Welp, you put it off as long as possible — and went through quite a few matchbooks in the process — but the very apparent stench creeping out of the bathroom yet again this morning means it’s highly unlikely you can hide one unassailable truth from your significant other any longer: Everybody poops.
I wish I had better news for you, I really do, but the fact is, the human body evacuates its bowels anywhere from once every other day to three massive poops per day (to which I say, good for you!). And now that your SO has moved in (or vice versa) either permanently, or temporarily to escape the boredom and loneliness of quarantine, it’s finally time to have a frank discussion about what that all means for your relationship.
Unfortunately, the “everybody poops” convo is a bit of a third rail when it comes to new(ish) couples, and so a frank discussion about our bathroom habits can be hard to start. “I still think it’s an important conversation to have,” argues etiquette expert Elaine Swann. “A lot of times people think that we should withhold information or step lightly around difficult conversations. But etiquette would dictate you to do the exact opposite.”
So how, then, do two people who are still getting to know each other while thrust into close-quarters for extended periods of time broach the topic? “As etiquette is concerned, it’s a natural thing,” says Swann. “One of the things I say to my students often is to think of your favorite person, or your favorite sports figure, or your favorite celebrity. Guess what? They’re a human being, and they have to go poop, too. Everybody has to move their bowels — our body has to rid itself of the waste. And so, just acknowledge that and say, look, we’ve all got waste that needs to be gotten rid of and there’s only one way it can come out.”
Okay, so you’ve acknowledged the large, smelly elephant in the room — a valiant effort thus far. So what do you do now? “Say something like, ‘I just want to let you know that everybody has to move their bowels at some point in time, so I want to talk about how we should approach this aspect of our lives. And I just want you to know that this is what I prefer.’ And then after you share your information, then you can say, ‘What do you prefer?’ That way you can allow that person to talk and share their heart as well.”
“That’s where you can start to figure out how you want to go about sharing that space,” continues Swann. “Some people are okay with another person being in the bathroom, others are not. And so it’s good to talk to your mate and tell them, ‘this is how I prefer to get down.’”
“Let’s say for example, there’s one person that says, ‘Hey, when I’m going to the bathroom, I could care less who comes in. Just come on in.’ But you don’t feel comfortable doing that. It’s important to voice your concern and say, that’s not something that I feel comfortable doing — I prefer to just wait. And then it’s really about being cognizant of the other person in terms of how much time we’re spending on the toilet, especially if you only have one bathroom in your home.”
But talking about using and sharing the bathroom space for what is an incredibly vulnerable moment in each of our days is one thing. The next step you need to take is figuring out how to prevent your mess from reaching the eyes, ears and, perhaps most importantly, the nostrils of your cohabitator-with-benefits. Swann suggests coming up with a plan or routine you can both agree on as far as what you’d prefer the other to do while one of you is doing your business.
Maybe you’re an evening pooper, or they’re a morning, coffee-induced-BM kind of person — that sort of thing is definitely pertinent information that’ll allow each of you to vacate the space and give the other the, ahem, necessary room to operate.
And then, of course, don’t forget about clean-up. “When you are in the bathroom, if you have moved your bowels, flush often, that’s number one,” advises Swann. “Number two: If possible, keep the toilet bowl cleaner somewhere in the bathroom or under the sink. After you have moved your bowels and after you’ve flushed, spray some of that into the toilet bowl, swish it around and then flush again. That’ll really help get rid of the lingering scent.”
“And then if there’s a fan, put it on. If there’s a window, open it up. If there’s a deodorizing spray, use that as well. Do your best to leave the bathroom itself in a condition that’s habitable by the other person. And just be mindful. Sometimes we have a tendency to want to leave the door open because we think it’s going to air it out better. But be mindful that leaving that door open might cause the odor to waft into the hallway. It can follow you. So instead, handle everything inside, try to disperse all of the scent inside and then close the door afterwards and let it dissipate.”
Look, I get it — no one wants to talk poop habits during the relationship-honeymoon period. But the fact is, quarantine has changed all of that. And if avoiding being isolated by yourself at the start of a new relationship has moved up the cohabitation timeline with someone you might’ve otherwise waited months or even years to move in with, a frank discussion about how everybody poops is unavoidable.
Just don’t have the conversation while you’re pooping — that’s going to be extra awkward for everyone.