Victimizing my Spouse: 4 Reasons Why Sarcasm Doesn’t Work

Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him …(Ecclesiastes 10:12).


I’d say that Anne and I are pretty normal. Do we yell at each other? Yep. Do we fight? Definitely. Do we have moments where feel like terrible parents? Absolutely. Has there been so much frustration that one person had to take a timeout to go for a walk so that further damage wasn’t gonna be done during a disagreement? Happened a few months back. But, despite all of this normality, we have a ton of fun together.

In the midst of all of the fun we have, one area we have to constantly watch: sarcasm.  Let me explain.

When we first started dating, the talking was quite innocent and intimate. By “intimate,” I mean each conversations opened up another layer of who we were to the other person. Not only did you deliver information, you embraced and digested what was given to you. Whatever was given, you guarded it as a steward over it. Over time, it seems the stewardship can begin to be taken for granted as familiarity breeds contempt. And this is where we get into trouble.

I believe communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. It helps us to continue to be a student of our spouse.  But through open communication, we are able to learn new things about our mate that, if we are careless, can be used later for personal humor, or worse, for use when we feel more like adversaries.  But the harmful effect of using this knowledge as punch lines or ammunition is significant. Who is going to reveal private and sacred information when it might be used against them?

Anne and I have to confess that there have been times within our own marriage that we’ve fallen into the trap of zinging each other with sarcasm, claiming that we’re “just kidding.” And yet later, as we’ve “talked things out”, we better understand the damage it causes.  And we’ve learned there is a difference between sarcasm and being playful:

Sarcasm always has a victim.

Being playful is enjoyed by all.

I can hear some of your thoughts: “We’ve been doing this for years. We are used to it.  It’s how we joke.”  And I understand. Because I’ve done it. I come from a very sarcastic family who came from a sarcastic lineage. It comes honestly. But your nature (family) and/or how you were nurtured (raised) should never be an excuse for victimizing your spouse with your words. That may sound harsh, but the word “Sarcasm” derives from a word meaning “to tear flesh, like dogs.” In essence, it means to be brutal, have no mercy, be vicious, go for the jugular, tear flesh the way a dog would.  

Sarcasm victimizes your spouse by…

1 – …clothing, what should be, naked communication. Love that the book of Genesis describes Adam and Eve as “naked and unashamed.” They reached for fig leaves only when shame entered the scene. If you want to reduce the level of intimacy your spouse shares, cause them to want to cover/conceal intimate areas vulnerable to your sarcasm.

2 – …erodes trust.  In the blink of an eye, the security that was the foundation for expression of one’s true self can be destroyed. What many couples fail to realize is that an absence of security in communication is like condemning a person to live on an ice-covered sidewalk. Your mate is never truly free to relax because she is continually fighting to keep his/her footing. There’s always anxiety that a horrible fall might be right around the corner.

3 – …compromises integrity. The the rust on the hull of a boat, every barb begins to eat its way through the integrity of the relationship. Intimate knowledge used as punch lines or ammunition causes an internal bruising. Everything about it reduces your spouse’s self-confidence as well as their confidence in you.  

4 – …preventing personal/marital health. Sarcasm usually is a smokescreen for things like poor conflict resolution, fear, anger, self-esteem issues, and personal hurt.  By not getting help for them, you are cheating both you and your spouse out of a healthy functioning relationship.

Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him …(Ecclesiastes 10:12).

If you are done with your marriage being consumed by the “lips of a fool,” then it’s time for a change.

  1. Be honest with yourselves. Are you playful or are you sarcastic? Sarcasm is not funny nor is it innocent. It is terribly destructive. Solomon had this to say about the tongue: “The tongue has the power of life and death. Those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21) This clearly says that if we plant positive seeds with healthy, loving talk, we will reap its fruit. If we plant weeds of hurtful talk, we will reap that fruit.
  1. Take responsibility for your sarcasm. You will never change your language unless you take responsibility for hurting your spouse with it. Look carefully and honestly at the impact your language has. Take a fearless inventory of your words. Notice the ongoing impact of your actions. Notice the lasting damage to your mate’s self-esteem. Seek forgiveness. Determine to change.
  1. Make an agreement with your mate to change your language. Replace indirect, sarcastic insults with clear, respectful, direct messages. Use  assertive and edifying language that leads to a healthy connection. Ask for what you want and need in a respectful way. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
  1. Keep each other accountable for change. Turning the Titanic doesn’t happen in one instance. You may be surprised at how entrenched your behavior patterns are and how difficult it is to change them. However, if you quickly, lovingly, and honestly confront each and every violation, change will occur.

Emotions are contagious. Thus, if you change, it is very likely that your mate will change as well. If you apologize for your sarcastic, biting words, it is likely that your mate will begin changing as well. Loving language and mannerisms encourages loving communication in another.

Do you love your spouse enough to change? Does your commitment to your marriage outweigh the strength of your habits? If so, determine that you will be a playful marriage and not one plagued by sarcasm.


Thanks for letting me ramble…


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