Girlfriend Does Sudden About-Face

Q: My boyfriend loves me and is great to me except for one thing: I can't accept his hygiene habits. He would be great looking, but he doesn't pay any attention to his clothes or grooming. He hardly ever brushes his teeth and he smokes and drinks coffee all day, so kissing him is not as sweet as it could be, believe me. I often tell him to cut his nose hairs, wash the dirt from under his nails (he works outside), and so on, and he does it without getting offended. But he doesn't ever take the initiative himself. I'm so tired of having to remind him, and I'm feeling less and less attracted to him! Why can't a grown man in his 30s see such simple things? Is it possible to change him? -- Terry

Dr. Susan: You're not the only woman with this complaint. To give you a realistic answer, I asked a man I know who drives his own mate up the wall because of similar habits. He said you're probably not being clear enough to your guy about how important hygiene is to you. Sure, he should already know that civilized and generous-spirited men and women in intimate relationships owe it to their partners to be clean and brushed and plucked and trimmed in whatever ways their partners find more pleasing. But we start wherever we have to. So step one for you is to sit him down and tell him that his lack of good grooming habits is becoming a major turn-off, as is your having to keep reminding him as though he's a little boy. Step two is to decide if he's worth the bother if he DOESN'T change. Because the brutal fact is that many men apparently think they're hot stuff without having to be clean and fresh. Or, more kindly, they're so involved in "important stuff" that they just plain keep forgetting the "trivial" matter of grooming.

If you love him and would like to see a future with him, be prepared to find alternate ways of getting him to groom himself without having to constantly say it in words. You could, for example, set a rule that before he comes to bed with you, or before you go out in public with him, he must clean himself up. Then write a little note that says, "How's your hygiene?" and flash it at him when needed. Put the nail clipper on his pillow. He smokes? Yuk. Lay a toothbrush across each ashtray. But be prepared for him not to change too dramatically. If that's a deal killer for you, better to know it now.

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