Author Topic: Telling your sweetie they stink?  (Read 7844 times)

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Mental Magpie

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #30 on: February 13, 2012, 09:51:51 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.
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TurtleDove

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #31 on: February 13, 2012, 10:10:48 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.

VorFemme

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #32 on: February 13, 2012, 10:20:07 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.       
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LadyL

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #33 on: February 13, 2012, 10:21:36 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.

Mental Magpie

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #34 on: February 13, 2012, 11:03:05 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.
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TurtleDove

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #35 on: February 13, 2012, 11:28:32 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.

blarg314

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2012, 03:05:34 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.

SleepyKitty

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2012, 09:27:15 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.

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2012, 09:36:54 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.

TurtleDove

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2012, 09:56:08 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.

TurtleDove

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2012, 09:59:36 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.

rashea

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #41 on: February 14, 2012, 10:28:00 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.
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RingTailedLemur

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #42 on: February 14, 2012, 10:31:44 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.

TurtleDove

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #43 on: February 14, 2012, 11:08:08 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.

SleepyKitty

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Re: Telling your sweetie they stink?
« Reply #44 on: February 14, 2012, 11:14:11 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.