Thursday, February 26, 2009

My, how things have changed!

Just musing this morning about how things have changed in the last 20 or so years. DH and I were married in Nov 1988 and he was a 'neat freak'. I am a 'clutterer' myself. We did discuss that before marrying (only dated for 5 months so not much time to discuss a lot of things about what we expected in our marriage but this was an obvious area of contention). I told him that if he wanted a neat and tidy home, he would have to do the cleaning because I would never be able to keep up to his expectations. He agreed.
I used to tell people he cleaned because he liked to clean. He corrected me - he cleaned because he liked a clean house. (I do too but I love my creative hobbies more and they came first).
When we had kids (2 kids within the first 3 years of marriage) it only got worse. He would come home from work and start putting away all their toys. It was like they were not allowed to have anything out of its place.
And he was constantly cleaning up after me when I was cooking (for he record he would not cook - so I cooked and he cleaned up after meals). I remember one time I was making homemade egg noodles and he was using the dustbuster to pick up some flour that fell to the floor while I was working - in my way! How compulsive is that?????
It only got worse as the kids got older and more active. DH would clean on his day off work mid-week and once he had the house perfect, he would lay down for a nap. We three girls would come home during his nap and just in the usual activities (girls doing homework, playing, my fixing supper) we would 'destroy' his perfect house. Now that is his opinion - actually if one thing was out of place or if we walked through the vacuum pattern in the living room (which we rarely used) he thought the whole house was a mess.
And if we had guests for the girls' birthdays or family gatherings he really had a problem with that. He could just not stand having other people in his house. He barely tolerated having his kids in the house - and often said "I can't wait until they are grown!" He really contradicted himself - one minute saying the girls would be locked in the basement until they were 36 (to keep them from making foolish mistakes as teens) and the next saying they were out of the house when they turned 18.
About 8 to 9 years ago, he agreed the girls could get 2 kittens from some friends of the family. What a disaster! He expected the darling little kittens to be clean - but between a litter box in the utility room and the hair they shed - he never had a peaceful moment. Six months later he gave the girls an ultimatum - find a new home for the kittens or he would take care of them. A friend of the extended family took both kittens - and we threw in all the cat supplies free - and the girls missed them terribly.
About a year after that he told the girls they could get ONE kitten - and we made him sign a piece of paper stating that he could not get rid of it or kill it. We got Louie then and DH did better but it was still an area of contention.
One day my niece was visiting when DH came home from work. I told her that he would walk into the house (which was clean by most people's standards) and wipe down the kitchen counter (even though nothing had been done on it since he cleaned it the night before) then walk into the bathroom and clean the mirror and finally walk into the family room and clean the screen on the TV. He did this every evening. Sure enough - he did it just as I described - and couldn't figure out why we were laughing.
Now - I am telling you all of that so you can appreciate how he has changed :-). About 5 years ago he was diagnosed as clinically depressed and began taking medication. Since they he has progressively 'let go' of some of the obesessions about cleanliness.
I walked into the kitchen this morning and the dog 'smear' on the door window were very obvious (before DH would have cleaned it at least once a day - now many once a week). I had the ironing board and iron out last night in the living room while I was watching a DVD and it is still there (before he would have put it away as soon as I got done). The chair where I do my cross stitch and knitting has yarn and cross stitch supplies piled next to it (before he would have insisted these be put away every night) . The kitchen sink has dishes in it (before he could not go to bed with anything dirty). The dining room has storage boxes of scrapbooking stuff piled up in one corner (before he would have complained about that until I completed my project and got them back to the basement).
It is amazing how the diagnosis and proper treatment have changed our lives. I am sometimes the one who 'picks up'. He still has his moments but they are short-lived. Instead of yelling about something all evening he says something or asks "Can you get this cleaned up before the weekend?" And when we have family guests - usually overnight now that we have moved away from most of them - he actually tells them to come back!
It was a long struggle but I thank God that DH found some peace at least in that area.

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