I'm a happily married straight woman in her late twenties, and I want to preface this by saying that my husband is ideal in every way other than the things I'm mentioning here, which is why I want to know how to address them. I have a healthy sex drive, although it's been somewhat decreased by a litany of outside problems lately, and he's been very understanding of this (in particular since I'm usually the initiator); however, a couple of things have come up that are exacerbating the problem, and I don't know how to mention them without hurting him.

He, like me, is a rather absent-minded person who is far more interested in reading things than in attending to day-to-day business. This normally doesn't get in the way of our life, but lately he has been getting absent-minded about bathing. He's always bathed a little less than me (I do daily), but it's gotten to the point where he might take a shower once a week. I'm very sensitive to smells and sometimes he has body odor that actually nauseates me. This is obviously a big problem, but I don't know how to tell him to take a bath. He works long hours and wants to spend his time at home chilling out, which I totally understand, but I really can't handle smells like that. He doesn't like sex in the shower, so that angle is out.

A second problem is more recent, but actually more severe for me. Bluntly, I don't like extreme tonsil hockey. I don't like gaping wide mouths when I kiss, and I think part of it is that one of the guys who sexually assaulted me when I was a teenager really went in for that, and it triggers me when I'm kissed this way. My husband's always been a fabulous kisser and a considerate and attentive lover, but lately he's started varying things by trying to suck my tongue deep down his throat and it repulses and triggers me. I try to keep up with the shallower kissing and I start to pull away when he does this, but he keeps on trying, and I don't know how he hasn't noticed this yet. I don't want to stop in the middle of sex and say, "Just STOP that," but it's getting to the point where I don't want to have sex as much anymore because I know that I'll spend part of the time with him doing that and it freaks me out. It's not his fault, but it just makes me miserable and is enough to turn me completely off. This is compounded by the fact that he is generally shy about expressing his own desires in bed, and so to make a change like this probably means that he really enjoys it and wants to do it more. I don't want to shut off that impulse in him; I wish he would indulge it more, just, not in that particular way. It wouldn't be as big of a problem if it was just not something I was into, but it's actively triggering.

I don't want to hurt him. He's sweet and considerate and very sensitive, and he takes criticisms to heart and is slow to criticize me, even when something might be bothering him. I love him very, very much and I don't want anything to get in the way of our sex life, and I love his body and I have always loved sex with him, but these things are making sex more of an ordeal than a shared expression of love and/or passion. I'm starting to get depressed because I don't want to say these things and hurt him, but I don't want to have sex, either, which hurts him anyway, and he knows that something is wrong. Can you think of a gentle way to express this?

Increasingly Listless Libido

My response after the jump...


If your husband were married to me, ILL, he would be told in no uncertain terms to shower when he stinks and told even less uncertain terms to knock that new and highly annoying shit off—whatever that new and highly annoying shit might be—because that shit is annoying/triggering/whatevering.

I'll be accused of selecting your letter for the SLLOTD because the answer is so obvious—speak the fuck up already! communicate with your damn husband!—but I get a lot of letters like yours, ILL, almost all of them are from women, and most follow the same rough outline: There's this thing the boyfriend/husband is or isn't doing—bathing regularly, going down on me, refraining from sucking my tongue out of my skull—and this thing is such a turnoff that I've started to avoid sex and the boyfriend/husband realizes that something is wrong, of course, because I'm avoiding sex but I can't bring myself to tell him what's wrong because I don't want to criticize my boyfriend/husband because that might hurt his fee fees.

Being told the truth—straight up—couldn't possibly hurt a husband's feelings more than his wife's constant and mysterious rejection.

So speak the fuck up, ILL.

Now I realize your a woman, and you were socialized to defer to men, and you clearly haven't gotten over that, which is why you're worried more about your husband's fee fees than you are about keeping your too-civil tongue in your head. But it's time to disinhibit. There's nothing cruel about being direct and communicating your discomfort or displeasure. Constructive feedback, freely given, is important to the long-term health of your marriage. And if you're wondering what to say, ILL, just read your husband the letter you sent me. It's all there: You love him, you want to fuck him, you're attracted to him, you think the world of him. But he's gotta start bathing regularly—at least once a week (at least!)—and this new kissing technique of his is having opposite of his desired effect.

If your husband is a grownup, ILL, he won't be hurt by your honesty.