Advice | Ask Annie
Dear Annie: My wife does not work outside the home. We have hired help to take care of the house cleaning and yard work. She cooks sometimes but more often she buys prepared food. She does not do my laundry. She does not pay our bills. There are not many demands on her time.
My wife is a hoarder. With a great deal of effort, I’ve been able to persuade her to confine her mess mostly to the rooms in the upstairs of our two-story house. Still, it is a struggle. It has been particularly frustrating to tell relatives when they visit from out of town — hers and mine — that they cannot stay with us.
From the outside, we appear to have a large beautiful home. The upstairs, however, is uninhabitable because of her hoarding. Our relatives simply do not understand why they cannot stay with us when they come to town, particularly when they can see what a beautiful home we seem to have. These relatives have hosted us as their guests in their home, and yet we tell them that we cannot reciprocate. That is embarrassing to me.
Recently, our son asked to visit us, bringing along our adorable grandchildren. They live out of state. We have been to their home many times, but our grandchildren had never visited us. Our son has not been in our home in more than six years, and he does not know the extent of my wife’s hoarding. Still, I was delighted to hear they wanted to visit, and I said yes.
My wife is angry. She says I “set her up” and that I should not have agreed that my son and our grandchildren could stay with us. She is trying to make me feel bad about all this when I feel like this is her problem, not mine. I want my son and my grandchildren to visit. I hate the way our house looks because of her hoarding, but I really don’t see this as my fault, and I’d rather they visit than not.
Am I missing something? — Married to a Hoarder
Dear Married: You’re not missing anything. You’ve just got a healthy perspective on an unhealthy situation. You were right to invite your son and grandchildren to stay. To disallow house guests would be to enable your wife’s hoarding behavior.
Often hoarding occurs as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which could be the case for your wife. Try to be compassionate and patient, and encourage her to seek professional help. Therapy could help her get to the underlying cause of the hoarding, whatever it might be. You can learn more about hoarding (including how to stage an intervention) at https://hoarding.iocdf.org.
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