Happy Relationships Have Humor
My husband Mark and I have been married for five years. Along the way, we’ve discovered that humor is an excellent way to ease tension. For example, it’s not uncommon for me to playfully chastise my beloved for ‘failing to read my mind…again’. Using my most incredulous tone, I exclaim something like, “I mean, it’s been over 4 years and you still don’t know what I want without me telling you?!”
This joke comes up more often than I’d like to admit, because if I’m being honest, there is a little part of me that really does wish that my partner would simply know how to please me without my having to ask. But by adding humor, we can both hear the silliness of my secret wish, and we laugh together. Tension gone. Sharing our little inside jokes increases our connection and ultimately our happiness. And I must admit, happiness is a hobby of mine.
The healing qualities of laughter have been extolled as far back as Proverbs 17 in the Old Testament: ‘a merry heart is like medicine’. And a little more recently, science has proven that laughing improves mood (by increasing oxytocin), betters our immune systems (by increasing antibodies), relieves pain (by releasing endorphins), helps with good blood circulation and brings more oxygen into your lungs.
And, as long as we humans have had language we’ve had humor. Historians have found examples of jokes as far back as 2600 BC! Most of us begin laughing at the ripe young age of two or three months old (I wonder what we found funny)? Experts say that as babies we laugh around 300 times/day. As adults we only chuckle, guffaw, snigger, giggle, chortle and titter about a tenth as often.
When We Laugh, Love is Born
When psychologists started studying humor in relationships, they found it to be much more of a social activity than previously thought. We are thirty times more likely to laugh when others are around. Sharing laughter together is one of the ways we bond; whether with family, friends, or romantic partners. Think back – can you remember bubbling over with giggles because someone you were with was laughing too? When we are howling at each others’ jokes, what we are really saying is ‘I like your company’ or ‘I like you’. Universally, humans demonstrate affection by sharing laughter.
Not surprisingly, research has shown that couples with a shared sense of humor are more likely to have successful, long-term relationships. For example, marriages where both partners think the other has a good sense of humor experience 67% less conflict. (Note, however, that teasing or making fun through put-downs was consistently bad for relationships).
My husband and I laugh a lot. I love his sense of humor and he appreciates mine. Our sometimes silly little private jokes are a kind of special intimacy that I’ve come to treasure.
If laughter is not a habit in your relationship, maybe it’s time to get curious about what your partner finds funny. Watch some old slapstick, check out some stand-up together, browse your favorite streaming service for funny films, etc. Look for opportunities to delight your loved one. The more we look for humor, the more we see it.
Lean into the joy that laughter offers you in your relationship. When things feel intense or serious, understand that making each other laugh is a good thing. You can always get back to problem solving once you’ve had a good belly giggle.
About the author: Susan Chettle Rutherford is a writer and Certified Professional Co-Active Coach who is absolutely passionate about helping people manifest lives of joy, love, abundance and fulfillment. For the past 20 years Susan has enjoyed being a facilitator of transformation in others. These days Susan is also on the Marketing team for HAI Global, helping them spread their message of love and respect.
About the editor: Kate Gillispie is the Marketing Director for the Human Awareness Institute and co-host of May I Have This Dance, a podcast about love, intimacy, and sexuality. Find the podcast by searching for ‘May I Have This Dance‘ on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever else you find your podcasts. You can also join our active community on Facebook.