How do I politely tell my wife her odour turns me off?

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When I try talking to her about it, she says I should not complain because I married her with the condition

My wife and I have been married for about a year. However, she has terrible body and vaginal odour, mostly before, during and after her monthly period. When I try talking to her about it, she says I should not complain because I married her with the condition. I have also suggested seeking medical assistance but when I do, she says she is praying about it. I love her very much but this is too much to tolerate. How do I convince her to seek help without coming off as insensitive?      


Dear Anonymous,

This must be stressful. However, telling your partner that their body odour is a turnoff may sting hurt, even if you try to break the news in a gentle yet direct way. But, it is better that your partner hears this from you (someone they love and trust that) than a co-worker or worse still, people talking about it behind her back. And if the odour is getting in the way of your intimate life, then it is likely getting in the way of your relationship. So, it is worth talking about, however uncomfortable it may be.

Experts recommend presenting the subject with kindness and care. They recommend employing a technique from relationships researcher John Gottman called “softstart-up,” in which you begin the conversation by focusing on a particular behaviour (rather than picking too many harsh words) and expressing what you need, rather than attacking, criticising or blaming your partner.

The phrasing that is often used follows a structure such as: “I feel – about -, and I need -.” Starting with an attacking word such as you might attract a counter attack. However when you start with I, it is unlikely that you will say it in a harsh tone. In this case, you may consider: “I feel concerned about your odour, especially when it keeps me from being close to you, and I need us to explore ways of finding a lasting solution.”

Try not to use language that sounds judgmental. Benchmark on it being more of a health issue.  From that standpoint, you can peel back the layers and discover the cause without insult or emotional harm.

When the odour in question is tied to a health condition such as chronic infections or medication that affects one’s immunity, you may want to be extra sensitive in your delivery. Your partner likely has less control over the situation than they would if the condition was just about stepping up their brushing game or showering frequently.

You can also suggest visiting a counsellor together so  that you have a third party guiding the conversation. This might encourage her to seek medical attention or even open up a little more.

Reader advice

Let her deal with it

Patience Kahukya. She is right to say you found her with the condition and should let her deal with it her way, not because it is the right thing to do but rather, the fact that it was never a problem for you. I am sure you had intimate times before marriage and that should have been the most opportune time to show your intolerance. Regardless, you should encourage her to seek medical help even as she prays.

Investigate the cause

Getrude Nakaddu. First investigate the cause of the body odour. Sometimes it is hygiene while other times it is sickness. If it is sickness, look for treatment, if it is not then maybe she  needs to change her hygiene habits. Suggest bathing together but whatever you do, ensure you do not do it in an offensive way.

Talk to your wife

David Mukisa. Explain to your wife that you have a sensitive matter to discuss. If possible, downplay the problem to help her feel less embarrassed. Be honest and kind but also direct. Ask her what may be causing the odour and how you can help. Take notes; you may need them should you need to handle the situation formally.

Ask her friend for help

Patrick Maxwell. Try to engage her best friend whom you know she is close to and can talk to her freely. Maybe she will be more open to receiving advice from her friend whom she trusts and knows can keep her secret.

Seek medical help

Winfred Mukimba. This could be a urinary tract infection in an advanced stage. Advise her to go for tests before it turns into cancer of the cervix. Also, she must understand that you love her, the reason you have opened up to her. Open communication is vital in any type of relationship.

Diet change might help

Grace Ayebale. PH imbalance after one’s period could be the cause. Let her change her diet. Citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges minimise the accumulation of toxins in the body thereby curbing the growth of odour-producing bacteria. A glass of lukewarm lemon water or fresh orange juice can also be very refreshing for your system.

Tell her family

Dora Nun Nyonga. Some people are simply difficult. Trying talking to her and if she refuses to listen to your concerns, send her back to her family and ask them to talk to encourage her to seek medical assistance. She can return when she is okay.

Communication is key

Shukran Agasha. Find the right time and environment and talk to her. She is your partner and if her body odour is making you uncomfortable, she should not just ignore your concerns. Instead of being so comfortable with a problem like this, she should actually be doing all she can to find help.

What is she hiding?

Doria Woods. It seems your wife knows exactly what is wrong with her and her refusal to let you in is questionable .

Evelyn Khorono Lufafa is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation