He Won't Bring Her Home

Q: My boyfriend has been separated from his wife for five years. She got pregnant by an old boyfriend and left him and their three kids. I've been seeing him for a year and a half, and although his kids know me and come to my house all the time, I've never been to his house. He keeps on making excuses about his house being a mess. I've told him I don't care about that, but he keeps putting me off. I know for a fact the ex visits the kids there because he has told me himself. Do you think there's more to this than he's telling me? I'm feeling very badly about this whole relationship because of this. He knows how I feel. Last time we broached the subject, he promised he would clean up and take me to his house. That was two months ago. Help. -- Julie, 45

Dr. Susan: I have friends whose house is such a mess that they're embarrassed by it and always have to "clean up" intensively before they have anyone over, and even then, it's still a mess. I don't just mean a normal mess, but something that borders on totally weird, where you have to push things aside with your foot so you can make a pathway to walk. I mention this because it's possible your boyfriend is a serious packrat, or a serious slob. If you're the tidy type, he may be terrified that you'll think less of him when you see how he lives. What I would do if I'd been seeing someone for more than a year would be to delve a little deeper. Why isn't he cleaning up and inviting you over? What is he afraid will happen if you see how he lives? And then, finally, tell him you'd find it a great joy to help him clean up. As an "outsider," you could be a dispassionate judge about what's worth keeping and thus really make a dent in his disorder. If he persists in avoiding all your questions and suggestions, only then would I suspect something else is going on. I think you've been patient with him long enough.

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