Public Humiliation In A Relationship: Why You Should Never Let It Slide

Do you recall that time when you and your partner were at a restaurant enjoying a meal with mutual friends? Everything was going fine until your partner decided to bring up a particularly humiliating story of yours and broadcast it to the entire table. Everyone laughed (including your partner) and you were left red-faced and hurt, wondering why your significant other would do such a thing. 

Public humiliation is an all too common trait in romantic relationships and partners at the receiving end of the embarrassment often don't even realize that they're being subject to a habit that can easily become one of the biggest dealbreakers in relationships. It can be especially hard if you're an introvert or someone who's afraid to confront your spouse for fear of conflict. 

But, according to relationship expert and family therapist Jennifer Kelman speaking to Best Life, letting your partner humiliate you in front of others is a big no. Whether the humiliation is done by sharing personal stories about you that you told your partner in confidence or making you feel ashamed of the way you look and dress in public, it is not something you should let slide. Here's why.

Public humiliation is a sign of disrespect

While a healthy amount of playful banter between the two of you could be chalked up to being normal in any relationship, consistently humiliating you in public is never a good thing. In fact, it can be a sign of controlling and emotionally abusive behavior. Jennifer Kelman told Best Life that your partner could be engaging in an "aggressive act" that is tailored to make them look good in the eyes of the people around you. If this is something you've lived with for years, it might be hard for you to notice the signs. Oftentimes, the humiliation can also be subtle.   

Relationships require a foundation of trust and respect and public humiliation goes against both of those values. You want your partner to be your teammate in life, someone who holds you up and empowers you to be your best self, not someone who says and does derogatory or insulting things to you in front of others. 

If you find yourself in a situation where going out with friends has become a stress factor because of how bad your partner makes you feel in front of others, then it's time to fix the problem. Here are some ways to tackle it. 

Check in with yourself and your partner and call them out

There could be many reasons why your partner chose to tell those at the dinner table about the time you tripped and fell into a pool at a kids' birthday party. They could have made a genuine mistake. Perhaps they like being the life of the party and enjoy making people laugh and told the story in an attempt to get attention. Or it might be one of a series of comments on the part of your spouse to deliberately disrespect you in public. You won't know unless you ask them. Confronting your partner in situations like these is a healthy relationship habit that most people think is toxic. 

Before doing so, however, psychotherapist and relationship expert Mary Jo Rapini advised that you check in with yourself. This is especially true for those who are shy or unassertive in nature. "Get clear about what it felt like for you. Write it down and go through it in your mind," she suggested in a YouTube video. Validating your own emotions surrounding the incident/s is an important first step. Once you've done that, communicate honestly with your significant other about how hurt or angry you are. Rapini encouraged using your words instead of resorting to passive-aggressive behavior. 

Telling them it's okay, if and when they do apologize, is also something you should never do, according to the psychotherapist. Instead, accept their apology and work on forgiving them if they're being genuine.