Sometimes my SO makes a statement that they find funny for obvious reasons, but I don't find it funny at all, and in fact slightly offensive. It's a statement meant to engage me in conversation, like "why does this exist?", so it's difficult to ignore.

My usual response is to continuously ask them what the funny part was until they realize that I don't find it funny. However, I don't think that's a good approach to use with someone I'm supposed to have good communication with.

I tried to talk to my SO about how they would expect me to react to what they were telling me, but they were "confused I was asking for guidance about a basic social skill." I was stumped at how to reply at this point, and gave up the conversation.

  • What would have been an appropriate reaction that let the conversation continue while still letting them know I did not find it funny?


I want to acknowledge that I understand what they're saying, and show that I don't share it, but then move on without being offensive. I find the "I don't find that funny" to be too blunt, and it opens an opportunity to ask why I don't find it funny, which would extend the uncomfortable conversation.

  • 3
    Is there any issue with the very obvious "I don't find that funny" response? I'm assuming there's a reason you don't consider that appropriate, which might be worth adding to your question to get more in-depth answers.
    – Erik
    Sep 13, 2018 at 17:29
  • How do you want to continue the conversation? Do you want to engage in the topic they brought up, shift the conversation to discuss why that was offensive, or talk about something that's less controversial?
    – Em C
    Sep 13, 2018 at 17:52
  • 1
    I'm having a lot of difficulty figuring out what kind of spousal humor you find offensive enough that you can't ignore it. Perhaps it's because my sense of humor can be extremely offensive to some folks (think Deadpool). If you could give a concrete example, it would help me frame an answer.
    – empty
    Sep 13, 2018 at 19:46
  • I'm still a little bit unclear-- what is the goal of telegraphing, explicitly, that you don't find a comment funny? Generally I would think not laughing is enough, but it seems that you want to make it really clear that you don't like the joke.
    – Upper_Case
    Sep 13, 2018 at 20:34
  • @Upper_Case it's probably because by just ignoring the message and moving on, I'm being very indirect. That means they will be just as likely to bring something like this up again in the future, which is not my desired outcome.
    – Troubled
    Sep 13, 2018 at 21:51

4 Answers 4


You cite two goals in the comments:

My goals are 1.) avoid engaging in uncomfortable discussion of topic and 2.) reduce frequency of comments

I think that your two goals oppose each other.

If you avoid engaging, then you risk their not learning that you don't appreciate their comments, and they may very well just keep making them.

Your desire to avoid offending is admirable, but they're your SO. There are times in your relationships (especially in close ones) where you will need to have uncomfortable conversations.

Like you say:

I don't think that's a good approach to use with someone I'm supposed to have good communication with.

Don't avoid these uncomfortable conversations, because then you will end up putting up with things that you don't want to put up with.

Tolerating leads to resenting.

This is supposed to be the person that you may spend the rest of your life with. If you have a problem with their behavior, you should bring it up to them. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but you need to do it for your relationship.

You have several options.

If the joke is simply unfunny, but not particularly offensive, you don't need to make a big deal about it. You could just not laugh and let it go, or ask what's funny about it. Over time, your SO may adapt to your sense of humor.

If you find your SO's jokes offensive though, you may take a different approach.

Not laughing or asking what's so funny about it is an option (though it contradicts my point above about communicating with your SO). It is certainly possible that your SO will adapt to your sense of humor and stop.

If your SO doesn't though, which seems to be the case given what you stated, then just stop them after the joke and directly, but calmly state:

Sorry, but I don't find those types of jokes funny, and in fact find them a bit offensive.

(You can then clarify what you find offensive about it if you want)

Then, the ball is in their court.

If they apologize and don't make jokes like that again, then mission accomplished.

If they do, then bring it up again, but this time cite their past jokes as backup:

Hey, look you've made jokes like this before (1, 2, 3, etc.), but I just don't find that type of humor funny (because...)

Again, don't lose your cool and take it out on your partner, and focus on the fact that you don't find it funny rather than they're not funny. Prefer I'm offended to you're offensive.

Then, again, the ball is in their court.

The thing is, you can't really change people, or at least you can't expect them to change.

You cannot force your SO to have a different sense of humor.

They may choose to compromise and avoid jokes that offend you (which is obviously a win for you), or they may chose to not compromise and do what they want. If that's their choice, then you have to decide for yourself, how important is it that they don't make jokes like that.

Is this something that's worth breaking up over? If yes, then break up.

