Nix the trash talk and book a hotel
Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom. Each week, we offer a problem for you to weigh in on, then publish the most lively responses, with a final word on the matter delivered by our columnist, Claudia Dey.
A reader writes: I adore my boyfriend, but I can’t stand his parents’ home. It’s small, cramped, dirty and in desperate need of repair. The walls and doors are cake hermes hermes uk uk d with dirt. I fear using the bathroom because the strong smell of urine coming from the 50 year old toilet makes me gag. The towels always smell of mildew, and there is cat hair everywhere. We live seven hours away and we’re on a fixed income, so we can’t rent a hotel room for the weekend. I want to have a relationship with his parents, but I am thoroughly disgusted every time I set foot in the house. When I bring it up with my boyfriend, he gets defensive and says that I am being rude and critical. But I find it rude that they don’t bother to clean up for guests. How do I handle this?
I’m assuming you like his parents but hate their house. Bring an extra suitcase and pack your own sheets and towels along with rubber gloves, baking soda and a small bottle of bleach. Maybe you can even sneak in a toilet brush. Clean the toilet and leave the soda open to absorb odours in an unobtrusive place. It may be that your boyfriend’s parents cannot smell odours, are depressed or are just in a rut. They will probably then not notice the new clean smell and you’ll feel better. Probably only you will notice the difference, but then you’re the one it bothers.
Margot Loucks, Peterborough, Ont.
Fake it so you don’t make it
You need to backtrack. Apologize to your boyfriend for being so petty about his parents’ home. Claim that their company is wonderful, and that is the important thing. Then, develop symptoms of disease after each of your next couple of visits. Be clear that informed medical opinion says that you could become seriously ill if you stay overnight in the house. Be clear that this represents to you a sad loss of together time with the family, but you will need to stay home or in alternate accommodation in order to continue visiting.
Merlin Homer, Toronto
Pitch in or pitch a tent
You may have a larger problem than your discomfort with the state of your boyfriend’s parents’ house. If your boyfriend doesn’t share your disgust, he is comfortable with or willing to live with caked on dirt and stinky bathrooms. As for your in laws, you have a couple of options. If they are elderly or frail, bring along a bucket of cleaning supplies and ask if they mind you pitching in and helping them out with some cleaning since they are hosting you for the weekend. If they take offence, you have the opportunity to have an open, albeit delicate, conversation. You could even invent an allergy or two. If they are happy to let you clean, clean away. If they still won’t accept your help, you have no choice but to stay at a motel. Finding a couple of hundred dollars for a weekend stay has to be easier than having a family feud.
Sarah Evis, Toronto
The final word
Dear Mrs. Clean,
Entering a home is like peering into its medicine cabinet; the occupants’ interiors are instantly made overt. Could surgery be performed on the dining room table? Should you put bags over your feet? Is the kitchen an operating theatre? Is the spice rack disturbingly well ordered, the books alphabetically stacked, the clothing colour coded? Where are the crumbs, the trinkets, the misguided gifts? Where is the robot assistant?
Or, as in your case Mrs. Clean, the house appears ransacked, inhabited not by functioning, silver haired adults, but by drooping, hormonally compromised adolescent squatters and renegade barn animals. Laundry is strewn across the living room floor. Old dinners encrust plates recalling science experiments. The bathroom is ringed with brown, green and yellow. Upon sight of the grime, your stomach lurches. You would rather eat off the sidewalk and sleep under a bridge.
Do not fault your boyfriend. Understand we are most defensive of our parents. We are their infantry and their electric fence. The unspoken rule: We can bemoan their weakness; our paramours cannot.
While I appreciate Sneak in a Toilet Brush Loucks’s saintly set of chores, do you have the s hermes uk tomach to tussle with their hairb hermes uk alls? If so, approach with delicacy and please accept this mail order halo.
As the brilliantly named Merlin Homer identifies: The important consideration here is the relationship with your boyfriend’s parents. As such, I will steer you away from the Woody Allen esque strategy to fake, not just sickness, but disease.
That said, Elderly or Frail Evis tapers Homer’s extravagant lie with this more palatable ailment: an allergy. If that fails, she smartly encourages you to book a room rather than risk a turf war.
The dirt: Ditch the doctor’s note. Amplify the empathy. Put the promotion of your relationship at the forefront of your every instinct. Propose other settings for its cultivation: movie theatres, parks, nature trails and restaurants. Of course, Mrs. Clean, you could always have them over to your house.
Claudia Dey’s first novel, Stunt, was published last year by Coach House Books.
NEXT WEEK’S QUESTION
A reader writes: I’m getting married, and I’ve been too busy to look for a dress just yet. But my soon to be mother in law keeps bringing up the topic of dress shopping every time we get together. She wants to know everything about “The Dress” and I’m getting sick of it! I don’t really want her involved in the whole process this is something that I think is for me to decide. I don’t want her to see it until I’m walking down the aisle. I have a few people who will be helping me with my dress, and I’ve picked them for a reason. I don’t know what to do or say to her and my fianc isn’t much help with this problem. She’s driving me insane!