Man dumped after addressing partner's body odor

StaceyNHerrera

**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a close friend, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

The guy who lived in the dorm beneath mine when I was in college was a typical frat boy. He was constantly throwing parties and inviting everyone up to his room.

I never went to any of them, but I could hear the music thumping late into the night. The two of us got in the habit of unpacking “the night before” on the balcony the next day. We would sit out there and talk for hours about his escapades.

“How do you tell someone you’re into that they stink?” he asked early one Sunday morning following a rowdy night.

“What do you mean?” I asked him, not sure where he was going with this conversation.

“Like, how do you tell them that their ‘nether regions’ are ripe? Or do you just stop hooking up with them?” he elaborated.

After doing a terrible job at avoiding the specifics, he finally let the cat out of the bag. He’d been casually seeing a member of his sister sorority for a few months, but when they finally took things to the next level, he was completely turned off by how she smelled.

“I felt like I had to hold my breath,” he confessed. “It was so bad.”

He went on to say that he had no idea how to tell her. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but he couldn’t continue seeing her if things didn’t improve. I told him that he needed to be honest with her and just tell her how he felt. It might not be easy, but it was the only way to resolve the issue.

He took my advice and talked to her about it. I’m not sure what was said, but she never spoke to him again. And while he would never admit it, he was disappointed. I had a feeling that he was way more into her than he let on.

Conversations about hygiene can be a slippery slope, but they’re necessary if you want to maintain a relationship with someone. So how do you address a potential hygiene issue tactfully?

Don’t assume that it’s about hygiene.

“Body odor is caused by a mix of bacteria and sweat on your skin. Your body odor can change due to hormones, the food you eat, infection, medications or underlying conditions like diabetes.” ClevelandClinic.org

An unpleasant body odor could result from a medical issue, so it’s important to rule that out before you start making accusations. If your love interest has recently started taking a new medication or has changed their diet, that could be the root cause of the problem.

Choose your words wisely.

“Words cannot change reality, but they can change how people perceive reality. Words create filters through which people view the world around them. A single word can make the difference between liking a person and disliking that person.” — Jack Schafer Ph.D.

As a rule, you should never use “bad” or “stinky” when talking about a romantic partner’s hygiene. These words are loaded with negative connotations and will only worsen the situation. 

Instead, try using a phrase like, “I noticed that your scent is different. Have you changed products recently?”

In other words, be as specific and direct as possible. This will help your partner understand what the problem is so they can take steps to fix it.

Use the “Soft Start-up” technique.

The Gottman Institute emphasizes the importance of beginning hard conversations well. They recommend using the “Soft Start-up” technique, which involves starting with a positive statement, followed by your concerns. For example, you could say, “I really like spending time with you, and I’m hoping we can continue moving forward, but I am a little concerned about the change in your natural scent.”

This technique allows you to express your concerns without sounding judgmental or attacking. And it gives the other person an opportunity to respond calmly and rationally.

Be prepared for an adverse reaction.

Your lover may not take your comments well, no matter how tactfully you try to deliver them. They could become defensive or even angry. It’s essential to be prepared for this possibility and know how you’ll respond.

The best way to avoid any potential conflict is to develop a habit of radical honesty early on in the relationship. This way, your partner will know that you’re always going to be honest with them, no matter what. And they’ll be more likely to trust you when it comes to sensitive topics like hygiene.

No one likes to talk about personal hygiene, but it’s an important topic nonetheless. If you’re in a relationship, you need to be able to discuss these things with your partner. Otherwise, problems will arise.

Use these tips to approach the conversation sensitively and effectively. And remember, if you’re really into someone, let them know. It could make all the difference.

What are the most important things to keep in mind when discussing hygiene with a romantic partner? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA
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