Always make sure the humor is kind.
There is a fine line between joking and teasing. And there’s a difference between teasing that’s all in good fun and teasing that hits a soft spot. As married couples, we’re more vulnerable to our spouses than anyone else in the world—and they are more vulnerable to ours. You know your mate’s weaknesses, quirks, vanities, and insecurities. Maybe he’s sensitive about his thinning hair or whether he’s any good at changing a diaper. Maybe she’s heard enough short jokes to last a lifetime, or dislikes how loud her voice is.
Always be sensitive to your spouse’s vulnerabilities. Never, ever let your humor cross the line. And they get to decide where that line is! If you do cross it — which you might not realize until it’s too late — apologize immediately and sincerely. Then make a note to never do that again.
As much as possible, avoid sarcasm; our research found that it can easily be interpreted as hurtful without you ever realizing it. And this should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: humor at the expense of the other person is always a bad thing. If you make fun of anyone, make fun of yourself. Self-deprecating humor can break down walls of anger and conflict.
Bottom line: always keep kindness at the heart of your humor. (To learn how to catch your particular patterns of unkindness that you aren’t aware of, check out The Kindness Challenge.)