There are some subjects that are just really hard to broach in any relationship.
Like when you need to tell a friend that they have bad body odor… and have for years?
Yeah, that’s going to be a tough one to lead into.
A young woman wrote into the “Relationship Advice” subReddit when she struggled to have this conversation, not just with her oldest friend, but with a friend she was then in a sexual relationship with.
Redditor throwrasmellysapphic asked the sub for suggestions as to how to get this conversation going, and how to help her girlfriend through this problem, without ruining their relationship.
The Original Poster (OP) asked the sub:
“How do I tell my (26[female]) girlfriend (24[female]) she smells without hurting her feelings?”
The OP and her girlfriend have been friends for years and just recently took things to the next level.
“Let me premise this by saying, I love my girlfriend, I absolutely do.”
“Before we even started dating we have been best friends since the age of 12. We met in high school and immediately clicked. She’s my person. My soulmate. The love of my life.”
“I’ll admit, the romantic side to our relationship is pretty fresh, we only started actually dating this year, after knowing each other for 12 years, and secretly being in love with each other but too afraid to say anything about it for 3.”
But there was an inherent problem in their relationship that the OP grew used to for a while.
“So, I love my girlfriend. But… she smells. I first noticed her… smell in high school, a mix between really bad B.O, and that horrible damp smell clothes that have been left in the washing machine overnight get.”
“It didn’t bother me back then, not really, I knew that her family wasn’t the wealthiest, and to be honest I mostly just felt sorry for her. I knew that she wasn’t allowed to wash her clothes as frequently as she should have been, all to save money. Or that she skipped showers sometimes to save on the water bill.”
“I had tried in the past to subtly get her to use my deodorant, or get her to spray my perfume on herself during school — But her smell never seemed to bother her, at least outwardly, and she certainly never said anything about it.”
“In fact, she didn’t seem to really be aware of it, so I tried to not let it bother me. And over time I got used to her smell. In fact I completely stopped noticing it. Over the years other people have asked me about it, or have mentioned her ‘smell’, and I shrugged them off. I really had stopped noticing it.”
But recently the OP’s mother opened a whole can of worms…
“But here’s the problem.”
“We recently moved in together, finally, after years of dreaming about being roommates and talking about all the cool stuff we’d have in our apartment when we’d finally get our own place – we did it!!”
“Its small, and we share a bedroom, something we didn’t originally plan on doing, as our ‘romantic relationship’ is so new and we thought it might be best for us each to have our own space (plus we hadn’t planned on telling our parents about the level up, shall we say, of our relationship, something that is now no longer an issue: they’re very supportive!!).”
“It was my mom who first pointed out the funky smell lingering in our new place. She was coming to visit for the first time since we moved in, when my mother, god bless her, blurted out ‘This place absolutely stinks!’ upon first stepping foot inside.”
“I was immediately irritated and embarrassed on my girlfriends behalf. My mom has been pointing out my GFs smell, for pretty much the entirety of our knowing each other. I told her that her that my GFs family was poor and basically everything I’ve told you guys, and she was sympathetic, though she did continue to bring it up over the years.”
“Noticeably whenever my GF stayed the night at our house. My mom would always insist on changing my bedsheets after she left, and airing out my room, lighting incense or putting on our diffusers once she’d officially departed. She didn’t want me to smell, or our house.”
“I genuinely believe this was just a slip of the tongue on my mothers part, and that she did not mean to potentially humiliate my GF or upset her/me. But the damage was done, I had become aware of the smell again. The house did smell… And badly.”
Then the OP became starkly aware of the condition of her home.
“B.O, damp clothes; the same smell that had followed my GF around all throughout our teenage years. Now that I was aware of it once again I was embarrassed. I’ve always prided myself on my cleanliness and personal hygiene, to me, smelling good and being clean is important. But now our new home smelled just like my GF.”
“We’ve had people over since my mom, and I know they noticed the smell also. It’s in the quick crinkle of their noses as they step foot inside. Or the housewarming gift of expensive fragrant candles and essential oils.”
“My mom even offered to buy us our own diffuser.”
“My first thought of action was to attempt to get rid of the smell – obviously. I washed my girlfriends clothes with the best smelling detergent I could find, still packed in a suitcase and yet to be properly hung up, I told my girlfriend I just felt like doing laundry. She didn’t seem to care, and wasn’t bothered by my haul out of her suitcase, she just wore my stuff.”
“Next I lit some of the many gifted candles to make the house smell a bit better. Theres pretty much always one burning when we’re home. It helped a lot, the house definitely smells a lot nicer than before.”
But even after dealing with her home, the OP wasn’t sure how to talk to her girlfriend.
“But here’s the thing. My girlfriend still smells.”
“I know she uses deodorant, I can see her using it each morning! And we’ve showered together plenty of times since we started dating, she definitely washes herself properly, soap and all. So I don’t understand where the horrible B.O smell is coming from.”
“Washing her clothes helped a lot with the ‘damp’ smell, but since the first time I washed them, they’ve started to smell ‘damp’ again. I told her if she accidentally forgets to take out her laundry and they still smell she can just rewash them, it wasn’t a big deal and money wasn’t a factor, and she agreed. But that’s pretty much the extent that came from that.”
And the OP was worried it was going to impact their new relationship.
“Since I started noticing the smell again, I’ll admit, I’ve been a little, turned off… sexually speaking.”
“I love my girlfriend and our sex life is great, no, it’s awesome! But I find myself not wanting to have sex with her smelling the way she does. In order to not hurt her feelings by saying anything, I started orchestrating us showering together as a kind of ‘foreplay’. That’s helped a lot.”
“But in the heat of the moment we don’t always shower beforehand, and without being needlessly cruel or too grossly descriptive, going down on her without a shower beforehand is just out of the question…”
So the OP turned to the subReddit for suggestions.
