Every relationship goes through what is typically called the “Honeymoon Phase” – that time at the beginning when we become insufferable to those around us with all the cooing, the being velcro'd at the hips, feeding each other apple pie and the un-ending verbal gushing about how wonderful the other person is.
This is the part of the process where we are trying to get to know each other; during the courtship the goal/intention is to win affection. We are hell bent on convincing the other person that you deserve their affections. So much so that we will present to them the type of person we THINK is the type of person they want to be with, we present what we perceive to be our “best side,” which gives unending fodder to all the TV situation comedies out there.
One of the key elements of humans is pleasure and fun. In the process of creating a “playful” environment that will entice this new partner to stay with them, one thing people will do is use that sense of playfulness to define their boundaries. We will tease each other as a way of showing things that they value or devalue – so if a partner is doing something the other thinks is silly or stupid, they will tease gently, playfully with the covert intention of saying “I think that is stupid/silly.” Although it's funny at the time, there is a serious underlining intention. Ever hear of the idiom “Comedy is a funny way of being serious”?
The reason we do it in a teasing way is because we ware still in the honeymoon stage. We have to do it in a way that still brings a sense of pleasure to the other person; we need to continue to prove we are the person they want to be with. As the relationship continues, it becomes a pattern and it continues back and forth as the two people do things to balance power, set boundaries etc.
There is, however, a tipping point where it becomes too much of a relied-upon communication style. While it WAS meant in good fun, as the relationship matures, it starts to create feeling of resentment and shame. When over half of the communication in the relationship becomes the teasing/belittling, the unconscious suffering will slowly build and that building of unconscious suffering transforms into abuse.
In the early stages it was teasing and playfulness such as correcting the other person (words, way they dress, how they do something), playful violence, those types of things can lead to an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. It happens comment by comment until it escalates to where even outsiders can see it as abuse. Ever wonder why someone doesn't leave an abusive relationship? This is why; it happens so slowly, building off of the honeymoon feel-good teasing that they never see it coming.
The concept is that you want to be aware and pay attention to the behaviors of those you are in a relationship with; be mindful of their intent and how they make you feel. Negative behaviors that appear to be done with a positive overt intention can actually be negative. When it stops being fun and playful and your reaction becomes filled with feelings of shame and resentment, then you have moved into the territory of abuse.
This is when you get help and/or start using your Verbal Self Defense. It's up to you to stop the cycle.