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cutiepi92's avatar

He can't cook or clean?

Asked by cutiepi92 (2219 points ) June 10th, 2014

My boyfriend was raised essentially by a single mother who babies the heck out of him. I know this, he knows this. He’s 23 years old and to this day she STILL pitches a fit if he steps foot in the kitchen and tries to cook himself. She always wants to do everything for him.

When it comes to cleaning, he doesn’t know how to do it properly or very well because quite frankly his mother can’t clean either. The house is kind of dirty, much more so than I’m used to at home. They don’t own household cleaner for crying out loud! But he insists that he can “clean”, but his version of “cleaning” is completely half assed. As in, if I cleaned that badly growing up I’d be grounded all the time.

It’s reached a point where I really don’t know what to do. He understands he can’t cook, but only sorta wants to learn. I am perfectly willing to teach him though. He gets mad if I talk about his cleaning skills because he thinks he’s fine when he’s not. I would teach him that too but he thinks he knows enough I want to know if there is a way to show/teach him? I love him very much, and we’ve been together a long long time and have spoken of marriage, but truthfully I can not live with a man who doesn’t know how to cook or clean at all. And the most irritating thing is that he keeps the inside and outside of his car spotless, but doesn’t know clean an actual house :( How do I approach this? I’m not going to break up with him over his lack of skills because I think it’s his mother’s fault for babying him and not giving him basic survival skills. But still, I feel I should be able to do something

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45 Answers

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
zenvelo's avatar

You say you won’t break up with him, but it drives you crazy. So it is an issue you have to come to terms with in some way or another.

You need to use your words that it bothers you, and then suggest some home econ classes for him; maybe through the local junior college, or the local high school night school, or maybe through the recreation department. But get him some cooking classes.

And then work with him on how he should clean; maybe a Saturday a month for a lesson on a specific room or area, June can be bathrooms, July is the kitchen sink and counters. August the refrigerator and stove.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I’m very limited in the cooking department, but the way I tend to learn is by extrapolating from things I know. If you can make eggs in a frying pan, you can figure out bacon and sautéed vegetables. And from there you can figure out how to make stir fry or fried rice in a wok.

You might try a similar approach with the cleaning: “You know how you keep your car so clean? Well, houses need the same kind of care.” I bet the windows of his car are clean. How about the windows in his home? If not, compare them to the windows in his car. From there, you can extrapolate to other glass surfaces like mirrors.

At that point, hopefully he’ll be ready to admit that he’s not as good at cleaning as he thinks. Then you can move onto other things. Maybe start with a single room (so he doesn’t feel like he’s suddenly cleaning the whole house) and show him how to clean all the things in it one by one.

Judi's avatar

There are some things that you have to decide if it a deal breaker or not.
I would suggest counseling to work it out but if that’s not possible try using word pictures.
When you realize there’s something that you recognize that makes him feel the way you do.
In our house my husband is the neat freak. He told me that to him, the house is an extension of him and when I didn’t care for the house he felt like I didn’t care for him. It didn’t make me a perfect housekeeper but I’ve come a long way since we first met 25 years ago. I realize that keeping up the dishes and picking up my clothes is an act of love for him. When I don’t he feels neglected.
You have to figure out how it makes you feel and be able to define it. Then you have to recognize a time when he experiences that same feeling and tuck it away.
When the time is right you can say, “Remember when this and that happened and you felt like X? When you don’t respect my standard of cleaning it makes me feel the same way.”
When you communicate how you feel, and find a way for him to tap into that feeling you have a better chance to effectively communicate and gain understanding.

JLeslie's avatar

If he feels comfortable in a messy house and you don’t it will likely be a source of problems for you both if you get married. if he likes a clean house, but just doesn’t know how to execute it, then there can be some solution maybe. One, would be to have a maid once a week if you don’t want to be resposible for the bulk of the cleaning. I don’t know what country you live in, but in many countries having a maid is a very basic expense factored into monthly expenses and I think more Americans should consider it. It takes some money obviously, but it is worth it for calm in the family in my opinion.

