Social behavior is largely a construct of cultural norms prevailing in that particular time and place. Thus instances of social faux pas are usually common when people of different cultural backgrounds and upbringing come together. However there may be other reasons why you probably find being embarrassed by your partner in public – like a controlling personality or lack of social finesse. How you deal with such embarrassing situations will largely depend on the source of your partner’s behavior but almost all will require you to proceed with care and patience.
When he/she cannot help it
The first step to dealing with embarrassing situations created by your spouse would be to recognize where it is coming from. A relatively harmless situation is when your spouse has a tendency to do or say the wrong things at the wrong place – not to hurt you but simply because of lack of social skills or a general clumsiness. There are some people who always seem to upset things or put their foot in the mouth. If this is the case with your spouse and it embarrasses you in front of others, you could try to ignore the social gaffes or better still laugh them off. Apart from learning relaxing techniques, there is little that can be done to change inherent social awkwardness – indeed it may not be a good idea to force your spouse to change his/her personality since people who get more stressed about their social awkwardness often end up upsetting things around them more than before. In certain cases, your spouse’s tendency to land in embarrassing situations may be part of a disorder which he/she can do little about – in fact people with Asperger’s Syndrome are marked by a lack of nonverbal communication skills, lack of empathy with their peers as well as a degree of physical clumsiness. In such a case, you need to understand and come to terms with the fact that your partner will never be able to share the kind of nuanced relationship with you or exhibit the social suavity that many other couples take for granted. Accept that you do not think alike which is why you are likely to misunderstand each other. Thus when he/she says or does something that seems hurtful, you can trust that it may not have been intended the way you thought, even if it seems very clear to you. The obstacles, interests, complaints, frustrations that someone with Asperger’s syndrome or social anxiety disorder faces are likely to seem illogical to you and those around you. If you can imagine the situation as your partner walking on eggshells all day long and every day, maybe you can better understand why they move the way they do, talk the way they do, and make the decisions they do.
Try and be forgiving
Even if your partner does not have a problem with social cues, try and be forgiving of the occasional gaffe. Nobody is the perfect husband or wife and an unthinking remark about your weight or dress may be taken in stride, every once a whole. Perhaps your spouse was stressed, misread a social situation or simply did not foresee how a sentence would sound in public since it may be seemed quite witty in his/her head.
Talk it over
However if a pattern emerges from your spouse’s embarrassing words and gestures or you see it happening more often than before, it is time to dig deeper. For instance your husband makes a remark about all the food you have piled on your plate at a party and how it is going to make you fat. At another time, you may find your wife constantly breaking the flow of your words or yawning pointedly when you are speaking. All these are instances of highly disrespectful behavior. While they may sometimes happen in the privacy of your house without meaning much, if it happens before others and repeatedly, it is time recognize that your partner has ceased to respect you.
Another way to spot whether such remarks are meant to embarrass you is to compare your spouse’s behavior with others. If he/she is careful to address other friends, co-workers and neighbors with respect but somehow seems to forget the rules of social courtesy around you, then you know that the embarrassing comments are intentional in nature.
One of the first things you can do to address the situation is to have a word with your partner when things are calmer. Tell him/her that you felt hurt by the disparaging remarks - express your feelings clearly but without any drama or tantrums. You can begin your conversation with a statement about yourself instead of pointing a finger at your spouse. For example, you can say, "I was very embarrassed when you make that remark about my weight." Then you let your spouse respond. No matter what the response may be you should try to stay focused on explaining your feelings, instead of launching into accusations.
In some cases it may be possible that your spouse genuinely did not understand the implications of his or her words in which case, now he/she knows not to repeat them. In case your partner’s embarrassing remarks came from a place of conflict and hurt in the relationship, you have brought out things in the open and now steps can be taken to resolve the issues so that your spouse does not take recourse to embarrass you in front of others.
At the same time though, be honest about your situation since your spouse’s embarrassing remarks could be a backhanded attempt to wake you up to the seriousness of a potentially threatening situation. For example, if your partner is unhappy because you have gained too much weight then you can propose a plan where you begin a fitness program as a couple. This proves you are serious about working out the problems in the marriage from both sides.
When it is an attempt to control you
Sometimes a spouse will choose the public arena to send a message because he or she knows you can't respond at the moment. This is a control issue and is a common tactic used by personalities like narcissists, passive-aggressives, sociopaths and such others who do not know how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way like in the privacy of your own house. Because you can't respond, your spouse uses the moment to let you know how he or she feels about you, your appearance, your work or your family and friends. Your partner may regularly put you down in front of people who love you or behave abominably around those who are close to you so that eventually you feel too ashamed and avoid seeing them. In all these ways, a controlling personality attempts to cut out a victim from all possible sources of emotional and social support so that the latter feels lonely and afraid and is thus easier to sway to his/her wishes. If this is one of the relatively harmless ways that a partner with dysfunctional personality is controlling you, it may be time to wake up to other signs of an abusive relationship, like constantly being put down in public, denying you access to resources and above all, blaming you for every ill in the relationship. All these are signs of toxic relationship and the only way is to treat this in the long term basis is to seek professional help in the form of couples’ therapy or couples’ counseling.