Family Matters

Five Ways to Handle Your Partner’s Embarrassing Moments


You are at a party, turn around and your spouse has a lamp shade on his head and is doing an impression. Or maybe, you are visiting friends and he tells an off color joke. How about the time she revealed something intimate about your sex life to your boss?


Yes it is; and it's one of the ways conflict can come about in a relationship. Usually, the person who feels embarrassed will try to repair his or her image as if he or she is the one who did the embarrassing.


Social psychologist, Mark Leary, at Duke University says that when our spouse embarrasses us, it feels like a reflection of who we are. After all, we picked this person! And we wonder, how far will he or she go. This feels out of control!

So when embarrassed by a spouse, how should you respond?

1) Try telling yourself that the behavior may not be that bad and that everyone does something embarrassing once in awhile. This is easier to do when the embarrassment is mild and unintentional.

2) If the embarrassment happens once in awhile, let it go and ask yourself if this is part of the person’s personality. You can talk it through later, but trying to change another person does not usually work. Instead, talk about the impact of the behavior on those around him or her.

3) If this is a pattern, wait for a neutral time and bring up the issue. Focus on how other people will react, not your reaction, and discuss whether that is something your partner wants to happen. What triggers this type of behavior? Is it social anxiety, the need for attention, etc.? Then talk about whether or not the embarrassing behavior is effective.

4) If the problem continues despite your discussions, you may need couples therapy to get at the root of why this continues in the face of the social consequences and the impact it has on your relationship. Being sensitive to the needs of your partner is important. If your partner is telling you that a certain behavior is embarrassing, that is reason to stop or it will wear at your respect for each other.

5) Think twice before you reveal private things about each other to others. Have a conversation about what is appropriate and what is not in terms of violating privacy boundaries. Keep your relationship safe in order to keep the bond strong.

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