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No Laughing Matter: When Your Jokes Hurt More Than They Heal

Episode #813

Ever wonder if your playful jabs at your partner are truly all in good fun, or if they might be causing more harm than good?

In this episode, Doug Holt explores a critical aspect of relationships that many overlook—the impact of our jokes and teasing on our spouses. Whether it’s a light-hearted comment about the dishes or a sarcastic remark in a social setting, the words we choose and the energy behind them can profoundly affect the emotional climate of our relationships.

Doug shares personal anecdotes and insights from years of coaching, revealing how what’s meant as bonding humor can sometimes alienate the ones we love most. He delves into the nuances of “reading the room,” understanding the energy behind our words, and recognizing how these interactions can influence our spouse’s feelings of safety and love.

Listeners will come away with strategies to ensure their humor fosters connection rather than discord, emphasizing the importance of emotional awareness and the power of well-timed levity in building a loving and supportive marriage.

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Doug Holt  0:00  

So I can tease my wife and kind of make fun of her playfully a little bit when we’re in a great joyful space. However, if the account is low, just like a bank account, my teasing and joking can almost seem like an overdraft, the needy place to constantly tease and try to regain the Alpha status in the relationship. She knows if you’re being playful and flirty versus playful and trying to do something with your wife, it’s much different. She has billions of dollars in marketing telling her everything that’s wrong with her and to have her husband doing it to her as well. That’s the worst. That’s what makes you the opponent. You’re the person that’s actually tearing her down.

Hey, guys, do you think you’re teasing and joking is all in good fun? But what if it’s not? In this episode of the TPM show, I’m going to share with you how joking even one simple joke can ruin a marriage. So let’s set the tone here. When I’m talking about joking and teasing, what I’m talking about specifically, are the words that are coming out. And the way that teasing is, is implemented. See, I’m one of those guys that loves to joke around, I like to have a good time so much. So if I’m coaching somebody one on one, or spending a lot of time with somebody, or maybe it’s somebody I’m working with, I’ll often tell him like, hey, look, I only make fun of the people that I love. That’s where I grew up, sarcastic. And I played sports my whole life. So we joke around, and in that joking becomes bonding. Well, that all took a turn for me that concept, gosh, probably almost seven or eight years ago or so when I was joking and playfully teasing my wife. And I could see that it just wasn’t working and cheese. Everybody else seems to think I’m funny, they laugh at my jokes, but you don’t. And my wife looked at me deadpan and said, Oh, I think you can be really funny. But not when I added the expense of me. And what she meant by that. And I finally got it. And I dug down into it. I’ve since then talked to many other people. What she meant was, that she felt that the jokes that I would tell if she was involved, or the teasing that I would do with her actually put her down made her feel less than if you will.

And I started exploring this a little bit because, to me, it was like, Well, I’m not going to change who I am I’m, I’m always sarcastic. I joke around and I tease people, I tease myself more than anybody in front of people. And I think it’s all good time, nobody else seems to get offended. And I realized it’s also the energy behind the joke. So there are a couple of things that I want to talk about. One is reading the room, to the energy of the joke or teasing that you’re doing where it’s coming from three is the audience that we’re going to go through. So let’s start with the number one. So the energy that’s coming in. So I can tease my wife and kind of make fun of her playfully a little bit when we’re in a great joyful space. And what I mean by that is, when we’re in a space where we’re both, you know, really connected, and I’ll say our love tank, or a bank account, or relationship bank account is completely full. In fact, maybe it’s even overflowing. At that point, I can tease, I can take a withdrawal from that account. However, if the account is low, just like a bank account, my teasing and joking can almost seem like an overdraft, right, like I’m taking more out than I’m putting in. And so that’s something that I’ve learned really cool is really to read the room. And a lot of guys since this time when I figured this out. Through going through programs, when I talked to him, they tried to swing the pendulum from being a nice guy too far. The other way they tried to go to towards what’s called cocky funny often in the pickup scene, and they try to go for this cocky funny thing. But their their emotional bank account, or the relationship bank account is already over-withdrawn. And so their wife sees this as a request to take more out of her or the relationship. And so it pisses her off, she doesn’t want it, it’s not the right time, it’s not the right energy. And the guys keep trying to tease because they’re trying to reengage their wife or trying to get the mojo back in the relationship. And this is not the right time to do so not in this manner. 

