb on the side of the road, but you are fixated on the fact his shirt doesn’t match his pants. This letter writer is missing the bigger issue. This letter is a joke.

    Letter #1 – I agree with you Margo.

    One need only watch an episode of Hoarders and you will never make another big deal about cleaning up after someone you live with. Story after story of one person that was annoyed by all the clutter created by a spouse, child or roommate, yet the FIRST TIME trash or garbage was left on a floor or counter, no one picked it up or cleaned up because they didn’t feel it was there place to do so.

    I’m a clean freak, I love coming home to a clean, fresh home. I would have no problem cleaning up after a messy roommate if it meant my home would remain clean. Especially if I knew before hand the man I would be sharing a home with was a slob. (I would NEVER be with a slob, so this topic for me is fantasy).

    The feminist in me would be frustrated that I have to play maid to a grown man. But the realist in me would say, is it worth a fight just because I had to pick up dirty socks or do dirty dishes that are not mine? I would say no. Better to simply do what I have to do to make sure my home doesn’t look like I live in squalor. I could say “I’ll show him I am not his freakin’ maid!” as my home fills with trash and dirt – or simply clean up. The choice is simple.

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      The thing is: One of the most obvious patterns I feel I see in “Hoarders” is that one partner is a bully (the hoarder) who makes life Hell for the spouse who wants the house cleaned, and the other (the spouse) is weak and allows the hoarder to get away with it. All the more reason to get him to shape up now.

      • avatar Hellster says:

        What, dear God, is a “massive head womb?” Is it what makes a woman have to get a C-section, because they have a baby with a massive head?

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        Yassum massuh, you be rite, hows cud I be so ignit, it is WOUND it ain’t WOMB. I is so sorey massuh….owley u kin make a misstake….rite?

      • avatar David Bolton says:


        There’s no reason to be obnoxious about being corrected. Hellster’s comment actually sounds like he or she is making a joke.

      • avatar Hellster says:

        Thanks, David, but I was making what my mother would have called “a joke with a jag in it.” So Belinda is right to be peeved. But you are right, too. It’s all in good fun, right?

      • avatar Priscilla L says:

        Being obnoxious is basically Belinda Joy’s thing, David. How have you not noticed?

  10. avatar Kathy says:

    LW2 – Grandpa’s behavior makes him look stupid, and he just needs to be told that.  The real concern here is that Mom is not emotionally equipped to parent.  Sure, an eight-year old can get his own breakfast once in awhile but no child should have to “fend for himself.”  His home life is likely at the root of his eating problems and there are almost certainly issues elsewhere, such as school.  Grandma is focused on the wrong thing. Either that or the letter is a set-up.  Read the last two sentences.  It’s like saying, “my leg just fell off but in the meantime, what do I do about the extra sock?”

    • avatar redessa says:

      A little off topic, but I had to laugh when you said no child should have to “fend for himself.”  My youngest (coincidentally who is 8 yrs old) frequently asks if we can have “fend for yourself” night for dinner. In our house that’s what we call leftovers night when you just pick from what’s in the fridge or can heat up some soup or a frozen pizza or something. We do this every couple of weeks but he asks about twice a week and is dissappointed when I tell him I’m making dinner. :)

  11. avatar martina says:

    I have never seen anyone who can make as much mess in the kitchen as my husband does. There are puddles of water on the counters and the floor, used paper towels lying around and breadcrumbs all over. The man is oblivious to this mess. I did not wipe up the counter by the toaster for three weeks just to see what would happen and he didn’t notice at all. If all LW1’s husband is doing is tracking in dirt , she should consider herself lucky. Try getting him to use the mat outside to wipe his feet otherwise, keep a broom or a carpet sweeper handy and accept it for what it is unless you want to spend the rest of your married life nagging the man.