“Her smell was never a ‘dealbreaker’ so to speak in the past, but now that we’re dating and having sex – I can’t go back to just ignoring it. I’m not going to break up with her over this, no way, but somethings gotta give.”
“So Reddit, I need your help.”
“How do I tell my girlfriend that she needs to start taking better care of her personal hygiene without seeming like the world’s worst girlfriend and generally speaking, a total a**hole?”
Fellow Redditors wrote in, navigating the future conversation as carefully as they could.
A few Redditors gave suggestions right upfront of what the OP’s girlfriend might need to do to take care of her body to improve the smell.
“She could have something going on with any number of places on her body and, like the other commenters are pointing out, she’s likely lived with the smell for so long that she doesn’t notice.”
“Hear me out: sulphur soap.”
“It’s a harsh soap and should not be used daily. One time, see if it helps. Read the labels.”
“I work with homeless, abused, and neglected children and teens and, very often, we have youngsters come in with a history of bad hygiene – they just have a ‘smell’ no matter how many times they shower or bathe.”
“Sometimes we ask them to bathe with a bar of sulphur soap and that usually clears things up.” – nothanks_8
“I’ve had this problem too, but with stinky feet (bad genes), no matter what i did it would never go away, and on top of that i had terrible hygiene, i decided to change my type of socks (what their made of) and that worked as a charm.” – Didrik2004
“Mix 1kg of bicarb soda in a bucket of water (I fill my laundry sink halfway) and soak the sports shirts for a few hours or overnight. Once soaked, put the shirt in the wash for a rinse, and then do another wash as normal.”
“My husband wears shirts made of that quick dry sports material and they get really stinky quickly. We do a bicarb wash weekly of all the shirts and then try to air outside but that’s not always possible because of the rain. God, it has helped.” – Bethestorm13
Some informed the OP it was in her girlfriend’s best interest to be informed of this.
“You must tell her not only for the home life but this may effect her professional life as well. She is likely going to be overlooked for jobs due to thus issue. Good luck!” – SaintCarl27
“If it’s so bad that other people have been commenting on it for years then it already has affected her in ways she might not realize.”
“OP mentions deodorant but unless it’s actually labeled as antiperspirant it’s not going to help, some people don’t realize the difference. It could be medical/fungal related, but it could just be her natural body chemistry unfortunately. Skirting around the issue is not doing her any favors, OP is just going to have to be lovingly honest.” – countzeroinc
“Can you frame it as something that you’re only bringing up now because you live together? It doesn’t necessarily have to be framed as something people have been saying behind her back for years.”
“Just that since you started living together and therefore spending more time together, you’ve really started to notice a smell that’s not great, and since it doesn’t seem to be her hygiene, you’re concerned it could be medical. And since you love her you want to make sure she’s healthy.”
“Even if turns out to not be medical, just talking to a doctor could still help, as they would be able to discuss it with her in a professional manner/setting.” – RosealaMenthe
And others stated the best way to tell her was just to tell her.
“This may be different since she is a girl, but I don’t want to stereotype reactions, so I’ll just share my tidbit and leave it at that.”
“My ex bf had the exact same issue. Turns out, it was a combo of him needing to switch deodorant and use body spray, wear his clothes once instead of 3-4x before washing, and dry them completely so they don’t mildew. Oh and he had to get new shoes. As his were falling apart and reeked.”
“I fretted over his stink for almost a year. To the point where it was a running joke with my friends and family.”
“I finally confronted him about it, and I was near tears, because I was so worried about hurting his feelings.”
“When I told him…he laughed.”
“Dude thought it was hilarious that I was so scared to tell him that he smelled.”
“The ironic part was that he never actually seemed to care. Now that I told him I was able to stop making excuses for having “laundry dates” and getting him into the shower, but I ended up becoming even more like his mother.”
“He smelled better but it was because I was seeing him daily – ‘you can’t wear that outfit a third time, baby, it smells awful’. I was doing all his laundry FOR him and buying all his hygiene products FOR him, then I had to remind him every day to USE them!”
“In the end I’m glad I told him. But I should have left when he wouldn’t take responsibility for it and thought it was hilarious.”
“That’s just my story of my funky smelling SO, lol, but people clearly all react differently to being told they smell.”
“Personally, I’d be embarrassed but grateful. Other people will feel hurt or angry. And others will find it amusing, like my ex.”
“The only way to tell her is to just tell her. Be nice about it but be blunt enough not to dance around it.”
“‘Honey, I need to talk to you about something kind of sensitive. You know I love you, but I think there might be a problem with your dryer, or your deodorant, because there’s a strange smell that isn’t going away. I’ve tried doing blah blah blah for myself. Could you try doing blah blah?’….or something like that.”
“If she tries to deny the smell, then you can tell her how others have noticed and you’ve been trying to cover it up unsuccessfully, etc.”
“But hiding it, isn’t doing her a favor. At least give her the choice, by letting her know if she stinks, even if her reaction will be a crapshoot!” – LEGOmaniac66
“When my husband smells i just tell him to go take a shower, change his clothes and use a deo. There are some t shirts that he wears the sporty ones that smell a lot. Especially after the gym. I tell him not to come near me unless he changes and showers. Earlier i used to be nice but now I’m just blunt.” – Accomplished_Mark28
“After he works out I greet my husband with a ‘ayy what’s up stinky piggy’ and he makes a boar sound and slaps my butt. Being blunt and not getting offended by it is a lvl up for any relationship.” – silverencat
The OP seriously has her hands full with a sensitive, and potentially hurtful, topic, but many Redditors have made it clear that having this conversation will not help the OP’s girlfriend in her personal life, but in their romantic relationship and home environment.