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Thread: My girlfriend has pretty bad personal hygiene - how best to help her?

  1. #1
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    My girlfriend has pretty bad personal hygiene - how best to help her?

    Tl;dr: my girlfriend, who I care about a great deal, doesn’t take good care of her hygiene - how do I help her without hurting her feelings?

    This is a pretty long story, but basically I’ve been dating this girl for nearly a year, and everything’s great - we’re best friends, she’s a lovely person, she’s really beautiful and fun to be with. The only problem is her personal hygiene, which is pretty bad, and I don’t really know what to do.

    She comes from a very poor family, she lives in a flat with her mum (who is unemployed) and three of her sisters, and none of them are very clean. I think it’s partly a lack of money - they genuinely don’t have enough to spare to buy things like clothes, and because of that, they don’t spend money on stuff to keep clean. But also I guess she’s never been brought up to see the importance of good hygiene.

    We’re both at college, and during term she only showers once a week, and during holidays only once every fortnight or sometimes even less. She’s quite athletic and often goes running and stuff, so she tends to sweat a lot, and most of the time her body smells of dirt and sweat when you’re close to her. Her feet always stink really badly too, like as soon as she takes her shoes off you can smell them, and her hair is usually very greasy and oily.

    Also her teeth are really bad, they’re all bright yellow and absolutely caked in plaque and bits of rotten food. She says she brushes them ‘every couple of days’ but they look like she hardly cleans them at all. Her breath always stinks really badly, so much that sometimes I have to give her a couple of mints otherwise it’s genuinely hard to put up with the smell when we’re kissing.

    Her hygiene was never great even when we started dating, but it’s got worse the longer we’ve been together. At weekends and in holidays I occasionally sleep over at her place when my parents are away, her mum is fine with it and all, but before we go to bed together she doesn’t shower, doesn’t clean her face or her private parts, doesn’t wash her underarms (which stink of stale sweat), doesn’t brush her teeth, and sometimes doesn’t even change her underwear.

    She does clearly know her hygiene isn’t great, she sometimes makes comments like ‘you might want to get some mints before you kiss me, I haven’t brushed my teeth for a while’, and she’s mentioned in conversation that she knows she needs to shower more. But she seems to see it as a poverty thing, that she just doesn’t have the money to regularly use soap and toothpaste as well as buying food for all her family and commuting to college every day. She’s even said to me before that she thinks I’m a great boyfriend because I never mind it when she’s short of cash and she hasn’t showered for a while. I’ve tried to offer to lend her some money now and then, but she always refuses it and says she doesn’t want to be helpless like that.

    What should I do to help this get better, without making her think I’m criticising her for being poor? In truth it doesn’t really affect our relationship that badly, although it can be quite tough to get intimate with someone whose skin is so oily and sticky and whose breath stinks. But she’s a really pretty girl, and if she kept herself clean she could look absolutely stunning and feel much better about herself. Also I don’t want other people to be judging her for smelling dirty, she deserves better than that.

  2. #2
    Forum Supporter ~Seraphim ~'s Avatar
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    Why not buy her hygiene products? Take her out and buy her a nice luxurious shampoo and big packs of antibacterial soap and deodorant and tooth paste and tooth brushes? Explain to her that you were doing it because you love her so much and want her to be proud of herself .

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    I probably will do this, yes. The tough bit is managing to do this without making it seem like I’m making the point that she’s dirty and she needs a wash. Also making sure she uses them herself, she’s the sort of girl who would give stuff like that to her younger sisters to help them keep clean. She genuinely cares more about them than herself. But I’ll give this a go definitely.

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    Tell her you saw your doctor and he told you to be particularly careful this winter about keeping clean/away from germs and that when she doesn't clean herself she's exposing you to potential illnesses.

    I see this also as a potential sign of depression - if she has time to run and be athletic she has time to shower and brush her teeth. And soap and even baking soda for toothpaste is not expensive.

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    Platinum Member j.man's Avatar
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    I don't know, man. I've seen some people with horrendous hygiene turn themselves around. However, the one common factor was they were in a state they were simply unaware of it. That your girlfriend is conscious enough of it to warn you before kissing her yet isn't taking measures to improve is, and I'm sorry... nasty.

    And I don't know how poor she is, but I lived for a few years in West Garfleld Park and I've never seen whiter smiles since. While seeing a dentist and getting things taken care of certainly could be a matter of money, budgeting for a toothbrush and toothpaste and using them is a matter of habit, perhaps depression, but not poverty.

    I'm sorry, but I see this on par with other unhealthy habits in that, while you'd like them to change and they may change, you can't assume they'll change. I don't think taking her to the store and buying her a slew of hygienic products like you would a homeless dude on Christmas Eve is gonna do a whole lot aside from humiliate her.

    Of course you're welcome to try, but at the end of the day, I do think you have to look at her and ask whether you can accept her as-is.

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    Platinum Member DancingFool's Avatar
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    .....This isn't a poverty thing.......it's just that she doesn't feel the need to clean up and is fine caked in sweat and grease. She is actually comfortable with it and of course she is very happy she found someone who will tolerate this bs. It's not even about having/not having soap. Coming back sweaty from running and rinsing off with just water would still work and most people couldn't stand feeling the caked sweat, salt and grease on their skin. She is good with that.

    So I'm going to go against the grain here and say that if you want better for her, you'll need to take off the kid gloves and be blunt with her that this isn't acceptable and I wouldn't allow her to claim poverty or lack of money as an excuse, because it really is just an excuse for not wanting to shower.

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    Yeah, I don't see this as a poverty thing, because there are billionaires who don't bathe. It's ignorance. Water is basically free. She's not washing because she was never taught to bathe. She might even have peer pressure by her sisters and mother that if she bathes too much they might accuse her of being "fancy" or some such.

    I agree with the previous writers. Buy her soap and toothpaste. Have a weekly date at the laundromat to wash her clothes. Maybe shower together at school, if that's possible. Make it fun.

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    It’s interesting some of you mentioned depression, I’ve thought about whether that’s it but I honestly don’t think so. Firstly, she never seems depressed to me, beyond occasionally talking about how she thinks it’s unfair that her family are so poor. We’re quite close and I think if there were anything depressing her she’d tell me. Also the rest of her family are pretty similar, her elder sister’s hygiene is probably at least as bad, although the younger two are cleaner. I think it’s more that she’s just never been brought up to see it as massively important, especially if she’s short of money.

    As for can I accept her as-is, yes I definitely can, I’ve really learnt to put up with it as the price of spending time with her. But unless I can help her, it’ll be something that marks her out as lower-class, and I don’t want that. Especially seeing that we both see this as a fairly serious relationship.

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    Platinum Member DancingFool's Avatar
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    .....Interesting that the younger two siblings are cleaner and yet they are living in the same exact situation, with the same upbringing and all......
    Your gf doesn't live under a rock. She knows what she is and that it's detrimental to her....and yet.....doesn't care.

    By all means, talk to her and see if change could happen, but don't hold your breath that it will. In fact, assume that it won't.

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    I think it’s the cultural background she’s from, in part. You guys all seem to be Americans, we’re English, and in the English working classes in very poor areas there is this idea that showering only once a week is enough. (Although obviously a lot of working class people are nothing like that.) A lot of my girlfriend’s friends are fairly similar, although most of them aren’t as bad.

    Anyway, I guess I’ll have to have a chat with her at some point about it, but you could be right.

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