Our walls look like an elementary school threw up nine years of homework on the walls. Every surface is covered (COVERED) in the kids’ art and awards. There’s unframed, ripped, crumpled paper pinned to every wall, sitting on every shelf…and I totally get it, it makes the kids feel good to have their accomplishments displayed in our home. The problem is that it’s a goddamned cluttered mess and it is seriously affecting my ability to be happy. I hate being here. I got rid of a lot of stuff when I moved in with them, and aside from some clothes and electronics, my shit is still packed because there is zero room for me.
I have communicated with Don about how all of this makes me feel like I’m a guest in their home that is low priority. It also makes me feel like my things are less important, like I’M less important, because I don’t have kids. He fires back with some bullshit about how all I do is complain and I never do anything about it. The thing is that I totally have tried. Everything I do to try to make our house look like anyone over 12 lives here is met with such fierce criticism that I feel like I really should just leave. Not to mention that, when I do decide to unpack something, it conveniently gets broken. The kids are older. They’re not out of control. The breaking tends to happen when Don has had to move it for some reason, or something like that.
Don and I have bank accounts (they’re the only bank accounts I have) and we split expenses evenly even though he makes more than I do. I’m home with the kids more than he is, I cook all the meals. The kids are responsible for most of the chores, but I pick up the slack as they are kids and often leave something to be desired when it comes to cleanliness and organization, and also sometimes they just need a break. I don’t mind doing those things. Don deals with all of their school stuff. His time with them is spent playing video games or participating in sports, where as I feel like my time with them is making sure everything gets done and taking them to appointments.
Nobody wants me to leave. I don’t want to leave, they’re my people. but I want out of this house so bad, I wouldn’t be sad if we returned from vacation to a leveled/flaming/flooded lot. I guess my question to you is: how can I convince him to work WITH me to create a home we can both be happy living in? I really don’t want this to be a deal-breaker, but it’s to a point that I’m seriously questioning my ability to exist in this environment. — Over 12 But My Home Doesn’t Reflect It
First of all, you moved in with Don and his children way too fast. How well can you even know a single parent of three children in under a year? I wouldn’t even advise someone to move in with a new partner after less than a year of dating even if NO kids are in the picture, but when three kids are vying for their parent’s attention, I just don’t understand when you had time to develop the bond and trust necessary to make such a move. Second of all, you say you “have fought hard to stay together,” and while I don’t doubt there has been a lot of fighting — some of which you have provided examples of — I DO doubt that the there have been fights “to stay together.” You do realize that fighting can just be fighting, right? And fighting can happen when two people don’t know how to communicate? Or when they feel their needs aren’t meant or they aren’t being heard or respected? Not all fights are some expression of passion and sign of a couple’s deep desire to work through their differences. Not all fights are fights to stay together. I’m not sure you understand that.
I wonder if somewhere in your life, you picked up the message that if someone is fighting with you, it means he cares. You know what a better, clearer sign would be that Don cares about you? If he made room for you in his home. If he cleared some shelves and closet space and drawers and floor space for your things. If he helped you unpack your stuff, and cleared some of the clutter from the walls for artwork you picked out. But he does the opposite of that. For two whole years, he has fought your every attempt to make yourself feel at home in your place. In the place that you are financially contributing to equally despite being just one of four people who live there, despite making less than your boyfriend, and despite cooking all the meals and doing all the chores. You are raising his children and your stuff is still packed in boxes two years after moving in because that’s how little Don cares about you.
Like yesterday’s LW, you have been conned. You have been conned with the allusion of a family and love and having “your people” in exchange for your money and your domestic skills. You have been saddled with cleaning up after four guys — cooking and cleaning for them — and you don’t even get a free place to live out of it. You don’t even have your own bank account. You don’t even get to unpack your boxes. And you are so miserable about it that you are wishing the house would burn to the ground.
I don’t know what model of family and love and marriage you had growing up, but this is not what a functional, happy, loving relationship looks like. This is not what “fighting to stay together” looks like. Not at all. This is so many levels of fucked up that you are way, WAY beyond trying to convince Don to “work with you to create a home you can both be happy living in.” The only way you’re going to create a home you can be happy living in is if you move the fuck out of Don’s house and cut the creep out of your life.
One more time in case it hasn’t gotten through yet: If iyou have to work hard to convince your boyfriend two years after you’ve moved in to make some room for you to unpack your boxes TWO YEARS AFTER YOU MOVED IN, he does not care about you. He never has and he never will. MOA!!!
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.