I recently counseled a couple that had been stuck in anger and resentment. I had encouraged them to do something fun together. The wife rolled her eyes, and the husband turned away from her. They reluctantly agreed to do dance lessons. The next week they came into my office with the funniest story about the dance class and the other partners they had to dance with. We were all laughing so hard as they each described the funny events of the evening.
They were touching each other, looking at each other while they both laughed, and kept bursting into spontaneous chuckles while describing the hilarious moments of the class. Laughter and love go hand in hand. They are partners in the dance of emotional connection that is required for a full and joyful experience of your partner. You see, when we are stuck in resentment, we forget to laugh. Nothing is funny anymore about our partner … only annoying and frustrating. What may have been cute and silly can begin to feel like nails on a chalkboard!
I literally have to force my couples sometimes to do fun things together, even if they are angry, because I know laughter is the key to falling back in love. If you want to move forward, you must experience fun and freeing moments as a couple. When dealing with a long-term relationship, we must create new memories. That requires effort and engagement with each other. This hysterical memory will be with them (and now me!) their whole life together, which is of great benefit to their couplehood.
Laughter literally changes your physiology. It produces natural painkillers in your body and reduces stress and tension. Laughter stimulates your immune system, reduces blood pressure, and decreases systemic inflammation. For a couple, experiences of humor and laughter bring you closer and create a deeper bond. The laughter in a relationship also helps us cope during times that are emotionally challenging. A good laugh can help any couple with the trivial as well as the tragic.
In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl shares how he and another concentration camp prisoner used humor daily to cope with the horrendous experience of the Nazi regime. This example can help us remember that even through the toughest of times, a little humor can lift the spirit and help us rise to any emotional challenge we might face as a couple. Let’s face it: life can be stressful — whether it is coping with both working during hard economic times, children misbehaving, or family illness. A little laughter can go a long way to keep you connected to your partner.
How to Increase Laughter in your Relationship
One of the ways to predict when a marriage is headed for divorce is when the ability to laugh is completely gone and a couple is unwilling to create moments that will allow humor and connection to grow in their lives. I know I have a couple who will weather almost any storm when, even while arguing, one of them can give a look or say a word that brings a smile across the other’s face. You see, the investment in connection is stronger than the investment in being “right” or “winning” the argument. This type of couple will be able to laugh through their tears at crucial moments in their marriage.
As Jay Leno once said, “You can’t stay mad at someone who makes you laugh.”