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Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 794
Experience:  Specializing in relationship/family counseling
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I have been in a relationship for three years now with a man

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I have been in a relationship for three years now with a man 20 years older than me. I really do love him and feel safe with him and he loves me too. When he asked me to move in with him I was hesitant as his home is a mess I believe he could be a borderline hoarder. It has taken a while and we have managed to make the inside of the house look nice and homely. As we have so much household stuff though that there is not enough storage and excess kitchen stuff, linen etc is on tables, underneath tables, on top of cupboards etc. he wont let me give my stuff to charity!! The laundry is in the shed and I am unable to get into it - not only is it stuffed full of stuff it cannot be cleaned properly and is dirty and smelly. Our garden looks like a dump - old caravan - old boat - old van - tyres - wood etc. My family and friends cannot believe the mess.
I dont think he will ever tidy this up and I have tried to just pretend it doesnt exist as in the big picture is it really important? How do I just accept this is how it is going to be?
Or do I have to move on?
Thank you.
Hello, I'm Alicia. Thanks for asking your question - I'm happy to help you today.

From the way you describe it, it does sound like your partner is a hoarder. If it's really serious (and this does sound like the case in your situation) then there's probably not much you can do to change his behavior. You've already tried, as far as I can tell from what you've said here. Unfortunately, hoarding is often related to anxiety or obsessive-compulsive behavior (but not always), and it can be difficult for people with this problem to even admit that it's a problem (as you've found) or to get help. But professional help might be an answer, if he's willing to try it.

You can read more about hoarding here, and possible treatments, if you like.

It sounds to me like you have an otherwise happy and healthy relationship - so if you can live with the hoarding behavior, then it might be worth your while to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship, and his positive attributes. Only you can decide whether this is a behavior you can live with, or how far you want to work to try to get him to get help. If you don't think you can live with it (and think long-term here, as much as you can - it's your home too, and you have a right to a clean, organized home if you want one) and he doesn't want to seek help, then you might have to move on. But I might not be so quick to give up on him if he makes you truly happy and you feel safe with him and so forth. If you've already tried talking to him and letting him know how this affects you, then you might try a joint approach. If I were you, I might first try to see a couples counselor who can speak with the two of you together and provide a forum where he might (perhaps) be more willing to listen to your side of the story and hopefully, make some compromises. If necessary, then the counselor can probably recommend him to an individual therapist, if he's willing to participate.

I hope that helps, and I wish you luck. Please let me know if you need additional assistance. Best wishes.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Good Morning - thank you for your email it is very helpful. We have been to couple councelling already as I felt that Tony was/is more willing to fix, repair anything and everything for everyone else and does not do the same for me or our home. He is a contract engineer and can fix/make repair anything - very very talented. This is the same with communication - always talking on the phone and not to me or talking over me. He also has a number of ex wives/girlfriends he talks to still and helps. The councelling did help for a couple of months though.

I really am so confused and I know that there are two sides to every story and I have bad points too. I want it work so badly but on the other hand like you say he will not change and I really dont think he will admit he has a problem as he honestly thinks that I should accept how things are and be happy and there is no problem. In light of the above do you think more councelling would be beneficial?

Thank you



Hi again,

Whether counseling will truly be helpful depends on how willing he is this time around to meet you halfway. I worry because you say a few things that indicate to me that he might not be a totally active participant in your relationship - such as always talking on the phone and not talking to you, talking to ex-wives/girlfriends, etc. His talking to them doesn't necessarily mean that he isn't willing to work with you to improve your relationship, but it seems like his focus isn't quite on the areas it should be. Maybe he needs a bit of guidance to help him get back on track - and that's where counseling can be helpful.

I do get the sense that you are a very fair and honest person who's willing to put in the extra effort to make things work. I cannot say for sure if counseling is the answer, but it's -- at this point -- worth one more shot. I would suggest it to him again and let him know that you are concerned about how things have been going, and let him know that you are invested in the relationship and want to make things work, but that he has to meet you halfway. You can't do all the work of the relationship -- it's got to be a two-way street. Couples counseling can only go so far -- but the real work comes from your joint efforts. So, I would say to see what happens and see if he would be willing to start couples counseling again. Sometimes, people need to return to counseling even if they have participated in the past, either to address new issues or revisit the old ones. So, in the end, I don't think you have anything to lose by trying.

Good luck! I hope it works out.
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