  12. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    #1: So long as he’s helping out otherwise, I’d (begrudgingly) deal with it. Trouble is, it’s an *ongoing* problem. I take it you do have big sturdy rugs at doors? He should at least be willing to wipe his feet on rugs before going into the house. Is it possible to place some nice plastic “runners” along carpetways he frequents? But definitely do make sure you are being “paid back” of him helping out. Husband and I had some go-arounds early on (married 20 years this March); for years now he helps with dishes, does laundry (including clothesline!), etc. :-)

    #2: I don’t have children so can’t offer any suggestions beyond what Margo and others have said. Your husband needs to knock off the silent treatment and making faces…geez.

  13. avatar Afton says:

    Margo’s advice to letter #1 reminds me of a favorite Pickles comic strip from years ago. The daughter asks her mom how she has had such a long, successful marriage. The mother replies, “when I married your father, I chose 5 things he did that bothered me and decided I would let them go.”

    The daughter replies, “Really! What were the 5 things?”

    The mother says, “I can’t remember, but every time he does something to annoy me I say to myself, ‘He’s lucky that’s one of the 5 things.'”

    Believe it or not, this has been a great help to me in my 18 year marriage as well.

  14. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: I rarely disagree with Margo, but this is one of those times. “…tak[ing] matters into your own hands (along with a broom and a vacuum), which [will] make it a non-issue.”

    Nah, it won’t. This is a great way to establish a parent-child dynamic and foster resentment and ill-will towards each other—and for me, it’s a dealbreaker. I’ve been in relationships before with guys who absolutely could not or simply refused to keep a shared living area clean or organized, and it led to all sorts of problems. It gets real old, real fast when you feel like you have to donate a sizable chunk of your day to maintain someone else’s selfishness and unwillingness to do their part AS AN ADULT. And every time I had to listen to someone freak out over something “I misplaced,” because they were a pig and lost it themselves made me want to walk out right then. I am not a neat freak, but if someone were coming over right now it would take me about ten minutes to make the house presentable. I can find things in my bathroom and my refrigerator. I know where my mail is and my checkbook and my keys. My bills are paid on time. I’d much rather be with someone who keeps a clean house as well—and that’s when it becomes a non-issue.

    LW2: I babysat two children for my ex and his ex-wife. They were picky eating nightmares. No fruit. No juice. No bread. No cereal. No vegetables. No water. Their diets consisted of Little Debbie snack cakes, Spaghetti-O’s, Pringles, ice cream and pizza and Coke. What’s ironic is that the wife was über-concerned with the little girl sleeping near a window because she might be snatched out by a child molester or a tornado. I know, right?

    I realize children come into their own with particular tastes and likes. I eat almost everything now, compared to a small spectrum of approved foods when I was a child. But compared to these two I was a gourmand. I think that eating should be fun and neither a hassle nor an exercise in being browbeaten by a grandparent. 1) Buy one of those types of cookbooks that are dedicated to hiding healthy options in foods, in the form of purees and so forth. 2) Involve the child in the kitchen with you AND the grandfather, and in preparing foods that are fun and better for you. Drink a smoothie while you’re doing it. Use fun things like a blender and a mixer and let the child do as much as he can. Give him prep projects. 3) Teach the child to make certain things for himself, since he’s on his own at times in the kitchen.

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      Oh, dear–I could not have responded better to LW#1! Somebody wrote to Dear Abby today that she didn’t want to live with her boyfriend before marriage: I hope she reads this. I’m sorry, but if a guy cares about me that much, he can bloody well learn to clean up after himself so I don’t have to spend my limited free time picking up messes I didn’t even make. I don’t mind delegating certain jobs, but don’t leave me a pile of unnecessary extra work just because you’re thoughtless and childish.

    • avatar Koka Miri says:

      Spot on with both, David!

