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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Sweetheart's Keeper? (and a Frogarotti Update)

First the update: The frog lives... for now. Kidding. As soon as I can catch her (or him) - assuming it doesn't outsmart me - the frog will be transported to Stan Goldman Memorial Park in Hollywood, where it will find plenty of water, trees, etc.

On to other business. So here's a rhetorical question: To what extent are you responsible for your significant other's behavior? Actually it's not rhetorical, 'cause I want feedback.

"Imagine" a scenario in which you are dating someone new who has a big mouth, a smart mouth, and that person regularly offends your friends at social gatherings.

Now imagine that your significant other isn't necessarily malicious, but rather a dunce who doesn't realize that his/her constant put-downs and snide remarks and know-it-all attitude about things he/she really knows little to nothing about are rubbing people the wrong way. Do you let it slide 'cause you believe he/she doesn't know better? Or do you pull him/her aside and tell them? Which is the more loving gesture, ignoring your sweetheart's abrasive tone with your friends, or pointing it out to him/her?

What if I told you in this "real life" scenario the abrasive significant other approached the spouse of his/her sweetheart's old friend at the old friend and spouse's wedding and offered shocked congratulations that the couple even made it to the alter? Not exactly your standard recieving line greeting.

A few more questions: What is the appropriate reaction when finally your closest, oldest friend, whom you've known for most of your life, compared to a few months for your sweetheart, confronts you and tells you your significant other is out of line?

Is it:
  1. What did he/she say? I don't believe you. I've never heard him/her say anything like that.
  2. It's no big deal. He/she doesn't mean anything by it.
  3. Or, I'm sorry, sorry for what he/she has said, and sorry on his/her behalf. That's not cool. I'll talk to him/her about it. It's possible he/she doesn't even realize it. I'm sure if he/she did know he/she would apologize and cut it out.

In the real life scenario, the close friend, when confronted, downplayed his/her significant other's 'tude and abrasive personality and refused to bring up the multiple offenses to the sigificant other, for fear of hurting the significant other's feelings.

Too convoluted? I hope not.

My take on this whole thing is if you really care for someone tell them when they're badly out of line, not just when they've done something wonderful. If you're not willing to put them in check when they need it, then that says something about the strength of your bond and their level of maturity. Letting the significant other continue to make an ass out of him/herself out of fear of offending him/her is equal to letting your guy walk around with his fly open or your girl hit the dance floor with a roll of TP caught on her shoe, but worse.


  • I would (and have) speak to the significant other about their tone. There's nothing wrong with telling someone something like that, it's only the delivery that matters. For something like that, you have to be sensitive, low-key and honest. Chances are, the person probably has a clue anyway.

    And if my old friend confronted me, I would hear them out, and chances are that if what they say is true, I've already suspected it, too, and will conclude that it's time to deal with it.

    By Blogger Tere, at 10:19 PM  

  • You gotta tell them they're outta line. It may work with you and they may assume it works with your buds too. Your buds may not know her that well to know what she means. Like you said on the bad buds issue, and if you can't be open with this person, it wasn't meant to be.

    By Anonymous ChrisA, at 10:23 PM  

  • I think the person should a) Appologize to their friend for how their significant other acted and b)take the significant person aside, in private, and gently tell the person how it makes THEM feel when the sig other acts this way c) thoughtfully suggest ways that they might improve their communication skills and d) If they improve, let them know that they have and that you really appreciate it.

    By Blogger EclecticGrl, at 10:50 PM  

  • I'm generally the one putting their foot right in it, though, most times, these days I'm not (quite) so bad.

    I appreciate it (honest) when people come to me & tell me when I've gotten it wrong (yet again, or right) rather than going off & badmouthing me to their friends though. & I do try to take their points on board & not overreact right back at them!

    Otherwise I agree with eclectigirl.

    & my husband is wonderful. I reckon he's gotten a fair amount of stick from others over things I've said (or they've misunderstood) but he's usually managed to tell me fairly calmly & I try to sort things.

    By Anonymous Bronchitikat, at 4:50 AM  

  • If my theoretical significant other is being disrespectful to my friends, he's also being disrespectful to me.

    I assume you are talking about a situation in which it's too late to leave the jerk who insults your friends.

    So, on that note, I agree 100% with your final paragraph. If you can't confront your significant other in these uncomfortable but necessary conversations, you should reevaluate your relationship altogether.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 1:22 PM  

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