The second thing is the energy, right, the energy from which this teasing comes. So again, I’ll go back to the guy that, you know, has found himself, you know, being a DEER really right or a nice guy, if you will, by Dr. Glover standards, but if you’re a DEER and you’ve been defending, excusing, explaining reacting for so long, then all of a sudden you sorts decide, hey, look, I’ve been a DEER. Now I want to create some more, you know, spice in my marriage or my relationship. So I’m going to playfully tease my wife. The problem is, does that guy start coming from a needy place? Right? It’s a needy place to constantly tease and try to regain the Alpha status in the relationship and she can pick up on that energy. She knows if you’re being playful and flirty versus playful and trying to do something Right, what I mean by that is, we are naturally playful and the energy is good between you and your partner and your love tank, so to speak as an eight or above on a scale of one to 10, the classic skill, then you can get away with that, right, she can notice that you’re just being playful. However, when you’re coming in, then the love tank is, you know, low, say five or something. And some guys I talked to they’d, they’d say, it’s a one. If it’s at that level for her, and you come in a new teaser about whatever it may be, maybe it’s the way she chooses maybe the way she does dishes, I don’t know, whatever you’re trying to do, it’s going to come across as criticism. It’s not going to come across playfully at all. And your energy is going to make her look at you like an asshole or a jerk, right, you’re going to come across as a jerk. You’ve picked the wrong time, and you have the wrong energy to be playful. And when you do this, you really demean the relationship. She feels like you’re demeaning her. 

Right? Like, I might joke with my wife, and I do. This is one of the jokes I tease my wife about as I hate we have a we have a dual sink like a lot of people do. And then have the drain, right, and it’s got the strainer thing. I’m sure that’s the technical name for it. But you know, where the drain goes down, there’s a stopper or you can put the little strainer in there. So food particles or food waste don’t go down the drain. For some reason, my wife drives me nuts. For some reason she puts she when she cleans the sink, she doesn’t put it flush in right. So it’s tilt. It’s just kind of laying there drives me insane. No clue why it drives me insane, but it does. So if I joke with my wife, I tease her about that. She’ll take it as a criticism, if it’s really a critique, right? So said another way, if I bring it up to my wife ago, Oh, can’t put the Can’t you weren’t taught how to put the drain back in correctly? Hmm. She can tell if I’m actually really if there’s an undertone of me poking at her or not, you know, a really critiquing her like, Oh, you’re too lazy to do this, or you don’t understand it or, or you’re not, you’re not, you’re not reaching my standards. And so that will demeanor that’ll pick her down, that’s like a little fight that I’m picking with her in her world, her world. So probably stacked up against other stuff. However, if we have good energy, I might joke with her about the drain and do something silly with it, you know, trying to think with this analogy what I could do, but, you know, maybe I see it in there. I could make a joke like, Yep, here I go doing it again if I don’t really believe that. Right? I don’t believe it’s a burden on me. It could be funny if we’re in a good place. Right? It could be a funny joke. But if I believe that, she should be doing this, it’s a burden on me the intent and the energy underneath the comment, she can pick up on that undertone. And your wife can too she can pick up on that undertone, and realize that you’re trying to use jest to really make fun of her really put her down. And this is something a lot of guys miss. A lot of guys will tell me like Doug, that I just, made light of it. I mean, I was just joking around, like, Yeah, but you really were upset, the undertone was you are picking on her. 

You’re basically telling her she’s not good enough. So it wasn’t just a tease or a joke, the energy behind that is really, really important. And most men and certainly myself miss that. Right? That’s really, excuse me, that’s really more passive-aggressive behavior than it is teasing when you think about it. So that’s another thing to look at. Third is the environment like I talked about, right? So I can tease my wife differently when it’s just her and I then in public. And the reason is there’s a perception around that there are other people involved. You know, everybody likes to say, Oh, we just talked to each other, the same in public as we do in our house, or we have rules of engagement or what have you. Look, I’ve been trained professionally not to observe people. That’s what I do. So my wife as well. So she and I go out in public, we watch people you can’t help but not see it. Right? something I do every single day. So I watch couples, and they do act differently. I also watch the husbands and the wives and women do this with their men too. By the way, when there is teasing, that’s not playful. So let’s go back to the underlying current and public. That’s 100 times worse for a woman. It is for men too, but specifically for women. You know, it is 100 times worse. So if I were to tease my wife about something she does wrong, I don’t know.

