Good Humor

Ways to Help Make Your Marriage More Fun

When long term married couples are asked the question, “What do you value most in your partner that has helped sustain your marriage?” the most frequent answer is “They make me laugh!”  Research on the attributes that both men and women find attractive in their romantic partner indicates that the ability to laugh and have good humor is highly valued.  Research on ways to develop good mental health also shows that good humor is vital to your mental well-being.  Each time you laugh, your brain gets an instant burst of the feel-good hormone, dopamine.  Laughter also triggers the onset of gamma wave activity in your brain, the same activity that people achieve after 20-30 minutes of meditative prayer.  In other words, laughter is an instant emotional power vitamin that lifts your mood faster than any pill, psychotherapy, drink or recreational drug and it has no bad side effects.  Good humor improves your ability to be flexible in taking perspective.  This is essential for good problem-solving, the ability to forgive and the ability to not take things personally.

What do I mean by good humor?  Good humor is the ability to detect and enjoy the absurdity in life and in your own limitations.  It is the ability to grin and laugh at your own mistakes and good intentions gone awry and to do the same for others.  It is also the ability to grin and laugh in a non-judgmental manner at the foibles of others because you recognize that you are exactly the same.  Ultimately good humor shows your spouse that you are able to enjoy them even when things go wrong.  When you have good humor, you make it easier for everyone around you to laugh and enjoy the moment, even when the moment is difficult.  It makes it easier to survive the most difficult times and this is why people in long-term marriages value their spouse’s good humor.

 Sarcasm is never good humor.  Sarcasm is criticism, resentment or hostility disguised as humor.  It is a psychologically sneaky way of trying to make a joke at another person’s expense.  Sarcasm stings and bites and leaves behind emotional wreckage because it is equivalent to slapping your spouse in the face and then weakly smiling and saying, “Just kidding!”  Self-directed sarcasm may be humorous on stage, but similar to other-directed sarcasm, it also sends out a message of anger and hostility that is directed toward oneself.  This is a far cry from the message of love, forgiveness and grace that God gives us.  Sarcasm serves to alienate us from each other and ourselves by sending out a strong message of intolerance, the message opposite of God’s grace.

What is your good humor quotient?  When did you last find the funny and do the following with your spouse?

  • Laugh at your own mistakes in front of your spouse?
  • Belly laugh with your spouse when the two of you misunderstood each other?
  • Laugh when you had a public parenting moment?
  • Laugh after your teen has an annoying moment of adolescence?

Here are a few helpful tips from the experts that can help you and your spouse get your funny on.

  1. Watch funny movies, romantic comedies and TV shows together. Act like it is important to laugh together by taking the time to do something that will make you laugh together.
  1. Start sharing the things that make you laugh. Instead of ignoring those funny posts that people put up on Instagram, Facebook or Vine, share them with your spouse.
  1. Instead of asking your spouse “How did your day go?” ask them “What was the funniest thing that happened to you this week?”
  1. Be willing to play the fool. Sing silly songs to your spouse, dance in public when a love song is playing or do things that you know will make your spouse laugh.  Most people know to do this with young children, but it also works with adults!  When you embrace your inner fun and foolishness, you become playful, vulnerable and able to beckon your spouse to drop their pretensions and emotional armor in the service of spontaneous fun.
  1. If you enjoy reading, then be sure to select some of your books from the humor section. Reading books that make you laugh aloud can exercise your funny bone and improve your sense of humor.
  1. Download free apps that play laughter. Listening to a laugh track will trigger your own laughter, which in turn will lift your mood.  This is especially helpful if you are having a difficult day.

Karen Cassiday, Ph.D., A.C.T. is a Light of Christ member with 25 years of experience in clinical psychology. To read her full biography, click here.

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