Are Separate Bathrooms the Key to Marital Success? Ask Harry and Louise

Our husband-and-wife team takes on the ever-challenging issue of sharing small spaces.

Dear Harry and Louise:

My husband is a slob. I’m a neat freak. In the common spaces of our two-bedroom apartment—the living room, the kitchen—we compromise and keep things . . . not spotless, but reasonably neat. But we share one bathroom, and it’s driving me crazy. I want the bathroom to be my sanctuary, where I can let my OCD run wild. He insists on using the bathroom as one big laundry hamper–cum–storage unit. I’ve heard friends say the secret to a successful marriage is separate bathrooms. So should we get a bigger place? Should we knock out a wall and add a second bathroom for me? Or is this masking a bigger problem?

Committed to Cleanliness

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No deep-seated problems here. Past the hippie and college stages, bathroom-sharing conflicts are ubiquitous. I am all for togetherness and sharing, but Louise has taught me to leave that sweet sensibility at the bathroom door. At the very least, get a separate vanity, so you don’t have to hassle over who left the cap off the toothpaste. You deserve a clean place for your daily ablutions, so demand it. Be clear that this is not a small matter for you. Brutally enforce the cleanliness of the common space. Louise has also taught me to plan separate bathroom sessions, if possible.

Do keep open the possibility of showering together, which might become more of a pleasure once you create your bathroom sanctuary.

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Let’s start with the low-budget option of keeping your place as is. You can make a housekeeping deal that is fair and equitable to you both and still reflects your different priorities. For example, hubby can straighten up the kitchen after home-cooked meals most nights, while you are responsible for a weekly (nightly? Just how serious is this OCD?) scrub-down of the bathroom.

As part of the arrangement, you give hubby something: a space in the apartment that is all his, with no watchdog chiming in about its apparent disorganization. This can be a large drawer crammed full of his tchotchkes or a corner that can be piled with his papers and magazines.

My preference, if possible, is separate bathrooms. Love anywhere, any time, but stay the hell out of my bathroom.

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Aha! Now I know why Louise snarls when I enter the bathroom.

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Ladies never snarl. Glare and glower, maybe. I believe in intimacy, and in those love-conquers-all fairy tales—as long as “happily ever after” includes separate bathrooms.

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