I am what you might call a “ball buster.” My ex-fiance’s dad always used to laugh when I would tease his son, taking him down a notch or two when he was being cocky or arrogant. He would say, “Man, you really know how to take his knees out!” His wife was similar in her approach, probably because her husband and my fiance — father and son — were temperamentally alike and could take (in fact, needed) the occasional — OK, frequent — ribbing. That relationship lasted nearly five years so I got rather used to playing the role of ball buster in a romantic relationship. I was constantly poking fun at my ex, mimicking his voice when he was on the phone with clients (it went down a couple octaves), laughing about his “caveman feet,” and occasionally pointing out his minuscule bald spot (which resulted in him going on Propecia). When he would get braggy or overstate his importance in some way, I would call him out. It was funny and I think it humbled him. Looking back, there were probably times I took it too far.
What I am discovering, as I’ve been dating someone new for the last few months, is that old habits die hard and the role you play in one relationship doesn’t always apply to the next. My jokes at his expense have hurt my new guy’s feelings or offended him a few times and it sucks. I’ve never really hurt someone’s feelings before — made them angry, sure, but wounded them? Me? But maybe my constant ball-busting, which elicited laughs from his parents, actually hurt my ex’s feelings too, and he just never said anything.
There are a lot of other habits from that relationship that I’m giving up — farting in close proximity, cleaning up after messes that are not my own, nagging, being needlessly insecure. Ball-busting was one I didn’t think about, but I’m realizing it’s among the first that’s gotta go. Intention is everything, but hurting someone unintentionally is no excuse not to say sorry or to change your behavior so it doesn’t happen again. So yeah, I was a ball buster. Maybe I’ll take some more knees out again. But for now, I’m putting my crowbar away.