September 27, 2017

Question: About a year ago, my partner became mildly friendly with an exchange student when he was at university. Although they weren’t great friends, this person phoned last week to let him know that she is coming to Bali and asked if she could stay with us for a couple of weeks. While I wasn’t happy about him agreeing to this without asking my opinion first (we’ve discussed it since, and he has apologized), I have to admit that, if he had asked me, I would probably have said yes. The girl is only 22, and she doesn’t have a lot of money. She also doesn’t know anyone else here; so I feel it’s the right thing to do.

The trouble is, she is arriving in 2 weeks, and I don’t like her. She isn’t a horrible person, but I find her annoying. Last time she stayed with us in Europe, she didn’t lift a finger to help out and seemed to expect dinner cooked for her every night. Other than in college, she has never lived outside her parents’ home and just doesn’t have roommate skills. I also found her difficult to have in my personal space. A few times I got home from work exhausted, and I’d end up listening to her talk for hours (literally) about things like how unfair her thesis mark was, or how incredibly drunk she got on the weekend. To make matters worse, I have been having a few emotional issues lately, which require that I really need my space.

Can you suggest any strategies to deal with this situation? I don’t want her to feel unwelcome – after all, we said she could stay. But I also don’t want to do the full-on martyr complex act of feigning friendliness, doing everything for her, listening to her stories, and feeling resentful.


Dr. ZZ: You are kind to let this girl stay with you and correct to realize in advance that you need to negotiate the terms of her stay. My suggestion is that, since your partner got you into this, you assign him to lay down the ground rules before she eats you out of house and home. Put details into an agreement about chores, meals, dishes, laundry, house rules, the length of her stay, etc., and her choice of a night of the week when she wants to cook dinner. Then, have him email it to her and/or take her out for a coffee on her own when she first arrives. Explain to her that you will be needing alone time. Then, once she’s in your face and blabbing, be prepared to find it in yourself to excuse yourself.


Question: My boyfriend and I are in our 30s and have been dating for about 2 years. Pretty much everything is great. He is kind, smart, generous and supportive; we have similar goals; sex is awesome. We’re talking about getting married and having kids, however, I have a problem with his personal hygiene. Some of his habits are disgusting.

He doesn’t shower daily, he brushes his teeth only 3-4 times per week, and he wears the same clothes for days on end. Yesterday I jokingly brought up the tooth-brushing thing, and he protested that he brushes “almost daily” and that his oral health is fine. He thinks his teeth and gums are healthy, but he hasn’t been to a dentist in years, and his gums are visibly receding and discolored. It’s revolting.

His toilet bowl is brown on the inside, there is a layer of scum on practically every surface of his living space, and when he picks up after himself, nothing gets clean – everything looks greasy and dusty.

I don’t know how to broach this subject with him. I love him and want to make a lifetime commitment to him, but I also want him to take care of his body and the home we’ll eventually share. When we live together back home, we will not have a pembantu, and I don’t want to be solely responsible for all the housework – nor do I want his teeth to fall out. Am I a nagging harpy for wanting to change his grooming and household habits? How can I discuss this with him without making him feel attacked?


Dr. ZZ: If you move in together “hoping” that this will naturally get better, it is apt to be a constant, draining source of conflict between you. Until you see some noticeable, sustained improvement in his self-care and housekeeping skills, don’t even contemplate sharing a home together.

You need to speak up about your needs (gulp) and talk to him. There’s no way to bring up something so personal without the other person feeling criticized, but the least manipulative way to try to get someone to change their behavior is to be direct and extremely honest about what you want them to do. He may get defensive and upset – the story about what he thinks of his dental health is illustrative – so be prepared for an argument.

Ask him directly to take a shower, to brush his teeth, to wash his clothes and to clean his house. Not in a ‘down the road when we’re married’ way, but from a placed of “I love you, and this behavior is not okay. Will you work on it, for me? Can we work on it together?” Let him know that you need him to bathe every day, to do laundry regularly, to clean his house better and to get onboard with his dental hygiene. If this leads to an onslaught of emotional roadblocks on his part, you may need him to seek therapy in order to resolve this.


Dr. ZZ has a Ph.D. in Counseling and a doctorate in Natural Healing. Drawing on a background of   over thirty years as a professional therapist, she offers self-help in the areas health, relationship and  personal  growth. All queries are answered by email and, if they appear in print, are subject to editing. Please email your questions : <> All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.


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