The Do’s and Don’ts of Fighting in Public

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couple quarrels at restaurant

I know we’d all like to think that we’re classy human beings that know how to show a little discretion, but every now and then your emotions take over and you wind up in a big ole fight with your significant other in public. This is especially true if you live in a big city where privacy is something only millionaires can afford. For many of us, sharing a dark, intimate moment with everyone around us is an unfortunate but inevitable occurrence.

Public fights start for many reasons – it could be a straw that broke the camel’s back situation where one of you is no longer able to contain the weeks of pent up anger. Or maybe one of you has said something that is so unforgivable to the other person that it can only be met with uncontrollable rage. Or maybe you’re just at an IKEA, the HQ of public fights. (Is it something they put in the meatballs?) Whatever the reason, there is a right way and a wrong way to have a hash it out in public.

Don’t go nuts. Look, we all know sometimes you just can’t hold it in any longer. But the grocery store isn’t a place to curse, yell, throw stuff, or let him know you did sleep with Mark and it was great. I mean, ideally you aren’t really getting that nuts even in your own home, but if you are in a relationship with a dramatic flair, it’s probably best if you rein that passion in just a bit for the sake of everyone around you.

Do recognize when your partner is trying to diffuse the situation. Sometimes one person’s “let’s not do this here” is another person’s “I don’t care what you have to say right now.” This is exactly what happened to Lydia, 26, from Brooklyn. “We were in a Container Store and we got into an argument about something – I honestly can’t remember what – and I felt like he was blowing me off because he kept shushing me. I took it as he didn’t care what I was saying. But then I realized he was just trying to get me to stop because there was a store clerk standing right there looking very uncomfortable.” If your partner is clearly not into the idea of throwing down in public, maybe you need to swallow your anger and wait until you get home so that the only people who are subjected to your rage are your roommates.

Don’t project your anger onto others around you. Just because you two are fighting over a text from his ex-girlfriend in a subway car doesn’t mean you need to lash out at the next person who asks you to scoot over so they can sit down. Remember, these are innocent bystanders who are just trying to get to their destination and they didn’t ask to be witness to your fight. Leave them out of it.

Do get your point across calmly. You’re in the middle of a long Starbucks line, you’ve definitely got his attention, so you can stop yelling now. Take a breath, calm down, and explain what’s bothering you rationally. “I had gotten really angry with my boyfriend while we were at a restaurant once and had yelled at him, probably a little too loudly, and he immediately got mad and defensive,” says Emma, 25, from Atlanta. “So I made myself calm down, even though I really wanted to keep yelling. But then I was able to actually explain why I was angry and we hashed it out quickly.”

Don’t insert yourself in other people’s fights. “I was arguing with my girlfriend on a busy street corner – we both had had a really bad day and we were just really ripping into each other,” says Dan, 30, from New Jersey. “It was a low point for both of us. And then this woman came over with a camera and was like, ‘I have been filming you both yelling for the past several minutes. You should be really embarrassed,’ and walked away all high and mighty. We both wanted to break her stupid camera. Why would she go out of her way to be a bitch to two people who are clearly having a horrible moment? It just made us ten times angrier.” Sure, it’s pretty uncomfortable to witness a public fight, but don’t forget the Golden Rule: don’t be an asshole. Next time you see a couple fighting, just pop in your earbuds, keep walking, and be glad that, this time around, it isn’t you.

Image via Veer