June 21, 1999 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
I'm a VERY sarcastic person and a lot of the time my husband thinks I'm making fun of him when I'm really just joking. How can I get him to know when I'm being sarcastic and when I'm being serious? This has caused a lot of frustrations in our relationship! HELP!!
Let's make sure that we are on the same page when we speak of sarcasm. Sarcasm refers to cutting remarks and/or statements that express agreement that isn't truly meant.
For example, 'Yes, that's right, I'm an idiot.' Sarcasm is usually caused by acted out anger. Acted out anger occurs when a person translates negative feelings into behavior, instead of verbally communicating the feelings.
You may not be aware of the angry or aggressive feelings that fuel your remarks, but your husband does seem to be picking up a negative emotional message. Bottom line, if your husband feels offended, then he's been offended. It doesn't matter whether you meant to or not.
I often use this analogy to convey my point. I am walking down the street, and you trip on my foot and break it. You didn't mean to, but my foot still hurts.
The same is true in relationships. We trip on each other and cause hurt. And, when we do, we need to listen and understand the effect we have had. And, whenever possible, it is important to try to be more responsive to our partner's feelings in the future.
You know the saying, 'Many a truth is said in jest.' Keep in mind that most people feel injured when they are on the receiving end of another person's ribbing. If I were you, I would do some serious soul searching and find out if you have developed a pattern of releasing your aggression through sarcasm.
This pattern may be unconscious, so it may be hard for you to see this at first. If you discover that you are, in fact, using sarcasm to release aggression, then you need to work on this pattern. To do this, make it a point to recognize your angry feelings and then consciously choose to handle the angry feelings in a more direct manner using my X, Y Formula. 'I felt X, when Y was said or done to me.'
You sound like a very sensitive and lovely person. Perhaps you can find other ways to express your humor by telling jokes that don't refer to your husband. Humor directed at another person is bound to cause what we call 'Narcissistic Injury.' It's best to just not go there.
Thanks for asking this question.
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