I’ve been going out with this guy for a few months. He loves to tease me. When I get upset, he says he’s not serious about it. He makes fun of things I do or say and says these things in a funny way. He never does this in front of others. Is this a sign that he loves me? When I ask him why he acts like this, he says he loves me and this is his way of saying he missed me whenever we've been apart.
His actions are not out of love. He either doesn't know how to communicate his affection in a non-teasing manner, or he is with you so he has someone to tease. Either way, he has a little work to do — and you might need to give him the freedom and space to do that (read: get away from him so he has the chance to learn a new way to communicate).
It’s also possible you’re a little sensitive to lighthearted comments, but even if that is the case, it is still wrong for anyone (especially someone who claims to like/love you) to take advantage of that by teasing you. By all means take note of your own sensitivities and see if you’re not reading more into it than is said. Again, though, this does not mean you deserve to be treated unkindly (even a little bit) and it is not justification for someone to treat you unkindly.
When the teaser sees you’re upset and still teases, he takes it from lighthearted to mean-spirited. In turn, he takes you from treasure to target. That he doesn't tease you in front of others is a big Uh-Oh, and could well be a sign he is grooming you for future, escalated abuse.
Grooming is what abusers do when they wish to train someone to take their abuse, hopefully for the long term. Abusers pick a person with little confidence and few boundaries and lock them into a pattern of putting up with their crap by gradually building on the intensity and frequency of their abusive behavior.
To lull you into thinking all is well, abusers often pepper what they do and say with kindnesses (flowers, an unexpected kiss, saying he missed you). Teasing is not an appropriate way for someone to express affection no matter how much you like the other things he does and says.
Today it’s teasing. Tomorrow it may be blaming you for something he did. In due time things could come to blows. Even if they don’t, that you feel more and more hurt by what he says is a sure sign that he’s getting meaner and meaner.
If any significant person in your life (parent, sibling) did this also, it may be that you regard this kind of behavior as normal, but it isn’t. Even if you're used to it, it still doesn't make it right. It only means you’re used to being insulted – no matter how lightheartedly. It also means it’s time to get away from people like that, find out how a person is supposed to be treated, and raise your expectations of those who say they love you.
No one taught your boyfriend how to communicate his affection appropriately, and teaching him is not your job. While you might be inclined to tell him what you want and give it a few weeks to see if he improves, it's more likely he can put on a good front for a few weeks and then resume his behavior all over again. He may even kick it up a notch (being late for something important or insisting you spend more time with him instead of your friends). These kinds of behaviors do not get better. They only worsen over time.
There is no such thing as the perfect mate, but there are those who will treat you in a way that doesn't upset you and who will treat you the same whether you're around others or not. You don't necessarily need a new boyfriend, but you should at least get rid of this one.