I can’t even think of anything right now. But something that she does wrong. Maybe the way she walks I don’t know, instead of joking with her about the way she walks privately and you know, kind of teasing and poking or in a great energy where she could laugh. If I did that in front of a group. She may be extra self-conscious, especially if she doesn’t know the people there. And my teasing could sound or come across to her and her listening as a put-down, right? So more than just a negative or something that people do in the pickup community, but an actual put down and if you start putting down people or they think you’re putting them down regularly, they’re not going to like you, let alone love you, let alone make love to you. And so that’s what a lot of men are consistently doing to their women. And it makes them feel unsafe. Right, it makes them feel like this, that environment or being with our man is an unsafe environment, it’s unsafe for them to be themselves, it’s unsafe for them to, you know, let themselves out. And if they can’t be themselves and let themselves out in communication or in their own kitchen, they’re not going to do in the bedroom, guys, that’s not going to happen for you. So you want to make sure that you’re looking at these three elements very, very carefully. Right, when you’re doing these jokes, now, it is my wife all the time, I tease everybody. But I’m also very careful. So what I do his rules to get around this, especially early on, when I was adjusting kind of, I guess, my recalibrating around my wife how I could tease, because I noticed that she wasn’t laughing at my jokes. And again, I felt like everybody else was. So I was like, What’s going on, there’s a disconnect here. And a lot of guys go through this. So to recalibrate that what I make sure I do is I don’t make my wife the butt of the joke, right? I don’t make my wife the teasing or whatever it is a fault of her. I also don’t do it in front of other people, especially my kids, a big point of contention for my wife was when I would tease her in front of the children because she didn’t want the children teasing her as well. Or looking down on her as less than, right. 

So going back to the previous point, is if you don’t have a lot built up in that emotional bank account, then, you know, it looks like a bit of criticism, especially if there’s an undercurrent in there, you know, and it could be something you know, as stupid as like, oh, mommy’s fart stinks to be away from her, you know, or whatever it is, it can be childish stuff that we can do with little kids we can do with our buddies and our friends. But if your wife is self-conscious about this, and you make her the butt of the joke, especially if you do it in front of her children, or for other people that she wants to put on a good face with, right, you’re gonna come across as an ass, you’re gonna come across as a jerk. So what I’ve chosen to do, I’ve learned one read the room, right? Make sure emotional bank account, and I do regular check-ins with my wife, hey, what’s your love tank app? And she might say a six. I’m like, oh, you know, I’m an eight. Well, what do I have to do to get it? How can I help you get from a six to a seven, we have conversations like that regularly. So I have a pretty good pulse of what our marriage is like. But if it’s a low level, I just don’t do jokes at all. I tried to build her back up, she’s the person I love. Also, where I might tease you, or I might tease a buddy when they’re down and joke and get some laughter and kind of, you know, clear the air, if you will, and make light of the energy. I don’t do that with her. Right, I don’t do it. It’s just not the right space. So what I choose to do is instead, I just take her out of the jokes and the sarcasm and what have you. I just don’t do it. I skip it. Because I realize so many times I’ve talked to just not only my wife and seeing my own situation, but literally talking to 1000s of men who have been through our The Activation Method program, our flagship program, and also talking to some of the men’s wives and also other women, my wife, coaches, most women feel this way. And, this teasing and joking that we all like to do can ruin a marriage can ruin a relationship, because she doesn’t feel safe anymore. 

She feels like instead of you being her provider and protector, you’re the person that she has to run away from. And then men think it’s actually something else that’s causing the problem. She’s complaining about my drinking, oh, she’s complaining about the trash. When reality, the real issue is she doesn’t feel safe. She doesn’t feel like you have her corner, you have her back. You know, oftentimes I say, Look, I’m in your corner. And what I mean by that is, hey, look, man, I’m hearing you’re in there in the fight during your day-to-day life growth, whether it be your business or relationship, but I’ll be your corner, man, I’ll be there to help you. With the strategy of wiping the cuts out, I’ll be there in your corner. Your wife wants you to be her corner, man. But if you’re constantly ridiculing her, right, you think it’s teasing, but she’s taking his ridicule that she’s not looking at that she’s looking at you as the actual opponent. And that’s not a sexy thing. The odds of getting sex or having great sex for that matter, or for that matter are low. And that turns into much, much bigger fights. And you think the fights about the trash can when really the fights about the teasing, and it happens a lot. I see it all a lot. I was just recently with a bunch of couples, my wife and I were and I saw it there was a guy he’s hilarious. I love hanging around this guy. Because he’ll just rip on people. I like ripping on people. I don’t take it personally when someone jokes with me. Right? And none of us take it personally unless we believe it to be true. Right? That’s the kind of idea when I talk about if you know if your wife is hurting your feelings. Are you getting angry at something she’s saying? It’s because you believe it to be true. If you don’t believe it to be true, you won’t get upset. Here’s the example I use all the time. If I call you purple, are you upset? No. Why? Cuz you know you’re not purple, so it doesn’t bother you. However, if I say you know, you’re bad in bed, you have a small penis If you’re a horrible Father, if you believe any of those to be true by yourself, you could get offended. Right, you can be packing. And if I save a small PVC, and you know you’re packing, you’re not gonna, you’re just gonna laugh it off. However, if you’re insecure about the size of your penis, you’re not going to be laughing, you’re gonna be questioning it, you’re going to think I’m a jerk, for bringing it up. So it’s your own internal focus, the same thing with your wife, if I make fun of something about my wife, let’s just go back to our walking. 

