So I have been dating my boyfriend for 2 years now, and he is wonderful. I have no issues regarding the love/intimacy we have for each other. He is my best friend and we spend every day together. When I first met him after a while of talking I came over to his old apartment, as soon as I walked in there it was like pigs lived there (he had roommates at the time). I ignored it assuming it’s just a bunch of lazy adults. My boyfriend's room was also a mess though - he literally had piles of clothes everywhere. I ignored it, not thinking of it as much.

The next year he asked me to move in. I was young, so I took the risk and moved in with him and his roommates at the time. When I moved in with them they rented a different apartment so everything was new and clean, but after a few days they managed to already start a mess. I was so confused. Well, I cleaned and even cooked for them. I was mostly cooking for my boyfriend but I obviously would offer food for the others.

I thought things were okay, but after a few months of only I doing the cleaning, I realized “these jerks are just taking advantage of me”. I never even got a thank you except from my boyfriend. But he never spoke his mind or defended me, so after a year of stress, I left and moved out by myself. I’ve been happier since then. I continued my relationship and forgave him.

After a while he moved to another place and he lives on his own now. I was very happy for him. I kept the kitchen clean for him because I would cook in it. My bf lives 30-40 minutes away and I’ll drive every day to his place and cook for him and have the front of the house clean.

Next thing you know, his room is a mess compared to the front area, clothes everywhere. He was taking like 2 weeks to wash his clothes and I could tell he was repeating jeans and they just stunk. I didn’t want him sitting next to me - I would have to hold my breath, he would go 2 days without brushing his teeth. He has a job as a land surveyor so he’s always outside going through trenches, mud etc., and he would come home put on his pajamas and not shower! He stunk and he would try to hold me or kiss me and I just couldn’t. I’m a very clean and meticulous person, I brush my teeth 3x a day, I shower at least 2-3 times a day because I work out, so I was disgusted and very very sad because no one wants to push away their significant other just because they stink!

It’s sad so I was crying daily just wondering what I could do? Because I told him I spoke to him about how bad hygiene is a very big issues for me because I’ve never had to deal with someone like that. And it just makes me so sad how someone could not love themselves enough or want to woo their partner by taking care of themselves. I feel like it’s our duties as humans and as a partner to excite and want attention from our significant others.. my mother thinks I need to end my relationship that I am “no one's mother” to raise a man. She has a point. But my bf isn’t a bad guy - he isn’t mean to me, like I said, he is my best friend we spend every day together, and I just can’t believe hygiene is leaving me to a breaking point with him, because I’ve been dealing with this for 2 years.

I’ve spoken to him about my issues and he apologized and said he will try, so he know he is dirty! All I could do was walk away and it’s been only a day since I last spoke to him. How can I communicate to him how important this is to me?

I love him, I truly do, but hygiene is super important to me. I grew up with a father and a brother that are well kept and always smell like cologne. I’ve helped my bf and bought him a whole set for men’s shower, I buy him detergent boosters, I clean the front of the house so he can smell and see the peace that it brings and he enjoys it but his room and himself are not well kept.

  • 5
    Hi Sarah! I edited your question a bit to it's easier to read and also changed the question to ask how to communicate this to him, since asking if you're right or what to do without a specific goal are off topic on this site (you can read more in the help center. If that's not something that you want to ask please go ahead and edit it again yourself :) Also, we do have a similar question in the past: How to set personal hygiene standards with my boyfriend - does that help you at all?
    – Em C
    Commented Nov 23, 2019 at 18:08
  • @EmC: I find this a little confusing now. Cause OP now reads like "I told him yesterday about it and it is just one day, how can I tell him about it?" I am not sure if this suites the purpose, as my immediate question was "Why does OP ask how to do something they just already did?" Until I read your comment announcing the edit. But lets wait what OP says about it for now I'd say :)
    – dhein
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 12:33
  • @dhein I think you can still understand it. Because even if she told him, she feels he is not seeing how important it is to her. So now it clearly states "How can I communicate to him how important this is to me?"
    – Mykazuki
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 13:30
  • @dhein ah I see how it could be read that way - feel free to edit it to be more clear :)
    – Em C
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 13:48
  • @Mykazuki I am not disagreeing with you, I am just pointing out, that chances are, OP might have not meant it this way.
    – dhein
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


I had a boyfriend once that had an habit that went against my customes too. This is how I dealt with it.

First you don't need to feel guilty, maybe he doesn't care about hygine, which btw doesn't sound like you are an extremist, just pretty standard behavior, while he is on the extreme of uncleaness in the modern world, but you do. THAT is how you are, it is part of your personality. You have the right to decide if it is important for you or not.

