Can I Be Happy With A Man Who Isn’t Funny?

Can I Be Happy With A Man Who Isn’t Funny?

Hi Evan. In my search for relationship advice I have found your perspective so insightful and real. Much better than advice from friends that mainly includes “don’t settle” and “follow your heart/gut.”

I’m 31 years old and I’ve been with my boyfriend for over a year. We both feel that communication and respect are most important in a relationship and have many shared interests. My boyfriend is an amazing listener. He’s kind and caring, treats family and friends well, and has a calm yet serious personality that complements my emotional personality, which flusters easily.

However… he is not funny.

I grew up in a home where the men have sharp wit, make puns, tell entertaining stories and speak fluent sarcasm. Life in general is addressed with a side of humor. I am drawn to people with this sense of humor, from friends and co-workers to strangers and customers. I love the challenge and excitement that witty banter provides me. I find it’s my way of connecting with people.

In looking back at my long-term romantic relationships, the guys were always kind, caring and sensitive (something I find desirable and comfortable) but they’ve never been the “life of the party,” making me double over in laughter. I’ve always been the one to end each relationship.

My current relationship is not completely lacking laughter but I am often consumed with thoughts of “Can I live my whole life with a man who’ll never have a witty come back?” Because we have such open communication I’ve been able to explain my feelings to him. It has not upset him that I’m still unsure in our relationship, but for me it has been causing stress from indecision.

I’m the type of person to over-analyze and question everything in life. I realize I cannot change my boyfriend’s sense of humor. I’m not getting any younger and hate the thought of breaking off an otherwise great relationship. The stress on me from constantly questioning a future decision to marry my boyfriend is not helpful toward furthering what could be an amazing relationship. How do I find a way to shake this nagging feeling that marrying him may be a wrong decision because of our humor gap? Or is this difference in our senses of humor a deal breaker? Thank you for a new perspective. –Kelly

Dear Kelly,

If you think you’re funny, you’d better be with someone who actually agrees with you.

Six years of blogging and this is the first I’ve gotten this question. Humor is a pillar of many relationships and I certainly wouldn’t want to be trapped for life in a humorless marriage.

The irony is that you can pretty much substitute anything for “humor” and your question reads the same way.

“Is this difference in our (income, religion, sex drive) a deal breaker?”

In other words, Kelly, if you make it a deal breaker, it’s a deal breaker. If you don’t, it’s not.

It’s not much more complicated than that.

But I think it’s important to go deeper, to see that this isn’t a black and white issue. Just as I tell women that a man can make less than you and still be a financial asset in a marriage, I would remind you that there are many nuances to humor.

You’ll still have your friends and brothers for the belly-laughs, but you’ll have your husband for good humor, appreciation, and everything else under the sun.

You sort of acknowledged this when you wrote, “My current relationship is not completely lacking laughter” but the double negative makes it sound probably worse than it is.

So let me – a former comedy writer – riff on what I think you should actually consider when it comes to humor.

1. You want a partner who gets the joke. This is a non-negotiable. If you think you’re funny, you’d better be with someone who actually agrees with you. My former writing partner had a girlfriend who thought he was cute and smart, but didn’t find him funny at all. This drove him crazy, since he thought being funny was one of his most valued traits.

2. You want a partner who can keep up. Not only does your partner have to appreciate your humor, he has to be able to get the joke. If you have to explain yourself all the time, or there are long silences where he doesn’t see what you’re laughing at, I would think twice about the relationship. This is exactly why I never dated someone from a foreign country; I’m not xenophobic, they just rarely got my New York Jewish sarcastic brand of humor.

3. You’re overvaluing a specific type of humor. In your words, “I love the challenge and excitement that witty banter provides me.” Marriage isn’t about challenge and excitement. It’s about kindness, comfort and selflessness. If your boyfriend has these qualities, you may want to learn to appreciate him instead of constantly lamenting that he doesn’t do stand-up on the side. When you said your exes have “never been the “life of the party,” making me “double over in laughter,” I could probably intimate that it’s a good thing. Life of the party guys may be charismatic, but they are often narcissistic, players, liars and inauthentic. Not all of them. But guys who command attention often don’t leave much air for everyone else to breathe.

