This week’s question comes from Tamlyn
“Hello Orna and Matthew,
I never would have thought I would be writing for advice on this issue because I’ve always perceived complaints about a lover with poor personal hygiene to be easily resolvable.
I recently met a man whose heart and worldview match my own. I care about him and see him as someone I could build a future with. The problem is that his teeth are in a really bad condition and he often looks greasy and uncared for. I find this totally off-putting, not just for aesthetic reasons but because to me its a sign of somebody who doesn’t care for himself. If he doesn’t take care of himself how can I trust and respect him let alone be physically attracted to him. I’ve tried to rationalize and ignore this but it annoys me more and more but I don’t know how to address it without hurting his feelings. How can I suggest to him to take a shower and go to the dentist without making him feel awkward and rejected?
I would really appreciate your advice. I am confronting my own fears of intimacy and this issue makes it difficult not to run away.
Thanks for reaching out to us. We understand how difficult these type of conversations can be. Especially when it comes to something as personal as hygiene.
Taking care of yourself is an act of self-love. Making sure you are healthy, fit and clean goes a long way towards creating a sense of self esteem (and having healthy teeth is part of that too).
But before we get into how you approach this conversation, we want to address something you said in your question which caught our attention. You said, “If he doesn’t take care of himself how can I trust and respect him …” This is the part of the situation that is yours and about you and has nothing to do with him. He may have reasons for why he is the way he is and why he does or doesn’t take care of his hygiene. However, it sounds like you are getting triggered by his behavior and you’ve let it build up.
We have a saying in our relationship, “Never leave a dirty dish in the sink.” And by this we mean, it is important, even when the issue is small, to speak how we feel about the issue. When you don’t speak how you feel when it is a small issue, then it will eventually become a big issue. And usually that means an eruption of emotion like a volcano, leaving lava all over you and him. It’s not pretty.
So the first step is acknowledge and take responsibility for your feelings around this issue. You are the one who has linked personal hygiene with trust and respect. And you are the one who has allowed yourself to become annoyed because you were afraid to hurt his feelings. You would only be hurting his feelings if you were pointing out his behavior as a flaw as opposed to speaking about yourself and how you feel.
When we point out others flaws, it can come across as blaming or shaming and that never feels good. This often does end up hurting their feelings.
With all of that in mind, here is how we recommend starting this conversation.
“I feel annoyed at myself that I haven’t addressed an issue that is important to me. I care about you and I’ve been struggling with how to share my feelings around a particular topic… I believe that a person’s hygiene is a sign of their ability to take care of themselves. I fear that I can’t trust and respect you when you don’t shower regularly or take care of your teeth. What do you think?”
By using this language your taking responsibility for your feelings and beliefs without making him feel wrong for his behavior. You are also opening up space for a discussion about what he believes. How he responds will give you a lot of information about his story around his hygiene. He may have a very good reason for behaving the way he does.
During this conversation, be conscious of using primarily “I” language as opposed to “you” language. As long as you are taking responsibility for your beliefs and feelings, you are creating an opportunity for more intimacy and connection. This new use of language in your communication will go a long way for you to overcome your fear of intimacy.
If you want to get clear if the two of you are a match for lasting love, you can check out our program “Your Soulmate Blueprint”. This program leads you through a process to get in touch with what you really need and want to create your true soul partnership. This is a great tool for discovering what truly matters in your intimate relationships.
Keep us posted on how this goes.
Love and Abundance,