Updates: “I’m With Stinky” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “I’m With Stinky,” who wrote in back February about her boyfriend whose hygiene had become especially lax in recent months. “He goes a couple days between showers, and I honestly can’t remember the last time he brushed his teeth! […] How do you break it to someone nicely that they stink?” After the jump, find out whether she was able to get the message across.

Thankfully, a few weeks after I wrote, the air started to clear. (Nice word play, huh?) We sat down and had a very calm and rational discussion about his hygiene and how it was affecting me. The majority of the conversation was him explaining how he has been in a funk (again word play) and didn’t want to take care of himself. I expressed concern about how this not only affects his health, but how it makes me less willing to be intimate with him. (Which had been a problem). He agreed to meet with my therapist to see if his symptoms were reflective of depression (something I have been battling for years) and that we would continue to work on our relationship.

I’ve had the chance to see how just talking to someone else has lifted his mood, and he is beginning to take better care of himself. While it’s still a process, and will only continue over time, our relationship is back on track, and we both look forward to growing up a little bit more.

Thanks again for everyone giving advice!

Glad to hear it! Hope things keep looking up.

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.


  1. bittergaymark says:

    Interesting update. Frankly, he fact that there hasn’t been a complete turn around right away with regards to hygiene would be enough to send me out the door. Hey, I get it. Accepting you have depression and need to see a therapist — THAT takes time. But deciding to shower every day AND brush your teeth? Um, that to me is a no-brainer. Especially once the person you love has called you out on it. I mean, seriously, can anything take more of a minimal effort than showering and brushing ones teeth?

    Hey, I wish them well. But I would REALLY be on the look out for significant signs of improvement. Truth be told — two deeply depressed people strikes me as nothing more than a recipe for pending disaster… I mean, if this update had come in a few weeks after the original letter that would be a different. But now, three months or so later and there are only signs of improvement? He is only beginning to take better care of himself? Yikes…. And he has yet to even meet with her therapist? I dunno…I think she would be better off on her own. That way she could find somebody who was fun to be around and not somebody else she needs to take care of.

    1. I’m actually gonna agree with you on this one. I guess there are some sub-cultures in America where hygiene is optional, but this guy didn’t suddenly join one. The fact that he’s so sloooow getting back into the groove, even with progessional help means there is something really deep-seeded here. I don’t think I’d be willing to mother someone constantly about their teeth and armpits and have to worry about their esteem to prevent a back-slide.

      The LW sounds grown up. It sounds like she needs to MOA and find a different partner.

  2. Although the bad hygiene is distressing enough, I had to go back and re-read the original letter. Are you sure he isn’t purposefully being stinky as retaliation for you calling off the engagement? In any event, the relationship does not really sound like it’s back on track, even if he is smelling better now. Have either of you discussed the broken engagement and how you ended it because he couldn’t pick a date? I’m willing to bet once you straightened that out, he’ll start smelling better.

    1. bittergaymark says:

      Really? I don’t know about this line of thinking… It seems a bit too extreme. Plus, in my opinion…anybody who can’t pick a date to get married probably doesn’t REALLY want to get married, you know?

  3. Britannia says:

    My boyfriend has a similar situation — that he is often just too “down” to get into the shower or take care of himself (we have had some serious stressors in our lives this past year). It started to get too gross for me, and I explained to him why hygiene was so necessary (I’m fastidious about mine, and his lack of it was too much to handle). He understood me, but still needs me to remind him that all he has to do is wash his hair and body, 5 minutes at the most. Every other day or so, if he hasn’t showered, I simply ask him point blank – “Have you showered?” And when he hasn’t brushed his teeth – “Have you brushed your teeth?” He does pretty well when I remind him about it. I have decided to treat it like it’s just like with me and my keys, or some other quirk — I’m just not good at remembering where I put them, and he’s not good at remembering when he last showered.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Wow that sounds like love to me! I’d have to really love a guy to be willing to remind him to shower. Good luck to you crazy kids!