She believes it to be true about herself, and I’m critiquing it. I’m going to come across as a jerk, it’s not gonna be funny to her. And this, this whole, like, locker room teasing thing that I see happen so much, just like this guy was talking about, really can destroy marriages. So back to this scenario, this guy is hilarious. He’s funny. And he’s joking around with all the guys, he’s joking around with other people. And then he starts teasing his wife a little bit. And he’s laughing. Some other people are laughing. His wife was laughing on the outside, but you can see through her eyes, you don’t talk about when you can see someone who’s giggling or laughing, but you can tell it’s manufactured. And the look behind her face was one of disdain for him. And he didn’t read the room. He didn’t see it. I saw it, and several other people did. Other people stopped laughing, he continued, we stopped laughing at the joke for her sake, it was more like a haha. That’s funny, buddy. But he didn’t pick up the clues. And you can see this building and building. And as the evening went on, she became more and more angry at everything he did. nothing he could do was right at that point, because she was pissed. She was best at something. So if he left a cup somewhere, and you could see her when they were talking, and interacting, it turned into an argument. So I don’t know what happened when we left that situation or left that party, but I can bet you it wasn’t good. It wasn’t good. And she probably never even brought up the fact that it was his teasing. That was a problem. She probably brought on a lot of the things she probably stacked on the cup. He didn’t do this, he didn’t do that and kept on going through. So for this man, he’s left thinking, Well, geez, my wife’s pissed at me because I didn’t pick up the cup or whatever else he didn’t do. But the reality is, is the teasing and joking build up the resentment. And that’s what causes a lot of the arguments. So what I’m gonna invite you to do here, then in this inquiry, is look at where you’re teasing and joking with your wife. And how are you actually doing it? 

Are you doing it from a place of trying to be cocky and funny? Or are you doing it from a place of actual lightness? Are you doing it from a place where your marriage is in a great place? Are you doing it from a place of trying to bring some levity and change to your marriage? Are you doing it from a place of resentment? Are there things you’re teasing her about things you really want her to change or want to change or resent? These are all really important questions to ask yourself. And if you find some of these to be true, like, hey, look, you know, I am really trying to be cocky funny, and I’m not quite there yet. Maybe I think I am. But my wife’s not reacting, okay? Or there is a little bit of resentment, like some of the things I’m saying like, Oh, you know, my wife doesn’t want me to touch her. So I make a joke like, Ooh, I don’t want to don’t get near me because I have cooties, or whatever it is some dumb things that all of us guys say, alright. If you’re finding yourself in those energies, my suggestion is to take a joking fast. In other words, take a sabbatical from teasing and joking with your wife. Your marriage isn’t there yet, and you’re not there yet. And that’s okay, you’re going to learn new skills, you want to do this with the intent of really being light and fun, right, you need to put some more emotional deposits in. And what you’ll find is if you stop teasing, or for a lot of guys, you’ll start finding that your wife becomes lighter, right? Maybe start complimenting her a little bit more, switch it around, just for now, just a little bit, not from a place of need. Don’t do this from a place of need, do someplace from actual love and appreciation of the person that you’re with. Right Do it from that energetic stance. Because again, I love to tease people if you go to any of our events all around the world. If I were out and about I’m joking, cracking jokes, teasing, you can tease me I’m totally cool with it.

I think it’s hilarious. Grew up in a house with all men, or boys anyway, brothers, I should say. So that’s just my form of communication. With people I like I used to always say if I stopped teasing you, then well, maybe we have a problem. But with your wife, it’s gonna be different. With your wife, it’s much different. She has got billions of dollars in marketing, telling her everything that’s wrong with her. And to have her husband do it to her as well. In her mind’s eye, that might not be your intent. But in her mind’s eye, that’s the worst. That’s what makes you the opponent, you’re the person who’s actually tearing her down. So instead, take the higher road, just pause the teasing for now, if you find yourself in a situation. look at why you’re teasing. It’s a resentment behind that. There is clean it up, be a man and clean it up on your stuff and call it forward the problems that you’re having a call for like, hey, look, why is the drain thing not put in correctly? Or my wife’s like, I just don’t even think about it. Her mom does the same thing. It’s just a habit for them. No big deal. Right? So you want to follow that train? thought and that methodology to make sure teasing and joking around doesn’t ruin your marriage. Joma is always saying the moment of insight takes massive action. I see this with a lot of guys. So this is your chance to really take inventory. Is your wife laughing at all your jokes truly, or is she like the man I was talking about? Is there a little bit of a chuckle, but not really the humor there that she’s finding it to be, if it is, make the shift so you can get the results you want. And I’ll see you next time on the TPM show.