Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Dating => Topic started by: TealDragon on February 12, 2012, 03:05:49 PM

Title: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TealDragon on February 12, 2012, 03:05:49 PM
I've asked about this on another forum I occasionally go on and was disappointed to see that nearly all of the replies told me to just dump my boyfriend, so I wanted to try again someplace with some people that seem a bit more considerate in this area.

My fiance and I have been together for 6 years and have a very happy and healthy relationship that I am not looking to just throw away over one little issue that I feel can be resolved. He has depression and anxiety, which flare up badly only rarely (about once every two years), and he's really good about recognizing it and checking in with his doctor to manage it. When things get rough for him, his personal hygiene suffers. He has his medication sorted out and is doing so much better now, however, the hygiene thing is the first sign that things are bad and the last thing to get resolved. Mostly, the issue is that he gives up on showering and wearing clean clothes. I've tried to encourage him gently to shower, and he will do it without saying anything or refusing or anything like that, but he won't actually wash. He occasionally goes for over a week without soap touching his body, and as much as I love him, well, he has a strong natural scent that doesn't mature well. He also won't wear clean clothes. I'm usually the one doing the laundry in our household, so I do my best to make sure he never has a shortage of clean clothes in the closet, but he opts not to wear them. I actually figured out that he was hiding his dirty socks and underwear in our bedroom and just choosing those instead of going to the closet or dresser.

I've gotten comments from people (his friends and my family) asking if I could address the body odor situation with him, and I've tried, but my point has never gotten across. He's also lost a job because of this, and that didn't inspire any changes either. My attempts to fix this have included buying him expensive manly bath products (he loves using them when he's feeling his best), gently suggesting that his hair would be so soft and shiny if he washed the gel out every night, setting a schedule for our day (run errands, come home, both of us shower, then we go out on a date), asking him not to hide dirty clothes, making sure I clean out the dirty clothes spots everyday and putting them in the wash, suggesting counseling to help with his depression, and I've even tried to tell him flat out that I'm concerned for him and his hygiene and that I love him so dearly and that taking care of himself might help build some love and respect for himself which might help to pull him out of his depressed phase even faster, and he's had a former boss confront him (he came home and cried and felt horrible for weeks and he wouldn't tell me exactly what she said, but I know she wasn't the queen of tact, so I can only imagine). After that boss confronted him, he didn't change his habits and they slowly started giving his work to other employees until eventually he had no work and made no money and had to quit and find a new job.

So, what kind of approach might I take here? He's quite sensitive, but subtly hasn't worked so far.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Surianne on February 12, 2012, 03:19:12 PM
It sounds like he's willing to shower when you ask him to, he just doesn't have the emotional energy to actually scrub himself down with soap.  If you have room, have you thought about showering *with* him and washing each other?  Could be a pretty romantic solution  ;D
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TealDragon on February 12, 2012, 03:24:24 PM
I've tried it, but it only works for one shower, and unfortunately our schedules don't line up in such a way that it can happen daily.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: MacadamiaNut on February 12, 2012, 03:27:57 PM
I think you might try a loving yet direct approach here since subtlety does not work.  "Sweetie, you know I love you with all my heart, but it's really hard for me to see you doing this to yourself and to others.  When you don't shower with soap and wear only dirty clothes, the smell that results is unbearable.  This can't make you feel good but the upside is this is easily resolvable." 

And then explain the specifics of what he can do and how you can help... or something like that.  When he is feeling down, maybe you can set some way to remind him to shower... like an alarmed appointment on his cell phone? 
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: shhh its me on February 12, 2012, 03:28:46 PM
  He's in treatment for depression so I would recommend speaking to his doctor , and strongly suggest some joint counseling.  Blunt but not hurtful may help , "please wash with soap you so you smell nice". I do think you should double checked phrasing  and a plan of action with his doctor though; Some phrases can be triggers and sometimes maybe it's better to push harder or  other times backing off might be better for his total mental health. 
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: SamiHami on February 12, 2012, 03:40:46 PM
I suffer with depression; I empathize with your boyfriend. The not showering properly thing is a very common thing, I don't really know why. There are times when I am at my worst that it feels like a monumental effort to do so.

That being said, being subtle is not working. He knows that he has depression; presumably he is aware that his hygiene issues are a symptom of the disease. I think you should be straightforward with him. You can be blunt without being unkind, "BF, you need to take a hot shower now and wash yourself thoroughly. I know it's difficult, but you need to use hot water and soap. I will lay out fresh clothes for you." In addition, you need to encourage him to see his doctor when this red flag goes up.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: SiotehCat on February 12, 2012, 03:43:31 PM
I would stop trying to be subtle or even all that nice, but I would completely take over that responsibility if I had to.

I would get a bath ready every night or every other night and I would tell him to sit in it while I scrubbed him down. I would also take away his dirty clothes and do a load of laundry every night.

This seems extreme, but if my DH is so depressed that he doesn't have the energy to shower, then I am left with no choice. I can't let him lose his job and his friends because of it.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Hmmmmm on February 12, 2012, 03:51:47 PM
I suffer with depression; I empathize with your boyfriend. The not showering properly thing is a very common thing, I don't really know why. There are times when I am at my worst that it feels like a monumental effort to do so.

That being said, being subtle is not working. He knows that he has depression; presumably he is aware that his hygiene issues are a symptom of the disease. I think you should be straightforward with him. You can be blunt without being unkind, "BF, you need to take a hot shower now and wash yourself thoroughly. I know it's difficult, but you need to use hot water and soap. I will lay out fresh clothes for you." In addition, you need to encourage him to see his doctor when this red flag goes up.

