Smelly Spouse


My husband has a problem with routinely taking a shower. Sometimes three days will go by before he does! I’ve tried a lot of things to get him to shower at least every other day. He won’t even wash up daily. To me, it’s about plain cleanliness and maturity. He thinks he has to stink in order to shower, but I think you should shower before you stink. Any advice?


This is one of those difficult male/female situations we call, “I can’t get my spouse to see it my way!” You aren’t the first wife who has come to us with this kind of concern. We agree that while the issue is cleanliness and maturity it’s also about honor and respect.

Since your telling him that he needs to change is not changing him, it’s clear that you need to do something different. Think through when it is a problem for you and then make a decision as to what you will do different since you are only in control of your behavior. If he smells too bad to sit beside on the couch, at a movie, in church, you are free to decide to not sit close to him, not walk close to him and not sleep close to him. If you don’t like to drive in the car with him, then you can choose to drive your own car.

It is important that if you decide to take control of your behavior and make some different choices, then you will need to communicate these changes in loving ways. For example, “Honey, I love to sit by you and be close, but I cannot tolerate how you smell.” Or, “When you choose to be unclean and have an offensive odor, it leaves me no option but to choose not to be close to you.” Ask God to help you speak gently and lovingly and not in a shaming or sarcastic way.

At the same time, be sure to acknowledge things he’s doing that are good and healthy. It’s easy for us to focus on an irritating or frustrating trait of our spouse and ignore what they’re doing that is good. Others have told us that these suggestions have been effective, however, if they don’t help you and your husband, may need to go talk to your pastor so that he can hear from another man what you are asking isn’t out of the ordinary.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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