Q: Hi Meredith,
My wife has been on a health kick for the last year or so. She regularly goes to the gym and watches what she eats. She looks great and feels good about herself. So what's wrong? She stinks!
Yes, she smells, and not from lack of showers but from the food she eats. In the last year, she has gone from vegetarian to vegan. She is eating a lot of organic foods, greens, soups, etc...
Normally, I would tell her to stop eating things with garlic, as that was my first thought. But even now I find other foods without garlic make her stink.
She does not smell it on her so she is not concerned.
It is a huge issue for me because I no longer want to be intimate with my wife. I don't even want to be in the same room as her when she gives off this aroma. And this especially applies to the bedroom because then she is right next to me and there is no escaping it. I have tried things like going to bed earlier so I'm asleep by the time she stinks up the room. Sometimes the smell is so bad I have to leave and sleep in our guest room.
I know I do probably have a more sensitive nose than others as I'm usually the 1st person at work who yells out when someone starts cooking fish. But this is a deal-breaker for me. I feel like I have a roommate living with me rather than a loving wife.
I feel like I'm ready to walk but wonder what advice you can give me before I make this decision.
– GrossedOutHubby, Boston
A: You have to be 100 percent honest, GOH. Not mean, but honest. You have to tell her that the smell issue is beginning to kill some very important parts of your marriage. Tell her that you're scared. That should disarm her.
Frankly, your sensitive nose might be picking up something important. Perhaps she's eating too much of one thing. Perhaps she isn't getting enough protein. If she's concerned about her health, she's going to want to see a nutritionist about this smell to find out whether the odor is a symptom of a greater problem. You can even offer to go to the doctor with her to help describe the scent.
One thing to know: Even if she's empathetic, goes straight to a nutritionist, and begins experimenting to find out what makes her smell better/worse, this is going to take a while. My advice is to have as many outings as possible in places where scent isn't so important. Like a big, crowded restaurant.
If she refuses to address the smell issue and tells you that this is your problem, this is no longer about the odor; it's about her health kick trumping your marriage. At that point, you have every reason to ask her to go into therapy with you to talk about how to prioritize the individual without losing sight of the partnership.
But you're not there yet. Start with real honesty (and some compliments about she used to smell) and a trip to the nutritionist. And yes, once you have this talk, you're allowed to kiss her good night and camp out in the guest room. At least for now. No one's going to be happy if you spend the night tossing and turning.
Readers? How do you tell a partner that they stink? What if she refuses to deal with this? Anyone vegan? How important is a partner's familiar smell in a relationship? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.