I’ve been seeing a great guy for a while, and we’ve talked about having a future together. I’ve noticed there a few things missing in our relationship and I don’t know how to get past it; whether to look for solutions, or consider them “red flags” and try to end things and move on. One of the main issues is this: he doesn’t really make me laugh – he doesn’t understand my humour or sarcasm, and I don’t understand his. I spoke to a friend who also married someone quite different to her and asked if she’d ever experienced this problem. She said that with time, you grow on each other and your humour becomes similar, so not to worry about it. Other friends say it’s a dealbreaker and I shouldn’t ignore it. At the moment we don’t have any “banter” at all, and I seem to have more laughs with my friends than I do with him. I see couples who are laughing together uncontrollably and I wish we had that. I don’t know whether the relationship you have with your partner will always be different to one with your friends and family, or whether your “soulmate” should have everything. Do we have a future if we can’t have fun?
This is a tough one – and perhaps it’s personal. I’ve thought about your letter a lot, and after some introspection have realised that I tend to use sense of humour as a gauge to work out if I have “chemistry” with someone – before we’ve even met. If I’m talking to someone online, it’s one of the first things I look for: whether we share a dark sense of humour, watch the same kinds of TV sitcoms, enjoy similar comedians. I want to be “wooed” with words – in that way, witty banter can be like foreplay.
And yet... lacking that particular connection with a partner doesn’t have to be the deciding factor on sharing a life together. The most important thing to consider, in my opinion (and the reason I mention my own feelings about it), is not whether or not your friends feel it is a dealbreaker – but whether it is a dealbreaker for you.
Which qualities would you say you desire most in a romantic partner? Is laughter a particular turn-on? What else do you consider must-haves? You might find making a list (physically putting pen to paper) can help you here.
You may also find that your partner scores highly in lots of other crucial areas – a shared sense of humour might not be at the top, but what else does he bring to the table? You began your letter by describing him as “a great guy”, which sounds promising. Have you thought about what you want most at this point in your life: a long-term relationship with the future clearly laid out – or are you happy to go with the flow?
I also think it’s worth thinking about relationships in a more holistic way. Put bluntly: one person can’t do (or be) everything. And if we put pressure on a single person to meet all of our needs, that’s simply setting them up to fail. Why wouldn’t they? They’re only human – they won’t be able to “read” us in every situation, and they’ll (rightly) have their own needs to think about, too – as well as other people in their lives who are important to them: parents, kids, friends. Trying to be all things to someone we love is too much.
Instead, we should probably view our intimate relationships as making up just one part of our lives; of contributing just one wedge of the pie to our overall fulfilment. You likely have family members, close friends, colleagues and a whole host of other people dipping in and out of your social sphere who help bring you joy and happiness. It’s much healthier to allow our needs to be met by a tightly-woven group of our favourite people, than it is to expect a single man or woman to meet them all.
We might be more raucous with our friends; we might discuss our emotional inner lives and worries more with them than our partner – or the other way around. It’s going to be different for everyone – some people don’t seem to “need” as many people around them, and that’s okay too. It might just be the case that the guy you’re dating is solid and dependable and loving, but you get your deep, belly-shaking “lols” from your mates.
I would try, if you can, to isolate the feelings or ideals of what a romantic relationship “should” be (try and examine critically where you have got those ideas from in the first place) – and simply assess how happy you are with this man.
You sound like you’re at a bit of an emotional crossroads, so here’s my best advice: take it slow. I wouldn’t make any knee-jerk decisions and throw away what you’ve got with him unnecessarily, but I also wouldn’t make too many concrete plans for the future right now, either. Carry on as you are for now, but make a vow to check in with yourself as your relationship develops.
Meanwhile, you can do some practical exploration to try and find some crossover areas that you and your partner both find funny: if you’ve never been to see stand-up together before, try that. If one or the other of you really rates a particular comic, try giving them a go too (keep an open mind, and show willingness). Watch that TV series your boyfriend chuckles about and see if you can find the humour in it; share yours with him. Keep in mind that relationships always involve some degree of compromise and learning.
But it’s important to be honest with yourself; so do listen to your heart and gut. I don’t think it will take very long to notice if those tentative red flags you have mentioned fade into the distance – or become a storm on the horizon you simply can’t ignore.
Victoria Richards is The Independent’s advice columnist. Having problems with work, love, family or friends? Contact email@example.com
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