Reader Question of the Week: Help, My Husband Can Be Gross!

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question is one probably all women have some thoughts about. A woman says she has no problem loving her husband unconditionally, BUT (there’s always a but):

How do I feel turned on when he does the not so attractive things like tonight coming out after his shower with tissue stuck up his nose from a bleed or when he doesn’t keep himself groomed(hair cut, clean shaven, teeth brushed twice a day)….help!

What do you think? Let’s help her in the comments!


  1. My advice is to say “ew”, and if he doesn’t take the hint, develop a stronger stomach. You did say ‘for better or for worse’. This is the “worse”. 😉 You’re probably going to see a lot worse than that over the course of your lives together.
    Cindy recently posted…Naive, Unworldly HomeschoolersMy Profile

  2. Not, of course, that you shouldn’t be clear with him that you don’t love that. Just that nagging won’t help. At all.
    Cindy recently posted…Naive, Unworldly HomeschoolersMy Profile

  3. Offer to shower with him! Win, win situation!

  4. Step One is just to learn to laugh at the farts and the nose picking, and whatever other gross things they feel a little too comfortable doing in front of us. Step Two is to narrow down the list just a few things you just really can’t tollerate. Step Three, speak honestly and lovingly to your husband and say “Honey, I love you and I am attracted to you, but it is difficult for me to be turned on/be intimate with you when” : your breath isn’t fresh you’re sweaty, or whatever that ultimate turn off is for you! If the average husband really grasps that by bathing, brushing his teeth, shaving… he’s gonna get more sex… HE”S GOING TO DO IT, and OFTEN!
    Juleen Kenney recently posted…10 Things To Be Thankful For Today – (5/15/12)My Profile

  5. I would be upfront and honest with him; if sex is a big deal for him I think knowing that there are things he can do to help him get more of it would be something he would want to know. For me it was my husbands lack of teeth brushing that turned me off so I was upfront with him about it. Yes he grumbled some but he now brushes his teeth, especially if he hopes to go beyond kissing.
    I really don’t think you should give hints as most men just don’t get them; men are way more direct then women are so be direct with him but in a way that doesn’t make him feel defensive.

  6. So, I’m assuming this reader is always shaven, eyebrows and mustache always plucked, dressed in her best, makeup always straight, hair done neatly kept, bikini area always trimmed and never stubely? I’m guessing not.

    We all have our “gross” moments and marriage should be a safe place to have those moments. Pretending that one’s husband should always perfect kept insinuates that this reader has a Hollywood idea of marriage, not God’s idea.

    The part that concerns me most is that a wife would highlight her husband’s caring for a nosebleed as something gross. Working with women gonna daily basis, I can confidently say most would be concerned about the nosebleed and everyone knows that the only way to stop a persistent bleed is by keeping tissue up there. Was he supposed to stay in the bathroom the entire time?

    When one sees their spouse as an imperfect object, they miss the beauty of seeing their spouse as imperfectly perfect. Marriage should be a soft place to land at the end of a hard day, a place where we should be able to “let our hair down” so-to-speak.

    While one is free to ask for a shave before sex, measuring libido and using that to control him by I’m guessing withholding sex is toxic for marriage. Unrealistic expectations doesn’t lead to a fulfilling marriage. It leads too often to divorce. Grace in marriage leads to fulfillment. See past his not-so-grossness to the amazing man you married.

    Often, mine has been too tired and has even resembled Grizzly Adams. None of that has ever affected libido because his beard does not define him in any way.

    • Yes. This.
      Cindy recently posted…Naive, Unworldly HomeschoolersMy Profile

    • I agree completely. None of these are big things. There was a time when I thought some things my husband did were gross, years ago, and it wasn’t because of what he was doing really, it was because I was upset at not feeling connected to him and I was taking it out on him and justifying it by convincing myself that he was disgusting. Being grateful for him, making a list of his attributes that I admire, attributing good intentions to him and firmly deciding to be committed to our marriage for better or worse as long as we both shall live helped me get over myself and to feel blessed by being with him. Gratitude is the creator of joy.

      I am not, have never been, and never will be perfect, and my husband loves me, is attracted to me, and is grateful for me anyway. He is definitely more grateful to be with me now that I have nurtured gratitude in myself. No one wants to be married to a person who is an avowed pessimist and spoilsport.