      • avatar KL says:

        David — I disagree with you. If this is a dealbreaker value for you, so be it. That’s a good thing to know for yourself so you can choose your partners accordingly. But, there are plenty of us that are far more flexible — and that is a choice we all make. You choose to be more rigid; others choose to be more flexible. So long as we’re not talking being so dirty that you’re causing health issues, it really is a style preference and compatibility issue. The fact that you associate being neat with being an adult and not being selfish is once again a value judgment you choose, not necessarily a true fact.

        I know plenty of people that very kind, generous and an adult, but they can tolerate clutter more. In my experience, it tends to be with more manic folks and “artistic” types — the sense of order rather than being liberating or freeing is stifling and oppressive. It’s not my style, but I wouldn’t call them selfish or childlike because they like to live differently — just not compatible with people that like things more tidy.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        It’s a dealbreaker in that there are often associated personality conflicts between someone who is neat and someone who is not only NOT neat, but who refuses to change anything about their behavior that creates more work and stress for the other person in the relationship, even when asked—as LW1 has done.

        As I stated about myself—I am not a neat freak. But I have enough respect for myself and for others that I have lived with to create and maintain shared living spaces that are pleasant and organized and efficient, so that we may both enjoy them without having to scoot pizza boxes off the sofa or to hunt for the last clean spoon so I can have a cup of coffee. To me, “non-issue” means not creating the circumstances that might lead up to the issue in the first place. I don’t believe most anyone finds it enjoyable or cute or liberating or freeing to be with someone who perpetually can’t find their keys, or pays their bills late because they are lost and forgotten, or dresses like a slob, or can’t have anyone over because you’re too embarrassed or tired to clean up after them.

        If you’re going to talk about flexibility, remember that it’s a two-way street. LW1 asked for help and was rebuffed, and has now resorted to writing a letter to an advice column—about cleaning. I didn’t realize that “flexibility” was actually a synonym for “putting up with being ignored.” But I guess some people can accept such qualities in their mate, since it really isn’t about being selfish or childlike to pick and choose when to show your mate some respect when they come to you with what sounds like a perfectly reasonable request—it’s merely about the fact that they like to live differently.

      • avatar KL says:

        David — because someone is not able to do as you wish doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ignoring you. It may simply not be as easy for them as it is for you to be tidy. I find calculus pretty easy, but I wouldn’t say that my husband is ignoring me if he couldn’t pick it up so quickly.

        Being “pleasant and organized and efficient” — that’s really your definition of that and you’re trying to force someone into your definition because you find it morally superior. It’s that tone of moral superiority that I find offputting. That your way is somehow better and everyone else that doesn’t agree with you is a pig, inefficient, inconsiderate, etc. And I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.

        I’ve lived with a lot of roommates over the years, and grew up with two pretty sloppy brothers. Sure, it caused an extra hassle in many ways, but for me, the more laidback ones (including my brothers) were far easier to live with overall than most of the tidier roommates. I had to clean more, sure, but there was never any drama, moral superiority, control issues or passive aggression over how things “should be”. Now, not all tidy people were like that, but far more were like that than the slobs.

        Once again, I think it’s about figuring out what’s compatible for you. My husband is a great guy. He pays his bills on time, has excellent credit, has a good job, does yard work, takes care of car issues, brings me flowers or little random gifts to show he’s thinking of me, etc. So, he’s not that neat. For me, it’s more than a fair trade off. Perhaps for you, or the LW1, it wouldn’t be.

        But I find differences in “tidyness” to be one of the absolute easiest fixes in relationships — romantic or roommates. And the tidy people have a choice to just let stuff go too and be grateful for all the other positives rather than the few negatives — but for anal or super tidy people, I find they tend to be perfectionists or have major control/insecurity issues and that’s why it’s so hard for them to just let things like that go. Things that are untidy actually make them feel anxious or bad someway, so keeping things tidy is uber important to them. That’s totally fine and if you’re someone like that, then all the more important that you find someone that feels very similarly to you in that. But, acting as if that’s the “norm” because it’s your preference is bs to me. If tracking mud into the house is you biggest complaint about your partner/spouse, I’d count your lucky stars.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “It’s that tone of moral superiority that I find offputting.”

