What About Sarcasm?

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 6, 2013

On many occasions I've been asked about the role of sarcasm in a relationship. Some people like sarcasm as a form of humor, for example, while their partners hate it, so what should they do?

If two people really know each other well, and they know that sarcasm is only a light-hearted form of HUMOR and AFFECTION, sarcasm can be harmless, even loving. But this presupposes that BOTH parties agree to this form of communication.

I have a very dear friend of 20 years, and we both enjoy sarcasm. We have a clear, spoken-out-loud understanding that we use sarcasm as a communication of affection. Just the other day he called to describe how he'd been unloving toward his partner and then tried to deny it, and I said, "That was very mature of you."

He burst into laughter and said, "Any time I fool myself into believing that I'm a real adult, I can count on you to correct that notion for me."

I assured him that he could rely on me for that function at any time. He does the same for me. I laugh at him, and he laughs right back. When I poke at him, it lightens the mood.

We both joke about a far distant goal of someday actually growing up and becoming adults. We both deeply enjoy the edgy humor, the communication of love, and the nature of our relationship.

My wife, Donna, however, does not enjoy sarcasm. That doesn't make her less enjoyable than my friend. I have a far different relationship with her than with him. It just doesn't include sarcasm, and I don't need it to. I don't need her to change what she prefers.

Everything I've said about sarcasm applies to any form of humor or comments about someone else's behavior. It doesn't matter that YOU didn't mean to offend. What matters is how your comments affect the other person, and your comments or humor are acceptable only if BOTH of you agree that what you're saying is not hurtful.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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