Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: When my girlfriend, "Claire," and I moved in together, we split the chores down the middle. It seemed fair to me at the time but — despite rejigs — Claire always seems to feel shortchanged. She says it isn't fair she has chores she hates (laundry) while I do stuff (cooking) I enjoy.
I'm the oldest of six siblings, and I don't really hate any basic domestic tasks. Even cleaning toilets isn't that bad: two people, a lot less horrifying than eight.
Claire has now tried to ban me from listening to music while I clean, and gets frustrated if I don't clean up to the schedule she has in her head. For example, I vacuum once a week on Friday, unless something gets spilled or someone is coming over. Once I put it off for a couple of days because I was sick as a dog, and now she won't let it go and harps on about it if I don't start cleaning the minute I get in the door.
At this point I feel like she's a client more than a girlfriend, and I'd break up with any client who seemed this impossible to please.
Before this we got on really well, and this is the first time I've lived with a significant other — after growing up in an eight-person house, I appreciated my freedom — so maybe I'm being unreasonable? Maybe I should pretend to hate dusting? Or plant things in the garden since I really do hate gardening?
Carolyn says: For the sake of argument, let's assume "Claire" is a wonderful person with some legitimate household grievance that she just hasn't been able to articulate, and therefore is putting her anger into whatever option presents itself.
Now, the argument: There comes a point where it doesn't matter how wonderful a person is or how legitimate her grievances are because her response to them becomes too petty and despicable to explain away. "Claire has now tried to ban me from listening to music while I clean"? Because it cuts into what she sees as the required amount of suffering for your home?
Run, run, run — and not the vacuum. Life provides enough hard work. You don't need to date it.
Claire would rather see you miserable than happy. Just let that sink in for a minute. What does that say about the future of your mental health in this relationship?
Are any of your siblings single men who also don't mind cleaning and would like to come live at my house?
My son was in a marriage like this. His wife's role was to make sure he was punished for … I have no idea, but she made all of our lives miserable. Please, please. Leave the relationship right now, today, this minute, and never, ever look back.
Carolyn says: Ever. Thank you.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org.