The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a company employee in my 50s. I want my husband to take steps to prevent his body odor, but he won’t.
My husband, also a company employee, likes to keep himself clean. He appears to be free from the kind of body odor distinct to the middle-aged. In reality, however, I’ve recently found that he smells. It doesn’t always happen, but he develops a bit of an odor when he gets a bit sweaty. We’re on good terms, and I don’t mind his smell so much when I sense it, probably because I soon get used to it.
However, my husband told me that recently a woman sitting next to him aboard a train moved to another car, seemingly to avoid him. This incident made him start to suspect he may smell.
At heart, however, he apparently doesn’t want to admit this and therefore won’t do anything. He even sometimes asks me to tell him he doesn’t smell.
As I don’t want my husband to feel embarrassed at work or elsewhere from here on out, I’m thinking of recommending he use antiperspirant. I’m also considering using fabric softener that can combat body odors when washing his clothes. How should I encourage him to take steps to prevent body odor without offending him?
A, Osaka Prefecture
Dear Ms. A:
You seek advice for your husband’s body odor, but I’m concerned about a few other things.
First of all, anybody can smell when they become sweaty; both you and your husband are worrying about this too much.
There are no grounds for your husband’s suspicion that his body odor might have caused the woman sitting next to him on a train to leave the car. She might have just found someone she knows in the next car or moved to a car that would be closer to the ticket gate when she got off the train.
Your husband worried about this incident by connecting it to his body odor. This attitude indicates he may feel insecure about himself for some reason. You probably need to have a discussion with him and ask him whether he suffers from any work-related stress.
I have another concern: You hesitate to tell him that he smells, because you’re worried that it may “offend him.”
Telling him he has body odor doesn’t mean you’re rejecting him as a person. If you leave your sweat without removing it, your body odor can become worse. So, I suggest you say to him things like, “When you sweat, wipe your armpits well,” while putting a spare item of underwear in his bag when he leaves for work.
Junko Umihara, psychiatrist