I do think this is a very big deal, because it obviously is something that really matters to you. The question is does your boyfriend support your need for a clean house? Or, does he dismiss it as unimportant? It’s not necessarily about things being clean and neat, it also is about whether he takes what is important to you seriously. My house tends to be messier than my husband would like and it definitely is one of the things that grates on him. Luckily, it is not extremely out of control, and I do prefer the house to be neat, I just am not as bothered as him when it isn’t, and I am lazy about cleaning. Actually, not lazy, I just don’t like to do it alone.

Judi's avatar

@JLeslie, the weekly housekeeper is a great marriage saver for us, until he starts complaining they the house was just cleaned yesterday!

canidmajor's avatar

I can kind of sympathize with him, as I am, by nature, a slob. It’s not that I wasn’t “taught” how to clean, it’s that I have no aptitude for it, and frankly, no interest in it. It takes me a day to do what others do in an hour, and I simply don’t see what the issue is. I’m old enough now to understand that there is an issue for some people, and enormous social pressure to conform. He may just be wired a bit differently than you.
I had a boyfriend once who felt as you do, and was constantly frustrated with my best efforts. I look back now and realize that he was probably OCD. The amount of annoyance that that caused for both of us broke us up. I’m not saying that you are, but be aware that what you want from him in this department he may not be able to give.

And unless his car is a Winnebago, I don’t feel that there is really much of a comparison. Keeping a car clean is not the same.

This may be a deal-breaker for you both, you should discuss it in depth. And don’t blame his mother, she has nothing to do with it now.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi I hear ya. The house can get messy in an hour. Especially the kitchen. For me not having to do the deep cleaning gives me more energy to do the other stuff, but I am still very far from perfect. My husband grew up with a live-in maid most of his childhood so he is used the house being clean all the time, plus his mom is a neat person.

If my husband spent one hour a week even just talking to me while I cleaned and sorted through thing my house would be a ton cleaner. He won’t. He doesn’t even have to do the cleaning. I wish I had a girlfriend who came by once a week to catch up on gossip while I sorted my office.

jca's avatar

I think sometimes when someone refuses or finds it impossible to learn something simple like cleaning, it’s intentional. If he can wipe the inside of a car, vacuum the car, etc., then why can’t he do the same in a house? If he really can’t fathom how to do those things, it should only take one “lesson” for him to catch on.

If he was brought up in a messy house, and he has a lower standard of what neat is, then hopefully you telling him that this is important to you will help him to comprehend the new standard.

cutiepi92's avatar

I think it’s a situation where he just isn’t bothered as much by mess as I am. It’s not that he doesn’t LIKE clean, I just think that he truly doesn’t grasp what clean is or what it takes to get stuff clean. The reason I mention his mom is because he currently lives with her (as I live with my parents; he’s still in college). So he’s grown up all his life surrounded by filth and therefore sees it as normal….

It’s not as if I’m OCD about cleaning. I don’t really like to clean, but when I do, I do it right. I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind clutter (e.g. having just a lot of stuff everywhere) but I can’t stand actual dirtiness. Which is why in our house we keep the bathroom and kitchen spotless; I feel like the most bacteria can accumulate there. His house really just needs a good scrubdown; washing baseboards and whatnot. But he probably doesn’t know what baseboards are :(

@Judi I’ll take your advice and try to talk to him about it in that way.

Judi's avatar

It sounds like he gets defensive. He thinks you’re putting him down. Maybe if you said something like, “I know it’s different from the way you do it. I realize you think I’m being anal about this but this one is really important to me. I don’t care how you keep the garage, but when it comes to how the dishes go into the dishwasher I really want to do it this way.” (Or whatever aspect of cleaning bugs you most.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

I just thought of something. Can you give us a for-example? His idea of cleaning X is….while your idea of cleaning X is….

gailcalled's avatar

Focus on this sentence, please; And the most irritating thing is that he keeps the inside and outside of his car spotless, but doesn’t know clean an actual house .

