A research study by Bazzini and colleagues (2007) found that couples who reminisced about shared laughter showed more satisfaction with their relationships. Humor helps us to overcome obstacles and increases our emotional resilience, and having fun together certainly makes relationships more enjoyable.
How can you harness the power of humor in your relationship? First, start with those revisiting memories of situations in which the two of you laughed and laughed. You’ll probably find yourself laughing all over again!
Consider whether either or both of you really need a good laugh when you choose a movie or television show to watch. Some shows that are really “dark” are terrific, but they may not be a good choice when lightening the mood is in order.
Look for humor throughout the day and share your observations with each other. What struck you as really funny? Just being more aware of funny things can make your day go better, and having someone to share them with is a bonus.
Kids, grandkids, and pets are usually good for a laugh! Share funny pictures, stories, or videos and smile away!
Try to be open to humor even when you don’t feel good. There is research showing that laughter can minimize pain and speed rehabilitation (Godfrey, 2004). Focusing on something funny or trying to see the humor in tough situations may ease suffering.
Be careful not to use humor as a weapon. If you are making a joke about someone else, and they don’t find it funny, it’s not funny. Telling someone they are “too sensitive” because they are offended by humor at their expense is just plain mean. Apologize sincerely and don’t do it again. (Sorry for the scolding, but this is a pet peeve for Jennifer, who as a psychologist has heard many people describe the pain caused by offensive humor.)
Do remember to laugh at yourself. We all mess up, and sometimes it’s true that you just have to laugh or cry (and we’ve done both!).
Sharing laughter can bring you closer and build great memories. So tell a joke, watch a funny video or movie, laugh at your partner’s jokes even if it is not high comedy, and choose laughter whenever you can. For a little senior humor, here’s one of our favorites: a cartoon titled, “Why Dinosaurs Are Extinct.” Two dinosaurs are sitting on a rock in the ocean watching Noah’s Ark sail off into the distance. One says to the other, “Oh crap, was that today?” It’s always funnier when you can relate!
Bazzini, D. P., Stack, E.R., Martincin, P.D., & Davis, C.P. (2007). The effect of reminiscing about laughter on relationship satisfaction. Motivation & Emotion, 31(1), 25-34.
Godfrey, J. R. (2004). Toward optimal health: The experts discuss therapeutic humor. Journal Of Women's Health, 13(5), 474-479.
Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."
Previous Magic at Midlife Columns:
Vacation Time! Leave Your Baggage at Home
Your Place or Mine? Moving In Together
How to Help Your Partner Calm Down
Creating Shared Goals
Having the “Senior Safer Sex” Conversation
Planning Your Wedding (for Mature Couples)
Too Young or Too Old to be Your Partner?
Who Pays for What on a Date
Starting a New Relationship Before Your Kids Are Grown
Why You Need a Relationship Roadmap
Living with Pets and a New Partner
Exploring New Roles
Rowing Through Life Together
Let’ Talk About Sex
Helping Your Adult Children Accept Your New Partner
In Sickness and In Health
Step-Grandparenting Can Be Grand
Enjoy Life Together
Online Dating for the Older Set
Enjoying the Single Life
Sex in Midlife Relationships: Complicated but Wonderful!
Upgrade Your Communication Skills