Author Topic: Telling your sweetie they stink?  (Read 9085 times)

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TealDragon

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Telling your sweetie they stink?
« on: February 12, 2012, 04:05:49 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.

Surianne

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2012, 04:19:12 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

TealDragon

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2012, 04:24:24 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.

MacadamiaNut

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2012, 04:27:57 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? 
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shhh its me

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2012, 04:28:46 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. 

SamiHami

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2012, 04:40:46 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.

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SiotehCat

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2012, 04:43:31 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.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2012, 04:51:47 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?

whatsanenigma

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2012, 05:07:33 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.

weeblewobble

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2012, 06:49:41 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.

Allyson

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2012, 07:03:32 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!

Aggiesque

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2012, 07:15:51 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.
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LadyL

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2012, 07:17:38 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.

TurtleDove

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2012, 07:25:12 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.

Petticoats

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2012, 08:42:31 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!