Hi Jake

My boyfriend recently decided to embrace his “natural” side. He quit manscaping, stopped wearing deodorant, and only shampoos his hair once or twice a month. He still showers regularly–thank god!–but he uses this all-natural soap that doesn’t work as well and I’m worried he’s going to quit doing that eventually too. I want to be supportive of his new lifestyle choice, but I truthfully find it very unattractive (and smelly!). It feels extreme/unhygienic. When I brought it up with him, he got offended and said if I’m not willing to embrace him for who he is then that’s my issue, and I can either accept it or break up with him. I don’t want to break up with him but I also don’t want to make out with someone who has B.O. and only brushes their teeth when they feel like it. What should I do?

P U

Dear P U,

I’m all for allowing our partners to explore their identities, experiment with their expression, and discover what makes them happy… to a point. Certain things in relationships, however, are “deal breakers”, and this may be one of them for you.

Sure, part of being in a relationship is negotiation and sacrifice, but sacrifice doesn’t mean martyrdom. You don’t have to completely push down your feelings, no matter the cost, just to please your man.

Being attracted to someone is an important component in a partnership. Sure, we can pretend a “soul connection” is what matters and transcends the physical. But let’s be real, two bodies coming together in the same space, sexually or otherwise, is a huge part of a relationship. When one of the partners in a couple decides to change how they show up in that space, it affects the other person.

Your first challenge here is to feel that your opinion and feelings about the issue are valid, and worthy of being shared. If for some reason you aren’t sure you have a right to have any demands, then you may need to do some work on your self-esteem with an understanding LGBTQ therapist. One of the characteristics of low self-esteem is not feeling like your needs matter or that you have a right to express them.

The next challenge is being able to assert yourself and what your deal breakers are, a.k.a. defining and vocalizing your boundaries. What are you okay with, or not okay with, and how can you express that in a loving, respectful manner?

The important distinction here is that this is about you, not him. In other words, this isn’t about telling your boyfriend that he’s wrong for ditching the deodorant and the toothpaste. It’s simply telling him that kissing a dirty mouth or going to bed with a stench in the room doesn’t work for you.

In some cases, people may try to push past your boundaries if they think you’ll let them, so the task here is to not cave in. If he really means it that you’ll have to break up with him, you may have to proceed in that direction if he won’t meet you halfway.

There might be something going on psychologically with your boyfriend that he unconsciously wants to “repel” you or others from his orbit, and that’s his work to figure out. There’s always a chance that if you call his bluff, and proceed towards an ending, he will realize that your relationship is more important to him than his embodiment of “Pig Pen”.

It’s one thing for a boyfriend to try out a Matthew McConaughey-like crunchy phase. But it’s another thing if they’ve gone so far off the deep end that their friends or partner can’t tolerate it, and they’re unwilling to compromise. It’s up to you to respect and love yourself enough to demand some negotiation. Could there be a way to honor both of you in this? Perhaps he can go off on his own once a month and live his best life at Pig Week in Fort Lauderdale, as long as he agrees to come back home and bathe again? Would you be okay with “Soap Free Sundays”?

Remember, your man’s journey with being “natural” is doing something positive for him, but it doesn’t mean your happiness takes second fiddle. If he won’t listen, it might be time for your own “spring cleaning” in the relationship department.

Jake Myers, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, is the Founder of LGBTQ Therapy Space, the first national platform for online therapy for and by the LGBTQ community, matching clients with quality LGBTQ therapists and providing a secure, easy-to-use platform for sessions. Have a question for Jake? Follow LGBTQ Therapy Space on Instagram and send him a DM, or simply stay up to date on LGBTQ mental health tips and trends!

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