        It’s that odd and completely unfounded leap of logic that you’ve made to somehow turn this into an issue of morals that I find offputting.

        “If tracking mud into the house is you biggest complaint about your partner/spouse, I’d count your lucky stars.”

        That would be fine if it were the biggest complaint. However—it’s not. The core issue here is that LW1 has asked for help and gotten crickets in return. Or did you miss the part where she writes: “He responds to neither hints nor direct requests.” This is the type of action from a spouse that breeds contempt and apathy in the other. Why bother to ask for something big, if the spouse is going to ignore asking for something small? In fact, why bother at all?

      • avatar KL says:

        “It gets real old, real fast when you feel like you have to donate a sizable chunk of your day to maintain someone else’s selfishness and unwillingness to do their part AS AN ADULT”

        “they were a pig”

        “dresses like a slob”

        You don’t find phrases such as that to have a morally superior tone? Really? Wow.

        You may not agree with my characterization, and I may ultimately be wrong in my conclusion, but there certainly wasn’t a lack of logical foundation to draw such conclusions. If you can’t even see how using such language could be interpreted as morally superior, you’re quite blind.

        There isn’t necessarily any ‘core issue’. LW1 doesn’t like how her husband does something. He seems to be oblivious to it (per LW1’s own admission), not consciously disregarding her desires. To me, that seems to point to a legitimate difference in lifestyles that needs to be reconciled, not that he’s unwilling to ever help her with anything.

        If he’s doing nothing to help, ever, sure, I could see your interpretation being correct. But LW1 hasn’t said that — she’s complaining about one very specific thing that annoys her. As Margo pointed out, if he’s doing other things to contribute to the household (paying bills, doing laundry, yard work, etc.), then it’s not a bad idea for LW1 to just accept that this is an area where he’s weak and for her to take the laboring oar on it (especially as it’s something that annoys HER, not him — she’d be doing it for her own satisfaction, not his).

        Marriages are partnerships, but that doesn’t mean each individual task is 50-50. Generally, there are things that one spouse excels at and the other doesn’t — such complementation is really helpful if your spouse is strong where you’re weak and vice versa. This could very well be the case. And instead of bitching and moaning about this lack in her partner, she could just decide to be the one that does more in this case — provided he’s doing other things to contribute, show her he loves her, respects her, etc. If those things are lacking, there is a way bigger problem at hand. But being clueless about tracking dirt into the house and being messier at base level than your spouse doesn’t necessarily mean those things. Choose your battles.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “You don’t find phrases such as that to have a morally superior tone? Really? Wow.”

        Again, I think you don’t know what you’re talking about. This has nothing to do with morals. It has everything to do with being a selfish person who is showing an utter lack of respect for their spouse who is trying to communicate a problem and might as well be talking to a wall.

        I’m done discussing this with you.

      • avatar KL says:

        Calling someone that has a different standard of living than you (and it’s a horrible crime that he’s tracking dirt into the house!) selfish and disrespectful, you don’t think that’s about morals? It may not make them a serial killer, but, yeah, when you unnecessarily characterize behavior as a value judgment on a person’s character (i.e. selfish and lacking in respect) that’s a judgment on their MORALS.

        Perhaps you aren’t aware of all the definitions of morals, but one is “A person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.” You’re just choosing to apply this to standards of tidiness — that’s a moral. And you’re acting as if yours are superior — hence, moral superiority.

        Your interpretation is one possibility — but you don’t even allow room for another interpretation. That the husband could not be a selfish man or lacking in respect for his wife, but he’s just messy and it’s harder for him to be neat and tidy than it is for her. My husband is EXACTLY that guy. And he’s neither selfishness nor lacking in respect for me. He’s just DIFFERENT and we have to find more creative ways to bridge the gaps in our differences.

