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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  1. 41
    Karl T

    At 45 you also have to be grateful if women are  not dried out or have sagging boobs!! LOL!!!!   I like your sense of humor!!

  2. 42

    The topic has already been covered very well, but I’m going to add my two cents as a pretty serious and not “the life of a party” woman.
    I completely agree with previous commenters who wrote about the importance of having a similar/compatible sense of humor, being able to laugh at the absurdities of life, and most importantly, at oneself. That is really important for a successful relationship and for making people with different levels of “clownery” able to live well together.
    If the Letter Writer is genuinely worried about compatibility, she can now relax: if they are able to find similar things funny and laugh at themselves, and if she is willing to accept someone a bit different than her and her family, she’ll be fine. But if she has commitment or perfectionism issues and looking for a way out, then she’d be better off simply acknowledging it rather than nit-picking about irrelevant issues.

  3. 43

    I ´ll share my story. I met a guy online and we clicked immediately because we had the same sense of humour, at least that was my impression,  and this was the first time I met somebody like that. So after an exchange of emails and phone calls we finally met in person. And it was… a disaster. Physically we liked each other but otherwise it was a horrible date, we couldn ´t agree on anything. After the date he didn ´t call. Coincidentally, a few months later we met again on another dating site under different names. No photos, so it took us some time until we recognized each other. Finally he decided to give us another chance and invited me  again and I said yes. We started meeting regularly but despite the common sense of humour we came to a conclusion that we were absolutely incompatible. He is absolutely domineering, wants a classical housewife whose life will turn around him, literally,  of which I am not capable. We had to break up and now we meet occassionally as friends. The sense of humour is still there, it ´s surprising and quite tricky that we get on so well in this respect because unfortunately, it ´s the only thing we have in common and of course, it ´s not enough.

  4. 44

    Hi Evan,
    I wanted to thank you for answering my email…

    In the month since I submitted that email I did much reflection on myself and my relationship. After a couple weeks I assumed you would not be responding to what I wrote and that was okay, because I had realized how great my boyfriend was and also what needed to change was me, not him, nor any other guy I could date in the future… and I’m so lucky that my boyfriend stood by me, even inspiring me, while I took my sweet time figuring this out.

    The nagging thoughts disappeared and I realized I am very happy being with him, and with that the humor seemed to get better, becoming a non-issue. I decided I wanted my boyfriend to become my husband and started treating our relationship that way. It felt great.
    Last night I flipped on your blog and couldn’t believe that my words were staring back at me! I hadn’t expected it and was almost nervous to read what your opinion and advice would be… but you didn’t disappoint, you reinforced my thoughts.
    First, thank you for acknowledging how important humor can be to some people, and thank you for your thoughtful riffs 🙂
    I thought I’d just let you know, I haven’t let it become a deal breaker. I know it’s inevitable that I’ll have to explain jokes but now I sometimes tailor them to him and how he sees things, and I can often get a big laugh out of him! Also, while he can’t keep up with wit, he can keep up in regular and deep conversation – it might not be witty banter, but it’s still a banter that keeps us talking for hours. I’ve found a man who listens to me, communicates well and is willing to talk about anything. I find this invaluable.

    Thinking hard about your questions at the end of your response and evaluating my boyfriend as a whole, I can answer in the positive about every single one. You’re response “Marriage isn’t about challenge and excitement. It’s about kindness, comfort and selflessness” is maybe the best take-away. So I will take your advice and leave the “belly laughs” to friends and family and I’ll gladly take a husband who will provide “everything else under the sun.”

    So again, thank you for taking the time to answer my email, and for your help and insight both to my specific question and to countless others I’ve read. Also for the simple theme that runs through your blogs and resonated in me: stop finding what the other person needs to change and instead look inward.

  5. 45
    Evan Marc Katz

    Good for you, Kelly. Wonderful to hear a happy story on here. Thanks for the update!

  6. 46

    Wow, great news! Thanks for posting this Evan – it’s great to see a response from the OP that’s so positive.
    And what a great, healthy perspective!
    It’s interesting to note something in her response – Compromise. She’s willing to compromise on humor because everything else that’s great about their relationship.

  7. 47

    @ Karl T – 45
    I feel that your comment was not only not funny, but incongruent with Cat’s post.   In case you didn’t get it, she was saying, in essence, as a woman at 45, one should be open to whatever options are open to her.   Your comment is picking on common physical characteristics of women who are aging.   My thought is that if those are your most important characteristics in a woman, then you deserve whatever you get in your quest to find them.