To me, this was your most insightful statement, “(Humor) is my way of connecting with people.”

And that pretty much sums it up.

Humor is really important. I come from a nuclear family in which every single member thought he/she was the funniest person in the family – and had a rightful claim. My wife is extremely funny as well; but she’s not the center-of-attention type – she leaves the spotlight for me.

I think, ultimately, it’s not about taking humor as an independent piece to be analyzed and dissected, but by evaluating your boyfriend as a whole. Do you have fun? Do you laugh? Do you get along? Can he keep up? Are you embarrassed around him? Are you bored around him?

If you answer all of those questions in a positive way, then I would hold onto him, realizing that you’ll still have your friends and brothers for the belly-laughs, but you’ll have your husband for good humor, appreciation, and everything else under the sun.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Vanessa

    I agree with Evan’s assessment but also want to bring another question to the table after reading her letter.  Humor is important, and it’s obviously very important to the letter writer, but could it also be her way of providing herself with an ‘out’?   She mentioned that she ended her previous long-term relationships.  Could her current relationship be great and heading towards the next phase and that’s what’s causing her to all of the sudden focus intensely on his ‘lack of humor’?   I did this to my relationships to sabotage them from moving forward because I was too nervous, unwilling, etc. to risk going there.  Thankfully I realized that before it was too late and am in a great relationship now because of it.  But before, when it started getting serious, I’d start focusing on something that all of a sudden became a ‘deal-breaker’ that wasn’t one before.

  2. 2
    michelle

    “Marriage isn’t about challenge and excitement. It’s about kindness, comfort and selflessness”
    Lack of challenge & excitement = “Are you bored around him?”
     
    I know exactly what this woman is talking about.  I’m dating a man where I feel like I’m losing my skill at bantering, and frankly, I find his ‘humor’ often to be not very complimentary.  I want someone who ‘gets’ me and vice versa.  Otherwise, it’s an awfully long time to live day in and day out with someone and/or needing to get this ‘need’ met from outside the marriage (and I don’t mean CHEATING).

    My ex husband had a great sense of humor, I wish I was able to enjoy that more than complain about other things that weren’t there, although they were extremely important–shared values and vision.

  3. 3
    Cinnamon Girl

    Kelly I relate to your problem as well.  I have a once in awhile funny friend that may become my boyfriend.  But I long for what i have been unable to find, a man that has me rolling on the floor with laughter.  I have not found a stable funny guy.
    I am trying to see if I can love the less funny guy.  I am from a family of comedians.

  4. 4
    Zina

    its all aboyou how you FEEL with this guy when you are around him. My ex-husband had me laughing all the time, yet he had a way of subtly make me felt “less than” around him: MY jokes were not funny to him at all. Not surprisingly, my marriage ended years later. Not because of the humor thingy of course… But Evan is right on the money here, again: my ex was commanding the spotlight ( in life, our relationship) and this is not how w marriage works.
    My current bf is not funny but he makes me feel like I’m the funniest person in the world. He laughs at my jokes! He tries to make his own (they are awful … But I still laugh at them). He compromises.

  5. 5
    Lia

    I find it funny that people say they want someone with a sense of humor.  I think almost everyone has a sense of humor it’s just not the SAME sense of humor.  People with similar ways of viewing the world are, in my opinion, going to have a similar sense of humor.  There are things that I say that my sister finds hilarious that others would not, but we share common background and how we see life, relationships, love, God, etc. are very similar. So being able to take those views and twist them in a way that we both find funny is very easy.  
     