        Do I need to draw you a picture or was that clear enough that time?

      • avatar LuckySeven says:

        Unless this person is physically or mentally quite seriously handicapped, he or she is perfectly capable of cleaning up after him- or herself. The problem is that s/he doesn’t think to do it, or doesn’t bother to do it, or thinks s/he shouldn’t have to do it, or some other selfish excuse.

        That her husband won’t meet her halfway is a problem. It’s a problem in this instance and it will be a problem in other instances in their marriage. Compromise does not mean that one partner gives up and does all the work.

  15. avatar Dame says:

    LW2:  Where is the child’s father in this?  I assume from the text and tone of the letter that the “child’s mother” with some emotional issues is not their child for sure.  That is textbook, almost comes natural to them, way of saying none of this was my son’s fault, in fact that’s probably why he just had to walk off and leave them all.  I think, of course, that the grandfather’s behavior is beyond reprehensible.  However, so the is the grandmother’s.  Who is serving the child’s plate?  My mother used to do this to my children when we were visiting.  She would then huff and puff when a 4 year old didn’t clean her plate.  One day I just blew up.  You fixed that plate with your big eyes.  How do you know how much they can eat and then grandpa makes faces because the little kid doesn’t eat it all?  The overly stressed out dinner table is one of the earliest birthplaces of eating disorders!  Wake up grandma!  This poor kid needs such a break. SMH

  16. avatar lebucher says:

    LW#1:  I too lived with someone once who decided since I was the maid he could drop his dirty laundry all about the floor in the bedroom.  During the course of the week this accumulated into quite the mess and I resented having to go all over a large bedroom and hallway to pick it all up to wash it.  I asked nicely several times for him to please drop it in the hamper in the closet – which was conveniently located – rather than create extra work for me.  He ignored my request.  After a while I realized that I was enabling his behavior by continuing to pick up the clothes.  Therefore I forewarned him I’d only wash what was in the hamper and would be leaving the remainder on the floor… then followed through.  After a couple of times of doing this, he got the hint.  Sometimes you just have to refuse to play mommy and require them to act like an adult.

    LW#2:  I was required to clean my plate as a kid.  Now I easily overeat if there is too much there because I feel compelled to eat everything.  My only wayt o cope is to control what I put on my plate and make sure my portions are appropriate. 

  17. avatar Lonnie Stump says:

    Someone said to teach a child to cook because it was fun. I beg to differ. I detest cooking and always have!!! And I was not made to cook as a child either. But there nothing fun about it, I would rather be beaten!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      I would have to disagree—cooking is one of the most satisfying, entertaining and important skills you can teach a child. Cooking will show a child safety skills, how to manage time, how to be creative, how to manage money, how to be self-reliant and social and a myriad of other things from chemistry to biology.

  18. avatar tybatwings says:

    In regards to LW #2, just for the record… When I was growing up, I detested both peas and beans. My father’s family farmed, and different varieties of peas and beans were their primary crops. Needless to say, mealtime was never a fun experience. My father would stand over me menacingly, and if I didn’t completely choke down what was presented on my plate (often with gagging and many tears), I would receive a spanking.

    I don’t blame my father for his abrasive behavior; that was simply how his generation was brought up. However, let the records show that today, as an adult, I still detest peas and beans, and the smell of them makes me gag.

    Grandpa needs to put a cork in it and realize that his actions WILL NOT HELP this issue in the slightest — I’m living proof! Grandma has the right idea, and children’s palates will continue to develop as they grow older, so the only immediate need for concern is making sure the grandson gets the nutrition he needs.

