Why Women Are So Bothered By Sarcasm In Relationships

Explore the harmful ways sarcasm can quickly move far away from good-natured fun.

woman annoyed with man who was sarcastic to her Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Sarcasm is a hilarious, wonderful communication style, right? We use it social situations, conversations, in literature, on TV programs and social media.

Sarcasm at its best is funny. It also sends a poignant (and often stinging) message of direct criticism, disapproval, and even contempt.

A recent study found sarcastic individuals are three times more creative than the non-sarcastic control group. Another study indicates that individuals who use and understand sarcasm are smarter than those who do not. So, let's concede: sarcasm has a valuable place in communication, but only in certain situations.


Sarcasm in Relationships

In relationships, sarcasm can be harmful and destructive. Men, in general, are often comfortable using sarcasm with one another. But in contrast, women are often sensitive to it.

Is that sensitivity the woman's problem then? After all, a sarcastic jab is just good-natured fun, isn’t it?

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Maybe. But the problem with "good-natured fun" is it can quickly become downright cruel and hurtful. When your communication turns cruel with those you profess to love, you end up destroying those relationships.

What Happens When a Man is Sarcastic to a Woman in a Relationship

1. She may feel hurt.

It seems guys can banter back and forth with each other and say some pretty hurtful things but are able to brush it off and walk away while remaining the best of friends.

Frequently, women react differently than men when it comes to sarcasm. They hear the words and the tone of voice and feel the impact — it feels like a punch in the stomach. It hurts their feelings.

Jabs from their partners tend to hurt more because women rely on their partner for emotional safety.


2. She may feel embarrassed.

When hit with a sarcastic comment, women usually internalize it, feeling totally embarrassed, or even deeply shamed. She may feel some desire to defend herself, but the fear of more embarrassment might cause her to remain silent. She'll likely feel like she just wants to disappear from the situation.

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3. She may feel caught off guard and unsafe.

When a woman expresses her distaste for her partner's sharp remarks, yet the sarcasm continues, she begins to feel unsafe in the relationship. Her boundaries don't feel honored nor her vulnerability safe-guarded.

She may withdraw and shut down because she's afraid that her partner refuses to truly hear her and respect her. She begins to anticipate the put down and goes permanently on the defensive (hardly the breeding ground for happy connection or intimacy).


4. She may feel worthless.

When sarcasm continues, she may experience feelings of worthlessness. She thinks: I'm not good enough! No one would talk to someone like that if they valued her! If I am worthless to my partner (the person I thought loved me most), am I even more worthless to everyone else?

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5. She may feel unloved.

We treat what we love with care. Plain and simple. In a woman's mind, if you repeatedly cut her down, you can't possibly love her. Not feeling loved creates all kinds of issues in relationships, such as pulling away, avoiding shared activities, and shutting down sexually.

So, what do you do if you're a sarcastic person but your partner is hurt by your stinging wit?


Relationships don’t have to end because of sarcasm, but if left unaddressed it becomes a real problem.

No one enjoys being put down by the person they chose to spend their life with. So, use your sarcasm to amuse your partner, not to attack her. Sarcasm is a way for you to laugh at the world around you, but you have to laugh together at the world as opposed to negatively poking fun at each other.

If it sarcasm is an issue in your relationship, please don't ignore it, or blow off your partners hurt feelings about it. Learn how to communicate your true feelings about the sarcastic remarks and in the process have a better relationship than you ever thought possible.


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Drs. Debbie and David McFadden are a husband-and-wife team specializing in helping struggling and distressed couples throughout the US and Canada. They have been writing relationship advice for YourTango for 10+ years.