    If I am talking to someone who might have a different outlook from mine I find areas that we do have a common experience and talk and laugh about that.  Expecting to be entertained by your mate does not seem to be very realistic or mature.  I understand the pull and the excitement that the back and forth banter can create, but lets be real that kind of banter is all about being INTERESTING not INTERESTED.  If you find someone who does that with you, you will most likely end up with someone who will compete with you for attention.
     
    And just a word on sarcasm.  I discovered the rush of sarcasm in my teens.  I had a sharp, witty, sarcastic comeback for everything.  I have to say I was a bit full of myself in that area.  I thought being able to have a comeback for everything actually had value.  One day my sister told me that what I had said didn’t make her feel good, she asked me if I ever stopped to think about how those remarks affected other people.  I had never stopped to think about that, but I did then.  Sarcasm is “humor” with an ugly twist, tread lightly.

  6. 6
    Jackie H.

    Time to write out a pros and cons list…how long is each list on either side? And how important are the different pros and cons?

  7. 7
    Lily

    i think i read somewhere that the number one trait a woman values in a man is humor.this seems true to me.
    evan posted a very good response that should be read carefully, for all the nuggets of wisdom in it. does he “get” it is so very important.
    when i was younger i always went for the life of the party types but have found they are usually very self centered and exhausting to be around in the long haul. sarcasm is not funny to me anymore either, because it my experience it’s based in hostility, which can often be turned on to the partner during disagreements, a man who’s humor isnt about putting others down, but about the human condition and absurdity of life, that is truly funny to me, and something i would not want to live without.

  8. 8
    JB

    The most cliched term in most women’s online profile is “I want a guy who can make me laugh”. I’m dying to know what percentage of boyfriends and husbands actually make their significant other “laugh” and how often?? How is it measured? How many years am I going to have to keep coming up with “new material?” Since when did we all have to become Jerry Seinfeld to find and keep a woman? I’m almost 99.9% sure no woman has ever rejected ME because I’m not funny enough. Every guy just can’t be that funny and /or entertaining as well as educated, tall enough, good looking enough, income, job title, yadda, yadda, yadda…………. Where does it end?

  9. 9
    Goldie

    I am one of those people to whom lack of a sense of humor is an absolute deal-breaker. But it doesn’t have to be my exact kind of humor, or my family’s kind of humor. What I won’t compromise on, though, is the man’s ability to laugh at himself and at whatever life throws at us. Without this ability, he’ll fall apart on me at the first sign of difficulties. I dated one unfunny guy, shortly after my divorce. He was opinionated and had anger issues. I guess when you cannot laugh at things, you have to compensate for it in other ways, i.e. by yelling at them. To paint you a picture, once we were out at a restaurant, and he got quite agitated because, wait for this, Billy Joel had married Christie Brinkley for her looks, then dumped her for a younger woman when she got old. He was angry! He was shouting. People stared. We didn’t last very long. He wanted to be exclusive, but I just couldn’t do it. He was okay in other regards, decent looks, similar tastes in art, same politics and religion, good education, good income, responsible father, you name it. But because he found absolutely nothing in life funny, it was impossible for me to date that guy. Life can get pretty damn horrible at times, and, if you cannot laugh at it, you’ll make things even more horrible both for yourself and for those around you. This is where I draw the line, humor-wise. He doesn’t have to be a top-rated comedian, though. We can go see a top-rated comedian together if we want to.