POD. I think being direct would be much easier and less personal.  "Honey, you smell like you need a shower and clean clothes.  I'll have dinner ready for when you get out.".

Not the same but my dh seated working out at night after I was in bed and thought it was nicer to me  to come to bed without a shower instead of potentially waking me.  I started hinting for about a week until I finally said "do not get into this bed without a shower." I don't have a lot of experience with depression but from what I understand, having a routine to follow can really help at times. Can you work it into a daily routine?
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: whatsanenigma on February 12, 2012, 04:07:33 PM
Another idea might be to suggest he do something that gets him somewhat cleaner, if he's not up to taking a full shower.  I have some fatigue-causing conditions myself, and I can understand how easy it is to not feel like showering one day and then it just spirals out of control. 

My solution is to take a "bird bath" on those days (wash the critical parts of your body with soap and water while standing at the sink) or sometimes, when it's really bad, use flushable baby wipes for the same purpose.  Luckily I have dry hair so it doesn't need a wash every day.

Also, sometimes the whole "using shampoo and conditioner" thing feels like too much, so I keep a bottle of the combination stuff in the shower for those times. It seems small and bizzare, but it really does help to have it there.  That might be another thing that would help you, though you'd have to explain to him why you got it and how it would help.

It sounds like he already knows he sometimes smells bad, and how important it is not to, so that's not so much the issue, I don't think. It seems more of an issue of keeping him motivated when he's having trouble motivating himself.  You're a good person for loving him enough to stay strong and be willing to be strong for him when he can't be for himself, and I wish you luck in figuring out exactly the best way to do that.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: weeblewobble on February 12, 2012, 05:49:41 PM
  He's in treatment for depression so I would recommend speaking to his doctor , and strongly suggest some joint counseling.  Blunt but not hurtful may help , "please wash with soap you so you smell nice". I do think you should double checked phrasing  and a plan of action with his doctor though; Some phrases can be triggers and sometimes maybe it's better to push harder or  other times backing off might be better for his total mental health.

POD.  This is clearly something that interferes with his daily life with you and his work. It sounds like he lost a job over it.  And he still didn't change his behavior? His doctor needs to know. Now.

I know you love him and you don't want to hurt his feelings, but you "protecting him" into a corner.  He needs to know that this behavior is not OK, and as much as it hurts his feelings, it is affecting you and his ability to interact with other people.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Allyson on February 12, 2012, 06:03:32 PM
This has worked for me for a similar issue (same root cause but not hygiene-related). You could sit him down and be as direct as you can, "This is a problem. It is not your fault, it's a symptom of a disease, but we can figure out a way to solve it." Ask him what he would prefer from you--is he OK with you directly saying to him, every time he starts smelling not-so-good, "Dude, go shower with soap and shampoo your hair, here's clean clothes for you."

The hiding dirty clothes, especially, make it clear to me this is really an issue beyond just being lazy or not caring. I echo suggestions to have him inform his doctor. I'm really surprised people would tell you to dump him over this. You say that when he's not in a depressive period, he isn't like this? Depending on how long they last, I think that just addressing it every time it happens *could* work. Treat each time as a separate occasion, rather than set up a routine which he probably won't follow. At least for now.

I understand how stressful this sort of thing can be. The 'symptom' is something that reads in a really bad way. Most people are not going to realise what the reasons are in his case--they're going to group him in with others with hygiene problems. So, he comes across badly and it's not his fault. It's awesome that you are so supportive of him, hopefully things get better!
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Aggiesque on February 12, 2012, 06:15:51 PM
Quote
This has worked for me for a similar issue (same root cause but not hygiene-related). You could sit him down and be as direct as you can, "This is a problem. It is not your fault, it's a symptom of a disease, but we can figure out a way to solve it." Ask him what he would prefer from you--is he OK with you directly saying to him, every time he starts smelling not-so-good, "Dude, go shower with soap and shampoo your hair, here's clean clothes for you."

I POD this. I also think alerting his Dr. is a very good idea.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: LadyL on February 12, 2012, 06:17:38 PM
LordL has a medical condition that makes his feet smell really, really bad if he does not change his socks twice a day. I'm talking they will stink up an entire room. I do not beat around the bush about it any more - all I need to say is "Dear, your feet" and he knows to go change his socks. If he doesn't do it right away I get more direct and will say "Look, it smells really bad, you need to go take care of it."

That said, baby wipes, sink showers, and dry shampoo should become his friend. I would aim for him showering once every 2-3 days and freshening up daily or every other day, whatever keeps him presentable. Personally, sometimes I only shower once every 4-5 days, but I'm also not a very sweaty or stinky person naturally. That said, in the summer I definitely freshen up with baby wipes daily and I typically use dry shampoo after 4 or more days of not washing my hair.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 12, 2012, 06:25:12 PM
Your DF needs to address his issues or recognize that he will lose the things important to him.  The advice you have been given is good.  Your DF knows that his failure to address his depression is causing problems for him with his work and with you. At this point, he needs to take action.  If he won't, you cannot do it for him.  You will either need to accept that he will be stinky and depressed, or you will choose to move on, even though you love him.  I think of this situation as one similar to a heroin addict who has suffered consequences but refuses to get help or change.  You cannot do anything for your DF, but you can tell him you love him, tell him what you would like him to do, and make your own decisions based on his action or inaction.