      1. bittergaymark says:

        Actually, it begs to question, does he need a lover or a mother? Seriously. Who can’t remember to bathe? Sorry, maybe the whole idea of it all is just far too icky for me to be objective. I mean, hey, I’ve never NOT wanted to sleep with somebody simply because they’ve misplaced their keys… But not bathing? Ewwwwwwwww.

      2. Britannia says:

        If he was seriously, chronically gross, it would be another situation entirely. He knows that I won’t sleep with him if he has any sort of BO. He’s an electrical engineer with a lot on his plate in all aspects of his life — social, educational, physical (recovering from a shattered ankle). He usually just doesn’t want to put in the effort to shower because he’s so emotionally taxed, and often forgets because he has ADD. The depression worsens both issues.

        However, he gets his butt into the shower when I tell him to, and is getting much better at making a daily habit. It’s just one of those things that were not a dealbreaker for me, because he was willing to change and the problem wasn’t so bad to start out with that I didn’t feel like it could be dealt with.

      3. BoomChakaLaka says:

        I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but a shower is 5-10 minutes max a day. It really will not throw his whole social life out of order to just do something that is so physical. Also, my bf has ADD and showers twice a day, so that can’t be the reason that he “forgets” to shower. Honestly, this is something that probably began with whoever raised him and will continue with you! Stop enabling this behavior. You shouldn’t have to tell him, a grown man! to shower. And if this isn’t something you mind, then more power to you!

      4. SpaceySteph says:

        I was totally on your side until the “electrical engineer.” I am an aerospace engineer, I work in a large company with thousands of other engineers. I have not encountered a single one in a meeting or hallway that stinks.
        I know the stereotype for engineers is that we’re a little out of touch with reality and social conventions and yes, my coworkers are not the most stylish people on the planet or the best conversationalists… but I promise you they all shower. Daily.

      5. justpeachy says:

        I’m an engineer too and I think that people stereotype too much that all engineers are these socially inept nerds who troll hallways in packs, talking in code, and faint at the sight of a girl. Engineers are some of the most normal people.

      6. SpaceySteph says:

        Haha exactly. My coworkers are nice people who actually have seen the sun sometime (aka are not vampire-pale), have friends, boyfriend/girlfriends, maybe even wives, kids. There’s a small subset of people who are misanthropic and/or awkward that give the rest of us a bad name.
        Yes we do talk about space and computers alot and we kinda all do want to be astronauts… but other than that, we aren’t so different from your average person.

      7. I agree…Maybe I’m super OCD about hygiene, but I HAVE to shower at least twice a day. My mom had to stop reminding me to bath when I was about 9 yrs old. My boyfriend, typical guy, isn’t as obsessive about bathing, but it’s def. not something I need to remind him constantly. I’m his girlfriend, not his mom…

    2. Britannia says:

      Everyone is different, and their hindrances, like ADD or a stressful job, affect them in different ways.

      1. BoomChakaLaka says:

        Agreed, but I think you should really look into how ADD/stressful job truly affects your bf instead of using those external circumstances as blanket excuses for something else.

      2. bittergaymark says:

        Everybody I know has a stressful job and miracles of miracles….they all bathe.

      3. Britannia says:

        They probably neglect other aspects of their life, however.

        Everyone seems to be jumping on this like they think that he NEVER showers or brushes his teeth. Usually it’s 3 days at the most that he’ll forget to shower. If it were seriously gross, obviously I wouldn’t be with him! It’s just not that much effort for me to remind him to shower if he forgets. It’s an idiosyncrasy at worst. Now I’m starting to understand why some people say that the interpretations of problems on this website are overdramatized.

        Obviously, the LW has a problem with it, and the boyfriend isn’t compromising. I had a problem with my boyfriend, and he DID compromise enough that I am happy. What’s wrong with that?

  4. *shudder*

    Sorry, but my 1st husband was disgusting in that arena. Depression wasn’t the issue. He just felt no reason to wear socks or underwear, and refused to brush his teeth. Seriously, after I got pregnant with our son, he threw out his toothbrush (not that he ever used it). His idea of a shower was two minutes under lukewarm water and a once a week headwash in one of those “Seabee showers”. He would get mad if I spent more than 15 minutes in the shower washing my hair (which I was discouraged from cutting) and cleaning, and he would do whatever he could to try to get me to not shower daily. Apparently, 30 minutes in a bathroom took time out of his busy online chatting and tv viewing. *eye roll*

    Personally, if the guy in question didn’t do a complete 180 on the oral hygiene and at least bathe 4-5x a week – I’d be gone.

