When my husband and I were engaged my mother hosted an engagement reception to celebrate our relationship. People my parents had known for years showed up at the reception hall, ate food, wished us well, and left, in the way most receptions happen. On a table in the hall were slips of paper for every guest to write a piece of marital advice for us and place it in a jar. Most of the advice written out was common sense:
“Don’t go to bed angry”
“Love doesn’t always make sense”
“Communicate with each other”
“Be physically affectionate”
“Admit when you’re wrong”
One piece of advice I wish had been written out was “couples who laugh together stay together.”
The Benefits of Laughing Together
The physical benefits of laughter are well known. Studies show that laughter can improve health, and lengthen life expectancy in terminally ill patients – but how does laughter aid a relationship?
Neuroscientist Robert Provine began a study to prove just that and published his findings in his book Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.
What he found was that, beyond just diffusing tense situations and reducing anger and anxiety, laughter establishes (or affirms) a positive emotional connection between two partners. In a romantic relationship, humor can help pave the path to intimacy.
“Laughter is not primarily about humor,” says Provine, “but about social relationships.”
In fact, Provine believes that the health benefits of laughter are simply a consequence of its primary result: building personal relationships. When social support is stronger, health is improved, and therefore shared laughter provides a stepping stone to health through its social benefits.
Some of his other findings include:
Laughter is an important part of mating. Men tend to like women who laugh in their presence.
While both sexes laugh a lot, females participants in the study laughed more. A huge 126% more!
Perhaps due to this, the laughter of the female is the critical index of a healthy romantic relationship.
Relationship humour declines as couples age.
Laughing is highly contagious.
Unfortunately, Povine also found that relationship couples tend to do most of their laughing together through TV and movies, which encourages very little social connection. This means that couples don’t recognize how little humor is within their marriage or how much they are missing out.
But how can we laugh more as a couple? Consider these suggestions for sharing your sense of humour with your partner.
Play social games.
The benefits of laughter in your relationship are still present when there are more than two people around. Invite other couples or single friends to play games and be funny together. Bonding and enjoying each other’s sense of humour is a great way to spend time together! There is an abundance of party games you can buy like Apples to Apples or Quelf, or good old fashioned games like charades or celebrity that don’t require anything but players to be fun.
My partner and I are big fans of going to the local Creamery, buying some ice-cream, and trying to make up dialogue for what’s happening around us. Whoever can create the most quirky back story and make the other laugh the hardest usually wins our game. You can also do this with movies. Rent a movie you have never seen, or find one on Netflix, put it on mute and try to say the dialogue.
Look up and tell jokes.
When was the last time you heard a brand new joke? Finding jokes online, or making up your own puns is a sure sign of humor.
Do something ridiculous and out of character.
Are you incredibly shy and afraid of dancing? Impress your partner with your humor! Learn the Thriller dance, go out to a park, and try to perform it. Turn your hall into a runway, and playfully strut your stuff. Do you love to speak but hate to sing? Try singing everything you say for a whole hour together, or try to use a brand new accent you’ve never tried before.
It doesn’t matter how funny you feel, it is all about the moments of shared laughing that mean the most in relationships.
While being funny together won’t make marital problems disappear, the science of laughs can help couples tackle potential conflict. Remember laughter is key to improving relationship satisfaction, and building intimacy together, so be sure to share a laugh today!
For more marriage tips and ideas take the RELATE assessment today.
Written by: Melece, Master’s Student in Marriage and Family Therapy. Reviewed by Brian Willoughby, Ph.D.