Hugs.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Petticoats on February 12, 2012, 07:42:31 PM
OP, I definitely POD the suggestions to have a frank discussion with your fiance and to get his doctor/psych on board. I'd like to suggest further that you have this discussion with him (and encourage his doctor to do so also) *before* it becomes an issue again--that is, when he's on an even keel emotionally. He might be better able to brainstorm solutions with you that way, and it would probably be less hurtful at a time when he's not already down. Good luck--I really hope something clicks for him!
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: blarg314 on February 12, 2012, 09:36:52 PM

I would talk to him when he's not depressed, and work out a plan with him for when he needs it - consult with his doctor/therapist as needed. 
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 12, 2012, 09:39:54 PM
I think the title is misleading.  The OP's BF knows he stinks.  He has lost a job because of it even.  He knows his GF is unhappy about it.  This is not about alerting him to an issue he would otherwise be oblivious to.  This is about getting him to do something about it.  Therein lies the problem.  The OP cannot do anything FOR her BF.  So she needs to decide whether she can stay with him if he continues to do nothing about this known issue.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: SiotehCat on February 12, 2012, 09:51:50 PM
I think the title is misleading.  The OP's BF knows he stinks.  He has lost a job because of it even.  He knows his GF is unhappy about it.  This is not about alerting him to an issue he would otherwise be oblivious to.  This is about getting him to do something about it.  Therein lies the problem.  The OP cannot do anything FOR her BF.  So she needs to decide whether she can stay with him if he continues to do nothing about this known issue.

I disagree. I think she can bathe him and take off/change his clothes. If it ever came down to that, I know I would.

Leaving her BF, just like leaving my DH, is not/would not be an option. But I could not just stand by and let him lose his jobs and be embarrassed in front of his friends/family.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Raintree on February 12, 2012, 10:47:03 PM
No more subtlety. "My dear, you can NOT get by without a shower as long as you do. I can smell you. The stench is overpowering. It's disgusting. I just washed these sheets and I do NOT want to have to do it again. Also, it permeates the mattress. Do not even THINK of getting into this bed until you've had a shower."

(Yeah, I've had to take a firm stance in the past with a guy who seemed to think he didn't smell even after not showering for a week. I think they get used to their own smell and have no idea).

Harsh? Yes, but what's the alternative, marry a guy who can't even show you the consideration of being clean when he comes near you?
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: CLD on February 12, 2012, 11:03:45 PM
Oddly enough, just now I was Googling for information on this same topic when I flipped back to EH and saw this.  My DH has had serious depression before, but his current lack of hygiene is new and disturbing. 

I don't see there is any easy answer.  I've asked. I've invited. I have pleaded. I have told him he stinks and needs to shower directly. I've cried. I've begged.  He just says he will...but he doesn't. Part of me would like to just call him a jerk, but it's so not like him that I know it's an illness, not a character flaw.

I have no answers for you, just hugs. It isn't easy, but walking away isn't a choice I would make over this either.  Best of luck for both of us.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TealDragon on February 13, 2012, 12:41:25 AM
I think the title is misleading.  The OP's BF knows he stinks.  He has lost a job because of it even.  He knows his GF is unhappy about it.  This is not about alerting him to an issue he would otherwise be oblivious to.  This is about getting him to do something about it.  Therein lies the problem.  The OP cannot do anything FOR her BF.  So she needs to decide whether she can stay with him if he continues to do nothing about this known issue.

He processes the words just fine when it's brought up (like when his former boss confronted him and he came home and cried, he obviously understands what's being said), but he doesn't retain the information. Every time it's mentioned, it's like it's the first time and he seems surprised to hear that it's a problem. He's not generally a dirty person, this is only an issue when his depression is at its worst, which luckily seems to only happen around every year and a half or two years, and he is diligent about getting the medical help he needs at that point. This is just not something he seems to process as being a problem. I think he just doesn't realize how bad it is or how it comes across to other people because he's got so much other stuff on his mind, it's just not a focus for him.

I really appreciate everyone's suggestions. I'll definitely be calling his doctor. I've tried to do it in the past, but I never got a call back, but I'm going to be much more persistent with it this time. He's gotten so upset when I've tried to be very frank with him, but maybe some different phrasing will work better. I think maybe the suggestion to actually draw him a bath and start helping him bathe may work out well. At that point, it's a severe enough reaction that it would be pretty hard to forget everyday that something is wrong, but maybe it will come across as less attack-y and help him get back into the swing of things.

Good luck to you too, CLD. It sucks to have to watch someone you love go through this and to not really be able to step in and make it better.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: cicero on February 13, 2012, 01:37:25 AM
I think the title is misleading.  The OP's BF knows he stinks.  He has lost a job because of it even.  He knows his GF is unhappy about it.  This is not about alerting him to an issue he would otherwise be oblivious to.  This is about getting him to do something about it.  Therein lies the problem.  The OP cannot do anything FOR her BF.  So she needs to decide whether she can stay with him if he continues to do nothing about this known issue.

