7 Behaviors Couples Should Avoid

Posted by: Shel 27 Comments

Married emoticons engaged in discordant behavior

We’ve all encountered that couple – the one that makes everyone uncomfortable with the way they interact with each other in public. Something they do has us looking away or pretending not to hear. They are the couple least likely to be invited back. Don’t be that couple. Avoid these seven behaviors – so others don’t avoid you!

1. Frequent bickering with each other. We’re not talking disagreeing, we’re talking disagreeable. Several rounds of back and forth on a topic that others aren’t participating in. With a serious intent to get in the last word. If you’re thinking: “Oh, that’s just how we roll with each other – our little language dance,” do us all a favor and sit out a few numbers.

2. Jokes at the other’s expense. This includes things like cracks about their physical features, abilities, and personal history. Even if it’s very funny. Chances are the person laughing at your great wit is not the one going home with you.

3. Shielded barbs. You know – that little dig you execute for the sole purpose of making a point to your mate. “Oh Chris, your lawn always looks so nice. That’s something I sure wouldn’t mind getting used to.” Ouch. We’re not thinking about poor you with the less-than lawn; we’re thinking about your poor spouse with the less-than mate.

4. Putting the other in their place. This is one step up from the barb. A conversation-ending-why-you’re-right-and-your-spouse-is-just-plain-wrong. Usually delivered in a condescending or arrogant tone. This is where we look away so that we don’t have to witness the cringe of your spouse’s embarrassment.

5. Unnecessary contradiction. During spouse’s story about falling in front of the red door, you interrupt to point out the door was green. Well, that was helpful. Spouse carried on with the story, getting to the part where the tall man with the big glasses yanked open the door. You clarify that the glasses were actually goggles. Leaving your annoyed audience with a mental “So what?” If the correction isn’t significant or necessary to the point being made, squelch it.

6. Jumping in with the punchline. Whether it’s because you’re looking forward to the audience reaction or you just think your spouse is taking too long to tell the story, let them finish it themself. If they’ve done the setup, don’t steal the payoff.

7. Excessive displays of affection. This includes such save-for-your-own-home intimate gestures as pats on the tush, kisses that last longer than two seconds, languorous arm stroking, sitting on the other’s lap, and gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes as if you are the only two present in your special world. If you have been told kiddingly to “get a room” more than once or by more than one person, it’s probably safe to assume they’re not really kidding. And by “a room,” they mean one they are not in.

Any other cringe-worthy behaviors couples should avoid in public? Add to the list in the comment section below.


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  • Okay, so I may have practiced 1 through 6 at some point in our 35-year marriage. We’re pretty good about getting a room that you’re not in, so we’ve mastered one. 🙂 And we’re much better at lessening the others to the point that you might think we’re going to make it after all.

    I’m joking around, but it helps to read guidelines so as to keep a check on my behavior. Bad habits are easy to keep going if no one points them out. Thanks, Shel. Great reminders.

    • Shel Harrington

      Lessening the annoying habits is always my goal – I have no illusions that I will achieve perfection. But I’m with you on the room thing – that’s not a problem I have to conquer!

  • Great reminder, Shel. It’s funny how adults think we’re soooo grown up, and then we do such childish things. I’m guilty of several.

    • Shel Harrington

      I’ve stopped having illusions that there’s a magic age where maturity kicks in – reinforced by my recent return from a senior citizen’s environment!

  • Gina

    Been there and done that with an ex. Certainly not with Rick, and I’m ever so grateful.

    • Shel Harrington

      Wasn’t it Maya Angelou that said:”When we know better we do better”? Something like that. Nice to shed old patterns, isn’t it?

  • Sal and I have several friends that are delightful company UNTIL we try to get together as couples. Their animosity is uncomfortable to be around. You nailed me on the unnecessary contradictions thing, I will definitely have to work on that!

    • Shel Harrington

      You and me both – in the moment it feels more helpful than contradictory, doesn’t it?

  • I would love to see you write a post next about things TO do…one things sorely neglected I think is complimenting your spouse in front of others. My husband positively GLOWS if I do this. Well crap! I just reminded myself that I need to do that more often. I love this article and shared it!

    • Shel Harrington

      Great point, Katie – compliments make such a difference and they’re so easy! Recently I overheard my husband telling someone how great my spaghetti was and I beamed like he had just said I looked like Christie Brinkley’s twin! A couple of earlier posts have a couple of suggestions of what TO do to uplift a spouse: 5 Ways to Make Your Mate Feel Great and Social Media, The Good, the Bad and Even Some Ugly. (I don’t think I’m doing this link thing right!) Thanks for sharing!

  • I’ve often wondered if those couples who excessively display public affection are just doing it for show, while at home they’re not so cozy.

  • how about ignoring each other?

    • Shel Harrington

      Oh – that’s a good one, Lin. How uncomfortable is that to feel like you’re right in the middle of their tiff as they give each other the silent treatment??

  • Great reminders, Shel! I’ve certainly been guilty of the joke at the hub’s expense, among others.

  • Oops. Unnecessary contradictions.

  • Lots of good observations in this one. I could send this column (anonymously) to a few people. 🙂

  • I’ve been known to abuse #1 & #7. I believe it’s the bickering that got us through those first 5 years of marriage! 😉

  • Diane

    Some very good advice and just common sense.

    • Shoshana Wasserman

      Seems so obvious but often done with no real positive outcome. Thanks for the great reminder!

      • Shel Harrington

        Sometimes people get into a rhythm with behaviors that they don’t realize comes across as off-putting to observers – like jumping in an finishing someone else’s story. In many cases it’s probably more of an awareness issue than disrespect.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Diane. You’d think it was common sense, wouldn’t you? And yet . . .

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