How to set personal hygiene standards with my boyfriend?

user18833 06/14/2018. 7 answers, 16.846 views
relationships assertiveness

I love my boyfriend very deeply, and we have an awesome relationship but as a person I struggle to bring up criticisms of others in my life without "downplaying" what I'm trying to communicate.

For example I have a friend that is always late to any plans we make together, and after it taking me years to bring it up, I ended up apologizing for being too negative. This kind of thing happens because I avoid the confrontation for so long that by the time I bring it up, whoever is at the receiving end doesn't think I'm serious. Can't blame them since I'm not doing a great job of communicating to them what the problem is.

I am trying to improve upon this, so I am planning on doing so for the issue described in the title of this question.

My boyfriend, as much as he is my soul-mate, is pretty gross. His apartment is constantly a mess, he doesn't brush his teeth before bed, and he mostly wears clothing that he has had for 7+ years that doesn't fit him and is worn thin or has holes/stains. The list goes on. I cannot explain how it feels to go on a date that I spent 2+ hours getting ready for, only to see him show up looking and smelling like he just rolled out of bed.

I have sheepishly brought it up in the past, but since having expectations is a pretty new experience for me, I am unsure of what expectations are reasonable and what is too much. If i refuse to kiss him until he brushes his teeth, he has taken it quite well so far and will do as i request, but then just continues to skip it every day following until I bring it up again. To be clear, I am not interested in being his mother and if I don't see improvement I will leave him, but not without at least trying everything first. He is my best friend and he is so good to me, so it would be heartbreaking to have to end things over something so basic and simple to most people.

I would really like to avoid being one of those people that expects the height of fashion from their partner. But I feel like no holes and no stains is pretty fair.

How can I be more assertive in convincing him to take better care of his hygiene?

7 Answers


lukuss 06/17/2018.

I really like your question, mostly because it somewhat relates to our situation (me and my girlfriend, now wife).

I was similar to your boyfriend. I was clean, but simple. Too simple. On very rare occasions I would get ready, or dress somehow special. And I didn't need to: I was living very close to my faculty (5 min) so I was waking up 5 mins before I would go, in order to sleep more. I was wearing ugly shoes, folded clothes, and most of the time I had my hair messed up. You know why? Somehow, it was convenient for me - less effort.

So, there are a couple of reasons why your boyfriend might not be doing what you expect; maybe not all of them will apply to him, but for sure some of them will.

  1. He is convenient. Just as I was, and as for me it seemed of low importance to spend time in order to look good or take care of myself, it could be the same for him.

  2. He might consider his hobbies more important. Again, I was here. For example, when I was playing video games, but I knew I had to go out in over an hour, I was getting ready in the last 5 mins, while the other 55 I was playing.

  3. He doesn't see dressing up for your date as important as you do. You get yourself ready because for you that moment is something special. For him it is also special, but not to the same extent... because he probably has some moments when he's getting ready, or some events. Again... I was here.

What should be done?

My wife really helped me in that, and she did it by telling me (exactly what you do now), showing me (by doing those things for herself) and sometimes doing it for me. After a while I started thinking like her: before I go out of the house, I should check that my clothes are fine, that I smell good, etc.

But you have to make the first steps for him. I remember when my wife bought me some really nice and comfy shoes: I had argued with her, refused, and maybe even yelled that I didn't want them (yes, like a child...). That was because I was comfortable with who I was and my style, with my clothes, my shoes; I was used to it and didn't want to change it. She still bought me the shoes... after a few days I dared to admit that it was a great choice and I said thanks. But she did an effort, or two... she simply pulled me out of my comfort-zone.

Another thing (Mafii mentioned in his answer) is to include him in your activities. Use both: we should do and you should do. Ask for his help in some of the things that you need to do for yourself and when you finish, you can add: "now, let's make you ready!"

Another thing: these lines have to be said with a warm tone, maybe even in a joking manner, but start doing as you speak, so he can see at the same time that you really want to do it.


Mafii 06/14/2018.

Include him in these activities. Take initiative. Ask him to go brush teeth together. And then both brush teeth in the same room.

About clothing, ask him wheter he wants fresh clothing that fits him better and is more comfy, and then propose a shopping center where you'll head together, and show him stuff that you think will look awesome. Gently push him to buying these.

Make it a together, not him. Most people with bad hygiene just don't care enough or don't have much self-discipline and -initiative. Helping them over that will most often not make them mind, and enjoy what you do together..


Lofty Withers 06/14/2018.

How can I be more assertive in convincing him to take better care of his hygiene?

Prepare for failure (sounds like you are) and regression. You may be fighting these battles forever. If your partner is willing to budge but regresses habitually, are you willing to nudge them perpetually?

Ask yourself and your partner why. Ask why of the answer. Ask why again. Find the root cause of this behavior. Attack that root cause.

An example dialogue...

Why wear old clothes?
I hate shopping.

Why do you hate shopping?
It takes too much time.

Why do you think it takes too much time?
After working 10 hours a day, I have no energy and just want to play fortnite.

Why are you working 60 hours?
I'm paying off $83,000 in student loans.

Why not take a deferral for economic hardship?
It's unsecured debt through a private bank.

