Wednesday, October 26, 2016



My boyfriend, Shem, is in his late twenties and seems to have a germ phobia.  My teenage sister has obsessive compulsive disorder which is already hard to live with.  I'm worried that he's going to get worse and if I marry him I won't be able to deal with it. 

To give you some idea, he refuses to deal with cat clean up.  He refuses to clean bathrooms.  If I've got a cold or even just allergies he wants me to sleep on the sofa and not get near him.  I think he's used up some of his vacation days this year avoiding going to work when someone else at the office got sick. He's using a tissue to deal with door knobs.  My sister checks and rechecks to see if she locked a door before she can leave but she's in therapy and trying meds.  My boyfriend hires a maid to come in and clean his place up.  She uses bleach solution to wipe down his doorknobs, his entire bathroom, the kitchen, and the entire front door of his apartment.  Besides the germ phobia, all else is good.  He's educated, works hard, and is good to me.



Hi Dana!

I'm familiar with the disorders you mentioned, having had a neighbor with the doorknob problems and so on.  I can image you're wondering at what point is it that someone is sick or not.  It's a hard call.  Lots of people gag at the smell of cat odor and can't deal with it.  Lots of people have employers who make people come to work sick where the whole crew is exposed or infected (been there, done that) which I think is beyond stupid.  Then, men more often have maids than women do, and the bleach does get rid of germs.

I also had a friend who married an educated man with a great career who was just like your boyfriend.  She slept on the sofa, scrubbed the bathrooms, and moved her cat to the basement, but he was definitely increasingly phobic of germs as he got older, because it effected their most private life when he became germ phobic of her.

Living with your sister who is sick has sensitized you to behavior that might be mental illness. 

I think your question is more about YOU..  Is it OK to just quit a relationship because someone can get on our nerves or be neurotic?  Your sister is family and you can't quit her at this point and hopefully you never will. But you may not have to live with her for years on end and she may respond to medication.  Does your boyfriend need it?  Marriage is a choice to create a new family but with this possibility looming.

Communicate your concerns to your boyfriend.  Try, "You know I live with an obsessive compulsive sister whose getting help to overcome her issues.  Maybe because of that I'm a bit sensitive but I've noticed.... and I wonder if maybe  you've got what she's got!'  Then listen to what he says.  If he denies it's a problem, let it go for now.  You may be right but maybe he needs time to self assess.

Before marriage talk to him about his expectations of you.  Will he keep the maid? Or will you be it?  It may be negotiated.  Maybe there are tasks you can't or won't do that he will.  You might adore cat clean up and be happy to do it because he's the one who gets the cars detailed - you know?


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