I was feeling like it was time for a change in location and decided to look at the prospects of moving to a new area in San Diego. Talking with my girlfriend Elisse, we decided that it would be a good idea to move into a place together. With neither of us ever living with a significant other before, this was a big step for both of us. We were having dinner with her parents when she mustered enough courage to break the news. “Mom...Dad, Chris and I are going to find a place together.” She said quietly as if asking for the approval rather than stating it. Their response was not what either of us were expecting, her father elated “Why doesn't he move in with you and Roxanne?”. Elisse had lived with her older sister Roxanne for the past 2 years and was as anxious to find a new place as I was. A month later I was living with my girlfriend and her sister.
If I was blind in past visits to her sister cleanliness issues, I was not when I moved in.
Immediately I began to realize that I was living with a 25 year old with the mental maturity of someone 14. One could almost trace a line where she had been with random laundry, food, and makeup. I tried in secret to time her attention span to see where the completion of an activity failed and left it for others to pick up. My blood boiled. “Elisse, I CAN’T TAKE IT
ANYMORE!” I shouted in hopes her sister could hear in the other room. Understanding that I moved into her and her sister’s world, I was tentative to voice any direct issues. This resulted in
cleaning up her messes in front of her, leaving her items at her doorstep and ultimately postit notes with arrows pointing to the messes created. Coming home from a long day at work, I cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom. Taking part in my weekday tradition, I was watching
Jeopardy on the couch when I noticed her sister heating soup that was exploding in the microwave. Instead of cleaning it up, she placed the hot soup bowl on the kitchen cutting board and then took the board into her room and closed the door. I waited 4 days to see if the area was cleaned or the board returned...nothing. After speaking with my girlfriend about it, she composed a letter listing all of the things that she thought needed to be corrected. After delivery, the response was less than stellar, with an equally attacking message received. The ensuing fight lasted over a month with both sides resorting to a stakeout in their respected rooms. While still currently living together, her ways have been mostly contained to her bedroom, which resembles the Bog of Eternal Stench from the classic 1986 film “Labyrinth”.
The failure in the ability to solve the situation was not in the honesty or relevance as both were there, but the received clarity. The message came across as an attack rather than a suggestion of change. Acknowledging that some are better than others at receiving constructive criticism, her sister in this case would fall to an extreme side of the spectrum. A better alternative to the letter would have been a conversation with a mutual plan. In this case, the message was