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 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–afterall. we picked this person! And we wonder, how far will he or she go. This feels out of control!
In fact, there are four categories of ways to embarrass your partner:
1) Empathetic embarrassment where your partner unintentionally embarrasses you. This happened to me the other night at an event. My plate of food slid to one side while I was holding it, and landed on my white pants. It caused a stir as I tried to clean it up. My husband was kind, but it was embarrassing. This type of embarrassment is the mildest but happens the least.
2) Reflective embarrassment is when your partner does something humiliating. You know the type, yelling in a restaurant, telling people awful jokes, etc. We worry that people will pity us for being with this type of person.
3) One-sided embarrassment is when you feel horrified by what your partner did, but he or she doesn’t. For example, he drinks too much at the family get together but doesn’t think it is an issue. This one usually leads to conflict because the person usually denies there is an issue.
4) Targeted embarrassment is when your partner intentionally or directly embarrasses you. Think about the times you have heard stories from people and think, she really should not have said that. Or the wife who tells her neighbors what a bully you are, etc. At the time, the other person may remain cool but when the couple leaves the social situation, problems erupt.
So when you are embarrassed in one of the four ways, how can 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 the empathetic type.
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 couple 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 to keep the bond strong.
Would you be surprised to learn that more than a third of teens say they have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused while dating? This was the finding of a new survey presented this past July at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in Hawaii. The largest group who reported some type of abuse was teens between the ages of 13 and 16! Teens, ages 17-19, were a close second. While this data has yet to be scrutinized by review, it speaks to a serious problem facing many young people.
And this may not surprise you, those teen abusers were often middle school bullies!
One thought as to why this link between bullying and dating violence exists is because both behaviors involve establishing dominance. Perhaps bullies carry into their dating relationships this propensity to dominate through the use of violence and abusive behavior. If so, then bullying and dating violence are part of an escalating pattern that needs to be addressed early on in a teen’s development.
The website loveisrespect.org publishes these warning signs to help teens determine if their dating relationships are abusive, problematic or healthy. Share these with your teens so they can be more aware of signs that point to trouble:
–Does the person check your email or cell phone without your permission?
–Does the person constantly put you down?
–Is he/she extremely jealous or insecure?
–Does he/she have an explosive temper?
–Does he/she isolate you from friends and family?
–Does he/she make false accusations?
–Does he/she physically hurt you in any way?
–Does he/she tell you what to do?
–Does he/she repeatedly pressure you to have sex?
If you see these signs in your dating relationship, these are warning signs of possible abuse and violence.
Honestly, they usually don’t get it. They fail to see that all the negativity of the relationship sort of cancels out the good when it happens. I know that doesn’t sound fair, but an on-going negative relationship depletes the positives over time.
For example, in an overall positive relationship, if a husband comes home and forgets to bring the bread for dinner, the wife would probably think,
“Oh, he must have had a lot on his mind and just forgot. No worries. We can do without bread.”
But if that same relationship is already very negative and the same thing happened, the wife would think, “See, he only thinks of himself. I can’t depend on him.”
In fact, research tells us that 50% of positive gestures go unrecognized in couples characterized by negativity. The reason–there is too much negativity in the bank. Even neutral actions are seen as negative.
So what can you do?
Go back to the basics. Work on the marital friendship, show admiration and respect for your partner, and most of all, be there when he or she tries to connect with you. The challenge is to deposit positives into that emotional bank account. Over time, you can turn it around. But you have to be intentional. Keep down the criticism, defensiveness and disrespect towards one another. Don’t turn away when frustrated. Stay in the interaction, calm yourself and talk. Point out the positives about each other. Remember why you got together in the first place and try to recapture some of that good feeling!
Today is always a sobering day. It’s one of those days that will forever be in our memories.
There have been other moments like 911 in my life:
The Shooting of President Kennedy. I was very young, in a grade school classroom, but I vividly remember hearing the news over a loud speaker and people crying. We were dismissed to go home. It was an age when we didn’t lock our car or house doors, we knew our neighbors and violence wasn’t seen on TV. The shock of a shooting was not a daily thing, especially when it involved our President.
Then there was high school. The day they announced draft numbers in our state. We were sitting in the band room and listening to the assignment of draft numbers to birth dates. I remember watching the faces of the older guys in my high school. Some looked frightened, praying their number would be high. My middle brother was #323. Such a relief. My older brother was drafted.
Then came a day in June. It was summer break and a beautiful day in my small town in Michigan. But it became a day no family ever wants to experience. When I came home from being out and about, an army officer was sitting in our kitchen. My brother had been killed.
Years later, I was working on an inpatient psychiatric unit. We had just finished rounds. I was at the nurses station when the images of the Challenger blowing up in the air with those astronauts on board stunned us all.
911 was one of those days.
Surreal in many ways as I was at the Jeep dealership getting my car serviced that a.m. The TV was on in the waiting area but I wasn’t paying much attention. I was glancing through magazines until I heard an announcer talk about the first plane hitting the first tower. At first, I assumed it was an accident. I called my husband and told him to turn on the news in his office. And then, the second plane, people running, ash falling, and I thought of friends and family in NYC and wondered who was safe. It only got worse and those pictures of fear were all over the television.
Where were you on this day that we remember?
Take a moment.
Trauma has a way of staying with us. Our strongest memories are usually associated with strong emotional events that produce fear, love or rage. It’s like we take mental snapshots during those highly emotional times and those snapshots stay with us. So today, as you review those snapshots in your memory, remember to pray for the families who lost loved ones, for the first responders and all those affected by the ash and smoke. It was a day of tremendous suffering with moments of incredible bravery and survival.
Where were you on 911?
Let’s never forget!