The phrase “laughter is the best medicine” is far more than just a cliche, especially when it comes to relationships. In fact, both formal and anecdotal research supports the idea that a compatible sense of humour, as well as the ability to find humour in the everyday, is a key predictor of a relationship’s staying power. From the early stages of dating to the biggest fights in a marriage, using humour in a healthy, productive way is essential.
The Funny Science of Attraction
The science of attraction, the “it” that brings two people together, is far from exact. However, one only need troll any dating website to see that a “sense of humour” is amongst the most sought-after relationship traits, regardless of people’s demographics. This is perhaps because of the utility that humour presents in a relationship’s early stages.
Indeed, laughing through the early phases of a relationship is a great way to work through awkward moments and break the tension of early dates.
As couples spend more time together and consider what next steps to take, half-jokes such as “Where shall we have the wedding? Paris, or Belize?” are less-threatening ways to explore the other person’s feelings.
In fact, one of the biggest benefits of humour in general is its ambiguity. The basic structure of a joke is to say one thing when you actually mean another.
In this way, you can broach topics (such as marriage) in a way that allows you to back out without missing a beat. For example, if your partner reacted poorly to the above half-joking question, you can easily respond with, “Scared you, didn’t I?” and move on with your conversation.
On the flip side, if he or she responds playfully, it indicates that the topic (marriage) is not necessarily off the table.
The Good, The Bad, and The Humorous
Even long-term relationship benefits greatly from added humour. Couples can use running jokes as well as a light-hearted outlook to work through the everyday annoyances and even diffuse the tension in bigger fights.
On a day-to-day basis, having a strong sense of humour about your relationship and partner is a great way to put little annoyances into perspective. Many of these situations, whether they be leaving a toilet seat up or forgetting the mail (again!) are not as big a deal as we can make them out to be in our heads.
Using jokes to casually remind your partner to do something, as well as remind yourself to lighten up about the “small stuff” is a great way to work through these little annoyances.
On the larger scale, using humour to diffuse conflict is essential if you want to actually resolve things. Specifically, when you use humour to diffuse conflict, a few key actions take place:
- You interrupt the struggle for power — this is the real crux behind any argument
- You add in spontaneity — this breaks you away from rigid thoughts and opens up creative solutions
- You lower your defenses — this allows you to hear things “differently” and interpret them with less hostility
- You release your inhibitions — this allows real emotions to come to the surface
While it is not healthy to use humour as a tool of a fight (see below), when you make an unassociated joke or add playfulness into an argument, you allow yourself and your partner to step back from the issue at hand and reconnect. That connection is what matters most in terms of the strength of your relationship.
Taking the Joke Too Far
There are two sides to every coin and even something as positive as humour can turn negative in the wrong hands or used under the wrong circumstances. It is essential that you remember not to use humour in a negative or sarcastic way, which has the opposite effect on your relationship and conflict resolution.
Examples of taking a joke “too far” is when a partner makes hostile quips about your least-favourite traits or tendencies. Using humour to avoid certain topics, such as finances or sex, is also dangerous because it diminishes something that it is important and prevents resolution through avoidance.
Live, Laugh, Love Longer
Adding humour into your relationship is an excellent way to strengthen your bond as a couple and deal with everything from small annoyances to big blowout fights in a positive way.
Laughter is indeed the “best medicine” for many situations, but in a relationship it is also a powerful preventative that, used properly, will help you to live, laugh, and love longer.
Struggling to insert humour into your romantic life? Sign up for Brad Browning’s coaching program to let him guide you on what to do.