He processes the words just fine when it's brought up (like when his former boss confronted him and he came home and cried, he obviously understands what's being said), but he doesn't retain the information. Every time it's mentioned, it's like it's the first time and he seems surprised to hear that it's a problem. He's not generally a dirty person, this is only an issue when his depression is at its worst, which luckily seems to only happen around every year and a half or two years, and he is diligent about getting the medical help he needs at that point. This is just not something he seems to process as being a problem. I think he just doesn't realize how bad it is or how it comes across to other people because he's got so much other stuff on his mind, it's just not a focus for him.
oh wow. this sounds so much like my now -ex husband it's spooky. i told him a few times throughout our marriage that he needs to shower daily and change his clothing and use deoderant. every.single.time he said "really? i wasn't aware". he even told me i was making it up and he didn't have a problem "because nobody ever mentioned it to him before". ::)

Quote
I really appreciate everyone's suggestions. I'll definitely be calling his doctor. I've tried to do it in the past, but I never got a call back, but I'm going to be much more persistent with it this time. He's gotten so upset when I've tried to be very frank with him, but maybe some different phrasing will work better. I think maybe the suggestion to actually draw him a bath and start helping him bathe may work out well. At that point, it's a severe enough reaction that it would be pretty hard to forget everyday that something is wrong, but maybe it will come across as less attack-y and help him get back into the swing of things.
don't let *his* barriers stop you from getting your message across. he has to be told, and he has to be told frankly. he may get all huffy and insulted, but as his partner you have to say something.
be kind but be honest and clear - no beating around the bush.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Reason on February 13, 2012, 08:36:35 AM
It looks like the OP actually already told him that his hygiene is a problem and he says he will take a shower, goes in the shower, and does actually take one. So the question is not about telling him he stinks, it's about enforcing the actual act of cleaning himself, which, short of doing it for him (if you are willing) is not really possible.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 13, 2012, 09:12:31 AM
It looks like the OP actually already told him that his hygiene is a problem and he says he will take a shower, goes in the shower, and does actually take one. So the question is not about telling him he stinks, it's about enforcing the actual act of cleaning himself, which, short of doing it for him (if you are willing) is not really possible.

This is my point.  At this point the OP needs to either accept that her BF is going to stink, physically clean him as though he is an invalid, or move on.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Virg on February 13, 2012, 01:01:37 PM
TurtleDove wrote:

"At this point the OP needs to either accept that her BF is going to stink, physically clean him as though he is an invalid, or move on."

Considering that it's less than once a year that this becomes a problem, I'd be willing to go with option B while he gets through the depression.  I disagree that it's treating him like an invalid, it's more like helping him get through an illness, especially since he's "diligent about getting the medical help he needs at that point".

Virg
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: EMuir on February 13, 2012, 01:12:05 PM
My partner was depressed after losing a job, and she didn't shower for a month... and I didn't notice.  She rarely sweats, and since she wasn't even leaving the house (she had severance pay and needed a break), she wasn't sweating at all. I still feel bad about not noticing.

If he showers when you ask, maybe making it a habit would help.  At a certain time each night you say "Wow it's getting late, do you want to shower first or should I?"  Or if you're not around at night, do it in the AM.  Or if you don't see each other, maybe set a reminder in his phone/PDA? 

Definitely make sure his meds are at the right level, it is an illness and needs treatment.  Good luck.

Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 13, 2012, 01:15:41 PM
He also won't wear clean clothes. I'm usually the one doing the laundry in our household, so I do my best to make sure he never has a shortage of clean clothes in the closet, but he opts not to wear them. I actually figured out that he was hiding his dirty socks and underwear in our bedroom and just choosing those instead of going to the closet or dresser.

This is the part that really bothers me, I think, and that seems at odds with the BF doing all he can.  He is going out of his way to be dirty, going so far as to HIDE dirty clothes rather than wear the fresh clean ones the OP prepared for him.  He is not doing all he can to combat the problem, which appears, to me, to go beyond run of the mill depression.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Bibliophile on February 13, 2012, 01:43:44 PM
He also won't wear clean clothes. I'm usually the one doing the laundry in our household, so I do my best to make sure he never has a shortage of clean clothes in the closet, but he opts not to wear them. I actually figured out that he was hiding his dirty socks and underwear in our bedroom and just choosing those instead of going to the closet or dresser.

This is the part that really bothers me, I think, and that seems at odds with the BF doing all he can.  He is going out of his way to be dirty, going so far as to HIDE dirty clothes rather than wear the fresh clean ones the OP prepared for him.  He is not doing all he can to combat the problem, which appears, to me, to go beyond run of the mill depression.

POD - it seems like it would take more effort to hide the dirty clothes than to wear the clean so he obviously knows something is up.  I would continue to do the laundry, but I would draw the line at bathing him as he is a grown man and while he may have depression, if I was his SO, I would not want to become his "mother".  I think that a blunt conversation - even if there are tears needs to happen.  I would ask him if you can go with him to his next visit to the doctor though so you can also discuss your concerns.

ETA: I've had to be the boss that had to send a guy home for extreme body odor.  I wouldn't fault the boss - it's not an easy conversation to have for her either.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: LadyL on February 13, 2012, 02:24:34 PM
He also won't wear clean clothes. I'm usually the one doing the laundry in our household, so I do my best to make sure he never has a shortage of clean clothes in the closet, but he opts not to wear them. I actually figured out that he was hiding his dirty socks and underwear in our bedroom and just choosing those instead of going to the closet or dresser.

This is the part that really bothers me, I think, and that seems at odds with the BF doing all he can.  He is going out of his way to be dirty, going so far as to HIDE dirty clothes rather than wear the fresh clean ones the OP prepared for him.  He is not doing all he can to combat the problem, which appears, to me, to go beyond run of the mill depression.

POD - it seems like it would take more effort to hide the dirty clothes than to wear the clean so he obviously knows something is up.  I would continue to do the laundry, but I would draw the line at bathing him as he is a grown man and while he may have depression, if I was his SO, I would not want to become his "mother".  I think that a blunt conversation - even if there are tears needs to happen.  I would ask him if you can go with him to his next visit to the doctor though so you can also discuss your concerns.

