The Relationship Judge: A Delicately Stinky Issue

Happy Friday and congrats for making it through another week.  It’s so darn beautiful outside these days that it’s hard to justify sitting in an office all day.  I’m still sick as a dog (or perhaps because of the dog).  It is yet to be determined whether it’s allergies or just a never ending cold.  The Husband has already determined that I’m the one moving out if it’s the puppy causing my sickness.  Nice, right?  At 5 AM this morning, coughing myself into another dry throat situation, I dug through our medicine cabinet in the dark and found these Halls cough drops.  I retreated to our living room couch and closed my eyes for a few minutes, completely defeated from a restless, drug induced slumber.  An hour later, passed out with a cough drop still in my mouth (very safe, I know) The Husband woke me up and asked if I was taking the puppy out.

“If you’re up and able to ask me those words, shouldn’t you take him out?” I thought.

I couldn’t think or speak at that very moment though, so I ended up taking him out.  It’s our bonding time anyway that early in the morning.  I feel sad enough leaving him all day to come to work.

But on to today’s Relationship Judge post which actually gave me a good laugh…

The Facts: Tina in Boston wrote in about a single friend of hers that is on the prowl.   The friend, a close buddy of Tina’s husband, happens to be male, very average looking but with a great personality.  He got out of a very long term relationship a couple of years ago and his confidence took a pretty big hit.  Since then, he’s been on a dating binge, but hasn’t had much luck.  One of the main problems, Tina suspects, is that “Tom” has horrible breath.  It’s so bad at times, she says, that it could cause “the roots of her hair to be bleached.”  She also observed that on several occasions, when meeting up with her husband and Tom on social occasions, Tom has had mild to moderate B.O.   She’s tried to her her husband to have a heart to heart with Tom, but a couple of mild efforts have not yielded any change. She feels sorry for Tom and wants to help, but doesn’t want to make him feel bad about himself.


The Question: What is a kind way to tell a friend that he/she smells? “Smells” means (sour or foul breath, body odor, etc.).  Is it your place to tell them? Should you let someone else get involved?

The Relationship Judge Says: Tina, that stinks (buh dum bum).  I equate this to a much more extreme version of telling someone that they have spinach in their teeth.  It’s embarrassing to the spinach infused person, but in the long run, aren’t you glad they told you?  I was once in a business meeting when a senior lawyer told me in front of a group of others that my button down shirt had come undone at the boob part.  I was mortified and greatly wished she had not done it in front of everyone else.  Surely if she had taken me aside and let me know, I would have been grateful.  It’s all in the delivery.   And who’s delivering it.  If your husband is really close with Tom, you should get him to be more direct with him.  Practice having the conversation.  Wouldn’t you want to know if you smelled?  Who would you want to tell you?  How would you want to be told?  Then let it be done quickly (preferably over drinks) and stress all the positives about Tom (his smarts, his warmth, his humor).  Ask him what kind of deodorant he uses.  How often he brushes.  If he showers after a workout or just changes clothes.  Overall, make it clear that you are telling him because you care.  Of course, doing this is a lot easier said than done, especially for an extremely sensitive guy who is a bit down on his luck with the ladies to begin with.  If all else fails: offering breath mints and squirting him with some body spray “accidentally” can go a long way – at least temporarily.

Your Turn: What is the best way to tell someone they stink?  Should you tell them?

If YOU have a problem for The Relationship Judge, please email with the subject line “The Relationship Judge.”  Instructions for what to submit can be found here.



  1. Stacey this relationship posts crack me up – well all of your blog does. BO/Stinky Breath is disgusting and awful – and I swear I always end up sitting next to “those” kinds of people on airplanes, or close quarter spaces. EW. The “accidentally” spraying someone with good smelling spray was one of my favorite parts of this whole post. I’ve totally thought about doing that.

    Everything you said, I echo.

    Do you ever hear updates on the people who’ve sent you something for the Relationship Judge? I want to know what happens with Tina – does her husband tell the smelly friend? Or not? What about past posts? 😉

    PS: Hope your dry throat goes away stat – and you get to sleep in tomorrow while The Husband takes the cute puppy out.

  2. I think Tina is going to have to man up herself to deal with this….if she cares about their relationship with Tom. Arrange a coffee meeting with him….stress the work meeting….and tell him straight out as a woman telling a man friend, what she perceives the issues to be. Also, assure him that this will go no further but that she cares about her and her husband’s friendship with him and wants him to succeed in his future relationships. Stress the sister card. He may be hurt and annoyed at first but will probably see the light upon some consideration

  3. I agree with Lynn. Men just don’t communicate well amongst themselves about their caveman scents. I think if Tom hears it from Tina and if he is truly wanting a successful relationship with a member of the opposite sex then he will be more likely to see it as a real issue requiring action on his part if it comes from Tina. It would be good if he could see his physician to rule out any physical reasons for smelling like Pepe Le Peu. It could also be his diet contributing to his toxic emissions. I once ate a pasta dish heavy on the garlic and despite a shower and a few teeth brushings my co-workers detected the smell of garlic coming out of my skin pores the very next day.
    I myself appreciate it when someone points out that I have a stray poppy seed stuck between my teeth. Constructive criticism presented in a caring manner about behaviours that can be easily changed hopefully will have the happy ending results that we all want and crave. Don’t let the Emperor walk naked amongst his potential suitors for fear of hurt feelings. Stinky Tom may not know he is stinky. Go for it Tina….show your husband how it’s done!

  4. If his hygiene isn’t the greatest and his breath is bad I suspect lack of flossing could be an issue. It’s amazing what a difference that particular habit can make on your breath.
    I agree with previous commenters and think Tina is going to have to handle this herself. Men are really terrible at getting to the heart of these things. I would just advise to preface the information with a statement about how much she cares for Tom and is only telling him these things because she wants to see him happy. After that, don’t hold back. It’s important that he knows this isn’t a minor amount of bad breath or BO, but rather something really noticeable and unattractive. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  5. I’m a middle school boys’ health teacher. I take the mom approach with my students… I take them out in the hall for privacy and say (pick one):
    a. hey buddy, you can’t pick your nose without a tissue- no one is going to want to pass papers back after you touch them- you can do better than that, ya’ know- I’m just tellin’ ya hoping that the other kids haven’t noticed…
    b. hey buddy, you gotta brush your teeth a bit better- every day ya’ gotta brush your teeth. I can see the scum on your teeth and it’s hard to talk to you because your breath is a bit bad. I’m telling you because I hope the other kids haven’t noticed. So the plan is to brush really good every day before coming school, okay.
    c. hey buddy, you gotta wash your hoodie at least on the weekends…It starting to smell old and like, well like middle-school-boy…
    You get my point. Be blunt. Be motherly. Be the “friend” who is telling them before others notice (even tho they have). In short be the friend who would tell them if their pants need to be zipped-

  6. Ha! You guys are awesome. These are all really good words of wisdom. Tina actually wrote in yesterday to say she was going to take matters into her own hands. She is going to see Tom later this week and will let us know how it goes. Fingers crossed!

    Ashley: Yes, I do hear back from almost everyone who has written in and I’m going to do a post in the near future to update everyone. The feedback has been wonderful and everyone is really appreciative of the comments. It’s helpful to get a wide range of perspectives from completely objective people. Keep ’em coming!

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