  19. avatar Lisa M says:

    LW2 My son is a “four food” kid. You have to pick your battles and I don’t make a big deal out of what he eats. I offer him a bite of everything I eat but if he doesn’t want it and I don’t have time to make him a different meal (it’s really not that hard to make frozen chicken nuggets and they are baked not fried not gross like McNuggets) then I offer him an apple or banana which he does like. An 8-year old can also be taught to make himself a sandwich with healthy ingredients. Our pediatrician says that the minute you make food a reward or a battle you make it more likely that the child will become obese. Food should be treated as food and nourishment. I focus my health education on insisting he get at least an hour of physical activity a day. That’s a much saner way to encourage good health than fighting over food (although we do argue over screen time quite a bit).

    • avatar traceygm says:

      Lisa, my son is a “four food” kid too!! I agree with you whole-heartedly!!! And I became an obese adult because of childhood battles over food. It took a good therapist to move past it and become a healthy adult again!! I have learned to “sneak” health into my child’s foods: he loves pasta, so we eat the multi-colored pasta (with spinach and tomato in it). His snacks contain real fruit, or are organic with no additives or other nonsense. He loves gluten-free waffles that I slather with organic fruit spread!!! I am sure you know all these tricks, as well!!! I urge letter writer #2 to do a little research and find sneaky ways to build health into her grandsons current diet!!!

  20. avatar QuietGitl says:

    LW#1 My only suggestion is to show him that it is valuable to him to keep the house straightened. Perhaps he values time with you? Then maybe explain to him that for every hour you spend cleaning up, you will take an hour for yourself. If he participates, then you do something fun he likes together. You also might explain to him that dirt on the floor damages the rugs/flooring, causing it to be replaced more frequently. Maybe ask his Mom how she was able to motivate him?

    LW#2: I have read that, on average, it takes 12 tastes for a child to get accustomed to new foods. My niece eats chicken nuggets and broccoli because she refuses to try new foods and my SIL refuses to require her to try new foods. Although in some ways this is great because she doesn’t eat chocolate! However potato chips and popcorn are favorites. However if during snacks your grandson is eating fresh fruits and veggies then I would not be overly concerned. Perhaps tell your husband that you have allowed him to make faces and not speak to the child and that is clearly not working, you need to approach this differently. Suggest that a *taste* of new foods be put on his plate (and I mean a taste, not a tablespoon) and that bullying tactics won’t work on a child that is already getting himself ready for school – at age 8. Perhaps a discussion, at the table, of foods eaten in other areas of the world. Snakes, conch, insects might encourage your grandson to try new foods. I would encourage your husband to brain storm for new ways to get your grandson to try new foods. Don’t make it your responsibility.
    Good luck to both of you – you are trying to change another’s behavior and that is always difficult. I try to change my behavior daily (to exercise) and I am having a very tough time. 5 a.m. is just too early, but I absolutely cannot get it later in the day – family issues.

  21. avatar wlaccma says:

    LW2 – Wow, Grandma’s house is fun. First they starve a hungry kid (all kids are hungry all day) and then feed him food he doesn’t like. Sounds like a place I’d like to visit. Wake up. This poor kid needs you. Give him a break.

  22. avatar traceygm says:

    Letter writer #2, please, please, please stay your course and do NOT make food an issue. I know the anxiety your grandson is feeling about meal time all too well. When my marriage fell apart and I found myself in therapy at 30 years old, all I talked about my first few sessions was my “food issues” from similar childhood experiences you are describing. My weight was completely out of control at the time (I was clinically obese), and food was a nearly constant source of anxiety for me – even as an adult with control of feeding myself!! I am now in a much healthier place, and most of the food issues are behind me. I do NOT force feed my own son, but rather allow him to eat when hungry, and try to encourage healthy foods and “trying” new stuff and least once!! He is a grazer, to be sure, and prefers “cruddy” foods over the healthier ones, but he is growing like a weed and is very healthy and well-adjusted!!! Keep up the good work, grandma, and bless you for being there for him. It sounds like you’re his only savior right now!

