The Neat Freak might seem outright OCD, or just might be disciplined and gifted enough in tidiness and organisation to have a naturally ordered environment. The non-Neat Freak might be a slob, or just someone who struggles to be organised where they live and work.
Regardless the degree to which the differences fall on the spectrum, it can cause a rub. If your significant other is a neat freak and you are not, here are some tips on how to cope, and keep the difference from causing division:
1. Appreciate their strengths, their positives.
Attempting to understand and appreciate the strengths of a neat freak is vital and helpful: They have order, find things easily, and clear unnecessary clutter out of the home. These are the kinds of positives that can be appreciated.
2. Accept the frustrations, even weaknesses from your perspective, of your spouse…basically, accept them for who they are.
Yes, your Neat Freak spouse has positives, but how they live that out can be super frustrating at times. If you stop trying to make them, or manipulate them, to be less “neat” you will find more peace. But this should go both ways. Both the Neat Freak and the not-so-neat spouse should both work on accepting the things that grate them the wrong way about the other regardless of a willingness or ability to adapt and change their behaviour. We have to start with a basic commitment to their dignity and our love for them. .
3. Accept yourself for who you are, for being different than your spouse.
Stop beating yourself up for not being the Neat Freak. While being more patient and accepting of your Neat Freak spouse, you need to resist the temptation to label yourself as unacceptable or incompetent because you don’t have that Neat Freak tendency. Just because your spouse has that strength does not invalidate your own value and strengths.
4. Avoid sarcastic reactions to the Neat Freak.
Sarcasm can be damaging and discouraging. Avoid using hyperbole and verbal barbs at each other that position their tendency as an issue to pick on, fight over, or “put up with.” For example, when the Neat Freak expresses frustration that a room isn’t picked up and organised, or suggests the kitchen should already be cleaned up, it doesn’t help to say “wow, I never thought of that,” or “I’m sure all our problems would be solved if only this room was neat and tidy,” or “Yes, your majesty…I’ll get on that right away.” It can be totally fair to push back or respond, but sarcasm isn’t constructive…it’s more like gas on a fire.
5. Encourage each other towards improvement.
Over time, the differences in spouses can become less acute and painful when each spouse rubs off on the other. The less uptight spouse can help the Neat Freak spouse relax a bit. The Neat Freak spouse can help the other spouse become more tidy and organised. You might even ask the Neat Freak for help getting more organised.
6. Negotiate some personalised personal space that is Neat Freak free.
If necessary, work with your Neat Freak spouse to allow for some space in the home that is yours to manage, without judgment. You may find that your Neat Freak spouse can be helpful with tips or ideas of how to use the space, but they should also allow you to manage that space without expectations to do it “their way.
7. Negotiate a space that is kept extremely neat.
Select a place or room that would always be picked up and would be tidy and orderly at the very minimum this compromise will help.
Ultimately, grace and love must be more important than keeping perfect tidiness.