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Dear Abby: “Rita” and I have been together three years and are getting ready to make the final commitment of marriage. My problem is that she’s a slob. Rita isn’t a “hoarder,” but she does things like take the plastic off a package and drop it on the floor. (Don’t get me started on the mess she leaves in the bathroom.)

I love her and would be willing to have separate bathrooms if that’s what it takes. But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a house that looks the way hers does right now. The thought of raising kids in that kind of atmosphere chills me.

I’m no neat freak but at least I put my trash in the wastebasket. Rita gets offended if I raise the issue. I have offered to help her clean her house, but I don’t want to nag because her mother already does, and it makes Rita respond like a defiant child. Have you any ideas about what I can do to keep our relationship – and hopefully our future – intact?

– Whatever Rita Wants

Dear Whatever: It appears your girlfriend wants to continue living exactly the way she is. Because she becomes defensive at the suggestion that she make a better effort, accept that you are not going to change her. She obviously has many good qualities or your relationship would not have made it this far.

There is help for people who are disorganized and sloppy, but only if they are willing to accept that they need it. Some people have successfully used a system originated by Marla Cilley, aka the FlyLady. (“Fly” stands for “Finally Loving Yourself.”) To find out more about her system, visit www.flylady.net and click on “Get Started.”

Ease up on girlfriend

Dear Abby: I am a man in my 40s. My girlfriend and I have known each other for four years but have grown much closer over the past few months. She’s divorced with no kids. I have asked her to stop going to a gym that she regularly visits. In the past, she had sex with a guy from there. He no longer goes there, but she craves that environment. She says she goes to keep in shape. I say she made a name for herself there, and requested she go to another gym. What do you think?

– Jeff in New Jersey

Dear Jeff: “Made a name for herself”? That’s an antiquated phrase I haven’t heard in a while. Because you asked, I will offer a few thoughts:

The individual this lady had the fling with is long gone. I doubt at this point whether anyone at that gym cares or remembers.

If the “atmosphere” has you worried, go with her, and I’m sure you will quickly realize that the members go there to tone up rather than hook up. A word of advice: The harder you try to control your girlfriend the further you’ll drive her away, so stop acting like a dumbbell.