Dear 100 Hour Board,
So my fiance doesn't really have inhibitions, in the sense that he doesn't seem to grasp what's appropriate in public. Sometimes he's a little over-affectionate, and some of the topics of conversation he brings up (with a group of people or with just me) are a little...awkward. I love him, and I can handle this little quirk most of the time, but I know sometimes other people feel slightly uncomfortable. I'm not sure if I should bring this up with him or just live with it. Advice?
I would definitely talk to him, since he's probably oblivious to the awkwardness he's creating. Just be careful to bring it up politely; don't wait too long or tell him in a way that belies the fact that your frustration has been building up (since he couldn't fix this problem if he didn't know about it). It's wise not to bring up the past and how he always does something, since he was unaware of it. A good idea is to use "I" statements and state your feelings rather than criticize his actions directly. For example, instead of saying, "You always talk about awkward stuff and it's so embarrassing!", try "I sometimes don't know what to say when certain topics (such as...) come up; I feel awkward and I'd like to know if you could not talk about those subjects?" Focus on the good things he's doing too; for example say, "I love that you like to show me that you love me, but I feel self-conscious when we act like that in public. I'd prefer to only kiss (or whatever) when we're alone." Be clear with what you'd like him to change—don't just hem and haw and hint and let him assume what you're talking about. Ask for his ideas on how you could compromise.
Be careful about when you bring up your concerns, too: It wouldn't be appropriate to have that serious talk complete with "I" statements in front of friends. If you want to say something while you're with other people, keep it light and humorous. Maybe try to steer the conversation away from the awkward stuff.
Also, keep in mind that his family or friends could normally act like this too and it may be all he knows. Everyone has different comfort zones; you could even say things that someone else would think are awkward! In addition, even though he's your fiancé, which means you love him and like who he is, everything he does is not a reflection on you. If he is awkward, that doesn't necessarily mean that you too are awkward and think his conversation topics are normal. Other people may assume that, but they're wrong.
You know what's a great relationship idea? For dating, for being engaged and (especially) for being married? Companionship inventory. You scoff at how cheesy this sounds? Shows what you know . . .
This is a thing my wife and I started back when we were dating. We both had questions or concerns that we wanted to see how the other one felt and wanted a scheduled time to bring them up. If you know you have a time every week (like Sunday night) when you'll be talking about any concerns, then you don't have to have a special, "let's talk" conversation, which are intimidating and awkward and things don't sit forever and fester until they explode. I'm not saying my wife and I are perfect at this; some weeks we forget and sometimes we need to talk about things right after they happen. But all in all it's a great system.
Ours go like this: 1) Say nice things that we noticed the other person did this week or things in general we appreciate about them. 2) Bring up things you are concerned about. ("Sometimes I feel that you're a little over affectionate in public. I mean, I love being affectionate with you, but it makes me uncomfortable when you do ____ around other people. What do you think?") 3) Make specific plans to do better. It's a great set up: If it's just a dumb little problem, you usually forget about it before inventory night anyway. And when you don't have any problems? Then you just get to say nice things about each other. It's great.
I think a system like this would be perfect for you talking to your fiance about this, and just about any other concern that might come up between you. Try it out. It'll be worth it.
- Rating Pending (who is a huge believer in inventories. He should probably suggest it more in these relationship questions.)