Husband’s offhand comment about showering leaves wife feeling embarrassed

A wife is wondering how to respond after her husband's comments about her hygiene, particularly after she showers. Carolyn Hax warns there may be other factors at play in the relationships.



July 11, 2022 - 3:24 PM

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Dear Carolyn: My husband is the sort of person who gets up every morning and immediately takes a shower. There are no exceptions. He does not present himself to others, even our children, before he has showered. If he is getting up to go on a 20 mile bike ride, he takes a shower first. If it’s Christmas morning and the kids are anxious to open presents, everyone waits for him to finish his shower. This is the way he is and I have no problem with it. I have and always will happily work around what, in my mind, is just one of his quirks. 

About 10 years ago, I learned that my husband had a conversation with a family member where he revealed his concerns about me not showering often enough and that he was worried that I would someday soon acquire that revolting “old lady” smell. I was very hurt and surprised to hear about this as I shower every day, although not always in the morning. I expressed to him how much he had hurt me and how terrible he made me feel about myself. He apologized, but ever since that happened, I am reminded of his comments (and the hurt) every time he talks about my showering, which he does nearly every day. He thinks he’s just asking an innocent question if he asks me when I’m going to take a shower, but for me this means that I must smell bad. Sometimes he’ll mention how “quick” my shower was, as if he’s just making conversation, but for me this is an accusation that I am unclean. I have asked him a thousand times to please stop talking about my showering, but he won’t even try. He says that he’s not doing anything wrong and will not change his behavior to suit me.

I am at my wits end. I feel constantly assaulted. I have explained this to him, but he refuses to make an effort to avoid talking about my showering. He just says that he doesn’t mean anything by it, that it’s unreasonable of me to expect him to not use the word “shower”, that it’s my problem, and I have to get over it. What should I do? This has been going on for a decade, with no end in sight. Am I the one who needs therapy?

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