Living in our intense society is extremely challenging and we are blessed to have so many talented professional comedians such as Taylor Tomlinson, John Mulaney, Pete Holmes, Bill Burr, Iliza Schlesinger, Nikki Glaser, Mike Birbiglia, Ryan Hamilton, Ronny Chieng, Demetri Martin and Gary Gulman available to lighten the heavy burdens that we carry. However, I am unpersuaded that that level of comedy bodes well for romantic partners.

Many years ago my psychotherapy supervisor told me the following story: a couple on the verge of divorce came into his office and he asked the husband what made him fall in love with his wife.

“I liked the way she was decisive, confident, made dinner reservations, planned our vacations…”

Then he asked the wife what made her fall in love with her husband.

“He always made me laugh,” she replied.

My supervisor then asked the husband why they were getting divorced.

“She’s so controlling!” he replied.

Then he asked the wife the same question:

“All he does is make fun of me!” she bellowed.

The same characteristics that make you fall in love with a partner in the beginning of a relationship, will make you loathe them in the end. If you fall in love with someone because they are spontaneous, then you will fall out of love with them because they are unreliable. If you fall in love with someone because they make everything look easy, then you will fall out of love with them because they are lazy.

The husband and wife that my supervisor counseled probably didn’t change much individually throughout their years of marriage.

What changed were their appetites, their tolerances.

So when I notice that the vast majority of women on Hinge — yes, I’m on Hinge — state that they are looking for a man who makes them laugh (I realize that this is probably from some psychologically tested multiple choice prompt such as “Would you prefer to date a comedian, a fishmonger, or an ax-murderer?”), the women should not be surprised if they soon become the brunt of their partner’s jokes.

OK, so the subtitle for this article could be… “What is toxic masculinity?”

Allow me mansplain it to you, please: free-range boys playing sports together, ribbing each other in locker rooms, and drinking together during teenage years and into their 20s, are tacitly rewarded for being sarcastic, denigrating, and condescending. These are the cool guys. These are the funny guys. These are the popular guys. These are the alpha males. They shit on everyone. They shit on everything.

If they don’t change, if they fail to grow up and become adults, then they become spiteful sociopaths. They may still be funny, but their audiences get smaller and smaller until they are living off-grid and writing manifestos.

What does it take for football players, fraternity brothers, and military men to learn how to attune to romantic partners and become emotionally intelligent, respectful, compassionate listeners?

Unfortunately what it usually takes is a plethora of painful rejection. And then somewhere around 26–30 these men realize that the same traits that made them the cool guys for the last ten years are now repulsing people.

For many years in my psychotherapy practice, I have guided such men through the process of adulting. It is usually a rocky transition. Where sarcasm was once rewarded, now it is received with looks askew and the sounds of shoes shuffling away.

So when seeking a male romantic partner, here are some of the traits that you should really look for:

  1. Has personal integrity, walks the talk, is authentic, and has shed most if not all of the immature masculine behavior he learned in his youth
  2. Is honest
  3. Is compassionate, empathetic
  4. Has done his psychological homework, is self-aware, self-reflective
  5. Is respectful towards others
  6. Is emotionally intelligent, sensitive
  7. Can be vulnerable and communicate effectively
  8. Is consistent, reliable, trustworthy
  9. Practices forgiveness, doesn’t make mountains out of mole hills
  10. Is affectionate (knows his love language and well as yours)

Bonus points: Wants to evolve, learn and grow and knows that he thrives in a committed, intimate relationship

Please note that “makes me laugh” does not even make the top ten qualities for a healthy, adult, romantic relationship.

So if your dating profile states that your future partner’s top attribute should be that he makes you laugh (as if another human being was put on this earth to amuse you), you will have no problem finding infinite clown cars packed with hysterically amusing — sarcastic, denigrating, condescending — boys.

The only problem might be helping them transform into compassionate, respectful gentlemen and decent loving partners.


  • Ira Israel

    Psychotherapist & Author

    Psychotherapist Ira Israel is the author of “How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re and Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening” and "Wired & Tired." He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has graduate degrees in Psychology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. For more information please visit