Ask Amy: Longtime Partner Struggles with Sloppiness

By Amy Dickinson | December 23rd, 2020

Is it depression – or is it plain old laziness?


Senior woman annoyed at sloppy longtime partner Image

Dear Amy: I have been with my partner for more than 30 years (we’re both women). We’ve lived together for the past seven years.

During this time, I’ve watched her “bad habits” become worse, to the point that I’m worried about our future.

I think she may be suffering from depression. I asked her how/why she wears clothes that are stained and torn, even to work. She said, “I don’t care about that stuff.”

Her car is dirty inside and out, she never picks up anything she uses in the house (I run around behind her like she’s an unruly teenager), and she leaves things where she has dropped them in the house and yard. In the morning, she fixes herself breakfast and leaves the dishes in the sink. Over and over, every day.

I’ve tried to talk with her. We both work long hours and are successful in our pressure-cooker jobs, so why do I have to work so hard in this house? She has always been sloppy, but this is more than I know how to handle.

Plus – she is shut down emotionally. She spends every minute on her phone. I suspect she is shut down because she’s so closeted, which is hilarious because everyone knows I’M gay. She truly believes that people think she’s straight; although she has never been married, never dated men, and has been living with a lesbian for years.

Amy, I am 63 years old. I know two things: First, our bad habits get worse as we age, and second, I cannot keep up this house on my own for the rest of my life.

I’m afraid of the future. I still love her, and I remember how much we used to “click.” But now… is she lazy, or is she depressed?

When I’ve tried to get her to open up or even go for counseling together or on her own, she turns it into an argument.

What words can I say to get her to care about herself — and us?

— Hanging On

Dear Hanging On: I cannot give you the magic words that will lift the scales from your partner’s eyes, help her to exit the closet, and then clean up the closet afterward. You cannot force her to love you differently.

Let’s do you.

Read your own query and ask yourself (not your partner): Is this what I want? Am I living the life I want to live?

Answer those questions honestly, and then make a choice that focuses on you and on fixing your life, not hers.

From your description, it doesn’t seem to me that she is depressed, but rather that she has found herself a wonderful woman who enables her at every turn. And now, 30 years later, your partner simply doesn’t seem to give a damn, in part because she has never really had to.

You should see a therapist on your own. I think you should also consider separating, in order to clear your head, review your own choices, and contemplate your options for the future.


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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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