There’s some sort of cleanliness I desire in my life. I’m not rich to own the most beautiful things in the world but the little things I own should be beautiful. It should beautify my life and beautify the space I find myself in. My husband understands this. In fact, it’s the only thing I drummed in his ears when we were dating. But Maybe he misunderstood me or maybe I was the one who misunderstood him. When I went to his house and saw a mess and cleaned it up, to me, it was a message I was sending across. After all, there’s a mess in a message. All pun intended. When I told him, “No you don’t have to leave this here.” “You don’t have to leave bowls uncleaned overnight.” When I told him not to do this and that, I thought I was communicating my desire for a clean space in a clear language that he could understand. But like I said, I over-estimated the power of my actions.
We dated for four years. I saw a change. I noticed the change easily because it was a huge improvement considering what I saw of him from the beginning. I would go to his house for a visit and his room would be spotless. Everything would be where I left them the last time I arranged his place. I was happy. Anytime I saw something in order, I told him, “You’re doing very well for taking care of your space. See where your laundry is. Well arranged and well kept. What do you want me to do for you as a reward? Just name it” He’ll brush me aside and call me a tease but I was serious about everything I said.
Of course, life is not all about cleanliness. There’s more. There are other things that contribute to the beauty of life. He shone brightly in those other areas. He was a very patient man. He hardly got angry. If you pick a fight with him, you’ll end up doing the fight all by yourself. At worse, he’ll walk away and leave you standing with yourself. Or when you send a text out of anger, he’ll read and ask you, “So what do you want me to do now?” I will put the anger aside and tell him what he’s supposed to do. He’ll do it and ask me, “Happy now?” That in itself was very annoying but I came to appreciate it. I grew used to it because it was a positive thing.
We got married in 2019 and moved in together. Then everything I worked for over the years came to zilch. We started arguing a lot. It worried my heart often but he saw it as me overreacting. Every night after we had eaten, I would clean everything in the sink, place them where they are supposed to, mop the floor of the kitchen, and close it. It signals the end of the day. So we’ll wake up in the morning with a good-looking kitchen and start a new day with everything looking fresh. My husband is a late eater. Sometimes, just before we go to bed, he’ll go to the kitchen, heat something up, and eat before coming to bed. I don’t have issues with that but guess what, he’ll leave the dirty dish in the sink, swing his watery hands so the water in his palm would splash around the kitchen, leave the microwave open without even turning off the switch and then come to bed.
So I will wake up in the morning and see ants lined up somewhere over a morsel—a morsel he left on the ground last night when he ate. You’ll see ants marching around the dirty dish, doing justice to the leftovers on the plate. It hurts my heart a lot and kills the light I wake up with each morning. “So darling, I clean the kitchen each night so we won’t have a marching army in our kitchen every morning. Could you please wash the bowls you eat from in the night? It’s just one. There’s soap, there’s running water. Just a few seconds and you’re done. Let’s not invite these little soldiers into our kitchen each morning.”
I’ve communicated, right? But that day, he came home in the evening with an insecticide spray and told me, “Let’s spray them when they come. When they all die, we won’t have them coming into the kitchen at night when we are sleeping.” Talk about missing the point. It’s the ant’s right to exist. God gave them life and they ought to live it the best way they can. The only issue is, they don’t have to live their lives in our kitchen. And if we don’t want them there, then we don’t have to do things that would invite them over.
So he’ll leave a morsel here and there. The ants will come and he’ll spray them. He’ll leave dishes in the sink and rather kill innocent ants. Soon, a can of insecticide is finished but the ants still come around because you can’t dim their shine. Kill thousands and thousand will reappear. That’s how they win their battles. To avoid that, every night my husband comes to bed, I had to wake up, go to the kitchen and inspect if everything is alright. Ninety percent of the time, he would leave a dirty dish in the sink.
The lockdown was the worse moment of my life in this marriage. It was just the two of us in the house every day. He’ll go to the bath, shave wherever he would find hair, and leave the hair and the blade around. “So darling, why didn’t you clean them up after shaving?” He will say, “I cleaned it but you know how hair is. They are so tiny you can’t possibly clean everything up.” But I will go there and get everything cleaned up. He’ll bathe and come to the bedroom with the wet towel and leave it on the bed. He’ll take off his boxers and wouldn’t mind where he puts them. He’ll use cotton swabs to remove his ears and leave it right where he picked the clean ones. Sachet water rubber in the hall, biscuit covering in bed, and shaving stick in the kitchen. I have to move after him, pick his dirt, and clean after him.