      Some people really brush their teeth twice a day?! haha

  7. Please excuse typos. Shouldn’t respond on my phone
    Jennifer recently posted…The Importance of SurrenderMy Profile

  8. My knee-jerk response is to do all those things he can’t stand at once–for me, it’d be eating raw onions, pulling the sides of my hair back (giving a “mullet” look), stuff like that. Then I’d jokingly throw myself at him and be all affronted if he didn’t respond…

    BUT upon further reflection, I would definitely agree w/the reader above who says to be straightforward, if something’s driving you CRAZY. You can always let him know in a NICE way the things that bother you. That doesn’t mean he’ll stop doing them, though, and you have to be okay with that. And really, we can’t expect hubbies to look/act like male models or perfect romance characters all the time. I’m sure male models use Kleenexes and have gross habits, too. We’re humans, and that’s real life. We grow to accommodate each other’s quirks, though sometimes we might change some of ours. I do try to avoid onions, but I don’t always succeed…hee.
    Heather Day Gilbert recently posted…My Word for 2013!My Profile

  9. I’m with Stacey – men don’t take hints, we have to be upfront and direct with them. When I wanted my husband to knock off some gross habits, I had to be extremely direct with him. Like, as if I were talking to a 12 year old boy. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense – it’s like, you know how we women all have a little girl inside of us who needs to be spoken to once in a while? It’s the same with men. There’s a 12 year old boy in there and sometimes we need to speak his language. Not disrespectfully, mind you. Lovingly yet firm and direct.

    Something like this usually works with my husband. Get his full attention first. “Babe, you know I love you and you know I’m attracted to you. When you’re not shaved/teeth brushed/wearing deodorant/whatever, I don’t find that sexy. It would mean a lot to me if you would do those little things. Because I love you and I desire you and my heart’s desire is for intimacy to be as pleasurable as possible for both of us, and I guarantee if you do these things, I’m gonna respond positively.” And end with a wink and a smile. 😉
    Melissa recently posted…It’s Not That MuchMy Profile

  10. workinprogress says:

    Hmmm, obviously we don’t have a ton of details from the short question, so I don’t want to make assumptions.. I’ll just share my personal experience.
    My husband used to not shower or brush teeth as often as I would have liked. He would definitely brush teeth and mouthwash before he approached me for sex, but I don’t want fresh breath only in bed. I never really said much though… BUT, I noticed that after I made a personal goal to initiate sex every other night, things changed. He almost always showers the morning after making love and I noticed that if I was leaving hints that I was looking for some loving, he would take care of his personal grooming before coming to bed. I really think what happened was that he started to feel desired and attractive BECAUSE I was pursuing him. That led to him taking better care of himself. It wasn’t an overnight change, but it didn’t take months to see the changes either.
    As far as things like tissue to stop a nose bleed, or other unattractive facts of life, I really think those are different than just sloppy grooming and need to be overlooked.

    • workinprogress says:

      I’ll add too that I make a point to TELL my husband how sexy he is. No, he is no Hollywood Hunk, but the more I tell him how sexy he is, the more he acts like a sexy hunk by the way he grooms and dresses :-) We become what we believe we are, right?

  11. I think that we think guys are like us and they think we’re like them. My husband, for instance, still finds me attractive and wants to have sex with me even when my legs aren’t shaved, if my breath is bad, if I haven’t showered, if I’m a little “soft” after the holidays and so on. I know, not every man is this way, but I think guys have a much higher tolerance for “gross” than we do, and they assume that our tolerance is similar to theirs. I suspect that the reader’s husband wouldn’t be turned off if she walked into the room with a tissue up her nose to stop a bleed, or if she skipped her shower, or if she hadn’t brushed her teeth. And he’s making the assumption that she feels the same way, that she’s still turned on by him as he is by her. He probably isn’t doing it to be gross and I don’t think it’s necessarily a sign of lack of grooming know-how. It’s probably a sign of comfort (he probably wouldn’t have walked out of the shower with a tissue up his nose when they were dating?).

    If the above paragraph is true, it probably wouldn’t take more than a simple sentence of request: “Honey, I love kissing you, but can you brush your teeth first?” If said with love and a smile (not nagging or judging or exasperated), then he’s unlikely to take issue with it. She can even have a discussion that, as she is, she likes things clean and fresh and smelling nice; that it affects her enjoyment of sex and that it’s so much easier for her to feel turned on when both of them are fresh and clean. Or whatever.

