You finally get a moment alone with your crush at a party. This is your shot to shoot! They look so cute in their white tee. But instead of telling them that, you call out the teeny sauce stain and tell them it almost looks like a Ralph Lauren logo if you squint hard enough.
Oh My God. NOT AGAIN. Every time you talk, you poke fun at their favourite team losing five games in a row, or that they eat chips with mustard like a huge, undateable weirdo. Except you want to date this weirdo! So bad! So why do you keep blurting out unfiltered sass every time you’re around them?
Thankfully, you don’t need to panic if you can’t stop the kidding. Teasing a crush (so long as it doesn’t border on bullying or harassment, obvi) can actually be a healthy way of getting to know each other. “There can be a really fine line between teasing and negging, but I think the difference is the motivation,” says sex therapist Dr. Vanessa Marin. “Teasing is meant to be lighthearted and playful, whereas negging is specifically meant to put someone down so they’ll be thrown off guard – and then become interested in you.”
So as long as you’re keeping things light, teasing your crush is perfectly normal, and doesn’t mean you’ll blow your chances with them. Here’s why…
1. It helps relieve romantic tension.
If you’re generally not a super-serious person to begin with, then the idea of being blunt about your intense feelings for your crush can especially make you revert to your jokiest ways. “Relationships are much scarier than we like to admit,” says Dr. Jeremy E. Sherman, author of Neither Ghost nor Machine: The Emergence and Nature of Selves. “You’re volunteering to surrender into vulnerability with each other at very close range for an extended time.”
Opening up to someone who might potentially reject you is understandably terrifying – only sociopaths approach new relationships with 110 percent confidence. For the rest of us, cracking jokes – even little ones at your crush’s expense – are a way to calm down.
The main thing, Sherman notes, is that the ragging is reciprocated. “To earn the right to tease, you have to be willing to laugh at yourself. If you can’t do that, you’re probably just ridiculing [your crush].”
2. It softens the blow if you DO get rejected
If your crush is just not that into you, keeping the vibe low key can make it easier to stay friends in the future. “In some circumstances, teasing can be a way to protect yourself from rejection,” says Dr. Marin. “You can try to play something off as just being a ‘joke.'”
The main thing to remember is to make sure you’re not joking all the time, because if you’re constantly hiding behind humour, it can come off as insincere and ultimately backfire.
3. It proves you’re comfortable around them
If someone truly intimidates you, you’d never dare poking even the gentlest of fun at them because you have no idea how they’d react. A closed-off person might take the smallest jab as highly offensive, and these people are probably not who you’d consider close friends for that reason – you just can’t be yourself around them.
According to a 2013 study on prosocial teasing, “as a social and communication strategy, [it] may be a means of indirectly expressing affection and closeness.” Participants in the survey consistently said that teasing their friends was their way to show that they appreciated them as people and actually felt safe being themselves around them. All good things to feel around a crush AND a friend.
4. It reveals if your crush is actually into your sense of humour
“Teasing tends to be a personality trait – some people are just naturally more drawn to it than others,” says Dr. Marin. While humour is subjective, if you’re thinking about dating your crush, you’d probably want to make sure they’re on board with how you show affection. “If you’re a very teasing person and your crush seems to take offence to everything you say, it might not be the best match between the two of you,” says Dr. Marin.
It’s also important that your crush doesn’t just silently soak up your teasing and never feels comfortable lightly roasting you in return. “It’s no good testing whether other people are down-to-earth and humble when you aren’t,” says Dr. Sherman. In order to make sure you’re not diving into negging territory, Sherman recommends starting with some self-effacing humour before you playfully pick on your crush.
5. It helps you build a friendship beyond physical chemistry
While nonstop passion for each other is often depicted in movies as what true love looks like, the truth is, it’s. Sooner or later, the honeymoon period fades away and you have to enjoy being around the person long after the marathon sex comes to a close.
“I think people enter relationships for two opposite reasons: To be affirmed and to get a reality check; to be lifted onto a pedestal andbe lowered into the real world,” says Dr. Sherman. Feeling like true best friends in a relationship is what makes it last down the line, and being able to joke back and forth is a huge part of that. “Teasing can be a way to gradually settle down from the fantasy infatuation, or better yet, to hold both the fantasy and reality,” says Dr. Sherman.
6. It’s an indirect way of saying “Hey, I accept you”
If it’s obvious that you’re joking (which the 2013 study says is made clear with visual facial and vocal cues), pointing out a quirk in someone shows that you still like them for who they really are. “There’s safety in other people not being able to see your flaws,” says Dr. Sherman. “There’s more safety in people being able to see them and still want to be with you.” The 2013 study also pointed out that teasing was often used as an indirect positive message to show a person that you like them just as they are.
7. If you’re not an arsehole, it teaches you to back up when you’ve gone too far
Alas, if you tease, you will probably hit a touchy spot at some point – all funny people do. A relationship becomes stifling if you’re always afraid to hurt each others’ feelings – the key is to just know how to say sorry like an adult.
“There are all sorts of ‘tells’ that you’ve crossed the line,” says Dr. Sherman. “One is when the teased person doesn’t relax into a stable facial response, but kind of shifts between laughing and seriousness, maybe with some micro-expressions of fear or anger. The face goes molten. That suggests that your tease has touched a nerve.”
Dr. Marin also notes that context is always important: “You can say the same teasing sentence in two different situations and have it come across as flirty in one and cruel in the other.” Plus, she adds, “If you’ve just met someone, you don’t know where their sensitivities lie. They might be able to take a joke about their accent, but not about their family.”
It’s completely normal to be juuuuust a little mean to someone you want to date, but if you have good intentions, there’s actually a lot you can learn from teasing each other. So relax. It’s impossible to always predict ahead of time what might rub a person the wrong way, but having good intentions with your jokes, being able to apologise without saying “I’m sorry you’re so sensitive” are both A+ qualities in a partner anyway.
Source: UK Cosmo