  23. avatar sdpooh says:

    I am 65 years old and to this day I cannot eat a fried egg.  The yolk disgusts me.  You know why, because my family liked them and one day I sat at the table til lunch because I would not eat that slimy yolk.  They gave up after that and scrambled my egg.  I cannot stand raw tomatoes, because they made me eat it.  I did not like onions until I was over 50 because they made me eat it.  People, even children, are allowed to like and dislike food.  When they grandchild comes over, feed him what he likes and sneak in a tad of the unliked stuff.  An egg is an egg, fried or scrambled.  The tomato tastes good as cream of tomato soup from Campbells.  The onion is fine chopped up in the potato salad or meatloaf.  Show some creativity granny and ban grandpa from the table since he is behaving so childishly.  Or feed him something he hates and see how he likes it. 

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      Children are allowed to dislike foods, but parents are allowed to encourage them to try new things. Your parents apparently didn’t get the approach right, but they wouldn’t have been right to let you avoid everything you thought you didn’t like, either.

      Grandpa is dead wrong here, but there are productive ways that Grandma can try to get the kids to try new things.

      • avatar mjd4 says:

        “they wouldn’t have been right to let you avoid everything you thought you didn’t like, either.”

        Why? I was a picky eater. My parents never made me eat anything I didn’t want. I became more adventurous in my teens, and now enjoy a wide variety of foods.

        I should add, snacks at our house were healthy, and desserts were usually fruit, so it’s not like I was living on potato chips and candy bars. My mom was not a short order cook, but if I didn’t like what was for dinner I was allowed to get myself a snack (usually carrot sticks) later.

        Most kids will outgrow their pickiness if you leave it alone. Offer a healthy variety and they will not starve.

  24. avatar GabbyM says:

    My mother is the exact opposite of LW#2. My 4 and 2 year old are incredibly picky eaters but when I try to make them eat something new, my mom gives me heck. She tells me they are only at her house once a week and she doesn’t want to fight with them over food. My stance: put the food on their plate. If they eat, they eat. If they don’t, they don’t. Missing one meal won’t kill them. Just don’t go soft and give them whatever they want to eat after.

  25. avatar Paula says:

    LW2: Your husband is being terribly juvenile, to say the least! That aside, you have the opportunity to help your grandson develop a healthy attitude about food, and you need to pick it up and run with it! As others have suggested, involve this boy in meal preparation. Take him grocery shopping with you, and then have him help you with the cooking. When he comes out with “I don’t like that,” maybe counter with “Have you ever tried it?” If the answer is no, then how does he know he doesn’t like it? If it’s yes, maybe try fixing it a different way. Case in point the example above about eggs; sdpooh likes eggs scrambled but not fried. You have the opportunity to open him up to a whole new world where food is concerned. You might even want to check to see if there is a cooking class in your area that the two (or three, if your husband will grow up!) of you can take together!

    As an aside, my mother and her three siblings (she is the third of four – all still living and reasonably healthy) were Great Depression Era kids who were required to eat everything on their plates. As a result, at one time, all four of them were far too overweight. They would “eat because it was there,” especially if they were eating with other people and talking with them, or maybe watching a TV show, or otherwise distracted while eating. Because of the way they were raised, if it was there, they automatically ate it. All four have had to learn to THINK while they eat, and STOP when they’ve had enough! If they’re eating out, they take leftovers home with them; if they’re eating at home, they put away what they don’t finish then and eat it later. This has been quite an effort for them, but now, at ages 80-92 (Mom’s 85, “little” brother just turned 80, older sister and brother are 92 and 89 respectively), all four are at healthier weights, and rarely now do they leave the table saying they are miserably stuffed. In fact, the “baby” of the group, my uncle who just turned 80, has lost about 50-60 pounds in the last couple of years. He’s by far the tallest of the four but for the longest time was also the heaviest – he was pushing 300 pounds at one time! But he made up his mind he wanted to lose weight and went about doing so. Bottom line – if your grandson grows up being bullied or threatened about eating, he is likely to develop similar issues and have a weight problem as an adult.