Set that as your standard; it’s not rocket science. He is making some deliberate choices.

So, choose your battles…cooking or cleaning?

funkdaddy's avatar

My wife is clean and organized. Her closet is organized by sleeve length, then color, in the same order as light (Roy G. Biv)... really. She has advanced techniques when it comes to loading the dishwasher optimally. She has an entire cabinet full of just the right tool for every common cleaning job around the house. She would actually not mind cleaning all day if the other pesky humans she lives with (myself and my daughter) wouldn’t just come along and mess it up.

So that’s her.

I’m not a dirty person, but temporarily dirty doesn’t bother me. I’m totally fine with a temporary pile of clothes, a messy desk, or having an area that doesn’t have to be clean regularly. I’m probably a little like your boyfriend. Dirty isn’t something to be avoided and clean is a “nice to have”...

She used to get really wound up about my “man messes” that I’d leave around. My socks in the living room were a problem, my cleanup after cooking was inadequate, and didn’t anyone show me how to load a dishwasher correctly?

So after way too much time fighting over the placement of my socks I finally realized it wasn’t about the socks, she saw it as me expecting her to pick up after me. Same with the kitchen, she thought I was doing it just good enough to get out of there and then expecting her to do it “right”.

So in the end it was about what each mess represented to her and coming to a compromise. I pick up my socks because that’s easy. She understands (sort of) that I’m not leaving the kitchen messy for her, I’m just not going to disassemble the stove every time I cook to make sure it’s spotless. If it’s getting rough, let me know and I’ll get in there. I also have an area that’s mine, it can be as messy as it needs to be.

I still have no idea how her priorities lead her to load a perfect dishwasher, but some things are simply beyond mere mortals.

Let your boyfriend know why things bother you, pick out 2 or 3 you really want corrected, and start there. You need to quit seeing it as you being “clean” and him being “dirty” or it will never get better.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was just wondering exactly how high her standards are. I was sympathizing with her, then the thought crossed my mind that she could be a clean freak.

JLeslie's avatar

@cutiepi92 I really think you and your boyfriend should take the quiz on this Q.. Here it is. Maybe it will help you both have a conversation about it.

You can’t make it like you are right and he is wrong. Men hate to be wrong. Many women don’t like it either, but men are in a special class in my opinion when it comes to this. If they feel like they are beng corrected the way a parent corrects a child they will fight it. If they feel inadequate, they will reject it and overcompensate by being either angry or putting their foot down to hold their ground on an issue. Not all men, but this has been my experience a lot of the time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What @JLeslie said. In 12 years of marriage my husband has apologized to me once. I deserve about 5000 apologies, but I’m not holding my breath.

Is she even still here?

livelaughlove21's avatar

I do 95% of the cleaning, 99% of the dishes, and 85% of the cleaning in our house. And we both work 40-hour weeks. On the other hand, he takes out the trash 95% of the time and does 100% of the work outside of the house when it needs to be done. I’m still doing chores more often than he is. Yeah, sometimes I think he’s a bit lazy, but it doesn’t really bother me as long as he does the things we agreed he’d do to help out.

I’ve found that men can clean really well, but only when they want to. Like you said, his car is spotless. He knows how to clean, he just doesn’t want to take the time and effort to do it right. He’d rather you do it, or his mom do it. It’s really up to you whether you’re going to deal with that or not. I seriously doubt this will change – you can’t teach and old dog new tricks. He’s not your child and you can’t exactly tell him what to do. You can ask him to do it, sure, but it’s up to him whether he does it or not.

I’d admit that I have a more traditional role at home than women that happened to marry a man that likes to cook or cleans better than they do. That doesn’t bother me. It clearly bothers you. What you do about that is up to you, but holding out thinking you’ll change him probably won’t pan out like you hope.

JLeslie's avatar

Wait, does your boyfriend still live at home? Or, live with you?

