No Tease Zone

From time to time in my counseling practice I find couples who have settled on a style of communication characterized by light-hearted teasing and amiable sarcasm. As good-natured as this communication style can appear on the surface I typically ask them to eliminate the practice of making fun of each other. I introduce the idea of establishing a "no tease zone" throughout their household. I encourage the elimination of this kind of genial teasing because it rarely leads to any productive growth in intimacy.

It's my experience that such joking at another person's expense, even with good intentions, erodes confidence in expressing vulnerability. It also often masks hostility buried in the core of the so-called "joke". These sorts of verbal put-downs often turn into subtle forms of verbal abuse, even when they are not intended as such. When a person feels hurt or insulted by a partner's comments the defense that "it's just a joke" allows the partner to get away without responsibility for the comment. My recommendation is to make fun of only one person: yourself. It promotes humility and often defuses tension.

I used to be a teaser in relationships. It was a form of pseudo-intimate banter I learned when growing up, especially with male friends. I remember how it took my spouse a concerted effort to sensitize me to the destructive potential inherent in even seemingly good-natured teasing. We learned how to say non-judgmentally "that sounds like teasing to me." The other person then simply says "I'm sorry" or "thank you" without trying to defend or minimize the remark, and the conversation goes on as normal.

So couples, take the "no tease" pledge for 3 months. I can almost guarantee you that your relationship will be stronger and more intimate for the effort.  

Finally, if you think getting some professional help for relationship problems would be helpful, I encourage you to talk this over with your partner and find someone you can trust to help you toward a healthier, happier life together 


Bill Herring helps individuals and couples in his Atlanta counseling practice, where he provides assistance for a wide variety of issues, including specialized help for sex and porn addiction.

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