When a Significant Other Airs “Dirty Laundry” in Public: A Mental Health Perspective

Joel Eisenberg

Public ArgumentiStock

Author’s Note

This article is free of bias and is, in part, based on personal conclusions in line with those of currently accredited mental health professionals as attributed below. Though I myself am a former mental health professional with training in Psychology, and I will share some relevant information regarding that experience within this article, I am not a doctor and I offer no medical advice herein. Please contact a mental health professional if you suspect a potentially larger issue.

Sources for this article include Psychology Today (Ari Tuckman, PsyD, CST), Pew Research Center (Emily A. Vogels and Monica Anderson), and Relate.org (Ammanda Major).


Though human beings are sometimes prone to arguments if they do not feel heard, a tendency towards arguing in public may signal a mental health-related disorder. From my own experience de-escalating public conflict with at-risk children and adults, other reasons for such arguments can include:

  • The aggressor suffers from a mental health-related issue, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
  • A hunger for attention.
  • A lack of ability to cope with criticism.
  • Anger issues.
  • Unsolved prior conflicts.
  • An inability to communicate about real, existing relationship issues.

To read more on potential reasons for airing what some call personal “dirty laundry” in public, see here for Psychology Today article, “Seeking Support or Sharing Dirty Laundry,” by Ari Tuckman, PsyD, CST, and here for “Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age,” published by the Pew Research Center and written by Emily A. Vogels and Monica Anderson.

Tuckman’s article focuses on a partner’s resentment or sense of betrayal when their significant other shares personal issues of their relationship with someone else.

Excerpted from the article: It’s common wisdom that we should seek support from friends and loved ones in trying times. And there is plenty of research that shows the benefits of talking through problems. But what if the problem that you want to talk through is about your relationship — which means that you may be sharing information about your partner that they don’t want anyone else to know? Do you have the right to seek support from others, because it’s about your life? Or does your partner have the right to veto certain topics or bits of information, because it’s about them? As with so much else in relationships, there are no absolutes on this — every couple needs to negotiate how they handle these kinds of disclosures at this point in time.

The Pew Research Center piece is comprehensive, and includes statistics: For many adults, social media plays a role in the way they navigate and share information about their romantic relationships. Roughly eight-in-ten social media users (81%) report that they at least sometimes see others posting about their relationships, including 46% who say this happens often, but few say that seeing these posts affects how they feel about their own love life.

As we see, this is a common predilection.

Let us explore further.

Arguing In Public

Many of us who have no known mental health issues have argued in public with a loved one. There is a distinction, however, between common arguments and arguments where one partner deliberately attempts to hurt another in front of other people.

Relate.org is a UK website dedicated to relationship issues. The author, Ammanda Major (proper spelling) is a popular blogger who is also listed as a relationship counselor for the site. Her words, in a blog entry entitled “My Husband Puts Me Down in Front of Family and Friends,” are psychologically sound: Being publicly humiliated by the person who is supposed to love and support you is not okay. Of course we’re probably all guilty of saying something unkind or thoughtless to our partners in front of others. Likewise we can easily get into a debate about something and not realize that the way we are putting our argument across has become a touch bombastic and we need to dial it down.

Major goes on to state other issues on behalf of the “emotionally abusive” loved one — a term she utilizes — may include a need to feel superior due to low self-esteem.

Articles linked above also support that contention when it comes to the aggressor.


There is no formal reason why a significant other chronically argues, or insults, a loved one in public. There are only several possible reasons.

If you believe you are a victim of emotional abuse, regardless of whether your significant other refuses help, you yourself should seek counseling of a mental health professional.

I hope this article has helped. Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA

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