If it's not, then you might have to compromise and allow them to make jokes like that. It's not ideal, but it's sometimes how these things go.

But at least you'd have brought it up and not let resentment build inside of you.


I can definitely relate to your situation - my SO and I have rather different tastes in a number of things, including humor and socio-political views. Most of the time we get along (six years and counting!) and we do have good, thoughtful conversations about our views, but sometimes he says things that cross my personal lines - for example, using a word that I find particularly offensive or an off-color joke that I felt went too far.

If this takes place over messaging (i.e. text-based medium), my go-to is usually:

SO: Did you hear about foo? Blah blah... something I disapprove of
me: :/
me: Yeah, I heard about foo, continuing conversation

Emoticons and emoji are great to convey attitude without having to actually type it out. We frequently use them in our texts, so it's natural to use them to convey mood in these situations as well.

If this is in person - like the emoji, a quick frown and shake of the head before continuing is usually enough to convey my feelings. Body language is a great way to communicate things that you don't want to actually talk about, because you're expressing yourself without actually verbalizing and giving them words to respond to.

Another option is saying "Ok... anyways," before continuing the conversation. This is another way to signal acknowledgement ("Yes, I heard you") but still that something is wrong (long pause), without actually saying that directly.

Or sometimes I would write (or say) something like,

me: Well, I wouldn't put it that way, but, continuing conversation

which again recognizes what he says, but dismisses it and moves on before a discussion can be started (unless he chooses to circle back and ask why - but since we've known each other this long, he's probably aware of what it is I don't approve of already).

(Side note: although you say you'd like to avoid discussing why you don't think it'd funny, I do encourage you to have that conversation eventually. While there's nothing wrong with choosing your own place and time for it, it's important to be able to communicate openly for a strong relationship. In my own relationship, although we don't agree on everything, it works because we still trust each other to have a respectful discussion about things that are troubling us.)


Another possible approach is to simply ask "Who was that for?" in a very neutral way so there is the possibility your partner might realize is is for them, personally, and not for you. You might be able to go a bit further if they use "I'm confused" as a way to ignore feedback by saying "those kind of jokes are really just for you. I like you but I can't agree with you on this one."

In any case, it is very important to make sure they know who you are for them in a positive way first. Something like "You are my life partner and I love you. When you say stuff that is really only for you it can really bother me. What can I do from where you sit to be able to tell you when you've said something that bothers or embarrasses me?"

Then, this is the key thing, whatever they say is the truth. If they say "Nothing. It is your problem for being too sensitive," that is their truth and make up your mind about that. If they tell you to do a specific thing to alert them, then commit to doing what they say will help and take it at face value - do the exact thing and if they care they will follow through and stop it.

Whatever they tell you - get the communication by saying "Got it." and if you have a rebuttal say "Got it. And..." For example: "Got it, and here's how this occurs for me - you say stuff that leaves me wondering if you value how I feel about you."

Get that every time they make a sarcastic or negating crack they get you to pay attention to them. Even if you know the attention is negative not everyone is very distinct about whether attention is helpful or hurtful to them in their relating with others. I personally gave up sarcasm in my communication style (I have a lifetime in tech and it gets rough and cynical sometimes) and taking sarcasm or perceived sarcasm out of our communications created a massive improvement in talking with my life partner.

They really do love and care about you and at some level they have a belief that this is a way to test your love by seeing if you will put up with them being ambiguous or judgey. It is an act. It occurs a lot with perfectionists and we know there are a lot of them in coding and tech careers. I encourage you to give it a try and see what happens.


I used to make jokes and references, which my wife would completely miss, because she'd never seen the movie or TV show. It's great way to introduce your SO to a classic movie (Pulp Fiction anyone?), TV show or book. Other times, I would make a joke that just rubbed my wife the wrong way and vice versa. It's import to understand what offended the other person, apologize and find some compromise A healthy relationship means that you have to learn what the other person's comfort levels when it comes to comedy and other topics.

There are a couple of ways to respond to you SO:

  1. Why is that funny to you? Asking this question should force your SO to explain why they're laughing. If they respond with "But it's so obvious!" or similar, respond with "It's not obvious to me. I am not you and I want to get to know what you think is funny." (Note: "But it's so obvious" is a rude response, but I recommend addressing that in a separate conversation.) Now your SO should start to unpack the joke. If not, they are the ones lacking in social training.
  2. I don't find that funny. Responding with this is more rigid, but sometimes necessary for offensive jokes. This is meant to tell your SO that they said something offensive to you. You may have to explain why you're offended.

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