  10. 10
    Cinnamon Girl

    @Lily 7
    Very well put Lily.  I have an ex boyfriend who had me rolling on the floor with laughter at times.  The exBF still calls frequently and makes me laugh. However, he is an alcoholic and unfortunately I have found many of the comedians are.  The ExBF does turn his humor on me during disagreements, which is what I mean by calling him unstable.  He also would occasionally heckle absolute strangers which I found humiliating and immature. So even though 70% of the time he was amazing and kind.. the rest of the time I wondered if he will embarrass me or tease someone of a more delicate constitution than I have, like my children.  I decided that he was a liability and untrustworthy although still there is no one who is more fun or knows me better or loves me more than he in the world.  He simply was out of control of himself part of the time.
    My new almost boyfriend is kind, wise and occasionally silly in a sweet kind of predictable way.  His jokes are obvious and not worthy of the tonight show, but I so appreciate that he tries to joke that I adore him.  I know a few true professional comedians offstage and all of them have control problems in that they don’t know when to stop, have boundaries issues and you have to have a very thick skin to hang around them when they drink. They seem to think everything and everyone is fair game no matter how tired you are or what is going on in your life.  I don’t believe any of them really want to hurt people’s feelings they just cannot seem to relate to the world without joking.  It is truly non-stop.

  11. 11
    Jadeite

    Jackie H – When I start having to make a pros and cons list, I know it’s time to go.  Once I start dissecting a man in that way, I’ve already lost respect to the point that I can pick him apart like nobody’s business and I already know that the cons list will be long.  Why even bother?  Additionally, I think that, unless the writer is experiencing some other issue, why is she even bringing up, “He’s not funny”?  If they have a good comfort level with each other, that’s what really matters.  It’s seems a mute point to attack him for being not funny enough at this point in the relationship, and imho, like she’s ‘looking” for a reason to leave.  Funny “enough” is one of those things you look at up front, during the dating phase, and if she thought he was funny enough up front, why is she dissecting him like this now.  This says to me there is a larger problem which has nothing to do with “funny” enough. What she’s really saying is that he’s not “enough” of something else….  I like funny but life, in an of itself, is serious business.  And if he is taking care of business, why even go there?  If “is he funny enough” a serious consideration, then no wonder I have such a hard time dating.  Maybe I’m just taking the wrong stuff into consideration.  But hey, if I’m going for really funny, then just give me the best looking guy in the room too!  Geez, at this point, I’d take cute, kind, attentive and caring, a decent job, no big baggage, and someone who actually wants to get to know me with enough chemistry to make some smoldering happen.  That apparently is far too much to ask these days.  If I want some funny, I’ll YouTube my favorite old Eddie Izzard skits. 

  12. 12
    Cat5

    @ Jadeite #11
     
    Cake or death?  Cake please!  :D

  13. 13
    John

    The OP has every right to want a guy that makes her laugh if its that important to her. My only question to her would be to why does she wait until the relationship has reached LTR status before she lowers the boom on these guys? She should know after a few months if this is a deal breaker for her and then move on without too much being invested by the guy or her. She probably knows the guy has an expiration date but dangles him along. Not cool. Its OK to be superficial or wanting a specific quality. Just declare it early on instead of 12 months in or whatever timeframe defines LTR.

  14. 14
    Lia

    @ Lily # 7
     
    Well said!  I agree humor about – as you put it – “the human condition and absurdity of life” is funny to me too.
     
    @ JB #8
     
    Years ago,when he first became famous I saw Jim Carey giving and interview.  He was always “ON” if you know what I mean.  He was always being “funny” and “interesting” nothing of depth or substance.  I found him to be (in that interview) a obnoxious “attention whore”.  I would never want to date someone like that!
     
    @ Goldie # 9
     
    To be able to laugh at yourself is a great gift.  Having a partner who can do the same is something I value as well.
     
    @ Cinnamon Girl # 10
     
    YES!! 

  15. 15
    Goldie

    I have to agree with John — he brings up a good point. How did it take OP over a year to figure out that her boyfriend isn’t as funny as she’d like him to be? Why was unfunny okay for a year and is suddenly a deal-breaker now? Either way, like a few people said above, when in doubt, don’t. If, for whatever reason, OP is having doubts about her future with the guy, then maybe they don’t have a future. It’s just that, “he’s not funny” sounds like an excuse in this particular case.
     
    @ Cinnamon Girl — wonder if you could drop me an email if it’s not too much to ask? I have a personal question. I have included a link to my long-defunct blog that has my email address on it. TIA!
     