    My husband’s response has always been, “Wait, you mean this will make you want sex more?? Okay!!” If this man really isn’t an ogre (which I suspect he isn’t), then he’s likely to be similarly responsive. I hope that he is!

  12. My husband showers and brushes his teeth, so he’s not offensive from an odor standpoint, but he is just unkempt in his appearance, to the point of me being extremely turned off. He clings to clothing that is shabby–beyond even being good enough to donate to charity–frayed, stained, just plain worn out. And on top of that, he cooks every day and is a mess in the kitchen. He wipes his hands on his pants like a toddler and refuses to wear an apron or even use a towel. These dirty clothes go wadded up in the closet, and he will wear them again! If I want to wash them I have to ferret them out–no hamper for him. He waits about four months between haircuts, so for two months out of four, he is shaggy, with scraggly eyebrows that make him look kind of crazy. In the hottest months of the summer, he will shave occasionally, but otherwise, he grows a beard. I have no problem with a short, trimmed beard, but he doesn’t keep it trimmed and it runs wild. It is definitely a sexual turnoff to me.

    We have been married for years, and any and all things, positive and negative I have done to encourage change, falls upon deaf ears at the least, and sometimes initiates conversations in which he lets me know in no uncertain terms that I’m disrespectful and he doesn’t have a problem, I do. However, I am expected to do things the way he likes and to implement changes at his request. He obviously doesn’t care to please me. This goes way beyond sexual turnoff.

    However, these things are really in keeping with his character –he is very passive, doesn’t fix things when they are started to go, ignores problems that could be easily solved or repaired in the early stages. He applies this strategy to car repairs, household repairs, relationships. If something doesn’t fix itself, he will live with it broken. Our relationship is on the list of broken things. You might think he’s depressed, and maybe he is, but he hasn’t gone to a doctor in almost 15 years. His answer to high blood pressure is to stop taking it!

    His income (self-employed) is half of what it was five years ago and our family is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. I feel that his sloppy, shabby appearance is costing him business, and it is endangering our family. My dad always said you could tell a man’s character by looking at his shoes and the interior of his vehicle. :)

    • Yikes. This goes way beyond the surface level question. Scarlett, can you think of 3 things that you love about your husband and try to focus on those – as a starting point? If not 3, how about 1?
      Leanne recently posted…Teaching kids about givingMy Profile

      • He is not rigid when it comes to schedules, which of course can be a negative but I appreciate sometimes as a positive. The best thing is that he doesn’t watch professional sports on TV. I have to say that I don’t think I love him at all in the classic sense of male/female love, but I try to love him in the way that we are commanded to love our brothers. Though I am not really sure he is saved, he doesn’t attend church or ever read a Bible. About four years ago we went to a therapist and after four visits my husband quit and has refused any counseling/church marriage mentoring, etc. At that time, the therapist said that we were the most incompatible, all-out opposite two people he had ever seen. He also said that for having such a dysfunctional relationship we were amazingly good parents and our children sounded well-adjusted. lol. It is important to me to honor the covenant I made but it is not easy. I want my children to have an intact family and he is not a bad dad. Not a disciplinarian, but not abusive or unfair.

        • Maybe 3 things you love about him from that paragraph are?;
          He puts his family above his schedule
          He honors the covenant of marriage (he is still there with you)
          He is a good father

  13. I’m a husband, and I agree most with Melissa. Use the direct approach, no hinting, no blind hoping, no beating around the bush. Be kind but be direct and objectively state the facts. Absolutely if a (normal) husband knows that increasing his effort in this or any area is going to lead to more sex…that will motivate him more than any other form of motivation. So, assuming it is the truth, you could say….hey…if you shave and take a shower I’d really feel like going to bed with you at (INSERT SPECIFIC TIME WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS BUT THE SOONER THE BETTER AND MORE EFFECTIVE). Then whatever you do don’t fail to follow through on the promise. Of course, you won’t always be prepared to carry through on that promise, so only make it when it is true. The same is true for the effectiveness of this promise, as well as the paramount importance of only making if it is true, if he happens to be actively trying to initiate at the time. “I’d love to….but I really need you to shower first….” In that situation I think you have every right to refuse if he refuses to take care of the hygiene issue. But whatever you do DON’T just hold out for the sake of holding out all the time….only when the situation arises to be upfront and explicit about it.