  8. 48
    Karl T

    saraharara #47
    Precisely, it is not funny, I agree with you.   Neither was Cat’s extremely derogatory comment about older men being lucky to have a pulse and a penis.   Incongruent?   So Cat can make a derogatory remark against men and I can’t make one against women?   And mine was said intentionally just to point out the rudeness of Cat’s remark.   I don’t feel that way about women, it was just to emphasize her rude remark against men.   Funny how you take notice about my intentionally rude remark against women and say nothing about hers against men.   The only thing incongruent is your biasness.

  9. 49

    @Karl T

    I think you meant to say biasosity.   Biasness is not a word.   The difference, Karl, is you spoke to real issues that some women face as they age.   Cat’s remarks do not apply to the living or unmutilated. Had she referred to man boobs, baldness and erectile dysfunction, then it would have been comparable to your remark.   As it is Cat’s joke was completely over the top and clearly not serious while yours can be interpreted as a jab at the physical undesirability of aging women. That difference may not have been intentional. Sarah’s reaction, justified or not, was to that difference.

    (A thread about sense of humor has melted down over attempted jokes.   Oh the irony! 😀 )

  10. 50

    @ Karl T – #48
    Karl T, I think you were missing her point.   I believe her point (and wording) was a reference to the fact that, as women and men get older, men seem to want younger and younger women, relative to their own age.    Thus, the comment was not about men of her age range being lucky to have a pulse (alive and somewhat healthy) and a penis (a joke, but presumably one capable of achieving and holding an erection), but the much, much older men who seem to be the primary ones who are interested in you once you hit forty or so.   At least that is what I inferred.
    However, only Cat knows what she meant.
    Cat – 34 — ???
    Further, Karl T, as a woman in her forties, I can relate to being contacted by a lot of men in their 50s and even some in their 60s.   I personally cannot imagine dating someone 15 or 20 years my senior, especially when they are getting close to retirement age.   We would have nothing in common and I don’t see why I would want to commit to a man whom I could very likely have to provide care for at the time when I’m planning retirement for myself.   In terms of health, why would I want to commit to someone who was unable to perform sexually with me when I should have decades of healthy sexual functioning ahead of me?   The only benefit that I could see in a situation like that is companionship, but I can always get that from friends or roommates.   I make my own money and don’t need someone else’s.   
    Thus, the only reason I can see someone being with a much older person than themselves is for either companionship (attachment… and jokes!) and money.   The former might yield a good partner, but I wonder about the latter.   That is why I said you deserve what you get if you are looking for someone significantly younger than yourself.

  11. 51
    Karl T

    Understood.   Perhaps you are right that she was talking about being contacted by men 15 or more years older.   But, even if your explanation is correct, isn’t it still a derogatory comment to make?   It’s basically making fun of older men.   I don’t make fun of women of any age.   Obviously, my original comment is not something I believe in and I said it only as a snide remark.   I just don’t like people who make insulting generalized comments.   And if you are in your 40’s- let’s say yoiu are 45.   Would you feel to have nothing in common with a man in his early 30’s if he contacted you, you know say 15 years younger than you?   Everything is relative.
    Hey Einstein, even Saraharah read the same thing I did about Cat#34’s post.   Saying ” a pulse and penis” pretty much refers to someone being alive and able to get an erection.   I don’t know what planet you live on to not see that comment as an insult.   It is EQUIVALENT to my snide comment about sagging boobs, etc.   Funny how you write it off as a joke, but my comment is interpreted as an insult.   Maybe you don’t have a pulse or a penis.

  12. 52

    I think life is full of trade offs.   Maybe it’s difficult to find people kind, caring and sensitive and also has, sharp wit, ability to make puns, tell entertaining stories and speak fluent sarcasm!   Maybe being a great listener MEANS you’re not trying to be the center of attention.   I suppose a happy medium is out there, one who has the ability to somewhat listen and can also be funny, but then the guy would be a jack of all trades and a master of nothing!   There comes a moment in life when you realize that you can have everything.   Often the specific traits we like in people are partially there because of the lack in other traits.   I had a boss years ago who loved the fact that had excellent product knowledge and I could help customers were everything, but he didn’t like that I tinkered all the time.   Well, I gained my knowledge through tinkering.   Sometimes you can’t have one thing with another.   My mother used to always say, count all the things you like and dislike about a person and decide whether their good qualities out weigh their bad qualities, and whether or not the good qualities make the bad qualities worth it.   What I find very odd about this lady’s question is she claims to be drawn to the quick witted, life of the party type, and yet she never ends up with that type of guy.   My guess is she likes a certain type of guy in the infatuation stages because she gets lots of attention, but once that thrill wears off, she is stuck with a boring humdrum.   Perhaps the answer is to remember that you can’t have everything (life is a tradeoff) and when starting a relationship, think about how things are going to be with that person after all the fireworks calm down.     