Double POD. I think a couples counseling session is in order. LordL has ADHD and we've worked hard on spelling out how I am willing to compensate for him and how I am not. There are lots of maladaptive behaviors that come along with mental health issues. The "dirty clothes hoarding" may be a weird comfort type behavior - I'm thinking along the lines of how "worn in" clothes feel softer than stiffer ones fresh from the dryer or something.

Either way I agree that taking on a "mothering" role is really a bad idea. The hygiene issue is already going to affect your intimacy and adding in a "nagging" type role on top of it will just do further damage.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: strawbabies on February 13, 2012, 04:25:07 PM
Is he taking the meds, then stopping when he feels better?  If he's having relapses every 1 1/2 years, I think he might need to talk to the doctor about staying on them constantly to stay balanced.

I don't really have any advice on how to get him to wash more until he can get feeling better again.  I've had pretty bad bouts of depression in the past, but still showered every day.  I'm kind of a freak about that.  I can't go to bed unless I feel clean.  So I drag myself into the shower even if I think I could fall asleep in there. 
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Mental Magpie on February 13, 2012, 08:51:51 PM
He is doing what he can to cope.  He keeps hearing he is dirty, that he stinks, et cetera, so to show that it doesn't bother him and to cope with how that makes him feel, he wears dirty clothes on purpose...or like LadyL said, it's a comfort thing that helps him to cope.  I know that train of thought, I've been there more than I'd like to admit.  To completely write off him for this is absolutely ridiculous and OTT.  She obviously loves him very much and is willing to work this through with him.  He could be doing more, but he is doing what he can at the moment even if it's not the most he could be doing.

OP, I agree with PPs who said see if you can talk to his doctor, find a way to communicate with him effectively just how serious this is.  Talk to him, see if you can get him to tell you what exactly is bothering you (though I doubt he will, but it's worth a shot; do not take it personally if he doesn't want to talk).  Keep after him, bathe him if you have to; you know it's going to pass, you just have to weather it and do the best you can to help him through it.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 13, 2012, 09:10:48 PM
He is doing what he can to cope.  He keeps hearing he is dirty, that he stinks, et cetera, so to show that it doesn't bother him and to cope with how that makes him feel, he wears dirty clothes on purpose...

This comes across as OTT PA, not depression.  Probably because my life has been affected in different ways I always come back to this illustration:  What if his issue were heroin addiction and he kept hearing he is a junkie, that he is an addict, so to show it doesn't bother him and to cope with how that makes him feel, he shoots more heroin on purpose....

Neither of these behaviors indicate, to me, someone who is actively addressing his issues.  Either the BF will address his issues, or he won't, but the problem is not the one the title of this post leads us to believe.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: VorFemme on February 13, 2012, 09:20:07 PM
I remember seeing an article on "quirks" decades ago.

A kid who had to have a  Bible under his pillow when he slept to "keep the demons away".  Another who had to do something to clean sheets so that they smelled right before they could sleep (lick them?)  It made going to sleep take a long time after the laundry was done......

The dirty clothes might be wanting to wear something that smells familiar.  It might be a texture issue.  It might be that they no longer smell like detergent.......I have family that has to use unscented detergent due to allergies...........could he be sensitive to scents?

Android keyboard issues or I'd see how much I could remember.       
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: LadyL on February 13, 2012, 09:21:36 PM
He is doing what he can to cope.  He keeps hearing he is dirty, that he stinks, et cetera, so to show that it doesn't bother him and to cope with how that makes him feel, he wears dirty clothes on purpose...

This comes across as OTT PA, not depression. 

Neither of these behaviors indicate, to me, someone who is actively addressing his issues.  Either the BF will address his issues, or he won't, but the problem is not the one the title of this post leads us to believe.

Another option is that it goes even further than just being PA and is an active attempt to sabotage his relationship. Depressed people sometimes push those closest to themselves away, for a variety of reasons. One is that it's perhaps less painful than that person 'abandoning' them.

I really have to stop with the psychoanalyzing - I'm in research, not clinical - but this type of totally counter intuitive behavior kind of fascinates me. There *has* to be a secondary gain or he wouldn't keep doing it.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Mental Magpie on February 13, 2012, 10:03:05 PM
He is doing what he can to cope.  He keeps hearing he is dirty, that he stinks, et cetera, so to show that it doesn't bother him and to cope with how that makes him feel, he wears dirty clothes on purpose...

This comes across as OTT PA, not depression.  Probably because my life has been affected in different ways I always come back to this illustration:  What if his issue were heroin addiction and he kept hearing he is a junkie, that he is an addict, so to show it doesn't bother him and to cope with how that makes him feel, he shoots more heroin on purpose....

Neither of these behaviors indicate, to me, someone who is actively addressing his issues.  Either the BF will address his issues, or he won't, but the problem is not the one the title of this post leads us to believe.

I wasn't clear, sorry.  I said that he was trying to cope with his issues, not necessarily addressing them.  That is the heroine junking coping; he does drugs to cope.  For whatever the reason, this is how her fiance is coping.  Not the healthiest or the sanest, but I give him credit for doing what he feels he can (at least standing in the shower).  I think he could do more, but that's not always so easy.

I realize now how close I got to armchair psychology in my post, so I want to point out that I was speaking from experience with my own personal issues that lead to similarly  :o - inducing and seemingly backwards behaviors.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 13, 2012, 10:28:32 PM
I said that he was trying to cope with his issues, not necessarily addressing them.

