“Oh yeah, I forgot. You’re perfect.”
I bet you’ve used this phrase before.
Or you’ve been on the receiving end. Or both.
It’s a classic example of sarcasm and it might seem harmless. Beware though, you’re on very thin ice here. That’s because sarcasm is psychologically rooted in anger, distrust, and frustration. It’s one of those nasty habits with damaging consequences, like smoking.
If you are frequently using sarcasm, believing this makes you sound smart or funny, think again. Your bad habit may be harming your relationship with your spouse (as well as with other people) much more than you realize.
Did you know that the origin of the word ‘sarcasm’ derives from the Greek word sarkazein? It literally means, “to tear flesh.” The Greeks obviously knew something about sarcasm.
Here’s why it hurts so much.
Sarcasm Shows Disrespect
Sarcasm comes in many shapes and forms. The most common one is when someone is deliberately trying to make the other person feel bad about themselves: stupid, incompetent, lazy, disorganized, __________ (insert appropriate adjective). That effort is often disguised as humor.
If you Google sarcasm you’ll find a stunning display of synonyms like disdain, scorn, and mockery, to name just a few.
None of these words imply anything positive. They show utter disrespect.
Some people go even further. They make sarcastic comments to their spouses in front of their common friends. Despite smiling outwardly, the person on the receiving end feels put down and humiliated.
Some people don’t even stop there. They make things even worse by making poisonous, sarcastic comments in front of their children. To be sarcastic myself, it’s a great way to teach children about relationships.
Sarcasm Invites Resentment
Often, couples are being mutually sarcastic. Commonly, one starts with criticism while the other “defends” themselves with sarcasm. It’s kind of a vicious game, inflicting wounds on each other to make it even.
Jenny (stressed out): “Why can’t I ever rely on you? You forgot to fill the gas tank again!”
John: “Okay, okay, I’m sorry!!! I forgot my good fortune to be married to such a champion of responsibility.”
It was bad enough for Jenny to use criticism, implicitly aiming at John’s whole personality (I can’t rely on you—ever). John, on the other hand, didn’t even try to respond differently.
Instead, he reacted in the worst possible way.
He added yet another layer of resentment to their relationship. Couples like John and Jenny have probably never asked themselves if this behavior will bring them closer to what they want.
How on Mother Earth can this end in a good way?
You’re Making Many Enemies
It takes great talent to be sarcastic in a non-offensive, funny, and witty way. TV networks know that. But their shows are scripted. They know exactly what they are doing, and they use sarcasm sparingly, like icing on a cake.
Your marriage and your everyday life probably aren’t a TV show.
That doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.
Furthermore, people who frequently use sarcasm in their marriage often communicate in this way with other people too. Others then feel awkward, if not turned off completely, because they don’t know what to think.
Bottom line: if you don’t want lots of enemies in your life, then you’d better lay off sarcasm altogether. Consider that other people might not understand you, or they may even get offended. There are just so many other beautiful ways to say what you have in mind.
For the next week, keep a mental or written list of the reactions and consequences you notice when those around you were the target of sarcasm. This awareness alone will be a powerful motivator to change your own behavior.