Ask Dr. Susan vs. Ask Dr. Laura: “I’m running out of Febreze. How do I convince my husband not to be smelly?”

Once again, I’m going to be tackling some advice that Dr. Laura has given (taken from transcripts on her website), and look at it from a different, less awful perspective.

If you would like some similar not-awful advice, ask me! I am all-knowing. Except when I’m not. But mostly-knowing.

The question: Dr. Laura, my husband is a good man but there is one issue that I am having trouble with. He loves to work outside; we have 32 acres of woods and yard. When he comes inside all sweaty and dirty, he will not take off his dirt filled shoes, nor his very stinky clothes. He proceeds to sit in his recliner and leaves the carpet full of debris from his dirty shoes. I am constantly vacuuming and spraying Febreze on his chair. I have asked him, ever so kindly, to please at least take off his shoes, but I have gotten nowhere. He is very picky about how our yard looks and the exterior of our home, but when it comes to the interior – that’s another story. What can I say to him that would help him realize that the dirty shoes and clothes are making a lot of extra work, not to mention the soiled and stinky recliner. Thank you.

Dr. Laura’s advice: Most of the time, I don’t give advice on what to say, I give advice on what to do because doing is infinitely more powerful. Now you wonder why a grown man, intelligent, reasonable, decent, wonderful guy, terrific husband works 32 acres of backyard and then walks in with dirt about. And I always think, “Now what could the message be?” You see, because I think behavior is a message. I think he’s probably walking in there, all dirty, because he wants you to notice him and how much work he’s doing, and acknowledge it and give him “huzzahs” for it. Men like that! They like to be thanked for all their efforts. Now you’re saying “he” likes working outside. So maybe you’re thinking, “well, because ‘he’ likes it…” that he’s not really doing something for you. Well, it’s our property and this is one of the ways men take care of their women. They take care of the property. He sees “inside the house” as yours.

So my recommendation: I like the Febreze thing, but he comes in all dirty and sweaty. I think this is the time for you to say, “Honey, let’s take a shower together and then we’ll cuddle together on your recliner.” I have a feeling you will have the cleanest husband west of the Pecos…if I only knew where the Pecos was. I’m Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Thank you for visiting our YouTube channel. See you next time.

These shoes are made for smelling
Picture from

Oh, Dr. Laura. You are so close to being right! I mean, you aren’t. But for the first few sentences of your response, I thought, “This is a really good point.”

Because doing is more powerful than saying, and what you do does send a message. But the message that he is sending is not, “I am awesome because I have a penis, and I wish somebody would recognize me.” What he is saying is, “I don’t give a shit about the things that you have to do. I am important, and you are not.”

The only way through this is communication. If you’ve asked him ever-so-kindly, he may not understand that you are serious about it. Do not ask him. Be forthright and clear about the action, and why it upsets you. If he refuses to budge, offer a compromise – that he can then be responsible for the mess that he tracks in, if it is important for him to keep his dirty clothes on and collapse into a chair upon returning home. If that doesn’t work, is it a possibility to let him sit in his own filth? Can he have a separate “collapse after work” chair that you can just leave alone? Maybe something on the porch so that it won’t bother you?

If none of this is acceptable to you, you have to decide if it is a big enough deal for you to draw the line or to make an ultimatum. On one hand, the action itself is silly – it’s just shoes and clothes. On the other, the fact that he completely disregards and disrespects the work that you do to keep your house going is not silly. If he cannot take you seriously when you explain to him that it is important to you, there are bigger problems afoot (get it? AFOOT!).

My guess, though, is that he will respond well to communication, since you think he’s a great guy and this is the one aspect of your relationship that needs some tweaking.

The fact that Dr. Laura thinks you should sex him up to get him to do what you want is infuriating. He is acting like a child. Giving him some sort of sexy reward so that he will treat you like a human being is setting a terrible precedence (wife’s not putting out? Why don’t you just go spread mud all over the wall? That’ll get her in the mood), and makes you responsible for fixing the situation. The situation that he is perpetuating.

Besides this, sex is not currency. Sex is an integral part of a healthy relationship, and to use it to reward or punish can spiral into a terrible pattern of resentment and frustration where neither partner is getting their needs met. Keep sex out of your arguments, as much as you can (obviously, moods are going to fluctuate depending on the situation at hand, and so it can’t be completely separate).

It sounds like you have a good relationship with your husband outside of this issue. Talk to him. Explain what it is that is upsetting you, and why. If he is respectful and good to you in other aspects of your relationship, he will probably change his behavior once he realizes how important it is to you.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

49 replies on “Ask Dr. Susan vs. Ask Dr. Laura: “I’m running out of Febreze. How do I convince my husband not to be smelly?””

He sees “inside the house” as yours.

Maybe she should take huge bushels full of dead leaves and dump them all over “his” yard? God, Dr. Laura is such an asshole. Stop throwing women under the bus and treating grown men like children.

It is important, when reading Dr. Laura’s advice, to remember that she was married for about 15 minutes 20 or 30 years ago. I like the idea of letting him stew in his own crapulence, but first tell him that’s what’s going on. As the shit piles up around him he might realize he can do something about it, but it’s going to take a couple of fights, and probably a new recliner.

Also: that her mother died alone because they were estranged.  And that her son is a reeeeeeal asshole.  Every family has their problems, but Dr. Laura’s is chock full of them, and it’s hard not to draw conclusions from her advice to “unhappiness for everybody.”