This is my point as well.  I completely understand the psychology behind the BF's behavoir.  I was addressing the OP's reaction to this behavior.  If the BF refuses to actually address his behavior, the OP has a tough decision to make.  She can accept it, and recognize that nothing SHE does will solve the problem, or she can move on.  My hope is that the BF will actually address his issues.  But that is out of all of our hands.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: blarg314 on February 14, 2012, 02:05:34 AM
I said that he was trying to cope with his issues, not necessarily addressing them.

This is my point as well.  I completely understand the psychology behind the BF's behavoir.  I was addressing the OP's reaction to this behavior.  If the BF refuses to actually address his behavior, the OP has a tough decision to make.  She can accept it, and recognize that nothing SHE does will solve the problem, or she can move on.

And that describes the fundamental heartbreak of being in a close relationship (familial or romantic) with someone who has a mental illness or addiction. 

Sometimes the other person is working as best as they can to improve things.  Sometimes they can't or won't. Sometimes you can help (drawing a bath, telling them to shower), sometimes nothing you do will help (they hide dirty clothes so you can't clean them, so they can deliberately be dirty). And unless the OP has training in handling aggressive patients, or is bigger and or stronger than her BF, it's unlikely she can force him into the shower and scrub him down if he is not cooperating.

In this case, I think talking to his doctor is the first step. Be very clear about his cycle of depression, what it costs in his life (being fired, for example), and how he is subverting attempts to help (hiding dirty clothes), and the frequency and duration of the cycle (every year and a half, lasting long enough to result in disciplinary action at work, and then a firing when no change occurs).

I think for a case like this, it's going to have to be a medical solution, not an etiquette one. Your concern and attempts to direct his behaviour haven't worked, and getting fired hasn't worked - it's not a matter of getting him to listen and , it's a matter of treating the disease so he *can* listen and act.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: SleepyKitty on February 14, 2012, 08:27:15 AM
I said that he was trying to cope with his issues, not necessarily addressing them.

This is my point as well.  I completely understand the psychology behind the BF's behavoir.  I was addressing the OP's reaction to this behavior.  If the BF refuses to actually address his behavior, the OP has a tough decision to make.  She can accept it, and recognize that nothing SHE does will solve the problem, or she can move on.

And that describes the fundamental heartbreak of being in a close relationship (familial or romantic) with someone who has a mental illness or addiction. 

Wow, this thread really hit home for me. I was engaged to a man with severe anxiety - it was an 8 year long relationship. After he was diagnosed, some things changed for the better, but many others did not. After almost two years of him being on medication and in therapy, there were still some very fundamental things that did not change. He couldn't or wouldn't get a job, he couldn't or wouldn't move out of his parents' house, and other issues that meant I finally had to accept he simply couldn't or wouldn't marry me.

So, I left him. Never knowing if the issue was he couldn't do these things because of his anxiety and I was therefore leaving him because of an illness that was out of his control, or if the issue was he wouldn't do those things because it was easier to hide behind his illness. All I knew was that I couldn't handle the situation anymore - it was too difficult.

Believe it or not, I'm not trying to depress you  :). My point here, OP, is that your situation is so much different, and to my eyes, so much more hopeful. I want to offer you encouragement - hang in there during the rough times. I think there is another option besides either accepting the behaviour or moving on - you can keep trying as long as it's not adversely affecting your own mental health. 

One tactic that worked in my case (on a small scale, of course!) was a system of loving punishment. For example, if Boyfriend is smelly, you say something like: "Honey, I love you and I want to sleep next to you. But I can't stand the smell. I would be really happy if you went and showered - with soap - and we could sleep together tonight. But if you don't, I'm going to sleep on the couch." Or, "We're not going out to dinner."  Say it with a firm but always loving tone, give him a smile or two so he knows you're not angry, and then follow through. If or when he does give in and shower, show him and tell him how happy you are.

Also, I know they sell all-in-one liquid soaps for guys that works as both bodywash and shampoo. Try stocking some of that to cut down on the amount of steps a shower takes. And finally, let me add my voice to the others who have already suggested that you two do therapy together. My ex used to paint a rosier picture for his therapist than reality - he needed the positive feedback from her, so when he went to therapy he acted like things were better than they really were. Once I started attending sessions with him every so often, I could tell the therapist exactly what things looked like from an outside perspective.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: RingTailedLemur on February 14, 2012, 08:36:54 AM
He also won't wear clean clothes. I'm usually the one doing the laundry in our household, so I do my best to make sure he never has a shortage of clean clothes in the closet, but he opts not to wear them. I actually figured out that he was hiding his dirty socks and underwear in our bedroom and just choosing those instead of going to the closet or dresser.

This is the part that really bothers me, I think, and that seems at odds with the BF doing all he can.  He is going out of his way to be dirty, going so far as to HIDE dirty clothes rather than wear the fresh clean ones the OP prepared for him.  He is not doing all he can to combat the problem, which appears, to me, to go beyond run of the mill depression.

POD - it seems like it would take more effort to hide the dirty clothes than to wear the clean so he obviously knows something is up.  I would continue to do the laundry, but I would draw the line at bathing him as he is a grown man and while he may have depression, if I was his SO, I would not want to become his "mother". I think that a blunt conversation - even if there are tears needs to happen.  I would ask him if you can go with him to his next visit to the doctor though so you can also discuss your concerns.

ETA: I've had to be the boss that had to send a guy home for extreme body odor.  I wouldn't fault the boss - it's not an easy conversation to have for her either.

I think that's rather unfair.  What if your SO broke his leg and was unable to shower without help - would you refuse?  It's a similar thing - an illness, in many cases a terminal one.

