DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner of over 10 years is a wonderful person, and has been my rock through extraordinarily challenging circumstances. I feel very fortunate that we’ve found each other, and I know he feels the same.
My concern is that he has a way of interacting with people -- including myself -- that could be described as rude. While it doesn’t come from a malicious place, his antagonistic behavior and words can be jarring, embarrassing and ultimately, hurtful to other people.
He’s made jokes that upset others -- never anything like using racial slurs or misogynistic language, but a general jokiness that can be anxiety-inducing. He will stare at people doing yoga in the park, and openly challenge others when he feels they’re confused or incorrect. I overheard him on a conference call openly contradicting a person of authority in front of others.
He sometimes corrects me publicly, so I have to stand up for myself and tell him that no, I’m correct and his assumptions are wrong. He then apologizes and laughs a bit, sometimes in a way that kind of puts me down. If I point it out to him later, privately, he feels very badly and apologizes sincerely.
I know he is a kind person who does not mean to hurt others, and that this is a reflection of his personal history, insecurity and neglectful upbringing. Plus, he has a diagnosed mental health disorder that can affect behavior and personality.
I can view him with compassion -- and, of course, I have my own flaws and behavioral challenges, which he patiently navigates. But others do not necessarily have access to all this information, which can help contextualize his behavior.
When it comes to other people, I’ve tried to point out how his behavior or words might impact others, and he almost always brushes me off and says I’m overly sensitive. I’m worried that this is affecting his relationships, both personal and professional. In fact, I know it is. As his partner, I feel I have a duty to help him see the light, but he has basically set a boundary asking me not to correct him anymore, and so I feel like I must respect that. But I can’t knock this feeling that I’m supposed to be helping him.
Should I keep trying to help him adjust his behavior, or do as he asks and leave him alone? If you recommend the latter, is there anything I can do, indirectly, to point out a more productive and polite way of interacting with others?
GENTLE READER: Speak for yourself.
Miss Manners is not being flippant; she is genuinely advising you to speak to him only about his behavior toward you, not toward others. He will soon learn, if he hasn’t already, that his methods are tactless -- and that he is alienating others and perhaps even jeopardizing his career.
If he has been genuinely remorseful when you have pointed out hurt feelings or embarrassment, stay the course and continue to do so -- but for your own sanity, try not to listen in on his conference calls.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)