  13. 53

    Not funny enough.
    I never knew that one of the qualifications of being a good husband is to be a comedian. No wonder Jay Leno and Stephen Colbert got all the women.

  14. 54

    Oh for godsakes Karl T. The way I read Cat’s post is, hardly any men are interested in women age 45 and older. (not true from my experience, BTW). How on earth is this insulting to men? See, this is another reason why I look for men with a sense of humor — men that don’t have one, often have incredibly thin skin as well. I understand trying not to hurt my partner’s feelings and being careful of what I say to him, but if he takes offense at innocent comments that aren’t directed at him, and blows them out of proportion, what kind of a relationship would that be? I’ll say something about the weather and he’ll give me the silent treatment for a week, because he’ll have somehow found a way to get insulted by my comment? Sounds awesome, but I’ll pass.
    For crying out loud, she didn’t even say anything about any men being too old. You can be 25 and have nothing to offer other than a pulse and a penis.
    @ Paula #39:   “It’s not just joking all the time but our serious conversations are peppered with humor and I think that’s a good thing. I think being able to not take life seriously is probably the best life skill to have. I make so many people feel comfortable with my humor. A truly funny person makes other people feel good and see the humor in life.”

  15. 55
    Karl T

    Yeah Goldie, you got it.   Twist everything all up and then ask why it is insulting to men.   Read what I wrote, then you can figure it out.   She didn’t mention anything about men being too old?   No she didn’t..she IMPLIED it!!!!!!!   Come on, use your head!   I’m not going to waste my breath repeating myself.   And talk about a thin skin.   Is this the same Goldie that blew up and started using vulgar language in one post?   Really huh??   Well ain’t it so!

  16. 56

    good grief. When I said you had to be grateful if the guy had a pulse and a penis,   I meant that older women ie 45 plus had to stop thinking they could (1)  afford to be picky and (2)have enormous criteria lists. 45 year old men don’t want to date 45 year olds when they can get a hotter model of 30 or 35.

  17. 57

    Fewer 30-35 year old women want 45 year old men than you think. One such 45 year old man is really pursuing me right now. I am 32, he is decent looking, good job but he’s just too old. I don’t know many women my age who are interested in men that old. Sounds like, as is always the case, everyone needs to adjust want they think they want to be slightly more realistic.

  18. 58

    I agree with 57.   Even though I’m in an age gap relationship myself I am very aware that i’s  unusual.    Most people date within their age range (I’m going to say up to ten years, and probably less than five).   For want of a better word, it’s “normal”.   Some  people are  very vocal about wanting to date younger, but  they don’t represent what the majority of people want.    There are major  practical issues with a large age gap. These can be overcome depending on the couple  but are significant enough to put most people off even starting  down that path.    
    Of course, if you’re 45 and absolutely convinced that no one will have you because of your age, you’re not going to take the chance to find out if that’s actually true.   Of if you’re convinced that the only ones who’ll have you are those that no-one else  would want, you’re gonna prefer to stay home!

  19. 59

    clarity is   missing.   is   the lady looking for comedian   or   a man   that   can   laugh?
    many   people basically can   laugh so   i   too   think   this   woman   wants   out if   the   other   qualities are   good.

  20. 60

    I could have written the question.   I am in the same boat… Although Evan made a comment about …  can he keep up…   this is where I struggle.   I guess humor is important but mostly I like to laugh a lot, so I need to find the humor. My guy, dating 7 months is awesome, although tends to be very … level headed … I agree humor is unique to each person.   If he gets you, and you get him … Think about deal breakers   and whether he can take your laughter and sarcastic humor.   My ex was always the life of the party and thought I was boring… Turns out we just both have a very different sense of humor.   He could make me laugh but just couldn’t get me. I’ve learned other qualities can be more important.  

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