RTL - who spent 8 years suffering severe depression.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 14, 2012, 08:56:08 AM

Say it with a firm but always loving tone, give him a smile or two so he knows you're not angry, and then follow through.

I agree with most of your advice, but I bristle at the idea that the OP should not be angry.  I would be.  I cannot imagine not being angry with a BF who refuses to maintain basic hygiene.  It is not okay.  The OP can be angry with her BF and still love him and show him love.  IMHO, showing him love includes showing him valid anger.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 14, 2012, 08:59:36 AM
I think that's rather unfair.  What if your SO broke his leg and was unable to shower without help - would you refuse?  It's a similar thing - an illness, in many cases a terminal one.

RTL - who spent 8 years suffering severe depression.

I think it is unfair for the BF to not do his part and expect the OP to mother him.  If a person breaks his leg and needs short term help while doing what he can to heal the leg, I am all for that.  Here, from what we've been told, the BF is actively wallowing in his depression and not doing his part.  That is what is unfair, in my opinion.  I believe depression is real - my husband killed himself.  I did EVERYTHING I could for him, and he refused to do his part.  That is on him, not me.  I don't think anyone is saying the OP should abandon her BF.  I think we are cautioning her that she cannot do his part for him.  Acting as his mother will only enable him and harm the OP.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: rashea on February 14, 2012, 09:28:00 AM
I think that's rather unfair.  What if your SO broke his leg and was unable to shower without help - would you refuse?  It's a similar thing - an illness, in many cases a terminal one.

RTL - who spent 8 years suffering severe depression.

I think it is unfair for the BF to not do his part and expect the OP to mother him.  If a person breaks his leg and needs short term help while doing what he can to heal the leg, I am all for that.  Here, from what we've been told, the BF is actively wallowing in his depression and not doing his part.  That is what is unfair, in my opinion.  I believe depression is real - my husband killed himself.  I did EVERYTHING I could for him, and he refused to do his part.  That is on him, not me.  I don't think anyone is saying the OP should abandon her BF.  I think we are cautioning her that she cannot do his part for him.  Acting as his mother will only enable him and harm the OP.

I disagree, but only in the short term. In the same way I would help a partner to heal in the short term from a broken leg, I would understand about a partner just not having the energy to soap up in the shower at the bottom of the depression swing, and I'd be willing to help out. But, they do have to be doing their part. That means taking meds, going to therapy, and trying. That doesn't mean I'd leave if there was a week or so where they just did nothing, but it does mean that I wouldn't allow it to go on forever.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: RingTailedLemur on February 14, 2012, 09:31:44 AM
I think that's rather unfair.  What if your SO broke his leg and was unable to shower without help - would you refuse?  It's a similar thing - an illness, in many cases a terminal one.

RTL - who spent 8 years suffering severe depression.

I think it is unfair for the BF to not do his part and expect the OP to mother him.  If a person breaks his leg and needs short term help while doing what he can to heal the leg, I am all for that.  Here, from what we've been told, the BF is actively wallowing in his depression and not doing his part.  That is what is unfair, in my opinion.  I believe depression is real - my husband killed himself.  I did EVERYTHING I could for him, and he refused to do his part.  That is on him, not me.  I don't think anyone is saying the OP should abandon her BF.  I think we are cautioning her that she cannot do his part for him.  Acting as his mother will only enable him and harm the OP.

I disagree, but only in the short term. In the same way I would help a partner to heal in the short term from a broken leg, I would understand about a partner just not having the energy to soap up in the shower at the bottom of the depression swing, and I'd be willing to help out. But, they do have to be doing their part. That means taking meds, going to therapy, and trying. That doesn't mean I'd leave if there was a week or so where they just did nothing, but it does mean that I wouldn't allow it to go on forever.

That's how I feel.  Not being able to help himself in the short term is not the same as a refusal.

It sounds to me as though it could be that the OP's SO is so ill for some periods that he hardly knows what he is doing.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 14, 2012, 10:08:08 AM
It sounds to me as though it could be that the OP's SO is so ill for some periods that he hardly knows what he is doing.

This is what it sounds like to me, which is where my advice is coming from.  The OP's BF is absolutely aware of the issue.  It is now chronic.  This is not the first time this has come up.  He cannot claim to be blindsided by sudden and uncharacteristic depression.  He has already suffered consequences but makes no changes.  The BF knows he needs help of some sort but rather than seek it, he chooses to behave oddly, including hiding stinky clothing to wear.  Apparently, this is the third or fourth cycle of this depression since the OP has been with her BF. 

The OP needs to decide how she will handle this situation given these facts.  She cannot do for her BF what he will not do for himself, so she will either need to accept a mothering role of a depressed stinky sweetie, or she will choose to move on.  Either choice will be painful.  My hope would be that the BF would get help. But that is not something the OP can control.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: SleepyKitty on February 14, 2012, 10:14:11 AM

Say it with a firm but always loving tone, give him a smile or two so he knows you're not angry, and then follow through.

I agree with most of your advice, but I bristle at the idea that the OP should not be angry.  I would be.  I cannot imagine not being angry with a BF who refuses to maintain basic hygiene.  It is not okay.  The OP can be angry with her BF and still love him and show him love.  IMHO, showing him love includes showing him valid anger.

Actually, I totally agree with you Turtle Dove  - I wrote that because the OP didn't sound angry, just weary. If her post had a different tone that reflected anger, I probably would have changed my advice.