We had our first fight. It wasn’t a fight I ended up doing all alone. A real fight where he fought back. He was angry and I was in a very bad state of mind. It’s the way he used the toilet. I’ve complained about it on several occasions and his words were; “Is it not just a toilet? Or you’re going to sleep there? Is that where you eat your food when it’s served?” Those comments were annoying but that day, I took it all in and tried as much as I could to help him see the reason why we ought to keep the facility in good shape. This one morning, I went there and there were toilet stains all over. I ignored it and sat on it. My butt got wet so I got up immediately. I asked myself, “What would it take for this man to lift the lid before peeing? Does it take his masculinity away if he cleans up his own mess? So I went inside and asked him these same questions. He answered, “You’re the one who eats in the toilet. I don’t. I do what’s supposed to be done there. If you have a problem with that, you can go to the public toilet.”
The woman in me was hurt. His language bruised my calm so I talked back. “You won’t tell me what to do around here when you’re the one making life hard for me. I will lock the toilet. You can also go to the public toilet. Even in that place, you’re not allowed to treat the facility the way you do around here. What does it take from you to clean after yourself? What are your hands doing beside you? Or you think they are there for decorations? You’re not a Christmas tree so pick yourself up and clean the mess you create.” He talked and I talked back. For whole several minutes, we exchanged words. He concluded, “Even the person who invented hygiene was killed by hygiene. If you can’t live here, go to heaven. You may find the kind of cleanliness you seek there.”
In the evening, I went to the toilet and saw the same thing again. He was trying to communicate and I got it clearly. It said, “This is what I’m going to do every day. Deal with it or die!”
Of course, I’m not going to die. I’ll rather deal with it than lay dying.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband so much. As I indicated from the beginning, life isn’t only about cleanliness or only about where to put what. It’s a whole package. Some call it a fruit salad. You won’t have everything to be sweet. There are bitter portions to deal with as well. I take this as the bitter portion I have to deal with. It’s so unfortunate that this portion means a whole lot to me than I can ignore. If I decide to close my eyes on this side of his life, we’ll end up living in an unhealthy place. We don’t have kids yet. They’ll be coming very soon. And that’s also my biggest fear. I can’t pick up after kids and also pick up after a grown man. There’s a point a woman gets tired and gets numb. I don’t want to get to that point where I’ll sit and watch everything rot.
So this is what I’ve decided to do…
I will write a letter to the HR of the company where I work. I will ask for only one thing. A Transfer. I would like to be moved from this place to a place where he wouldn’t be there. I would rent a small room for myself and live the way I’d always dreamt of living. I will leave to live on my own so I wouldn’t wake up to see marching ants in my kitchen. I will bathe and clean the lather on the tiles because lathers don’t belong to the tiles. No used cotton swab on the fridge and no toilet stains in the WC. These are the little things I require in my living space but it looks like too much for him.
I’m also looking at it this way. If we continue living together, little things like these would eat away the love we have for each other and turn us bitter. I would look at him and see toilet stains instead of my husband. Or I will see a used cotton swab somewhere and remember how my husband looks like. This is not the kind of image I want to build of him. When we get to that point, we’ll constantly fight. We’ll invite people into our marriage and they’ll call me petty because they might not see what those things mean to me.
I want to avoid all these scenarios. I will move to a new place and start a new life there. He would be welcome anytime he wants to visit. I will visit too. Often. Just that I wouldn’t care how he decides to run his space. Even if I have to clean, I will do it once and not do it again for a very long time. It will even be easier for me to turn a blind eye because I don’t live there with him. I’m only a visitor.
I want to ask. Am I thinking right? Especially when he has proven that he’ll never change from that. Do you think that’s extreme? Or you believe there’s a better way to do it than the way I’m handling it? Please let me know. I’m ready to learn. I’m ready to make a change because marching ants are marching into my marriage. It’s morning and I’m dreading entering the washroom because I know what I’m going to meet there. This has to end. I need advice.