Dear Abby: "Rita" and I have been together 3 years and are getting ready to make the final commitment of marriage. My problem is that she's a slob. Rita isn't a "hoarder," but she does things like take the plastic off a package and drop it on the floor. (Don't get me started on the mess she leaves in the bathroom.)
I love her and would be willing to have separate bathrooms if that's what it takes. But I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a house that looks the way hers does right now. The thought of raising kids in that kind of atmosphere chills me.
I'm no neat freak, but at least I put my trash in the wastebasket. Rita gets offended if I raise the issue. I have offered to help her clean her house, but I don't want to nag because her mother already does, and it makes Rita respond like a defiant child.
Have you any ideas about what I can do to keep our relationship – and hopefully our future – intact? – Whatever Rita Wants
Dear Whatever: It appears your girlfriend wants to continue living exactly the way she is. Because she becomes defensive at the suggestion that she make a better effort, accept that you are not going to change her. She obviously has many good qualities or your relationship would not have made it this far.
There is help for people who are disorganized and sloppy, but only if they are willing to accept that they need it. Some people have successfully used a system originated by Marla Cilley, aka the FlyLady. ("Fly" stands for "Finally Loving Yourself.") To find out more about her system, visit www.flylady.net and click on "Get Started."
Dear Abby: I'm stuck in a dead-end job that doesn't pay much money, so I have to rely on help from my parents. I'd like to return to school for my master's, but a lack of funds and mild depression keep pulling me back.
I told my mother about how I have been feeling, hoping for reassurance – just a general, "Everything is going to get better." This is a woman who has longed for me to get married and have children, which I thought was no different than most mothers. I now realize I was wrong. Her motivation speech was: "You have always been beautiful and I want you to see it. Don't you know that you're good enough to become a rich man's wife?"
Now I realize that being a rich man's wife is what she always wanted for me. I always thought I could be more than that and support myself without the need of a man. I also believed I could one day be a writer.
Independence has always been important to me, and I would never marry unless I was. Now, however, my self-esteem is shot, and since I can't afford therapy, I feel my mother's plan is probably the only thing I can hope for. How can I improve my self-esteem so I can make the right decision? – Depressed in Lewisville, Texas
Dear Depressed: A good first step would be to stop listening to your mother. Live your own life, and now that you know what poor judgment she has, make your own decisions about the path you will follow.
A suggestion: Write the story down and be sure to mention how you persisted in spite of your mother's advice. You may find inspiration in your own words. And if it's published, so might others.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.