My Boyfriend Has No Hygiene Standards

Charles Schulz

My boyfriend and I are moving in together soon, but I'm worried. I love him very much and he isn't a disgusting person, he showers everyday... I think he just gets lazy. I'm a very clean person. I keep my nails short, I brush my teeth twice a day (or more, if I eat something stinky), and I have a regular cleaning schedule for my house. I grew up that way, it was all very set. His parents’ house wasn't held to really any standards, and even now, it's really gross. My boyfriend doesn't think about cutting his nails, even when they're really long, dirty, and I complain that they scratch me. I have to ask him multiple times to cut them cause he just doesn't think it's gross. And, I have to ask him to brush his teeth! There are some days that I can smell his breath standing several feet away from him, and I have to turn my head away and ask him to go brush his teeth. He also has problems with acne, but doesn't take any action to change it. He hates it, but won't change it? It's mind-boggling to me. I've asked him why he doesn't just wash his face every day in the shower, cause you know, he's in there anyway? He says he forgets. I bought him an expensive face scrub from Lush, he used it, things got better, but then he wouldn't buy more. I've even reminded him to wash his pillow cases on a more regular schedule, like every two weeks, instead of "every few months." I'm running out of ideas and now that we're going to be living together, I don't want to be stuck doing all the cleaning and treating my adult boyfriend like a child because he doesn't have hygiene standards.

Cleanliness is relative. Some folks change the sheets every week. Some folks don’t change the sheets. A boyfriend’s “chill” crib is often a girlfriend’s disgusting pig-sty. And vice-versa. But you’re right: There are limits. And there’s a difference between personal hygiene and relationship hygiene.

Dirty pillowcases are one thing when you’re the only one sleeping on them, but when you move in together, dirty laundry becomes a relationship problem. Your boyfriend’s acne is truly his own business, but when he’s scratching you with his nasty, unkempt nails, that’s a relationship issue because it’s literally hurting you. When you’re intimate with someone, you do owe them some basic hygienic courtesies.

Housekeeping is a classic issue for anyone moving in together. But, as I understand it, your complaints don’t seem unreasonable–and your boyfriend doesn’t sound like he’s a total disaster, either. Your boyfriend doesn’t brush his teeth as much as you’d like, or take care of his acne in the way you would prefer: Feel free to be honest when his breath stinks, but these don’t seem like crisis points to me. Good people get bad breath or continue to have acne even if they do wash with the most expensive soaps.

My advice: Focus on the issues that affect you. Anything like the dirty pillow cases and the scratchy nails. Let him know gently that these issues are about more than just him, they're about respecting your physical comfort, too. To avoid settling into a relationship in which fights, nagging, and little criticisms are a part of your daily routine, make a practical plan before you move in and set clear expectations.

Just when you’re doing this very romantic thing–moving in together you have to talk about this unromantic drudgery if you want to avoid fights and resneetment: Who’s doing the laundry? Who’s cleaning the kitchen? The bathroom? What does “clean” mean to both of you? How often do the sheets get washed? Do the dishes get washed before bed every night or not? Make a plan, then do a check-in once a month: See if each of you can do some little thing to make the other more comfortable.

Remember, too, that there are different ways of making compromises. Every individual task does not have to be split 50/50. One of the great benefits of living together is that you can divide and conquer and it is possible to split up chores without creating some retrograde, anti-feminist routine. Your boyfriend might never clean the house to your standards, but maybe he can do other things that take a similar amount of energy and time: He might cook, buy groceries, do the laundry, care for the yard and pets, troubleshoot your tech, or handle all travel plans. (He might even be able to afford a regular cleaner.)

To minimize friction, try to create resentment-relieving routines: simple ways of sharing the dull and most annoying parts of living together. If you do, hopefully you’ll create a clean slate that makes it easier to be your best selves together.

I'm an 18 year old woman and my girlfriend of a year is germaphobic. I learned this when I tried to kiss her the first month we were dating, and she pushed me away. I asked about using Listerine and she claimed that wouldn't help, either. I'm a physical person and love contact. I care about her more than I care about kissing her, so I've respected her boundaries. I also know relationships are about compromise and sacrifice. I'm sacrificing parts of my sexual attraction and it's normally fine – I love her for so much more – but I don't know how to create compromise in this situation.

You’re in a tough spot. It sounds like your germaphobe girlfriend has drawn a pretty sharp boundary and may be inflexible on this point. But, first, the good news: She’s expressing her limits clearly–and that’s healthy. That means you don’t have to play crazy guessing games or decode vague signals. It also sounds like you are trying to accept her as she is and that’s great, since there’s a big difference between loving someone and loving someone* (*so long as they change who they are eventually to become your imagined perfect partner). It doesn’t sound like this problem is representative of a dysfunctional relationship. It sounds like you’re in a healthy relationship, dealing with a particular problem. That’s a good starting point.