  5. Yea I can’t believe this either. I wouldn’t want to be with somone who didn’t eat right and exercise, much less didn’t shower/brush their teeth properly. I love cooking and making our apartment fantastic for my boyfriend, but reminding him to bathe????? no thanks!!

    I think these people need to realize that lots of people struggle with depression, and it does not usually result in the person no longer brushing their teeth or bathing. Your dirty men may be depressed, but they are also, and I would say primarily LAZY. you know where you hear the word sloth you picture a person unshowered, in front of the computer, eating junk food? Seriously, it makes you wonder: which came first, the laziness, or the depression? I would bet $1000 the laziness came first.

    1. Whoa, harsh much? I recently spoke to a therapist. She said I have signs of depression. I’ve been down for quite a while (2-3 years), and I remember that the worst was when I didn’t brush my teeth. I was like – what’s the point of all this. Also, if I didn’t have to go anywhere over the weekend, I wouldn’t shower. What’s the point, again. I’m not sure about causation here, but when you’re down, you also have less energy and less interest in everything around you. I’m not a lazy person when I’m in a good mood. Probably unlike the fellow here, I did make sure I was clean everytime I had to leave the house though. I did not subject other people to my BO, at least intentionally.

  6. spaceboy761 says:

    I have come to the realization that I have much less patience for people than the LW and all of the commenters chiming in with “Oh yeah, my SO never showers either!”. That would fly for about 20 minutes with me before I moved on to someone who didn’t reek.

    1. i believe ‘higher standards’ is the phrase you are looking for

      1. That’s a little pretentious. Not everyone values the exact same things in significant others. Some might just call you anal. Superficial even. Not that they’d be right necessarily of course.

        And twice daily, or even daily showers, are not *always* necessary.


        For this specific LW, it does seem like the boyfriend’s behavior is unreasonable and unacceptably gross. I’m not justifying his specific behavior at all. And I do think that the broken engagement is a weird red flag to this relationship in general as well. But I do think it’s positive that he’s going to therapy and improving. And I know Wendy doesn’t necessarily post letters as soon as she gets them, so we really have no idea whether he waited 3 months to go.

    2. BoomChakaLaka says:

      THANK YOU SPACEBOY. Seriously, I can’t believe how many people are justifying this behavior. It isn’t even about disrespect, it really is about laziness. If the person doesn’t even have the time nor realization to do a basic daily cleaning (I’m not talking about a seaweed scrub!), then what other things will they just drop? What are the other things that won’t matter to them? Bills? Birthdays?

      1. bittergaymark says:

        Oh, I totally believe it. It appears some women are so desperate to have a man that they will tolerate anything. Hey, I know it’s harsh… But seriously, who knew so many of you were dating guys who are so messed up they can’t even bathe or brush their teeth… Frankly, ugh, I so REALLY didn’t need to know that.

      2. Britannia says:

        Everyone has different standards for what is a deal breaker and what is not. If a slight lack of showering is the worst thing a guy does, who the hell has the right to complain? In my personal example, this guy is absolutely amazing in every way except that he’s forgetful. He loves me deeply and treats me with respect, love, and sincere gratitude, and we get along very well while sharing a household.

        It’s not lowered standards, it’s DIFFERENT standards. Maybe some haven’t found happiness because their standards for how happiness/love has to look, feel, act, and behave are so rigid that reality can never make it happen.

  7. BoomChakaLaka says:

    Um, isn’t Cardinal Rule #45 not to share therapists with your SO/Parents/Friends unless you are in some sort of couples/group therapy?

    To break it down further, if X is going to a therapist and X is dating Y, isn’t it generally advised that Y seek out his own therapist and not go see X’s therapist?

    1. Britannia says:

      It definitely is. A therapist should not treat two people who are involved with eachother, unless they’re specifically doing couples’ therapy, because it clouds their judgement.

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