Yes – being grateful for things as opposed to rewarding, if that makes any sense.  I am grateful my husband isn’t a jerk.  I’m not going to go around rewarding him for not being a jerk, because what, am I expecting him to be a jerk?

And also, sex as something that women do for men because they want men to do something in return.  AFJKDSJLFKASD.

The Pecos River runs from New Mexico, through Texas, and into the Rio Grande near Del Rio. The phrase “west of the Pecos” refers to the remnants of the wild west. I’m sorry, I am a Texan, but is it just me that is bothered by the “I’m just a stupid woman, how on earth would I know such a thing” tone at the end of Dr. Lauras answer?

Ugh, if a shower means I have to cuddle afterwards, then I’m going Pigpen.

Incentivizing wanted behavior works for kids, but as an adult, I find it manipulative and debasing to mutually-and-freely-entered (hah!) sex. My vag not a prize.

I tend to use humor like,  “Dude, you smell like manballs after an August afternoon mow. Hold still and I’ll grab the hose.” And, if our cat who loves the smell of  sweaty feet and garbage starts rubbing on him at the same time, he’ll sprint to the shower.

There’s a reason why, when I saw the Big Bang Theory episode where Sheldon tries to use classical conditioning on Penny to get her to “behave” by giving her chocolates when she did “good” things – AND IT FUCKING WORKED, I was so SO very pissed and disgusted.

Make it so that a woman has to “give sex” to a man to get him to do what she wants…and then I’m double pissed.

I like your way of handing it. SO much better!

Ugh, maybe I’m anti-authority but I’d seriously resent being in a Pavlovian situation like that. Handing me chocolate as patronizing reward for good behavior would.just.end.badly.

And, what the fuck? Why is dangling the sex carrot used to get a man to do something? I cannot, for the life of me, remember one time a guy has said “Baby, once you sweep that floor, I’m going down on you…”  On one hand, I dislike the idea that sex is mentioned as a stereotypical reward for guys and perpetuates that myth that women aren’t as into sex (I call bullshit). On the other hand, I’m annoyed that it’s placed in the punishment/reward system at all. So yeah, double fail.

You’re totally right in resenting that sort of BS. People do it to train animals. Small children. Not. Adults.

Remember those stupid “porn for women” calendars that were pictures of men doing housework? Sooo much bullshit, and yet more crap going “oh hai women don’t like sex so THIS is porn for women!”

Farting rainbows and mints is really something you’re born with. Too many people get into a relationship thinking they can change a person; that some kind of fad diet will change that asparagus-fuelled stinkbomb into a few ounces of the yum and sparkly. It just won’t. People need to stop lying to themselves and get honest about the product of their partner’s downstairs emissions. Ignoring your significant other’s methane arseprint will do nothing for your relationship.

As per normal, spot on. I imagine the woman isn’t expressing her frustrations with the situation clearly enough, so he doesn’t click that what he is doing upsets her. As you said, only way through that is communication.


Have to admit my eyebrows were raised in horror at Dr Laura’s suggestions. Jesus lady, drinking the kool-aid a bit much?

/Ok I just read her Wikipedia page. Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my.

Speaking of drinking the Kool-Aid, am I the only one on Earth who doesn’t use Febreze? Besides it being made by Procter and Gamble, who test on animals (I’m a vegetarian), I just don’t understand people Febrezing (it’s not a word, but I just made it one) everything in their homes. Just spot clean and air it outside or wash it, people. ::ducks to avoid rocks being thrown at my head::

I have two cats and they are kind of stinky sometimes (barfing and pooping machines), but I have a duvet cover that is machine washable and a couch that has removable covers that are also machine-washable. Adapt your life to accommodate the things in it, I guess is what I’m saying. Don’t introduce chemical madness (coughexceptpharmaceuticaldrugsthathelpyoufunctioninpubliccough) in your home just b/c something stinks. There are natural alternatives. Sorry for running off at the…fingers.

You’re not the only one.  I live in a country that doesn’t sell Febreze and where the only place you can get a similar  “air freshener” is at those weird surplus stores that seem to sell every generic product made by man that no one would ever need to use. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of chemicals in the kind of cleaning supplies I use, but the difference being that I actually clean what is dirty, I don’t spray it and hope the smell goes away. Elbow grease, people, it works.

/Yes, my opinion on Febreze is based entirely on what I’ve seen though popular culture. I may be wrong as to how people actually use it.

I don’t normally use it, but I’ve been resorting to it in the room I’m staying in right now, because we have to keep the door shut in order to keep nosy 2-year-old nephews out. With the door closed, it gets no circulation, and it gets musty as all hell. Since it’s too cold to open the window…I did it to assuage the in-laws.



In my household, this would be resolved by me saying “stop bringing in dirt and take a shower. If you can’t or won’t do that, then we have a problem and perhaps we need to examine how and if we plan to co-habitate in the future”.

It’s probably rather fortunate that my significant other is cleaner than I am, because some things are nonnegotiable for me, and the cleanliness of my living space is one of them. As the author points out, it’s ultimately about respect.

Haha, YOU MADE THIS MESSY, FIX IT, is awesome.

It’s all kinds of food with me. I can’t stand it when someone leaves dirty dishes around. The cardinal sin, to me, is to put the butter knife back in the fridge after you’ve used it once ;)

Luckily, boyfriend and I are still living together in unmarried bliss because we discovered this wonderful contraption – the dishwasher.

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