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Can't You Take a Joke?

Can't You Take a Joke?

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Question:

My wife has no sense of humor. She says I make fun of her in public, and gets all upset and insulted. Shouldn't she be able to take a joke?

Answer:

Jokes are serious. The line between a friendly jibe and a humiliating stab is often a fine one. You have to question whether the laugh you may get is worth the pain you may inflict.

This is true regarding every humorous comment made about another person. But between husband and wife, humiliation is simply criminal. It goes against everything that a marriage is supposed to be: an exclusive oneness.

In the Jewish wedding ceremony, after standing under the chuppah (marriage canopy), the bride and groom are taken to a private room, known as the yichud room. Yichud means "oneness," "unity" and "exclusivity." By entering this room, a secluded place where no one is present but the couple, they create a sacred space that is theirs and theirs alone.

The newlyweds leave the yichud room after a few minutes, but in a way they should never leave it. The privacy and oneness of the yichud room should be taken with them in their marriage. The relationship between husband and wife is a sacred and secluded place, and should stay that way. Any word or action that jeopardizes the privacy and unity of a marriage should be erased from our repertoire.

When you make fun of your wife in front of your friends, you have momentarily stepped out of the yichud room. You have abandoned your soul-partner, leaving her alone and isolated just for a few cheap laughs. To make a joke is fine, but never at the expense of your oneness.

The same thing happens when one spouses criticizes his or her partner in public. In doing so, s/he has allowed strangers into the yichud room. S/he is inviting others into a moment that should only be between the two of them. There is a time and a place for criticism in a relationship, but not in the presence of others.

These mistakes are so common that, to many couples, they have become acceptable. But it is these little things that can erode a good marriage. For a relationship to thrive it must always remain an exclusive oneness.

Once you get comfortable in the yichud room, you'll never want to leave.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous usa March 14, 2015

Marriage is a joke I would of never gotten married if I knew now what I didn't know then Reply

Amitzah Mitzvah indianapolis indiana August 3, 2014

when a joke isn't a joke when a comment or action isn't funny to the one the "joke" (or subtile insults) affects emotionally, medically, physically, sexually, spiritually, via media. etc... then the comment or action or subtile insult isn't a joke. the person or people that "was joking" has commited a murder. G-D won't forgive murder regardless or who commits the murder. Reply

Janine Seattle, WA February 26, 2012

My Perspective I believe that there needs to be a balance between being sensitive to the feelings of others and being able to make jokes without certain people getting bent out of shape.

I'm very sensitive and I also try to be kind to others. I don't make fun of people because I know how hurtful it can be. I love and respect my husband.

So that is why I was hurt and bewildered when I made an innocent joke this afternoon...to my dismay, my husband was angry for reasons I can't understand. He snapped at me. There was no one else around. I'm a very playful person and there was nothing mean-spirited in what I said. I reacted defensively because I was hurt.

If I can't be myself, then how can I be happy in this marriage? I don't want to be with somebody who lacks a sense of humor. I need to be with somebody who is fun and can appreciate me for who I am, instead of trying to make me feel like I'm stupid or defective. Reply

Maria Hayes Clearwater, FL September 27, 2009

Can't You Take a Joke Thank you Rabbi Moss. This artticle has touched my heart. Reply

Anonymous October 26, 2008

Can't You Take a Joke As a marriage and family therapist I have always advocated that a joke is only funny if the other person laughs. If the other person does not laugh it is not funny. Reply

Jampa Williams West Hartford, CT January 2, 2007

"Can't You Take a Joke" article by Rabbi Moss What a beautifully written column, and how true are its words. Rabbi Moss speaks eloquently to the sacred quality of relationships - and the cruelty of speaking with contempt or derisively to a partner, and then pretending there is something funny about what is, in fact, verbal abuse. Every time I hear someone use that disingenuous phrase, "Can't you take a joke?", the person is saying something insulting or otherwise disrespectful about someone else. The injured party, rightly protesting such behavior, is then further insulted and belittled by being characterized as someone who "can't take a joke". I am grateful to Rabbi Moss for articulating this dynamic so well. How can there be trust between two human beings when one intentionally humiliates and belittles the other? And, without trust, how can there be a real marraige? Alas, the "Yichud Room" of which Rabbi Moss speaks can only be a longed-for dream for a person married to a sharp-tongued, disrespectful spouse. Reply

Rivka December 14, 2006

Wonderful article Absolutely correct! Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn , NY November 11, 2006

responding to I can relate to the jokes and intrusions... We were both lucky to get out of those sarcastic, and Joking marriages. There is a time for jokes and a time to be serious. Just read Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) on that subject! Reply

Sergio Rhodmann Curitiba, PR - Brazil November 10, 2006

Can´t you take a joke
I love my wife dearly. I remeber once that I made a coment to her and I noticed she was embarassed. There were no body in the room with us. I remember i could not sleep that night. First thing in the morning I went to her and appologised. I felt so bad that the entire situation brought tear to my eyes and I promissed never to do that again Reply

Anonymous Old Hickory, TN November 9, 2006

Nice article! Thank you. This just reinforces that saying from somewhere in the Talmud that he who publicly shames his neighbor is as though he shed blood. I am so fortunate to be married to a man who has a wonderful sense of humor but is also very sensitive to the feelings of others and would feel awful if he hurt another person's feelings, either publicly or not. Reply

Anonymous via chabadflamingo.com November 9, 2006

So true! My marriage fell apart for many differnt reasons, one of which was right at the wedding - my in-laws oblivious to the Jewish rules and untintentionally at the time have entered the yichud room right after the ceremony. Many years later the husband loved the mother (who is not that bright) and made jokes at the expense of his wife.... many other problems followed. But this was the seed! Knowledge is essential to function in the world and to have a good life - the fact that I did not know these things at the time is not an excuse. Reply

Gisele Brooklyn , NY November 6, 2006

Sarcasm/ jokes can ruin a marriage!~ I feel both jokes and nonsense can ruin a marriage. My ex is a very sarcastic person, who finds humor in everything. There is a time and place for humor, but not at the expense of someone's feelings. And i find that alot of guys act this way...
I feel that many guys and gals can't handle closeness, and use humor to avoid being open and vulnerable to one another. This is sad, and hurts people alot.... Reply

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