Shame is having a moment right now.
You’ve probably seen posts in your social media feeds about parents shaming their misbehaving kids or cheating spouses being publicly shamed. Even dogs are getting shamed for their misdeeds!
I admit it: Those dog-shaming posts do crack me up. But otherwise this trend toward shaming is a cruel one that’s dangerous to our relationships.
It doesn’t take a viral social media post to hurt someone with shame, either. Have you ever criticized your husband while the two of you were with your kids, with friends and family or out in public?
Why Shame Hurts
Shame erodes the very things that are essential to the health of your marriage. Relationships need respect to thrive. Dr. John Gottman has done extensive research on what leads marriages to fail. He identified what he calls “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in marriage. Shaming summons two of the Horsemen: criticism and contempt. Contempt, which is at the heart of shaming, is Gottman’s No. 1 predictor of divorce.
When you shame your spouse, you are robbing him of his dignity and taking away his sense of safety in the marriage. A shamed person feels rejected, which is profoundly painful to us as humans — it even activates the same parts of our brains that get triggered when we feel physical pain.
Make it a priority to preserve dignity and respect in your relationship. Distinguish private conversations from public ones. As you keep shaming out of your marriage, I also want to encourage you not to share or like social media posts that shame others. If you haven’t already, watch the powerful TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky (someone who knows firsthand the pain of shaming) about our “culture of humiliation.” Is that really the kind of culture we want to participate in creating? Take a stand against it by communicating with empathy and respect, both in your marriage and online.