How do I tell my boyfriend that he has bad breath without embarrassing him?


Hie Aunty Lisa

I’m sure if I searched the archives of Ask Aunty column I would find this topic discussed somewhere, but I’m writing to you because I feel like my situation with my boyfriend is somewhat unusual. I’ve been with him for several months, and over the course of our relationship, his breath has gone from occasionally stale to horrible.

I initially approached the problem the way most people do. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings or embarrass him so I would just gently offer him gum or mints from time to time. I then started saying things like, “You know I think you might have some food stuck in your teeth because I smell something a little off. Maybe you should just do a little flossing.” No matter what I said or suggested, he seemed unfazed.

His breath has gotten so bad that I cringe when he talks to people because I’m afraid that they smell it too. In fact, my fears were recently realized when he and I had a big argument (about something unrelated to his breath) and when I was seeking the advice of my sister she interjected with the non sequitur, “I’m sorry. I don’t want to be mean, but his breath is terrible. Like I have to hold my breath when he talks to me.” I was mortified.

The issue is now becoming a serious source of tension between me and him. I don’t want to micromanage him or treat him like a child, but unless I resort to rubbing Vicks Vapo-Rub under my nose, I don’t know how to get past this problem. It’s bad and I’m desperate for advice.

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