Playful guy pulling his girlfriend's hat over her face as she laughs

Humor Compatibility: What is it? Do you need it?

by Eharmony Editorial Team - September 16, 2008

Ask most people what they want in a partner and they'll say a sense of humor. But what if the two of you don't find the same things funny? Are you doomed?

A dribble glass. A whoopee cushion. A seltzer bottle. A snake in a can. Let’s face it. Lots of people love the old Vaudevillian humor. And lots don’t. Lots of people also love to pepper their conversations with clever references to classic TV shows and pop culture. And lots haven’t even heard of Barney Fife or the Soup Nazi.

So what happens if two people from different humor categories pair up? Is the relationship doomed? You might worry that it is, depending on how much your whole comedy repertoire is built on The Andy Griffith Show or classic Seinfeld episodes. On the other hand, your partner missing a humorous reference might be only a minor blip on your overall compatibility screen.

So just how crucial is it that two people are compatible, humor-wise?

Humor Incompatibility is NOT a Problem When…

You have lots of fun when you are together. Having identical senses of humor is not critical for relationship success. But enjoying each other, and the time you spend together, is. It’s not at all a must that you crack each other up all the time. What’s much more important is that when you are together, you make each other happy and enjoy the other things you have in common.

Humor is going in at least one direction. Both partners don’t have to be comedians. But if you are someone who values wit and loves to make other people laugh, it’s best if your partner at least enjoys your humor. It might be too dry, or too goofy, for their preference. But if they can at least understand and have fun when you’re doing your thing, then that’s a good sign that the relationship is on solid ground.

There are plenty of other good qualities in your relationship. Think about it: There are plenty of relationship components where compatibility matters a lot more than humor. For example, what if you had really different ideas about what it means to communicate well? To resolve conflict? To be committed? To relate with each other physically and intimately? If your relationship is strong and working well in the areas where compatibility definitely matters, then don’t sweat it if only one of you loves The Three Stooges.

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Humor Incompatibility MAY BE a Problem When…

You feel that the other person doesn’t get you. Not getting your jokes may not be a problem at all. But that’s a lot different from not getting you as a person, or what you enjoy or care about. Your partner may not understand why you like Woody Allen movies, and that’s fine. But if they don’t understand why you like to explore the deeper parts of life and sometimes find humor there, that may be a bigger issue.

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The incompatibility causes actual relational conflict. If, for example, a difference in humor ends up making one of you feel insecure, or less valued by the other person, then that’s a problem. Or if one of you doesn’t feel included when you are out with the other one’s friends because you don’t share their way of relating on that level, then that can make for issues you have to deal with together.

The other person’s style of humor communicates a lack of respect or a failure to understand what’s important to you. A sense of humor that is cruel, or that belittles other people, is fairly normal for a teenager. But many people would feel that for an adult in a serious relationship, this type of comedy is actually a sign of immaturity or even a lack of compassion and empathy. Not finding a joke funny is one thing; feeling that the joke speaks to larger relational and character issues is another. Here at eHarmony, we believe that in the pursuit of a real and lasting connection between two people, compatibility is key.

What most of this comes down to is a question of how well you two mesh with each other overall—how many “similarity deposits” you make in your relational bank. If you two are a good match in most ways, then the chances are that a little bit of humor incompatibility isn’t going to be anything more than a minor withdrawal.

On the other hand, if substantial compatibility issues already exist between you—so that your personalities aren’t quite matching up in ways other than whether you agree on the genius of prop comics like Gallagher and Carrot Top—then there are likely bigger problems than humor that you two are going to have to contend with.

So in the end, the question isn’t really about whether a certain amount of humor incompatibility is going to wreck the connection between you. The real issue, when it really comes down to it, is how well you two match up in the important areas of your relationship. If you feel like there’s strong and consistent compatibility in those areas, then don’t worry; inside jokes and humor compatibility often develop within a relationship over time. If the important parts of your relationship are solid, you two will most likely be laughing together for years to come.