- Not taking oneself seriously is not the same as being playful or funny, aspects of personality that can easily coexist with deep seriousness.
- Taking ourselves and each other seriously is important for cultivating trust and emotional intimacy.
- Rather than focusing on not being serious, you can seek partners with a shared sense of fun who are also capable of engaging seriously.
If you have gone anywhere near a dating app in the last few years you’ve likely noticed people looking for a future partner who “doesn’t take themselves too seriously.”
I find this to be an interesting trend (especially for folks looking for serious relationships) as “don’t take yourself too seriously” only describes how a potential match should not be—and vaguely at that. It is therefore not the same as saying you are seeking playfulness and a sense of humor in a partner. Those are attributes that easily coexist with deep seriousness—and indeed humor and play are quite positive for relationships. It is also not the same as saying that you seek someone who has learned how to move through challenging emotions mindfully rather than reactively—a skill requiring serious engagement with one’s own inner world to develop.
If a potential match expects you not to take yourself seriously then they may not take you seriously either.
Close Relationships Are Built on Taking Ourselves and Each Other Seriously
A key way that we cultivate closeness and intimacy in relationships is through repeatedly opening up and sharing aspects of ourselves that we wouldn’t share with just anyone–the tender feelings, thoughts, ideas, memories, struggles, fears, hopes, beliefs, convictions that dwell in us all, and hold a weight of importance.
When we open up to a partner about these vulnerable and emotional aspects of our inner world, and they respond with understanding, validation, and care, we grow trust, and gain or reinforce our sense of closeness with them.
The understanding and care required for intimacy are fairly straightforward, but key here is a less common concept: validation. When we feel validated, it means that we experience another person as valuing our feelings and perspective—they respect our reality as legitimate, even if they are not able to relate to it. To put it another way: They take us seriously.
When we share with someone about a difficult experience and feel comforted when they respond with a statement like, "Wow, it makes sense that you felt that way,” then we know we’ve felt validated. Another person engaging explicitly with us around our difficult feelings in this way actually helps us move through them.
Sometimes it is easier to pinpoint moments of invalidation, though, when people dismiss our concerns or struggles, sometimes by telling us to stop worrying or to look on the bright side—ways of saying “don’t take yourself seriously” that also send the message, “I don’t take your feelings seriously either.”
We show up to long-term relationships with our whole selves, including our wounds and worries. We will experience disappointment and resentment, get sad, anxious, and angry—as well as inspired, touched, grateful, and joyful at many points along the way. All of these are emotions that relate with seriousness to the life we are living. It matters to be with someone who can handle you experiencing your own innermost self with the intensity that these experiences evoke, even if it is uncomfortable for both of you as you find your way through.
And if we close off the parts of ourselves meant to be taken seriously—our values and beliefs, our still-healing traumas, our hopes and dreams—we deny our partner the opportunity to know us deeply and show their understanding, validation, and care for those precious aspects of our inner world, thus denying ourselves a chance to build emotional closeness.
And this matters beyond simple relationship satisfaction: People who have intimate relationships in which they respond to each other with validation, understanding, and care not only have better relationships, but better individual mental and even physical health.
This is why I recommend taking oneself and one another quite seriously, as well as cultivating humor and play in long-term relationships.
Be Specific About What You Do Want In a Partner
Even if you hope to have a pretty easygoing tone to your future relationships, I’d encourage altering “don’t take yourself too seriously” from the negative framing of how a potential partner should not be to a positive clarification of the kind of person you would like to meet.
Include on your dating profile the specific ways you like to have fun with a partner, and describe or tastefully showcase your sense of humor, because we all want to have fun and laugh in relationships—and each of us has particular preferences for how we like to enjoy life that we hope our future partner can share.
I also suggest to those seeking long-term relationships to look for someone who you not only will have fun with, but also who you can see yourself being serious with—someone you can open up to about deep aspects of yourself, grow alongside, and navigate the many challenges, conflicts, strains, emergencies, and tragedies that life throws in the path of all couples who journey together for a long while