In general, it did sound to me like Boyfriend is doing his part - OP said a few times that he's very proactive in getting his medications adjusted and doing what he needs to do. That's why I feel hopeful about her chances and I think she should keep trying to help Boyfriend. It just takes time for the medications to work and to come out of a depressive period. At the risk of sounding obvious, depression isn't something that gets cured and never comes back. Three or four cycles over the course of years sounds very reasonable to me.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Mikayla on February 14, 2012, 10:25:18 AM
I think the biggest problem with this issue is that it's so borderline.  By borderline, I don't mean insignificant.  It's just that with some issues, like addiction or cheating, it's very easy to suggest that the person draw a line in the sand, lay down conditions that have to be met, and then suggest the person completely withdraw from the relationship until there's proof it can resumed.  Many would say these are total dealbreakers just because they happened.

You can't say that about this situation.  But it doesn't change the basic fact that every adult is responsible for him or herself.  Sometimes it feels "mean" to enforce this, but the only alternative is to believe that *you* have the power to change someone.  And *you* don't.

Good luck with this, OP.  I'm sorry you're going through it.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Virg on February 14, 2012, 10:47:31 AM
TurtleDove wrote:

"He has already suffered consequences but makes no changes."

This doesn't factually match with what TealDragon wrote.  She said, "He has depression and anxiety, which flare up badly only rarely (about once every two years), and he's really good about recognizing it and checking in with his doctor to manage it."  Your advice seems to revolve around an ongoing, constant issue with hygiene, but that's not what's happening here.  The rarity of the issue is what leads me to say that dealing with it by actively cleaning him is reasonable.  Carrying him through the flare-ups isn't the same as treating him like a child forevermore.

Virg
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 14, 2012, 11:41:37 AM
My opinion is based on the fact the OP came here for advice, and these statements, which indicate that whatever efforts the BF may be making, they are not adequate.  Also, depression that flares up once every two years and lasts long enough for the BF to be fired and for other people in his life to consult the OP leads me to believe he is actually depressed about one quarter or more of his life, which to me is significant and recurring, not rare.

"I've gotten comments from people (his friends and my family) asking if I could address the body odor situation with him, and I've tried, but my point has never gotten across. He's also lost a job because of this, and that didn't inspire any changes either. My attempts to fix this have included buying him expensive manly bath products (he loves using them when he's feeling his best), gently suggesting that his hair would be so soft and shiny if he washed the gel out every night, setting a schedule for our day (run errands, come home, both of us shower, then we go out on a date), asking him not to hide dirty clothes, making sure I clean out the dirty clothes spots everyday and putting them in the wash, suggesting counseling to help with his depression, and I've even tried to tell him flat out that I'm concerned for him and his hygiene and that I love him so dearly and that taking care of himself might help build some love and respect for himself which might help to pull him out of his depressed phase even faster, and he's had a former boss confront him (he came home and cried and felt horrible for weeks and he wouldn't tell me exactly what she said, but I know she wasn't the queen of tact, so I can only imagine). After that boss confronted him, he didn't change his habits and they slowly started giving his work to other employees until eventually he had no work and made no money and had to quit and find a new job."
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: LadyL on February 14, 2012, 12:12:21 PM
"After that boss confronted him [about hygiene issues], he didn't change his habits and they slowly started giving his work to other employees until eventually he had no work and made no money and had to quit and find a new job."


I didn't catch this until TurtleDove's quoting but it really seems like he gets into a major self sabotaging mindset when he's depressed. One option he might want to talk to his doctor about is taking a medical leave from work when that happens, and getting short term intensive treatment to stabilize his mood and tweak meds as needed.  I say this because that is what I should have done from the start when I was severely depressed instead of eventually being forced to do it - it's better to take a "preventative maintenance" approach rather than let the issues pile up until everything implodes (getting fired, dumped, etc.).

It's kind of like any chronic illness - you wouldn't expect a person with a serious illness to work 40 hours a week and take care of themselves the same way as when they weren't ill, but you also wouldn't expect them to keep getting sick the same way each time without trying to change their treatment approach.


Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: TurtleDove on February 14, 2012, 12:21:20 PM
It's kind of like any chronic illness - you wouldn't expect a person with a serious illness to work 40 hours a week and take care of themselves the same way as when they weren't ill, but you also wouldn't expect them to keep getting sick the same way each time without trying to change their treatment approach.

Well put. 
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: Mental Magpie on February 14, 2012, 12:44:15 PM
It's kind of like any chronic illness - you wouldn't expect a person with a serious illness to work 40 hours a week and take care of themselves the same way as when they weren't ill, but you also wouldn't expect them to keep getting sick the same way each time without trying to change their treatment approach.

Well put.

Agreed.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: rachellenore on February 20, 2012, 02:28:57 AM
Talk to the doctor about it. The doctor probably isn't aware of just how much of an issue this is when he gets in his moods. If you bring it up and the doctor shrugs it off, switch doctors (easier said than done but it's a necessity).
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: bopper on February 24, 2012, 10:01:53 AM
"Honey, you have stopped showering again.  That means your depression is getting worse and I have made you an appointment with your doctor."

The reason people tell you to dump him is that 1) You are not married and therefore have not committed to taking care of him in sickness.  You date people because you want to see if they are a good match for you.  Willingly taking on someone who had a debilitating illness and can't really function in real life is not the way to start your life.  2) You can't change him, only yourself.  You can remove yourself from the situation.
Title: Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
Post by: JoyinVirginia on March 04, 2012, 07:30:33 PM
Revisiting this topic after thinking about it. Op, hope your bf is doing better.dEpression can be acute and short term, or chronic. From your description, his sounds more chronic and like he waits too long before setting his doctor. Etiquette its of limited help when the person really needs medical help. I hope he is getting some help.