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: The OP @cutiepi92 said she lives with her family and he lives with his.

JLeslie's avatar

That’s what I thought, so why does cleaning even become a big deal? Whose house is he cleaning? Not his own. When he has his own house maybe he will care about it the way he cares about his car.

longgone's avatar

^ I think OP is worried about how their marriage might turn out…

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, they need to live together for a couple of years before they commit.

JLeslie's avatar

@longgone I know. I still include my first couple of answers that they need to get to the bottom of it, but I am just saying that it would not be that unusual for a 20 something to not care about keeping his room clean, especially if his mom’s house is a mess. Is he supposed to clean the OP’s parents home? His behavior at his mom’s home is not necessarily indicative of what he will be like in his home. I would not ignore it, because it seems like it will be at least somewhat of an issue, but I think a lot of it has to do with young people not being able to discuss concerns well. Many 50 year olds cannot discuss relationship issues well.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Really. Are we talking about high school kids? How old is the OP?

JLeslie's avatar

Early 20’s.

jca's avatar

@cutiepi92: Maybe, since he lives with his mom, he doesn’t want to be the “designated house cleaner” and the mom will just keep messing it up.

canidmajor's avatar

So, now that we know that you are each living in your parents’ homes, what exactly is he not cleaning that upsets you? He’s not cleaning someone else’s house? I don’t blame him. With all this new info, I’d be encouraged that his car is so clean, it may indicate that he takes pride in his own stuff.

marinelife's avatar

I’m not sure that you teaching him will be very good for your relationship. What you do need to do is to explain to him that his lack of skills and his lack of willingness in this area will mean that you cannot spend your life with him. Perhaps he will look into lessons.

Don’t give in. You will regret it forever.

ibstubro's avatar

There have got to be things he’s better at than you are. Offer a no-holds-barred training session. Perhaps you wash the car and he cleans the kitchen, then the other re-does ½. Put down blue painter’s tape.

At the least, you’ll both be worn out at days end, and there will probably be amazing sex.

LostInParadise's avatar

Stand your ground. In a calm and clear voice explain to him that this is something very important to you. He certainly is not going to complain if the house is cleaner than he finds accetpable. Relationships are about give and take and in this case he is going to have to put in a little bit of time and effort to help with something that has high priority for you.

As for cooking, it is not terribly difficult to make something decent to eat. It may not be gourmet quality, but you do not need an advanced degree to roast a burger or drop an egg into a frying pan or boil some vegetables.

jca's avatar

@LostInParadise: In revisiting this issue, if she lives with her family and he lives with his mom, the cleanliness of the house he lives in with his mom is really not his responsibility. Yes, he should chip in and tidy up, but for her, standing her ground and explaining that this is something that’s important to her and whether he finds the cleanliness of the house acceptable is not something that he can really change, if the mom doesn’t want it to be.

LostInParadise's avatar

I was assuming that the OP was considering what would happen once they start living together.

jca's avatar

@LostInParadise: That’s a good assumption, and I assumed they already did with her asking this question. Then reading the details, it occurred to me that we’re getting all riled up about the issue when it’s not really an issue until he lives alone or with her. He may turn out to be totally different then the way he is when he lives with his mommy.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We really can’t tell if this is going to be an issue or not, until they both grow up and get their own places. I mean, I didn’t clean my parent’s house unless I was ordered to (given chores.) That has no bearing on how I keep house today, though.

cutiepi92's avatar

It’s a concern for me now because I’m thinking about the future. We both have parents that are ridiculously old fashioned and don’t want us to live together until we are married (prolly won’t happen, but that’s an argument to have with them at a later date). It concerns me because there was a period of time last year in which he had a room in an apartment (on campus) and bathroom and didn’t keep it clean at all. At his parent’s house, I don’t expect him to clean everything, but is it too much to expect someone to keep their own room and bathroom straight?

