My wife is extremely dirty

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It is so bad that she will eat food and leave the plates under the bed and if I do not remove them, she will not

My wife, with whom I have been with for three years, is extremely dirty and loves a dirty environment. It is so bad that she will eat food and leave the plates under the bed and if I do not remove them, she will not. Even when I clean up before leaving home, I will come back to a messy house and insults if I ask why she has not cleaned up. I have even stopped making love to her because she hates bathing. I always see her on different platforms on social media giving advice to others yet her own home is in shambles. Because she has refused to change, I am ready to divorce her and start over. Am I wrong?


Dear Anonymous,

Living with a messy partner can be frustrating. However, differences between partners are normal and expected.

Usually, what stands out most is the difference between couples. This is because you meet as adults from different walks of life, families, and with different values. This is usually soon forgotten when people start staying together. You then struggle to change the other with no success, leading to frustration.

It is possible that most messy partners cannot see the mess that they are creating. The reason they continue to be messy is that the clutter does not bother them as it does you.  Having stayed with your wife for three years shows that you have tried to stay together despite the fact that she is dirty. What has changed that you can no longer stand her dirtiness? Is she getting worse?

The above questions will enable you to take a closer look, and differentiate between what was happening three years ago and now. It could be that she is also not well psychologically. However, if you have only been patient but now feel you cannot do it anymore, here are a few things you can do that might help.

Try outlining things for her in a clear and nonjudgmental way. For example, say, “I prefer it if you wash the dishes immediately because otherwise, it will attract ants or cockroaches.” Using the “I” language reduces the temptation to raise your voice. Shouting and yelling will make it worse since no one would tolerate it even if they are in the wrong.

Choose a time when you are both in your best moods and talk about the issue. Let her know how you feel being in a messy house. You can also seek professional help together as this opens a safe environment for you and your partner to express some of the issues that are troubling your marriage.

Try not to parent her. Parenting occurs when you start feeling that they are so irresponsible that they need to be taken through things step by step, and when you assume they are doing things incorrectly intentionally because they are lazy. This way of doing things will only worsen the situation.

Learning to compromise will help. By accepting that your partner is disorganised, you will learn to live with it. There may be some small concessions you have to make, such as letting them keep their personal space untidy, or allowing them to leave their own clothes unfolded in their drawers. There are some things that truly do not bother messy people, and where it does not directly impact you, you may just have to let your wife be.

Reader advice

Appreciate differences

Jane Mukisa: When one partner is neat and the other is not, a power struggle is created. And the one who does everything becomes the martyr and complains that no one else does anything. The other discovers that if they do not do anything, it will get done without them having to work at it. It really does not matter who is to blame. If how you have been approaching your spouse in the past has not worked, try other options until you find something that does. Or learn to appreciate your differences. Resentment does not make for a lovely marriage.

Think of the good

John Mukasa: Keep thinking about your spouse’s good attributes. Maybe you can learn to be a little more carefree. Be grateful you have a home and  a spouse. You may find down the line you will have wished you spent more time with your spouse and less time cleaning the house. Remember what is really important.

Divorce not a solution

Tna Woods: The problem is that even if you decide to clean up after her, she kills your energy by dirtying the whole place once again. However, threatening to leave your wife is also not an option. Find ways that work for both of you.

Talk to your wife

Joyce Musoke. It is really bad that you are considering divorce. Is she that bad? Tell her everything you have told us and that if she does not change, then there is a likelihood that you will divorce her. Talk to her next of kin, either aunties or parents and tell them the truth so that later on, if she does not change, you exit in peace. You would have done your part as a spouse to seek help.

Respect your vows

Monica Asiimwe Mugambwa. When you were taking your vows, what do you think for better or worse meant? Marriage is not a joke that you just up one day and ask for a divorce just because your wife is dirty. Surely you can together come up with a solution.

Is this the whole truth?

Owoeye Temidayo. Why do I feel like this is not the whole truth? If it is, then you should know that this still is not reason enough to divorce your wife. Talk to her about it. Talk to her mentor or someone you know she respects or better still, see a counsellor together. This can be fixed and it is not reason enough to break up a marriage.

Is this the whole truth?

Onifade Temitope Busayo. You should have sorted this out during courtship. I believe it is not just starting now. If she is not obstinate, correct her because you cannot continue cleaning the house throughout your marriage. Or, employ a househelp if you have the money. Alternatively, seek counselling where a non-biased party will help her see what she is doing wrong and how she can change for the better.

Evelyn Khorono Lufafa is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation


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