    You see, the issue with us men isn’t that we really don’t care at all about these things (stubble, old clothes, or whatever) – it’s just that we don’t care about them as much as most of you women do. A floor has to be a lot more dirty for us to notice the dirt than it does for you to do so. And until we notice the dirt, we’re not going to have any incentive to sweep it. So in order to want to make the effort, we need a tangible reason – a promise of a reward – to do so. And I guess this last paragraph is particularly addressed to Scarlett. Your husband, I am sure, is not beling sloppy just to annoy you. He’s sloppy because he has a different standard of what’s acceptable than you do. (And I’m not saying it’s an acceptable standard – he sounds sloppy even by my standards as a man). But be that as it may, the point is he doesn’t see the necessity of why he should bother improving. Lovingly giving him a reason, in my opinion, would be your best bet.

    But I emphasize once again that the rewards have to be tangible and reliable. If he starts putting forth the effort and isn’t getting reliable sufficient payback, and this goes on for too long, he might just give up and quit trying. (Yes, this is the voice of experience).

  14. Well said, Jennifer! I’ll just add my hearty “Ditto!” here.

  15. Anonymous Please says:

    I have had a similar issue with my husband. It’s obviously not something I can discuss with anyone, but I have told him (doing my best not to nag!) that he needs to clean himself up. I’ll spare you the details, but I was continually ending up in the doctor’s office with infections due to HIS bad hygiene. When the doctor asked me point blank what was going on that this was such an issue, I was so humiliated! For a while I even started insisting that “we” shower together before being intimate. That has helped some, but it really takes away the romance for me, having to ensure his cleanliness. It’s a constant struggle to be attracted to a man who doesn’t care enough about MY health to be bothered. :(

  16. Im just going out on a limb here, but what would happen if you asked him to go brush his teeth before sex, or exclaimed “Now that’s sexy!” when he walks out with tissue stuck up his nose? Honesty and a sense of humor go a long way, as long as it is all tempered in love, and isn’t meant to hurt his feelings. If you hurt his feelings, well, I don’t think it would go well.

    But I highly recommend tossing subtlety and subterfuge out the window, it is my experience that men do not appreciate it.

  17. Since it is obvious from your question that he does take the time to groom but just not as often as you would like, why not comment when he does do it? When he has shaved say something like, “Honey, I just love kissing you when your skin is so smooth” and then proceed to do so. Or, when he has had a hair cut, “I can’t believe I’m married to such a handsome man! You look so incredibly sexy with that cut.” And even the thing that you found offensive but which shows that he cares for himself or you, say, “I’m sorry you’ve got a nose bleed. I really appreciate that you’re taking care of it and that you’ve not bleed all over the carpet/bedclothes.”

    I’ve read it on here that we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. What if he’s been too busy to get a hair cut or what if shaving causes a rash and he likes to have a break from it now and then? Or perhaps he thinks it is sexy – maybe you commented on some Hollywood sex symbol who had obviously not shaved and he thought that was something you liked.

    Perhaps this isn’t popular, but if these are your husband’s only faults, count your blessings.

  18. I agree with a lot of what’s been said. My husband knows that I’m probably going to nix any full on kissing in the morning because morning breath kissing is just a no go for me. We can have sex or cuddle or whatever. Just keep your mouth shut. If he wants unrestricted playtime he’ll just pop a breath mint or brush his teeth before I wake up. I’ll definitely tell him if he needs a shower, but it’s never a big deal. On the other hand, I may be kind of low maintenance. I’ve been in love with his beard for 8-9 years now, and I actually like a little (musky – not smelly) body odor.
    Natalie recently posted…Tis the Season!My Profile

  19. Ive found the most effective way to get my hubby to change behavior is to praise him when he does something I like. Right after he shaves i rub my cheek on his and tell him how good it feels. If he is more dressed up than normal I comment on how great he looks. And when he does any house cleaning I make sure he knows I appreciate it…
    Some things I don’t leave to chance. He gets a haircut whenever our 3 boys do, so I make their apts when I think he needs it. And if he does something gross then I tell him, but I do it politely.

  20. Praying for you, Scarlett
    Lois recently posted…“Our” Christmas DayMy Profile

  21. Yikes. 😯 I would hope that most men are self-aware of basic hygiene and grooming. Even if it weren’t for the fact that we should have been taught those things as boys, how can you live with yourself when your breath is bad and you look scruffy? (scratches head in consternation)

  22. Kym Carter says:

    Be grateful for the good things.

