My Husband Has Let Himself Go

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband has just let himself go. For one thing, he has gained weight -- about 20 pounds.

I’m not trying to make him feel bad, but I have started trying to cook healthier to help him shed the extra pounds. I simply want to help him.

To add to the problem, my husband doesn’t take care of his hygiene. Every morning, I have to encourage him to do more to combat his bad breath. It can be awful.

I don’t want him going to work with bad breath when he is in a leadership position.

There is more, Ms. Vicki. My husband is not bathing every day. I’m constantly trying to wash his uniforms and take them to a professional cleaning and laundry place too. It’s like he doesn’t get it. Surely he can smell himself?

Now to the real problem: Ms. Vicki, I have lost the desire to make love to my husband. I just don’t have the desire because he smells so bad. It’s not like a “sick” smell but a musty-funky smell.

I don’t want him to touch me. He finally asked me why I’m so distant and why I don’t want to make love to him, and I said it’s because of his poor hygiene. He won’t bathe.

I don’t know what else to do. I had this conversation with him last Friday, and I don’t think he bathed the entire weekend. Please tell me what I should do next.

-- My Husband Has B-O

Dear Body Odor,

This is a serious dilemma. Anytime something like this impedes your romantic relationship with your spouse, it is a serious matter.

If you are noticing his odor, then people in his unit smell him too. This can be a big topic of conversation in the workplace. Co-workers will discuss people with stinky breath and body odor without directly confronting them.

I wonder what happened to your husband to make him stop caring about his hygiene? I find it hard to believe that he stopped caring for his upkeep. Is he too busy? Or is he feeling too rushed and doesn’t have time to bathe and groom himself?

Or could the problem be that he is depressed? Depression can steal our zest for life and take away our desire for things that were once very important.

Here are three things I think you should do:

First, I think you should hang in there with your husband. I just don’t see this as a reason to end your marriage.

Second, I would encourage you to make your husband an appointment to see his primary-care physician. I know he’s not bathing and this is the main reason he has an odor, but I always think it’s important to let a medical doctor rule out any other medical conditions. You should also explain just like you told me that “he has let himself go.” This is a symptom of depression. The PCP may refer him to behavioral health.

Third, make your husband an appointment to see the dentist. A dentist could help your husband with halitosis (bad breath).

I don’t want to pathologize this situation and make it appear worse than it is. Your husband may commit to improving his hygiene today.

With that said, turn on the shower for your husband or feel free to run his bath water. For that matter, take a shower with him and wash his back. Anything might help. Wives often help get their husbands back on the right track with this kind of thing.

If you don’t see any improvement, let me know. I look forward to your update.

-- Ms. Vicki

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