Millie fell heals over heels in love with Isaac. She loved the twinkle in his eyes and his cheeky sense of humour. He was always joking around and making everyone laugh. His catchphrase was: “there’s a funny story I heard about …”
Isaac always seemed to be happy. Millie noticed that he even had a smile on his face when others were sharing a sad story, although he’d usually change the subject quite quickly.
He teased Millie all the time and said that this was his way of showing that he loved her. Millie mostly felt fine with it, although sometimes she felt she was being mocked or even put down.
Then Millie lost the job she loved very suddenly, and she found herself getting annoyed with Isaac, who’s response to everything she said seemed to be: “cheer up, it’ll be ok.” And then he’d go on to share another funny story or joke around.
Isaac’s behaviour was starting to get on Millie’s nerves!
Millie felt that Isaac didn’t take her feelings seriously and that left her feeling unloved, when she needed his comfort and support the most.
Why people often joke around…
We probably all know someone a bit like Isaac who’s warm, friendly and fun, but who prefers to keep everything light. Perhaps we recognise the tendency within ourselves.
Joking around and making light of things are often ways of coping with emotions that make us feel uncomfortable.
Joking can be a defence mechanism to keep difficult feelings at a distance. It could be that a person is unaware of their own feelings, or the feelings of others; or perhaps he or she has never learned how to talk about them.
It could also be that the ‘joker’ has learned to stuff their real feelings deep inside and finds it difficult to show their true feelings to anyone (especially if they have experienced a lot of pain in childhood).
How to handle ‘jokers’ if things get annoying
If you recognise this tendency to behave like a joker then try to remember that you don’t need to crack jokes, make light of things, cheer people up, or be fearful about other people’s strong emotions. Instead show that you care and take your partner’s feelings seriously by listening well without interrupting. Show empathy; by saying something like: “I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling … that must be hard.”
Millie decided to talk to Isaac about his joking.
She found a time when they could talk alone and told him that she loved his sense of humour and fun-loving nature, but that she also felt really hurt by his telling of funny stories whenever she expressed anxiety or anger about her job situation and that she felt like her feelings weren’t being taken seriously.
Isaac listened and later explained that he had no idea of the effect his joking had on Millie. He said that his joking was part of who he was, but he would try and listen better and give her space to talk about her feelings.
And then he said: “did you hear the one about … ? But he quickly added …only joking!”
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