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
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.