My husband is a master of dad jokes, adolescent boy humor and gentle teasing. His teasing is so gentle in fact that he often has a lengthy preamble before he teases you followed by a check in afterward to make sure he didn’t hurt your feelings. That’s just how he is, he doesn’t want to get it wrong and hurt anyone’s heart.
We tease a lot in our relationship. It’s a fun, constant banter that we both enjoy. And sometimes, a gentle way we can probe into some of our more minor hot spots without making it a full-blown confrontation. Not every issue warrants that kind of response. For example, my dear husband has a habit of leaving the kitchen cabinet doors open after taking something out. Seriously, our kitchen often looks like that scene in The Sixth Sense (it’s an older movie, go see it, educate yourself). This bugs me, a little, sure. But do I need to go ballistic about it or have a formal sit-down session to deal with it? I don’t think so. That would become beyond tiresome. But, neither should I let little shit like that build up because that could become a volcano over time. So, what we often do is tease each other a little to communicate hey, this little thing is kind of getting on my nerves will you please pay attention to it? But we are careful with our teasing and check in with each other regularly to ensure no hurt feelings because we have both seen (and in some cases, experienced ourselves) how teasing can easily tip over to the dark side.
The dark side of teasing comes out when you have something important to say but can’t or won’t say it directly. So, you “tease” them about it instead. Or at least say it is just teasing. Calling your partner a “miser” or a “cheapskate” in jest could belie some deeper issues you have with them regarding finances. Pay attention to these instances when your teasing or being teased takes on a harder edge, there is likely something deeper there that needs rooting out. Teasing can also be thinly veiled hurtfulness, for whatever reason. I was once “teased” in horrid middle school about having a walk like a football player. Crushing to my 8th grade soul! I probably envisioned myself as more of a graceful swan not a linebacker! 35 years later I still remember it (fuck you RR!).
It requires intimacy to be able to tease properly. You have to know your partner well to dance that line between teasing and hurting. And timing can also be a factor. I might be ok being teased about living in yoga pants and t-shirts throughout a pandemic on one day, but if I’m upset about other things or feeling less than gorgeous, that may not be the right day to tease me about it. The takeaway is that teasing can be fun, have a place in a relationship and even be a useful communication tool. But you have to know your partner very well to employ it and also pay attention to intention, time and place.