As I stated before, I’m not a neat freak. Trust me, I think I’m more lax than a lot of people. There are just basic things that irritate me; like who leaves a dirty ring around in a bath tub that you consistently use? You’re essentially bathing in your own filth! Or hair and dirt and whatnot piled up in the sink. Old spiderwebs hanging out under the bathroom counter. Stuff like that. If you leave your shorts and t-shirt on the floor, I could care less. I do that too.

I don’t expect him to become a wizard at cooking or cleaning. It’s more of an issue that he thinks he completely is fine with his skills and doesn’t see why I may have a different opinion on it.

canidmajor's avatar

Talk to him. That’s basically all you can do. If he doesn’t want to clean differently than he does now, and you can’t stand it, then you’re kind of out of luck. If you find you don’t really mind doing that stuff because his other fine qualities outweigh the sloppiness, then hooray.

This is not about how or if he cleans things the way you think he should, it’s about how and in what ways you are willing to compromise to be together.
This may be a deal breaker, figure it out before you marry.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thanks for that additional info. Yep. I agree. It could be a problem, unless you’re willing to just let it go and do most of the cleaning yourself.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

You already know that your boyfriend is hopeless when it comes to housework, and that he’s comfortable living in a dirty, messy home. But, are there things that he does well and responsibly?

Is he good about running errands? Does he make sure that both of your automobiles are maintained and kept in good working condition? You mention that his car is spotless; does he wash and clean your car, as well? Can he take care of the household finances – make sure that every bill gets paid on time and that the checkbook is current and reconciled? What about gardening and yard work?

Tasks don’t need to be split down the middle and shared equally. Partners can complement each other, instead, with both people contributing very different efforts to the relationship.

So, you’re better and more reliable about cooking and cleaning. If your boyfriend can contribute in his own way, and take some of life’s other burdens off your shoulders, that might be a very nice situation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul They each still live at home, with their parents, not with each other.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@Dutchess_III “They each still live at home, with their parents, not with each other.”

Yes, @cutiepi92 made it quite clear that he lives with his parents, and that his mother dotes on him. But, that doesn’t make him immune from helping his father with the yard work, or being responsible for at least some of his personal bills, or having bank accounts, or keeping his car in good condition and giving his girlfriend a hand with the same.

When I still lived with my parents, I kept a checking account and had to cover my personal expenses (credit card bills, medical co-pays, auto insurance and gasoline, etc.) I was also 100% in charge of a rather large yard. I did my own laundry and helped with general housework. Living at home doesn’t automatically make someone helpless and completely dependent, nor should it.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Teach him by example, eat some shelled sunflower seeds in his car and let some spill. If he says something do a half-assed job cleaning them up. If he balks at the way you “cleaned” it, tell him what is wrong, it is the same standard used in the house, so why is it not good enough for the car?

JLeslie's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul You took on responsibilities around the house when you lived with your parents, but I am assuming your parents cared about the neatness and cleanliness of the house and yard. It doesn’t appear the OP’s boyfriend’s mother cares about her home in that way. You want him to care more than the actual owner. I do agree that he might be accustomed to a messy home and that might be a problem, but not necessarily. I came from a very messy home and I am not great at keeping things organized at home, and I am fine with folded laundry sitting for three days before I get it into a dresser drawer, but overall I keep a neat welcoming home. I definitely care that it is clean (not to be confused with neat). I have had professional organizers help me on three separate occassions. The first instance was really incredible. She tought me things I would have never have thought of on my own.

My sister as she has aged has gone to an extreme in the opposite direction of her childhood and she is extremely organized and likes everything minimalistic and no clutter. She is almost OCD about jotting everything in its place. We both actually are good at throwing stuff out and not buying knick knacks, because we know it is not natural to use to put things away.

I don’t think we can assume what the boyfriend will be like in his own home.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul He does keep his own car up. He was raised by his single mother who insists on doing everything for him. I guess the father isn’t in the picture. I have no idea if they even have a yard, or who takes care of it.
Your parents expected you to chip in, as did mine. Apparently his mother doesn’t.

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