Ask Ann Cannon: My boyfriend stinks ... literally

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • I love my boyfriend a lot. We have been together a year-and-a-half. My problem is: I don’t like the way he smells. He’s not a big fan of showering. He says it dries out his skin. He showers about twice a week. (We are both “older,” and older people don’t sweat as much, etc. But still.) Also, he doesn’t wash his hands often.

Is there a nice way I can encourage him to shower and wash his hair and hands more often without hurting his feelings? Or is it too late after all this time?

Nose-y Girlfriend

Dear Nose-y Girlfriend • I ran your question past my five adult sons, all of whom have been known to smell bad at one time or another. Son Number Five offered this piece of advice: “Honestly, I think it depends on how serious they are. If it’s not serious and doesn’t look like a long-term thing, then it might not be worth the trouble. If they’re going to be together for a long time, though, her feelings are going to come out eventually.”

He’s probably right about that, although you do have the option of remaining silent about the issue if you really want to. Meanwhile, you can either be straightforward with your boyfriend (Son Number Four voted for this option) or you can give him body wash and lotion and tell him that you love him AND these scents, especially together (Son Number Three voted for this option). It’s up to you to decide which of these approaches would work better with your guy’s personality.

Dear Ann Cannon • A month ago I broke up with my narcissistic common-law husband of 11 years. I just grew tired of his games and bad treatment and have gone with no contact for this whole month and don’t intend to ever contact him again. But I can’t seem to stop feeling bad about how I ended it by telling him off and expressing how he used me and abused me fiscally and emotionally. I don’t understand why I still feel bad for him and why I feel guilty about how I ended it. Please can you help me understand why I feel this way?


Dear Conflicted • First, I want to give you a huge shout out for stepping away from what was clearly a toxic relationship. That takes A LOT of courage. Well done, you. Meanwhile, I don’t think your feelings are that unusual. My guess is a number of women (and men!) who’ve left bad relationships experience mixed feelings about their decision — especially at first.

So why are you feeling this way? Well, for one thing, you were with your husband for 11 years and during that time you took care of him and tried to please him, right? You may feel guilty at some level because you’ve decided not to do those things anymore. Old habits die hard — even when you’ve chosen better, healthier habits.

You don’t say if children are involved or not, but that complicates things even further. A friend told me that while she didn’t regret leaving her husband, breaking up their family filled her with guilt. Does that describe your situation at all?

In some cases, guilt is connected with a sense of failure — that somehow you didn’t try hard enough or that you weren’t worthy of being loved. These same feelings can, in fact, keep people from leaving bad relationships. No one goes into a romantic relationship, hoping that it will end badly. Once again, give yourself credit for choosing to move on.

You might be interested in reading an article in Psychology Today about “trauma bonding,” which makes the claim that victims can actually become addicted to their abusers because of a complex set of neurological reactions. It isn’t light reading, but the article may provide you with some comfort — you’re not alone when it comes to feeling all the hard feelings.

One last thing — I think counseling could definitely help you through this transitional period. See if you can make that happen.

I hope this brief answer provides you with some insight about a complicated issue. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you the very best. You’ve taken a bold and brave step. Keep reminding yourself that no one deserves to be treated badly.

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.