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Talking About Physical Hygiene

Wednesday, 01 Jun 2016 03:54 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Does something about the way your partner smells or tastes bother you? If so, it’s probably a tremendous sexual buzz-killer!

Good sex is anchored in the senses — smell, touch, taste. One of the greatest problems my patients have is asking for what they need in the realm of a partner’s personal hygiene. I always encourage them to be courageous and to deliver the feedback. Nicely.

The aversion to asking a loved one to transform some aspect of his (or her) personal hygiene is often based in empathy for their feelings. We all have been on the receiving end of unwanted criticism, like someone telling you that your hair smells like fish, or your breath tastes like an ashtray. It doesn’t feel good.

So many of us steer clear of these tricky conversations. We get so caught up in our fears of being hurtful that we avoid broaching the topic. But bad things flow from this avoidance.

Still, you can’t be cruel in your feedback. That’s never okay.

Part of sex therapy intake involves meeting with each partner separately. It is in these individual sessions that I hear the complaints that each partner thinks will be too devastating to share with the other.

Keeping these relatively minor secrets can do a heck of a lot of damage. I have had couples who have not shared a passionate kiss for almost a decade because the wife avoided dealing with her spouse’s bad breath.

I saw a relationship almost dissolve because a straight man was so upset by his wife’s vaginal odor on one day that he literally avoided giving her oral sex for the next two decades.

These stories may sound overly dramatic, but I assure you I’m not making them up.

After the initial individual sessions, I help each person tactfully and sweetly tell the truth about their gripes about hygiene. It’s an amazing process. But it’s not rocket science; it’s simple, and it works.

Often years of hurt, distrust, and loneliness evaporate as secrets are revealed.

For some couples, one or both people can be negatively triggered by smells and tastes. In that case, they each need to take a shower before being sexual.

Some people worry that this takes away the spontaneity of the act, but showers can be very erotic, and women’s sense of smell is very sensitive. So in the sexual cost/benefit analysis, the “interruption” of fitting in a shower pays off big time.

One last thing: As a woman, I want to throw in a few words about fighting over shaving. This is not hygiene, in the strict sense. It’s not about cleanliness, but about the preservation of the health of our tender faces. We don’t need a long session of kissing to turn into a scratchfest.

Whereas commenting on a partner’s smells might hurt feelings, a wish to be making love with a partner with a cleanly shaven face can provoke annoyance in the stubbly man. I have yet to meet a man who loves to shave.

So, lovers of men with clean-shaved faces, I encourage you to kindly but firmly, fight for what you need to have a good time.

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One of the greatest problems my patients have is asking for what they need in the realm of a partner’s personal hygiene.
sexuality, relationships, hygiene, counseling
Wednesday, 01 Jun 2016 03:54 PM
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