Why does that matter?
They don't allow deferrals. If I don't pay, them get a judgment against me and garnish my wages. If I work less, I don't get to eat.

From this point, you can find a way to make clothes shopping take less time or make a financial plan to free some of your partner's time. Maybe daily exercise will raise their energy level so they want to do more things. Maybe you can look into the deferrals thing. Alice and Bob repeat this process in 5 years when they buy a $240,000 home on $65,000 income and regress. Then in 16 more years when taking loans for kids college.

Ultimately, learn more about your partner, learn how to help, and be prepared for regressions. Keep asking why even after you find one way to help. Prepare to repeat this battle perpetually.


3Dave 06/14/2018.

A few years ago, we were out to dinner and a bunch of Prom Kids (ick) came in. The girls had clearly spent hours and a lot of money on this. The guys were wearing wrinkled suits and Sports Ball mesh-back caps, turned backwards (of course).

Not cool.

A lot of us clueless guys sometimes don't realize that we're not putting in the same (or appropriate) level of preparation as our partner. It's not about not caring so much as being oblivious.

Since you've been pretty passive in the past - not a criticism, I can totally relate to that - it may take a real, in your face (but not mean), not-possible-to-dismiss-or-misinterpret statement like:

"I expend a lot of effort getting ready to go out, and it would mean a lot to me if you would do the same. I know this stuff doesn't come naturally to you, but it's important to me."

In my case, way back when, that was enough to wake me up. If you live together, pick out some clothes for him and lay them out on the bed. (I know you shouldn't have to do that, but if you want to date a model who already knows how this stuff works, then move on and find one.)

As far as brushing teeth goes - well, not everyone brushes their teeth three times per day. However, I wouldn't expect my wife to kiss me if I smelled like the beer I had 30 hours ago.

Based on very limited information, it sounds like he's just a little oblivious, not intentionally dismissive or apathetic. Making your point, kindly but clearly and firmly, may go a long way to improving the situation.


abhinav pokharkar 06/15/2018.

I suggest that you talk with him clearly before taking any steps. Hygiene is important, but not as important as the love of your life, so before taking any huge decision just talk with him.

  1. Meet him and just share what issue you have with him (necessary issues only). Do not tell him to change his whole lifestyle
  2. Tell him to be more clean. Wear not branded but at least clean clothes
  3. I feel such a thing will be an issue for him in his future also, so try to make him understand from future aspects too, because in the outside world people judge you from your clothes only at first glance
  4. If he doesn't have a good financial situation, then you also have to understand his problems because you can't expect from him to wear nice clothes all the time if he is not financially stable
  5. About brushing, try to tell him the downsides (health-wise) of not brushing your teeth
  6. Even if he is only ready to change a few things about himself, then it's still the start of change. Do not expect him to change completely in one day; such things take time so you have to be patient And try to change things one by one, don't try to change everything at once
  7. Some personal advice: do not give up easily because it looks like you love him a lot so do not give up

Best of luck dear. Hope everything will be fine for you. Enjoy


Dogboy88k 06/17/2018.

You can be assertive, but in a way which is more likely to yield desirable results. Asking someone to brush their teeth is an easy 1-step process. But asking someone to improve their fashion, cleanliness and hygiene is a bit more complex. And perhaps you are still exploring how sophisticated his thinking is.

I can best describe it as a parent. If you say to a child "Tidy your room", those 3 words might be meaningless. If you say "let's tidy your room" and you demonstrate picking up the dirty clothes, putting the lego into the lego box etc etc they are more likely to know what to do in future.

In this chaps case, you might have to be explicit with the instructions. You decide what they are eg.

No clothes with holes or stains or smells.

No coming to bed without a shower and toothbrushing.

I'm only commenting on the elemental nature and explicitness of the instructions. I don't know how to sugar coat it. Perhaps some would say things like "I find it really arousing to kiss you after you've brushed your teeth" or "I like exploring your body with my nose/tongue and so please have a shower before bed.. I'll make it worth your while !"

If he fails to respond, then remove sugar coating. If he still fails to respond, then it might be time to move on.


Stilez 06/17/2018.

As well as the answers above, I would add two approaches :

  • First, use a tone that doesn't make a "big deal", by which I mean, instead of (say) "eww, your teeth are gross", try "snuggles after teeth! Off you go!", in a light tone. The advantage being, its low emotional stress and doesn't get tiresome or irritating if you have to do it quite a bit.

  • Second, be aware it could signify other things. For example, he may not see it as important. He may have a poor sense of smell and not have the reminder that jogs you each time. He may not have grown up in a peer group or with friends where he picked up the lessons that you did, so they might not be in his mind as they are for most people. He may see his wellbeing as fine, and that he doesn't need to do more. He might not easily identify with how you see it. For all anyone knows, he could have some kind of hidden disability that he,you and the world don't know of (unlikely but can happen) which makes it unusually hard to do some things.

But a good partner and friend is not that easy to find. If the price is a brief "teeth before bed, big boy!" or "These clothes!", and he can pick up other stuff fine, those might be a small compromise for an otherwise very good relationship.

But in any event, read up on "emotional labour", a closely related concept relevant to what you describe, and at some future time, show him and see if he can pick up the idea. Because you are right, you don't want to be a parent to him, and this will help you be aware of the limits, and avoid that .


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