Sex Ed in Bed
Laughing in bed, part 1
By Jallen Rix, Ed.D. (c).

Humor is a funny thing in more ways than one. When it shows up in a intimate connection, it can bring fresh air into a scene when the intensity gets too thick to breath. But just as often, when it’s misunderstood, a bit of levity can crush a partner’s self esteem quicker than you can say, “knock, knock,” and then “gong” any chances of satisfying your desires.

Be aware, I’m not focusing on playfulness as much as I’m addressing the power of the spoken word. Cutting people down and sarcastic kinds of humor have their place which I think is mainly with professional comedians, not just because they’re good at it, but the stage gives those who stand on it the permission to say things humorously. We know that they’re joking because they’re up there, so I say, “let it rip!” Sometimes, the only way people can hear the God’s honest truth is by laughing at it. Even this column gives me a degree of freedom to take a look at our sexualities and sometimes have a good laugh at it. But way too many of us think we’re just as clever as Joan Rivers, and I suppose some of us are. However, talking in a bar, on the phone, or in bed is not necessarily your stage to cut people down to size. There are no spotlights. We’re not paying you to be funny. Ultimately, we just can’t tell that you’re joking and sometimes it just plain hurts.

Humor gone sour can be seen most easily in romantic relationships. So many couples fall apart simply because in the ritual of teasing each other one of them folds under the silliest of circumstances. If you listen for it, the hurt party always has the same tearful response, “You took it too far. You crossed a line.” And how, pray tell, does anyone know where that line is drawn on any given day? It’s not that the ruthless, insensitive partner has suddenly decided to violated the other’s emotional constitution. No. It’s that the wounded partner has finally drawn the line and taken something personally.

Furthermore, in a relationship it’s often too difficult to discern when a you are either simply saying something that you find funny or you’re slipping in just enough humor to give yourself license to say what you really feel about something without taking responsibility for it. Yes, there’s a little truth in every joke, but come on, we all know what’s said next, “I’m just kidding.” Like that makes something easier to swallow. And as Ellen DeGeneres in her stand up shows has said quite adeptly, “Well, then you don’t know how to kid, ‘cuz we should both be laughing.”

But who can avoid some of the inevitably funny aspects of being close to each other. Therefore, I recommend some ground rules. First I suggest dropping the “humorous teasing” all together for a period of time, because it’s not worth devastating each other. Next, try only making jokes about yourself and let your partner join in the giggles. Then try, to the best of your ability, not to take anything personally. Rather than going through your day with the subtle mindset that your partner is going to inevitably cut you down, you’ll instead take on the assumption that your partner is generally on your side and s/he does not plot to find your weaknesses simply to laugh at them — that your partner tries to love you. Isn’t that a shocking revelation?!

Another ground rule is to have a safe word that either of you can use to stop the teasing before it starts to turn painful. So when your partner says the safe word, you both take a breather and it is then your opportunity to change the mood and end the conversation by reassuring your partner of your love and that you’re on his side. Another great ground rule I’ve found helpful is, if you’re going to try to be funny, go way over the top with it — so silly that there will be no doubt that you are not serious about what you’re saying.

Don’t use humor to try and out do each other because eventually, one of you is going to lose and what’s the use of creating a loser in a relationship. Most of all, if you are going to attempt to make your loved ones the butts of your jokes then you had better have the gonads to be the anus of their jokes as well.

In the next column we’ll explore the really funny stuff: Being playful in bed.

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