"I'm a Hoarder and My Husband Hates It"

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Brian's Turn

"I do love Sharon," said Brian, 40, a software engineer. "She's beautiful, smart, and kind. She's also the only woman I've ever met who likes birding as much as I do. Sharon is the perfect wife in every way except for her hoarding. She promises to clean up the mess, but she never gets around to it. I understand that she has OCD. But I also wonder whether part of her problem is laziness.

"I shouldn't have tossed out her stuff while she was at work. But I didn't do it to be mean. The garage had gotten cluttered to the point where there was barely enough room to park my car. I get the feeling my wife is more attached to her possessions than she is to me. Otherwise she'd throw things out so we could live more comfortably. Sharon's hoarding isn't just hurting our marriage -- it's hurting our social life, too. We haven't made new friends since we moved. I'd be embarrassed if people saw our house, and I'd also worry that they'd break their necks -- the place is an obstacle course! The other night I had to move a huge stack of newspapers just to sit down at the kitchen table. And I'm afraid of what I might find under the pile of empty pizza boxes parked next to Sharon's computer.

"I was shocked the first time I saw Sharon's apartment. It looked as if it had been hit by a tornado. Boxes, clothes, papers, and books were piled everywhere. I thought it was sad that she lived like that, but I figured she'd change her ways once we were married. Pretty stupid of me, right? After the wedding I was upset that she insisted on keeping her apartment. In retrospect, it was a huge red flag about how irrational she could be. I'm still mad about the money we wasted on rent and the storage locker.

"Over the years I've tried to help Sharon sort through boxes. Most of the time I've been polite in suggesting that she toss certain things. I've only pressured her when an item seems worthless. It's always the same old story. Sharon is too attached to ever get rid of it. Or she's not ready yet, and she can't explain why. When we were about to move to our new house, I found a Blockbuster membership card that had expired in 1995. When I went to throw it out, she grabbed it and screamed, 'Leave my things alone!'

"Helping Sharon is pointless. So is arguing -- she won't listen to reason. Her hoarding has gotten worse and I've pretty much given up. But I can't get past my disappointment. Or anger. And it's hard for me to be open and loving. If I tell Sharon how much I resent her hoarding, I'll hurt her feelings. I'd rather play computer games to release stress than hang out together. Sharon caught me off guard when she first suggested counseling. I'm not thrilled about talking to a therapist, but if it will help Sharon stop hoarding and get our marriage back on track, it's worth a try."

Continued on page 3:  The Counselor's Turn


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