Do You Wish the Teasing Would Stop?

When Teasing Goes Too Far

Chinese woman laughing at boyfriend with coffee froth on lip
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Some psychologists believe that teasing is an important tool in building healthy relationships. The more satisfied a couple is with their partnership, the more playful they can become. However, since teasing is ambiguous, the desired effect can backfire. Additionally, people respond differently to teasing.

Even if said in jest, some jokes and forms of teasing are just not funny. For many people, there are some areas of life that are considered off-limits when it comes to teasing and joking.

Even though you know your partner well, your teasing can still be offensive and can hurt your relationship. Cutting remarks can wound deeply.

Why We Tease

Just as teasing can have both positive and negative consequences, it can also be the result of positive or negative intentions. Teasing can be a way of showing love and affection. For some, teasing is a habit and a way of interacting with people. In other cases, teasing may be a power play or a way of trying to be the center of attention.

Other reasons why people tease include:

  • To liven up a dull conversation or to try and come across as clever and funny
  • To keep the focus on others and not on themselves
  • To say something negative they've been wanting to say

Making Teasing Positive

All of us have sensitive areas or weak spots in our self-esteem, so if your spouse or partner objects to your teasing, take responsibility for any hurt feelings and apologize. Shifting blame and saying that they need to “learn to take a joke” or “shouldn’t be so sensitive" just makes the situation more uncomfortable and could damage an otherwise healthy relationship.

Here are a few more tips to make sure that teasing creates positive feelings for you and your partner:

  • Tease in a way that compliments your spouse. For example, you might say at a party: "Mary is an organizing machine. If the neighbors would let her through the front door, she would clean out their closets just for fun."
  • Tease only about things your spouse can laugh about with you. This may take a little trial and error, so be aware of when teasing raises tension rather than releases it.
  • Don't attack or be malicious, especially when it comes to your partner's capabilities, appearance, weight, or what you perceive to be a physical flaw.
  • Don't overdo the humor bit. Yes, every relationship needs some fun and laughter, however, you can give too many gag gifts, make too many so-called witty remarks, tell a few too many funny stories, and engage in too much horseplay. Keep it balanced with some down to earth, real, serious conversations with your spouse.
  • Recognize that teasing can snowball, with one spouse wanting to top the other's last remark.

Coping

If teasing is having a negative impact on you and your relationship, there are steps you can take to help make it stop.

  • Be honest. If you are being teased by your spouse and don't like it, say so. Even a simple, "that hurts" can communicate to your partner that a teasing remark crossed the line.
  • Question the teasing. Ask your partner, "Why would you say that?" or "Did you intend to hurt my feelings?"
  • Create a plan. If teasing is a problem primarily when you are among friends, decide in advance how you want to handle the situation in front of others. Whether you address it then and there or you choose to redirect the conversation, just be sure to follow up later; it's important that you discuss with your partner why the teasing wasn't funny and how it affected you.

Recognizing Verbal Abuse

At times, when people are “just teasing” or “just joking,” they are really just hiding behind these words to get away with mean or manipulative behavior. In these instances, the teasing can cross the line and become abusive.

The following red flags may indicate that the teasing is in fact an excuse for verbal abuse:

  • Name-calling or shaming such as fat-shaming
  • Insults and put-downs disguised as jokes
  • Jokes that attack your weak or vulnerable spot or that hone in on a sensitive subject, and don't let up
  • Teasing that humiliates you, especially when said in a public setting
  • Gaslighting, or minimizing hurtful teasing by saying “I was just joking" or "you are too sensitive"

The key is being able to recognize good-natured, healthy teasing from teasing that attacks. If your partner doesn't stop teasing when you ask, or if the teasing becomes even more vindictive and hurtful after you've discussed it, then there could be some serious problems in your marriage, including emotional abuse, that require professional help.

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Article Sources
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