In my case I had the same problem, I felt maybe I was being too picky. My boyfriend was nice, we got along pretty well. He loved me, and I was willing to lose all that because one thing? Well, even if it is the most stupid thing ever, you have the right to do it. You decide what is important for you. Not someone else. Lets say you let this slide, how are you going to feel in in 2 more years, in 5 years, in 10 years. How are you going to feel when all the other good things may not feel soo good anymore? You are going to feel like you wasted time, like you were stupid for betraying what was important for you, etc.. Think it the other way around, he is willing to push you away because he doesn't want to take a shower and brush his teeth? Is really that much to ask?

If it is not important for you, give it up, and start being not clean also. This is clearly not the case. Maybe you 2 are not compatible. I think it was a red flag that he let you clean everything for him and his friends. As your mom said, you are not his mom, you are partners. Where is he partnering in this whole story? And he even let you clean for his friends? I mean I can understand he being lazy, but he wasn't upset that you had to clean and cook for a bunch of other guys? One thing is doing it once in a while, but the way you describe it, it was like a cleaning job without pay.

A relationship is a partnership. Expecting everything to go perfect all the time, is unrealistic. But it is also unrealistic to think every single human being is compatible with every other single human being. I know it is sad, but it is the way it is.

I don't know if you work and if he works, but depending how much time you guys have available in the day, do you realize it can be considered truly abusive that you have to drive every day 30-40 to cook for him, clean for him and then back to your house where you cook and clean for yourself? I understand if you do it to help him, because he works too many hours and you have more free time. Or because you really like doing it. But you have to be aware that what you are doing there is a lot of work, and he needs to appreciate it. If he can't even be bothered to wash his teeth to kiss you, that is a red flag.

Love yourself, who you are, your values, the way you are with other people. You don't have to feel sorry or guilty for asking him to change something that is causing you a lot of distress. From what you describe you have been more than tolerant and if you have fun with him, I would expect that he is having fun with you. You go out of your way to help him. What does he do for you?

So, why did I say all of this? Well is so you prepare mentally. You can't go and talk to him like who says "I am sorry for being soo annoying and picky". You need to be sure about this. Imagine staying with him for many years without him changing at all, how are you going to feel?

Once you made up your mind and feel totally sure about the importance of him changing this you need to have a talk with him. Set a time, without other peope to bother you, have a nice relaxing setting. Make sure you will have time and no one is going to show up and interrupt you. If you decide to do it at night, prepare dinner and before eating you discuss it. If the results are unsatisfactory, you leave and since you already cooked you won't feel guilty he won't have anything to eat.

Sit close to him and look at him right in the eyes. It helps if you touch him while you speak, but don't hug him, he is not a child. A light touch here and there or whatever you feel comfortable with. You have to feel close but also there has to be a certain distance. The goal is to make him see you are not judging him, and you love him, and want to be with him. That is why you are sitting close to him. And also that you are serious, that is why you are not smooching. If he tries to derail the conversation getting more phisical stop him. And if he insist leave and tell him you are going to talk more another day. He needs to see you are serious.

Then you say something like (lets say he is called John):

John, I love you, I enjoy spending time with you and I want to keep doing it. And I think you feel the same for me.

Here is better if he doesn't interrupt, but if he wants to say he does or so. It is ok.

There is something that is really important for me, I think you know what I mean. I understand you and I are different, you are more relaxed in certain things and your job makes you get dirty way more than mine does. I understand that you can't arrive home squeaky clean. I understand you have some work clothes that are probably going to be not as clean as I would like it. I truly understand and respect that.

Is important that you don't judge him, he is the way he is, he also has a right to be that way. It is his decision, it is not your place to judge him or change him. That is why you shouldn't say things like "you have a problem with hygine". Because from his point of view, the one with the problem is probably you. You can not change the other person, you can say what is important for you and then, if they want, they can change.

So then you state what you feel. As I usually say in my answers, don't ever use "but" or "however" after anything positive you said. For example if you just said you understand and respect him, if then you say "but xxxx" you are taking away from what you said first. So the next ideas shouldn't be a but, they should be "this is how I feel", he doesn't make you fee things, he does things and you have feelings over those things. This difference is rather important.

I need you to take me seriously on this subject. In this two years we have been together, I don't feel you have. As I said, I understand we are different, so please understand me too. When you haven't brushed your teeth in two days, I don't feel like kissing you, I just can't, and It kills me because I really love you. When you don't shower after being out in the country all day, and you are covered in mud and you want to make love, I don't feel motivated, it makes me feel less attracted to you. I don't want to feel this way anymore.

The idea here is to describe how what he does makes you feel, without blaming him. He does X you feel Y. What you feel is not his responsability. So you realized he does things that make you feel in ways you don't like. Therefore you communicate this to him and ask him to change otherwise you will have to leave.

Then you ask him if he wants to change:

I realize now that I will always feel this way, if you don't brush your teeth I won't feel inclined to kiss you and if you don't shower I won't feel as attracted to you. And I think if we continue this way we are going to be unhappy and maybe even get to hate each other. I don't want that. So, I ask you today, do you think you want to change those things? If you don't want to, if you feel you can't, or that doing that would be betraying yourself; please tell me. I am not asking you to change for me. I am asking you to change because you want. If you don't want it, that is alright, I understand it. I need an honest answer, don't feel obliged to say you want to change, because as I said I don't want to start hating each other, and I don't want to be crying anymore about this. You are my best friend and I want us to remain friends. So be honest with yourself and with me.

