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Marriage Makeover: “We need to straighten up our house — and our marriage”

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"NOTHING IS IN ITS PLACE!" continued...

MEGAN: "I can muster up the energy, but when Ken comes home and leaves his shoes and jacket by the door and tosses his wallet and keys wherever he feels like it, I can't see the point. The place would be ruined again in a couple of days."

KEN: "I do leave my things around, but Megan is home more than I am. I work 12-hour shifts and have people breathing down my neck at work. I don't want to come home to a house that is a wreck, or have to walk in the door and hear that it's my fault the place is like it is. If I had more time maybe I could help out more, but I don't, and that's not going to change."

MEGAN: "But when I'm home, I'm calling clients, grocery shopping, making dinner, and maintaining the social life that Ken likes. It's not like I'm sitting on the couch eating bonbons. And Ken doesn't work seven days a week. He could take a weekend away from the beach to stay home and tag-team the mess with me."

KEN: "Even if I did give up a weekend to sort through our things, Megan would complain about how I was putting things away or where I was placing them. She likes things her way. It would end up in a disaster."

MEGAN: "That pretty much sums up why our home is like it is — Ken doesn't want to try, and I'm too frustrated to care anymore."

EXPERT ADVICE

Until now, Megan and Ken have been winging who does what around the house, but neither of them is taking responsibility for making chores a priority. "They need to develop a sense of teamwork," says Tessina. The couple should get a basket to hold their bills and then set aside an hour or two on the weekend to go through it, as well as tackle other household tasks. "Outlining exactly who is responsible for which tasks, such as taking the trash out at night or putting the laundry away, will also help the couple to take control of their home," says Covalt. And to make cleaning up less onerous, the Knoops can approach it like a game, suggests Tessina. "They can set out three boxes — one for things to keep, one for trash, and one for donations — and they can challenge each other to see who can pick up the most stuff in the least amount of time," she says.

Further, the couple needs to calm down and each take responsibility for their share of the mess. "Ken has to stop acting like a defiant teenager and Megan has to stop acting like the 'house police,'" says Tessina. Ken can start by creating a place — say, a hook on the wall or a chair — where he can put his stuff as soon as he comes home. For her part, Megan must try to stop being so resentful about the mess, and to help Ken to be neater — without being critical. "If you make your spouse feel like you're trying to be the boss," says Tessina, "instead of being helpful, he'll just rebel."

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