Teasing often has a message

Q: My husband was a lot of fun when he and I were younger and just starting to get to know each other. He was always thinking of something zany and spent hours teasing both me and my younger sister.

That was a long time ago now. He is still teasing me. But it is not as much fun as it used to be.

Sometimes he says things that are hurtful, and sometimes I wish that he would not mention our private lives when we are out in public.

When we talk about teasing, he says that he is just having fun, but it is not fun for me and I wish that he would slow down and not go after me so much.

What do you suggest that I do?

A: According to the studies that I read, teasing is never just fun. It always has a message. You may not like the message you are getting from your husband when he is teasing you, nor is his message necessarily always correct. But it is a message.

The real concern for you or for anyone who is being teased is the intent of the message. What is your husband trying to achieve by teasing you? If you and your husband have an otherwise loving and caring relationship, the intent of whatever message he is delivering to you is a declaration of love.

Maybe he has inadvertently hurt your feelings but that does not debunk the moment of fondness that is part and parcel of his teasing. You can, and probably you should, put up a few guidelines, letting him know what and what not are the limits or fair game for him to trivialize. He can then have his fun and still respect and care for you; all he has to do is follow the guidelines.

Unfortunately, teasing can at times be anything but a signal of love and affection. It is often another tool in the arsenal of the bully. The intent of the bully is to get you to do or say something you might not otherwise consider.

The bully loves to get people to treat their own families poorly, to be rude to their neighbours, and to be more unreasonable with their children.

Often, the bully who teases goes beyond all sense of reason until they are not only mocking the love of their life — they are abusers.

The intent in abuse is much more devastating than is bullying. It is to depreciate as much as possible all that the victim represents. This is totally destructive.

I am assuming from what I have read in your letter to me that you and your husband have an otherwise loving and caring relationship and that a few heart-to-heart discussions will fix the teasing that is otherwise annoying you. But if I am wrong, and if you find yourself at the short end of either the bully or the abuser, you need to do something more aggressive to resolve this issue.

If the latter is true, my hope is that you and your husband will find yourselves a good marriage counsellor to help the two of you move into a more positive and caring relationship.

Failing that, or if your husband is steadfast in his refusal to attend to a few sessions with you, you might book an appointment to spend some time with a good divorce lawyer.

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