There are ways to both accept her limits and propose compromises. That begins by talking–perhaps more than feels comfortable–about this issue so that you’re both aware of each others needs and desires. As part of that, you need to discuss her comfort with intimacy. This could be mainly caused by deep-seated germaphobia and still be deeply entangled with her fear of commitment. (In other words, she might be grossed out by saliva and nervous about opening up to a girlfriend; both can be true.) Don’t just talk about germs and wet wipes. Talk about your relationship. What scares her? What scares you? Is there anything besides germs you should be talking about? Anything else that might be triggering her defenses. If not, that’s great–but it’s not a conversation you should fear. The scary thing is not talking at all. You don’t need to psychoanalyze her–so believe what she says and listen closely.

Practically speaking, there are potential half-measures: holding hands instead of kissing, cuddling with clothes on instead of off, kissing her neck instead of lips... You’ll find those compromises by talking in detail. Pitch some hypothetical questions here way. “Do you like it or not when I wrap my arm around your hips? How do you feel when we cuddle on the couch?” Tell her that you’d love to find ways to feel close that work for her as well. Try to understand the specific contours of her boundaries.

You could also suggest that your girlfriend consider therapy–not because your relationship is contingent on her changing but because it might help her to learn how to move through the world and all of her relationships with greater ease. You shouldn’t lay down an ultimatum, but you could offer to help her find a different sort of help. If you do, be very clear that you’re aware you may be overstepping your bounds but you’re there for her if she ever decides that she wants help finding tools to better cope with her most disruptive anxieties.

In the meantime, don’t forget to bring two things to your next date: Purell and patience.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for about six months, and I love him so much. He's the sweetest man I've ever met and I wonder every single day what I did to deserve him, but there's one problem: he's a terrible kisser. There's way too much saliva (even when it's just a peck), and 90 percent of making out is him just sucking on my bottom lip; sometimes there's teeth involved for some reason. I've never liked french kissing, but he doesn't exactly make me want to change my mind about it. It's honestly gotten to the point where I try to avoid a prolonged kissing session as often as possible. I've tried bringing it up to him, little by little, but he always feels bad about himself whenever I tell him I don't like what he's doing. What should I do?

Before I answer your question, see if you can answer mine: What’s the right way to kiss? Is it a quick peck on the lips? A deep french kiss? Is it soft and romantic? Strong and passionate? Does the perfect kiss involve a little nibbling? A lot? None?

Whatever your answer may be, it’s the right one for you. There’s no right way to kiss. Your boyfriend sucks on your lower lip a lot–and you hate that, and a whole lot of other people don’t love aggressive lip-sucking. You don’t care for french kissing–but he, and a whole lot of other people, think a kiss isn’t just a kiss without a little tongue. But who cares what most people like? Kissing is cultural, personal, and all about chemistry. Go for the kind of kissing you want. Be the kind of kissing you want to see in the world. Manifest your make-out sessions with no apologies.

All you can do is to keep talking about it–particularly when you may dislike something like French kissing which may be popular. When you do talk, please be sure to get specific. Even if it’s embarrassing or if it sounds silly. Try your best to frame your feelings in terms of preference and desire, not insult and critique. For instance, “It’s so sexy when you kiss me gently” or “I love kissing you but please don’t bite my lip so much” is far better than “You’re a TERRIBLE kisser! Yuck!”

I know you’ve already talked about this with little success. You’ve found you can’t just kiss and make up. So remember that every important conversation in a relationship is probably a conversation you’ll keep having, over and over. (That’s nobody’s fault, that’s just the nature of being with someone for a while.) Make sure the conversation goes both ways, just like a good kiss: Tell him, “I love you and I’m attracted to you and I think kissing could be better. What do you think?” Don’t just tell him what you don’t like, tell him what turns you on. Then ask him how he feels about kissing you: what he likes, what turns him on, what he would like more and less. Try not to take it personally; you’re discussing technique not character. Ideally, you’ll find there’s more overlap than you might expect.

Also remember that not every kiss is the perfect kiss that triggers a slow-motion Hollywood montage. Sometimes we clank teeth or miss the mark, and that’s okay. Rubbing lips together is a kind of ridiculous custom, when you think about it. You like each other a lot; so don’t forget to your sense of humor.

Do you have a question for Logan about sex or relationships? Ask him here.

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