How Teasing Can Damage Your Connection

“Don’t tease your partner.” “Teasing is good for healthy relationships.” “If you can’t take teasing, you’re too thin-skinned.” “If your partner hurts your feelings, he or she is insensitive.”

It can be easy to take advice to the extremes. But the reality of teasing is that there is a line for every couple. And sometime that line changes. Jests that might have been funny 10 or 20 years ago may not be funny now. Your partner’s humor (and your humor!) is allowed to change.

You also may not realize how certain jokes — however well-intentioned — strike a nerve with your partner. And some forms of teasing can feel like you are laughing at your partner, not with your partner. He or she may simply have laughed it off to hide hurt feelings. And those hurt feelings can linger and do big damage over time.

Consider, too, the tone of your teasing. Is it highlighting your partner’s strengths and assets — or weaknesses and flaws? Is it gentle ribbing — or more aggressive taunting? Does it come a little too close to simply being an insult?

In order to understand where “the line” is and what type of teasing is okay, you have to openly communicate with your partner.

How to Check In

If you find yourself fighting with your partner over teasing, start by asking your partner what subjects or comments may cross the line. If this “check in” is the result of a recent argument, ask about why that subject matter is off-limits.

Then listen. Really listen to your partner. They might reveal something that surprises you. You may learn something new about your partner or a particular issue. Even if you don’t agree with your partner, understand that they have a right to their emotions and sense of humor.

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

If your partner’s teasing is bothering you, it doesn’t mean you are “thin-skinned” or can’t take a joke. And it doesn’t mean your partner is mean or insensitive. It just means you need to have a conversation.

You should feel comfortable speaking up — even if you know your partner really didn’t mean to hurt or offend you. Doing so can clear misunderstandings, prevent future arguments, and build a happier, healthier, and stronger connection between you.

If you need help talking about it, consider seeking Delaware counseling. You'll both have a safe, supportive environment to improve your communication and relationship skills.

Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803