Dear Coleen: My husband keeps embarrassing me by what he does in public

A woman with her head in her hands.
A woman with her head in her hands. -Credit:Ekaterina Goncharova

Dear Coleen

I hope my problem doesn't sound trivial, but my husband swears a lot and I find it ­embarrassing when we're with my family or friends. I have pulled him up on it a couple of times, but he's quite defensive, saying it's not a big deal and it's just the way he is.

He's also accused me of being embarrassed of him because he's not as posh as me and my family. I've seen my mum wince when he's used the F-word, but he seems oblivious to it.

The other problem is, he swears in front of our kids who are six and eight, and now they've started copying him. It caused a huge row recently because my son got into trouble at school for calling another boy a "f****** liar".

I was mortified, but my husband thought it was funny! Why can't he just do this one small thing for me and not swear in front of other people?

If he wants to swear with his mates, that's fine. I'm also OK with him swearing when it's just the two of us, but I hate it when he does it in public. It's not cool. Please help!

Coleen says

I think he's probably grown up with it, so it's a learned ­behaviour and it's become second nature to him. It's a habit and habits are hard to break.

My former in-laws are the salt of the earth and I love them to death, but I had to give up that same fight with them because I realised it was a losing battle.

They never swore with malice and never in front of kids, but I understand how hard it is for you if other people seem offended and if the kids are picking it up.

I think with your husband you could try to explain that it's nothing to do with class and how posh you are (some of the poshest people I know are the biggest swearers), it's simply about respect for other people and judging when he should rein in it.

Sunday dinner with your parents is a different situation from being at the pub with his mates. But I think maybe he feels a bit judged (hence his ­defensiveness), so it might be worth unpicking that a bit.

Reassure him it's not him you have the issue with, it's the words being used in the wrong context. As for the kids, whatever you do, don't laugh at them swearing or they'll keep doing it for comic effect.

Make it clear it's unacceptable and has a consequence – although, I accept it's hard to discipline them when their dad is getting away with it and finds it hilarious.

As I say, I just gave up with my mother-in-law and used to pre-warn people that she swore like a trooper, so they were prepared. Maybe your mum or someone else in his life needs to call him out on it, even if it's in a jokey way.

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