Relationship advice columnist Dr. Andrea Bonior answers the plights of Washington Post readers in her advice column Baggage Check.

The sloppy wife

Q.

My wife over the past few years has become a major slob. Clothes everywhere, not caring if the house is dirty, dishes lying around and half-finished projects.

I do all of the cleaning and picking up, and I am resentful that she creates the mess and then decides to run out with friends. When I try to talk to her about it, I am the one who is "controlling" and she is an "adult" and can do what she wants.

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So now I only do my laundry and bite my tongue while trying to keep our house presentable as her piles of stuff keep growing. How can we have a more productive conversation about this? Fifteen years together and I am looking at apartments.

What the expert says

A:

It's, of course, true that she is an adult and can do what she wants. Including poisoning her marriage. Now, sloppiness that is a change from the norm is often indicative of depression or anxiety.

So might it be useful to frame this as a different conversation altogether? Not "Put your godforsaken cottage-cheese-encrusted bowl in the darn sink for once" but "What's really going on here? You don't seem to care about the things you used to."

The latter is especially appropriate given that she is lashing out at you (or so it appears). Right now, you're not communicating effectively with each other, no matter where she throws her socks.

So, does she want to work on improving the situation? And is she willing to consider couples counselling, to keep you from considering your own place?