     

  16. 16
    Karl S

    I dated this girl once who was very into verbal jousting – you know that thing you do where you tease each other, even nonsensically, before you kiss? The problem was, she liked to keep going and I would have to have a riposte for every cute little jibe. Then she would respond with something else and I would have to have yet another comeback, and it would go on like this. I found the game exhausting, but she got off on it. We didn’t last very long, but I guess she needed to find someone who could “keep up” as Evan puts it.

    I prefer Billy Joel’s philosophy –

    “I don’t want clever conversation
    I never want to work that hard
    I just want someone that I can talk to
    I want you just the way you are.”

  17. 17
    Jadeite

    Cat 5 – My favorite! :D
    John – Exactly.  Well said. 

  18. 18
    Ruby

    I agree with John – how did Kelly last with this guy for over a year? She writes, “My current relationship is not completely lacking laughter but I am often consumed with thoughts of “Can I live my whole life with a man who’ll never have a witty come back?”, and I’m not getting any younger and hate the thought of breaking off an otherwise great relationship.” 
     
    So is she looking for an out, now that the relationship is getting serious, or has she forced herself to stick with someone she’s not completely in love with, because the clock is ticking?

  19. 19
    Morris

    If you value humor it’s perfectly reasonable to want someone you can laugh with.  I’d be sad if I was with someone that just didn’t get my humor.
     
    On the issue of why did it took so long.  One possibility could be that he has a one dimensional sense of humor.  I have a friend that I thought was hilarious when I first met him.  But over time I noticed it was the same jokes over and over again.  It started to become predictable and not so funny.  I guess it would kind of be like dating a guy that never graduated potty jokes.  Might be funny at first but starts getting old after a while.
     
    If I could add one more thing.  I wish women would stop writing ‘make me laugh’ on dating profiles.  This is different from saying ‘I’m looking for someone with a similar sense of humor’ etc I’m talking about the women who literally write stuff like ‘he needs to make me laugh’ or something along those lines.  No need for the added pressure of making you laugh on a date.  It will happen or it won’t.  How would you feel if you thought you needed to make your date laugh from the get go?

  20. 20
    Brian

    I think the “sense of humor” argument is actually different from other traits.  The reason is finding someone with the same sense of humor is like finding someone that’s on our “wavelength.”  People can have radically differing opinions on politics, religion, philosophy, etc.  and can at least agree to simply not talk about those things.  This can work, but our sense of humor is such a core personality trait.  It’s really a big part of who we are.  Now does your partner have to actually be funny?  No.  They do have to have the same sense of humor, though.  I don’t think they need to make you laugh but they have to be able to laugh at the same things you do.  Now back to types of humor.  I agree with what Evan said that Kelly seems to be looking for a personality type that might not be positive i.e. a narcissist.  A good sense of humor should always involve at least a degree of self deprecation. 

  21. 21
    Still-Looking

    As EMK has said so many times, guys want a woman that makes them feel good.  For me, this includes lots of laughing, teasing, smiling, and the feeling that I can be as goofy and inappropriate as I like.  In other words, the real me.
    If a woman doesn’t make me feel that way within a few dates, there will not be any more dates.
    As others have noted, why is the BF’s lack of humor suddenly an issue now??  My guess – she lost that loving feeling and is pinning it on a lack of her BF not being so funny.  

  22. 22
    Cat

    I enjoy a laugh and it is great to be around funny people. I confess I am drawn to loud, engaging people. Unfortunately, these people  maybe narcissistic and have a great desire to always to be the centre of attention. Everything ends up being about them. These guys can be very flirtatious and prone to infidelity as they need the constant ego boost of being considered attractive and wonderful, The major problem of narcissistic funny men is that they lack empathy, The OP thinks she can’t live without a funny man , but I would say can you live with a man who lacks empathy,
    In a long term relationships I would argue empathy is more important.
    There is a saying “some women make good wives, some make good weekends””. I would say funny men make good weekends but empathic men make good husbands.
    Would be great if you could have empathy and entertainment, but good luck getting everything you want in the one package. You could die single waiting.