    My husband works close to the Canada border so he does not cut his hair 9 months out of the year because, Human hair is 89% warmer than wool. He has I am grateful that when he comes home he showers, shaves his neck and trims his bread and mustache. I have come to love my husband for more than his hot young self from 13 years ago. 😉 Plus I am sure he doesn’t find me very attractive when I do my face mask or hair in rollers. Love him for the great things and know that we all do things that do not turn each other on all the time.

    Also, my husband’s smokes and chews. Nasty. I smoked for 7 years, now have quit for 5 years and I do not like tobacco. I ask him in a sexy voice, please go wash your hands and brush your teeth and I’ll be ready when your done. He goes running for the bathroom.

    One of the hottest things we done is we had a spa day just for my hubby. I have washed my husband’s hair and shaved his face. I was a little eerie because I have never shaved a man’s face but after all said and done. It was one of the sexiest things we’ve ever done.

  23. this may be a little off topic, but my parents made grooming & dressing each other (shampooing hair, making the part straight, zipping her dress up the back, etc.). One of my fondest memories of my marriage was being stung by a bee and my then easy-gross-out wife taking charge to pull the stinger out of my neck. Gently teaching each other to “let me do what you should be doing for yourself” is part of the intimacy.

  24. Sorry, but I had to laugh about the nosebleed tissue. I grew up with my dad doing that all the time. He also picked his nose all the time. If any of us kids did it, he’d be the first one to holler about it. lol As a person who was for years plauged with nosebleeds, I can say that someone thinking I was disgusting for having one in front of them would NOT be high on my list of friends. Shoot! I had to be taken home from school as a young teen with horrific nosebleeds that would not stop and nobody ever said I was disgusting. Anyway. AFA husbands go, I have to say mine is ummm very vain when it comes to personal stuff. If has to go somewhere he feels important, he’ll go buy new clothes. If he wakes up in the morning with his hair sticking up, the first thing he does is comb it. Yes, he has his sloppinesses- he couldn’t keep track of his socks if it killed him, he leaves dirty dishes sitting around the house, doesn’t pick up his shoes, coat, etc. When he gets sick, he’s as bad as the kids- whining about how terrible he feels, throwing up in buckets and having me empty them, that kind of thing. I suppose he brushes his teeth b/c he tells me to buy him more toothpaste. He uses deoderant and shaves b/c he either buys those items or tells me to. I think there is a balance to it. Nobody should be a total slob, but at the same time NOBODY ever has it all together ALL the time. There are times when you aren’t your best and your spouse should understand and do what they can to support you not make you feel worse.

  25. Hello,
    I work part time so I take on more of the house chores, which is fine by me. BUT…..I’m not a slave and my wife (job) description doesn’t include picking up after him constantly. I do not even pick up like this after my children. And I have spoiled my husband too much. Totally taking care of him to the point he has a sense of entitlement now. And he’s lost the appreciation for all the ‘extras’ that I do. My meaning of extras are the personal stuff we do for each other..making his lunch, him rubbing my feet, putting his work clothes out, him bringing me coffee in bed…. Anyway, to the point that brings me here. And it is groooossssss. When my husband takes a crap it gets all over the toilet. And he just leaves it there. I mean on the cover too, not just the bowl and the seat part. He says toilets are MY JOB…well, I agree that Im the one that gives the house a weekly wash down and then the daily pick up. BUT to expect me to wash this off, scrub this off, is offensive. 1. it grosses me out to see that and it makes me less attracted to him. 2. its totally disrespectful to leave that mess there for me to clean. 3. why is he not embarrassed? So we are having a control/power struggle right now. He refuses to clean it and I do as well. Needless to say it doesn’t bother him to see that daily, but it bothers me in so many ways..I have to use the hallway bathroom now because its nasty in our bedroom one. And its making me feel unloved and disrespected. His pride and selfishness comes before me??? Any suggestions, opinions? Thank you.

    • I’m gonna have to agree that that’s REALLY disrespectful, as you pointed out. I feel like he’s just doing it out of spite. You may want to sit down with him and say “Keeping up with the house is already hard enough, quit making it harder. How would you feel if the roles were reversed and YOU were cleaning up like that after me?” You may want to tell him how that makes you feel “unloved and disrespected.” And maybe throw in how it makes him unattractive to you.

      Geez, that’s terrible. And awfully rude. I don’t mean to be offensive, but your husband is acting a bit like a child!

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