Erika Ettin column: Shared humor important to find
Erika Ettin helps people navigate the world of online dating.
From 2009 to 2013, I was in a serious relationship — one where we talked about the “M” word (marriage, not mirrors or mugs, like the ones we bought together).
In that relationship, I was blinded by my partner’s “on paper” perfection — prestigious schools, high-profile job, wonderful family, etc. And it didn’t hurt that I was really attracted to him.
But how did we relate to each other?
Really well … for the most part.
I’m a bit kooky. I sometimes like to skip while crossing the street. It’s not unusual for me to write an entire to-do list in hot pink marker. And my favorite thing in the world to do is to make a great pun.
Sarcasm is not part of my range of humor. In fact, I hate it.
My partner’s humor was the opposite. He’d make jokes with a deadpan face, always leaving me wondering whether what he was saying was supposed to be funny or not, whereas I’d laugh at my own jokes, often before even getting to the punchline.
He wasn’t usually amused. I can count on entirely too many fingers (and toes) how many times I said (seemingly in jest, but not really), “At least pretend you think I’m funny.”
2021 Erika sees, in hindsight, that our differences in humor were a red flag in the relationship.
He didn’t need to laugh at everything I said, of course, but I wanted him to at least respect what I found funny. Is that ultimately what led to our breaking up? No, not in so many words. But it certainly contributed to our not seeing eye to eye.
As I took a step back to assess things after that relationship, with the help of a wonderful therapist, I came to realize that “on paper” does not equal real life.
This is something I preach to my clients as well. How you relate to each other and how you make each other feel — including your respective senses of humor — makes a difference. That’s not to say that you have to find all of the same things funny, but it is important to “get” each other’s humor and at least find some appreciation in it.
In just about every online dating profile, from eHarmony to Tinder, you’ll see people say, “I’m funny,” or worse, “My friends tell me I’m funny.” (Of course they do — they’re your friends!) I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in my entire life who doesn’t think of him or herself as “having a good sense of humor.”
But there are so many different kinds of humor — sarcasm, dark, sophomoric, punny, corny, childish, vulgar, dry, witty, the list goes on. Does someone with dark humor fit with someone who has witty humor? I have no idea. But it’s something to consider.
After that relationship — a long time after … I’m a big proponent of taking time to heal and work on yourself — I got back out there. One Sunday evening, I went out with someone I found very attractive, smart and accomplished.
At one point, I got a notification on my phone that a live trivia game was on, so we played the 10-minute game together, and he seemed to really like it.
Afterward I told him he could download the app and gave him a code he could use. To that, he replied, “Some of us have actual things to do with our day” (emphasizing the “some” and the “actual”).
I immediately called him out, saying, “That’s not very nice. You enjoyed the game, and trust me, I have plenty going on in my life.” He then went into his explanation that it was just a joke, obviously I was a busy person, and he didn’t know me anyway, so he would have no idea what I did all day.
Um … so don’t say it. Would someone else have found that sarcastic “joke” funny? Probably. Did I? Not in the slightest.
The only advice I have here is to make sure you’re paying attention. See how your partner reacts to your humor, and vice versa.
Again, you don’t have to agree on everything or find humor in all the same things. But you do have to take pleasure in what makes the other person laugh, and if you don’t, it’s time to assess how important the humor element of a relationship is to you.
I always say, “I don’t care if someone makes me laugh. I just want him to think I’m the funniest person in the world.” And for me, it was worth continuing to look.