Rudeness comes in many forms, from speaking loudly and inappropriately, to ignoring your guests or dinner companions to talk on the phone. And if the rude person is your spouse, everyday living becomes a challenge. When you're out together in public and your spouse acts rudely to you or to waiters and salesclerks, you probably feel both hurt and embarrassed. Take stock of your situation and choose to react in a healthy way that will preserve your self-esteem and possibly improve your spouse's behavior.
Analyze your spouse's behavior. Is she rude only toward you or to everyone whom she encounters? Do you see a pattern to her rudeness? For example, some people become more irritable when feeling overwhelmed or under-appreciated at work. "Stress," published by the Mental Health Foundation, reports that problems at work are stressors that might erupt as verbal aggression. If it's possible for you to predict when the rudeness is likely to occur, you might be able to warn your spouse and help her avoid an outburst.
Discover the reasons for your spouse's rudeness. In "Dealing With Rude People," Dr. Phil suggests rudeness often stems from the inability to empathize with others. For example, someone who uses humor inappropriately, making insensitive jokes that hurt others, needs to recognize the pain that he is inflicting. Insecure people often lash out at those in subordinate positions because they have a need to empower themselves by putting down easy targets.
Ask yourself honestly if you might be contributing to your spouse's rudeness by your own inappropriate responses. As clinical psychologist Steven Stosny points out in, "Living With an Angry Partner," writing for "Psychology Today," one angry, resentful spouse usually makes the other become angry and resentful, too. This behavior is emotionally damaging to both of you. Learn to control your temper and ignore the rudeness until later when you're able to respond without hostility.
Determine whether your spouse is likely to correct the rude behavior. Media personality and physician Deepak Chopra suggests in his article, "How to Deal with Your Husband's Bad Temper," published on the Oprah.com website, that change is unlikely unless your spouse agrees his behavior needs to change.
Assess the value of your marriage. If your spouse's positive attributes outweigh the negatives, it may be worth it to you to stay in the marriage. If, however, rudeness is only one of many nasty, abusive behaviors, you might need to consider whether the marriage is indeed salvageable.
Choose the right time to engage your spouse in a discussion about her rudeness. Find a moment when she's relatively calm and relaxed and share your concerns. Be assertive, but avoid getting aggressive. Make "I" statements that explain to your spouse the impact her rudeness is having on you. For example, you might consider making statements such as, "I feel sad and diminished when you interrupt me and put me down." If her rudeness causes her to interrupt you, end the discussion and try again later. Or, consider expressing your feelings in writing.
Consider giving an ultimatum and a deadline. This might be a necessary wake-up call for your spouse to realize the seriousness of the situation. Calmly state that you expect to see positive change over the next few weeks or months and be prepared to leave if necessary. Don't tolerate abusive behavior that can permanently erode your self-esteem.
Don't hesitate to show compassion during your confrontation. Rude spouses need to observe compassion, so be a role model. Dr. Phil advises that we should always speak to others in the manner we'd like to be spoken to -- with respect and dignity.
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- If all of your efforts don't help curb your spouse's rudeness, a good marital counselor might help get your message through to your spouse. If your spouse won't agree to counseling, consider individual counseling for yourself to help clarify whether you want to remain in the marriage.
Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.