What To Do When Your Man's Jokes Go Too Far

Jokes are supposed to be funny – but what if his jokes cross a line that makes you uncomfortable?

By Keelia Clarkson3 min read
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Darya Chacheva/Shutterstock

It’s no secret that women love a guy who can tell a joke – even science proves that. One study found that the more times a man was able to make a woman laugh, the more likely it was that she’d be romantically interested in him. So it should go without saying that men put a lot of stock into being funny.

And yet, we’re willing to bet that you’ve had a moment when it feels like a guy’s joke goes…too far. Maybe it was a bit on the degrading or sexist side for your taste, or it made you feel uncomfortable and upset, or you found it downright offensive. But as soon as you spoke up about not liking his joke, you were met with, “I was just kidding! Learn how to take a joke.”

What exactly is the line when it comes to his jokes? When do they become harmful or too hurtful? Is it okay to tell him not to make a certain kind of joke?

Yes, It’s Good To Learn How To Take a Joke

The reality is, you won’t love every single joke he tells. He might make a remark about something he didn’t know you were insecure about, or tell a joke that falls flat, or simply have a different sense of humor from you. It’s understandable to react badly when his joke rubs you the wrong way, but it may be helpful to learn how to take a joke in stride.

Assuming his joke wasn’t meant to degrade or offend you, it’s a good practice to let things roll off your back if you can – and even learn how to take part in and laugh at a silly, well-meaning joke at your expense. Sometimes, your guy just wants to be able to poke some fun at you, and it’s okay to indulge him a bit.

But There’s Also a Time and a Place for Jokes

We all love to have a laugh. Humor can be helpful at times when we wouldn’t have expected – whether we’re looking to lighten a mood after an ugly fight or loosen everyone up at an awkward dinner party. 

That being said, there’s a time and a place for jokes. And it’s not always appropriate, in good taste, or wise to joke around. There are moments in life that aren’t made better by jokes. Our wedding vows, spoken in front of our families and other guests, might not be the best place for an off-color joke. Someone who just tragically lost a person they loved might need support rather than a lighthearted comment.

Of course, whether or not it’s appropriate to make a joke is case-by-case, but it’s fair to tell your boyfriend you don’t appreciate his lighthearted reaction after you expressed how stressed out you’ve been feeling. If you felt embarrassed, disrespected, unheard, or devalued, then his joke went too far, some way or another.

If you felt embarrassed, disrespected, unheard, or devalued, then his joke went too far, some way or another.

It’s Harmful If He’s Using “Jokes” To Mask His True Feelings

In most cases, it’s healthy to assume a joke was well-intentioned rather than reading too much into it – because more often than not, he’s only trying to make you laugh. A joke can become harmful to a relationship, though, when there’s anger and truth behind it – disguised as a funny comment.

Whether he makes a hurtful joke about your personality or calls you a derogatory name before insisting he was just kidding around, jokes that are used as a means of expressing something deeper (a real, serious feeling) can quickly become harmful to a relationship. They chip away at the foundation of trust in a relationship, replacing it with sarcasm and bitterness.

If his joke hit a bit too close to home, was similar to an actual fight you’ve had with him, or sounded more like a complaint than a funny comment, it likely wasn’t a meaningless, silly joke. In these cases, his joke has gone too far, and instead of disguising his feelings with a mean joke, they need to be confronted and worked through.

How To Tell Him You Didn’t Like His Joke

Whether he made a comment that embarrassed you in front of your friends, joked around when you really needed him to be serious, or claimed to be kidding around after he said something hurtful, it’s okay to tell him you didn’t like his joke. Here’s how to get your point across to him without getting lost in the weeds:

  • Ask him if what he said was meant to be a joke. Decipher whether he’s trying to express something deeper to you or if he just made an off-handed joke. Asking him point-blank (without being harsh or aggressive) will help cut the fat off the conversation and get to the heart of it.

  • Verbally give him the benefit of the doubt if he says it was just a joke. Allow him the space to have simply made a comment that didn’t land by saying something along the lines of, “I don’t think you were trying to be hurtful when you said [insert here].”

  • Let him know how it made you feel without getting upset. Tell him what was going through your mind and allow him to clear it up, saying something like, “When you said [insert here], it really made me feel [insert here].”

  • Ask questions to understand his point of view. Let him explain what was going through his mind when he made the joke.

Closing Thoughts

Jokes shouldn’t hurt us; they should bring us closer together and make way for deeper connection. While it’s necessary that everyone learns how to take a joke, there are times when jokes go too far – and it’s always okay to say something when a joke makes us uncomfortable.

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