Then you wait to see what he says. It is important that he doesn't do this for you. He has to do it because he wants, otherwise in the future he will say "i did this for you" and he may resent you. That is also why you don't tell him "change or I will leave".

If he says he will change, that he wants to change because he loves you and wants yout o feel attracked to you. Then you tell him that you are glad and you are going to help him change if he wants. For example when he gets home you can start the shower, or whatever. But stop acting like his mom. You can get in the shower with him, the way you help him has to be playful, not like a job or duty. And it shouldn't be every time. If after a while he doesn't change, leave him, because he won't change and he probably lied so you wouldn't leave him.

If he says he can't change, that he would like to change but he realizes he can't. Then you tell him that you understand and appreciate his honesty because is going to save you both a lot of hardship. You tell him you love him and leave. And since you had dinner ready already you won't feel so bad. Leave right away and tell him you will get in touch with him later to get your stuff. Don't get in touch right away, it is better if you let some time pass so when you talk to him again you won't feel inclined to say "I am sorry lets get together again". If he later contacts you or when he sees you, he says he is going to change. Well that is up to you to accept. If you accept do as I said above on the option "if he says he will change". Don't let keep going on forever.

If he does change, take into account, that later on he may relapse. If he says he did this because you pushed him to do it, break up. You will have to monitor the relationship, so you don't get stuck forever if he really is not willing to change. I think, with some luck he will want to change because that kind of behavior is going to affect his life in general.

If he doesn't change or want to change, it is not your fault. Don't see it as something wrong in you. That is on him. People don't change for other people, they change for themselves. Just be sure to get closure. Once you decide it is going to be the end, you can give him one retry, like I said above, but only if you really feel like it. Some people break a relationship, but don't give the other people closure. He could say something like "now I can't change but maybe in the future". That is a way to make you wait for him. Don't let that happen. Once is done, be done, close that door and don't expect him to come crawling. Otherwise you will be lovesick forever.

I did this in my relatioship, but my boyfriend really didn't want to change. He told me so later on. I didn't notice that at the time, I realized later on, when it was too late and we had wasted time and the relationship had deteriorated so we couldn't even remain friends. That is why is important that he changes because he wants, not because you ask.

  • 1
    I don't believe anyone can give a 100% reliable answer to a question like "Will you change?" until they try... The best one can expect is that a honest bona fide answer would only convey the intent to change (or the lack thereof). Whether that intent will actually render in a tangible result - is still a big question. If so, then why asking?
    – Igor G
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 11:51
  • 1
    @IgorG if you want to change. You change. It takes longer, or shorter, but you change. The thing is you gotta change for yourself. If they try to do it for someone else, people usually backtrack, because they really didn't want to change in the end.
    – Mykazuki
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 13:58

You both have different expectations on hygiene

Your question is "how can I communicate this with him", but you've already done so, and he already apologized and admitted that he'll try to change, so that part of the question has already been handled.

The thing to remember here is that you are both on far ends of the hygiene spectrum, because you have high standards that few people will ever reach.

I brush my teeth 3x a day, I shower at least 2-3 times a day because I work out

I grew up with a father and a brother that are well kept and always smell like cologne.

This is not a realistic standard to judge people by, most people will shower maybe every other day, 2-3 times a week. Brushing your teeth 3x a day is also not a normal level of hygiene, most online sources recommend 2 times. In addition, cologne isn't for everybody, just because you're used to men who wear cologne doesn't mean it's something "everybody should do".

he would go 2 days without brushing his teeth. He has a job as a land surveyor so he’s always outside going through trenches, mud etc., and he would come home put on his pajamas and not shower!

Your boyfriend is on the other extreme end, he's vastly less concerned about personal hygiene than the average person. Most people wouldn't really skip a shower after going through a mud trench, but he seems perfectly fine with it.

Neither of you is wrong, and it might be possible to meet somewhere in the middle, but you have to remember that your boyfriend seems perfectly okay living like a slob with having a pile of clothes laying on his bed, while you come across as a neat freak who puts an extreme importance on cleaning. You have drastically different expectations and you're most likely bothered about things your boyfriend doesn't even notice.

Odds are your boyfriend does want to improve for you, but he simply doesn't know how because he doesn't see the problem as you see it. Communicate a medium that seems realistic to both of you, and then gently remind him of things that needs to happen. If you realize he smells, don't just hold your breath, ask him to take a shower. (Or offer to take a shower together.) If you remind him enough, he will eventually realize "oh wait, Sarah Vee would like it if I do X", even if it doesn't personally bother him.

  • 1
    well he is wrong only brushing his teeth every other day.
    – WendyG
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 13:02

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