  23. 23
    Natalie

    Evan, I believe you answered this in part before, in your response to “Am I Being Unrealistic About Relationships?”, but thanks for these additional and consistent insights.

  24. 24
    Jenna

    You don’t need a generally funny guy who’s walking around being a class clown, just one with a compatible sense of humor. Some of the men I’ve had the most enjoyable time with – either as friends or dates – wouldn’t have been necessarily described as “funny” by other people, but when we were together our humor clicked so well that I was practically in tears. We laughed a lot and had a similar outlook on life – but it’s def. not the same as one of those charismatic, center of attention types who does witty banter all the time.

  25. 25
    Sparkling Emerald

    Goldie @ 9
    “What I won’t compromise on, though, is the man’s ability to laugh at himself and at whatever life throws at us.”
    ITA.
    My future ex-husband had NO SENSE OF HUMOR, when it came to life’s little annoyances & mishaps.  Things that most people laugh at 10 years later (or sometimes 10 minutes later) he still acts BITTER about.  He still get FURIOUS recalling an incident over 15 years ago involving a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving day.   I tell my friends the story, they laugh, he spits it up in my face as if it was my fault (which it wasn’t)  and as if it was the biggest tragedy that ever happened.  I also like to quip, banter & crack jokes, and everyone who knows me describes me as funny, great sense of humor, etc.  That is everybody BUT him.  My first hubby had a WONDERFUL sense of humor, we could trade witticisms all day long, and keep each other in stitches.  My next relationship, I won’t require a comedian to entertain me, but I would like someone who at least “gets me” and someone who can laugh at life’s little ups and downs.

  26. 26
    Tina

    John #13 said:
    “The OP has every right to want a guy that makes her laugh if its that important to her.”
     
    IF.  Exactly. I guess OP thinks that it is important to her to has a funny boyfriend all the time, maybe something as a private comedy show . There are so many sources of comedy and fun these days, that I just wonder why it could be a reason for someone to has such kind of problem in their relationships.
     
    What if, her boyfriend expects her to be loving and supporting all the time? I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be funny guy but he needs to be himself mostly of the time and if OP really loves him then they both have to often watch something funny on Internet or TV.

  27. 27
    JB

    For the record, laughing “with someone” is far different than expecting someone to “make” you laugh. Sharing some of the same sense of humor is always nice. Having the pressure of always being entertaining and funny to satisfy someones needs is exhausting. I did the “cocky funny” thing for awhile and although I was quite good at it (as I was always a class clown since second grade) I grew tired of always trying to be “on”, having witty comebacks and generally not being my true self which I can assure is funnier than most. Jenna’s right.

  28. 28
    Goldie

    Sparkling – LMAO @ frozen turkey story! 15 years?? Unless someone hit him over the head with that frozen turkey, knocked him out, and sent him to a hospital, he should’ve stopped being mad over this, oh, 15 years ago.
     
    JB – I never thought of it this way, but you’re right, “make me laugh” sounds like a pretty misguided cliche. It makes a woman sound like she expects to just sit back and be entertained on a date. If a woman likes to laugh, can she just, I don’t know, find something funny and laugh? it’s not sex, you don’t need a partner for that.
     

  29. 29
    LC

    I wouldn’t leave a guy for not being humorous or not being good at bantering if he has the other good qualities this lady in the blog question has asked.  Life is hard and challenging enough without seeking it out in your relationships.  View your relationship as solace from the world, not a place where someone should be vying to be the center of attention or funniest person at all times. 

  30. 30
    Mickey

    Is the boyfriend perpetually dour and cynical? Or is he just not funny? I think there’s a big difference. If the guy isn’t naturally funny, that’s one thing. But I think there’s more under the surface here than the boyfriend not being the life of the party.

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