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Boyfriend's constant teasing is only part of the problem

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Boyfriend's constant teasing is only a part of the problem

Too fragile?: My live-in significant other makes fun of me a lot. It's never cruel and he never does it in front of other people, but it's exhausting, and especially after long days, he definitely strikes a chord. When I protest or tell him to stop, he'll pull the typical "Oh, you're so sensitive" or "Where did your sense of humor go?"

What is your stance on this annoying habit and subsequent bad feelings? The persistence always shocks me — there is nothing else we deal with where he blatantly ignores my request for him to cut it out.

Carolyn: "Let's say I am sense-of-humor challenged. That still doesn't answer the question, why would you knowingly do something that bothers me?"

People who love you and care about you won't look for reasons to blame you for their behavior.

His making fun of you is actually a different issue from the "Oh, you're so sensitive" responses. His teasing could just be his way — which, then, would present you with a decision, either to accept it or break up with him — but a loved one's attempts to shift blame onto you aren't something anyone should tolerate.

When he shifts blame, he's refusing to take responsibility for who he is, and that's so much worse than what might otherwise have been just some good-natured if tone-deaf ribbing. Please treat the two as separate when you talk to him about this.

D.C.: I think you are missing part of the answer. I am like that boyfriend — I have always appreciated relationships with women when the two of us enjoyed teasing and laughing with one another. I have, however, sometimes dated women (briefly) who don't enjoy that sort of interaction, and, like the poster, don't find the humor in it. Those relationships have usually died a quick death because I don't like getting shut down and accused of offensiveness, but mostly because I just miss the intimacy and playfulness of joking with someone I care about.

So it's not just about a boyfriend who rudely refuses to stop teasing his girlfriend. It could also be about a boyfriend who is trying to have the type of relationship and interaction that he needs and wants.

Carolyn: Then he needs to say so. I think I was quite clear in my answer: The teasing could well have been good-natured, but blaming her for its failure was not. If someone doesn't "enjoy that sort of interaction," then you don't do it, and wait to see whether you can be happy in a relationship on those terms. If you feel muzzled and uncomfortable, then you break up — as apparently you have done in these situations.

What you don't do is blame her for the difference in opinion on what constitutes humor; or keep teasing her, knowing it makes her feel bad; or remain in a relationship where the "interaction that you need and want" either isn't happening or happens at the other's expense.

Boyfriend's constant teasing is only part of the problem 03/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 3:30am]
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