Marriage Momentum: Go on, Laugh a Little
By Paul Gauche
Once a day… Find Something That Makes You Both Laugh
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Did you hear the one about the guy who was worried that his wife of 52 years was not hearing as well as she used to, and he thought she might need a hearing aid? Not quite sure how to approach her, he called the family doctor to discuss the problem. The doctor told him there is a simple informal test the husband could perform to give the doctor a better idea about her hearing loss.
“Here’s what you do,” said the doctor.
“Stand about 40 feet away from her and in a normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response.”
So that evening, the guy’s wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he was in the family room. He thinks to himself, “about 40 feet away. Let’s see what happens.’ In a normal tone he asks, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
So the husband moves closer to the kitchen, about 30 feet from his wife, and repeats, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
Still no response.
Next, he moves into the dining room where he is about 20 feet from his wife and asks, “Honey, What’s for dinner?”
Again, no response.
So, he walks up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
Again, there is no response.
So he walks right up behind her. “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
“Earl, for the fifth time, CHICKEN!”
Oh, go ahead, just let yourself laugh a little bit!
We know this much for sure—people have differing senses of humor; but there are some things that all couples find funny, and we want to be looking for areas where sense of humor is common in our relationships.
You may not know this, but laughter is actually really good—if not important for your marriage and there are several reasons why that’s true.
First, laughter has a ‘bonding effect’ between people.
It’s been said that laughter is the shortest distance between two people—especially in marriage. Think about this: there’s a kind of vulnerability that emerges when people are laughing. And vulnerability in laughter builds trust.
Secondly, laughter is literally “good medicine.”
Laughter has important physiological effects on you and your soul mate. Research indicates that people with a sense of humor have fewer symptoms of physical illness than those who are less humorous. Further, the French philosopher Voltaire wrote, “The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”
Thirdly, laughter helps us cope.
Laughter has been called an “instant vacation.” It has a way of distracting us from the pressures of the moment. Think about it… how many times have you enjoyed a good ‘belly-laugh’ in the midst of a conversation and then needed help remembering where you when the laughter subsided? Several minutes of laughter is enough to expel feelings that have mounted for years.
Fourthly, laughter wards off burnout.
Research also indicates that individuals who have a strong sense of humor are less likely to experience burnout and depression and they are more likely to enjoy life in general—including their marriage.
Fifth, Remember “Rule Number 6.”
There’s story of two prime ministers sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, furious, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter” he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologies, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?”
“Very simple,” Replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so darned seriously.’ ”
“Ah,” says his visitor, “that is a fine rule.”
After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”
“There aren’t any.”
Sixth, Poke Fun at Your Spouse
Okay, big warning: Be careful, tease gently. In every relationship both people will, from time to time, say and or do something that’s just silly. It’s okay—as long as both agree to this—to gently and carefully remind one another “about that funny thing you said the other day…” or that silly thing you did last week…” Admittedly, this takes time to ‘season’ in any relationship. Proceed with caution.
Seventh, Laugh When You Don’t Feel Like Laughing
Pride often stands in the way of laughing when something is funny. Have you ever had one of those moments when you actually tried not to laugh because you were holding a grudge or holding on to some bitterness? Easier said than done, but try to let it go. Laugh a little.
Eighth, Study Your Spouses Funny Bone
This can be a lot of fun. You need to make a mental note of the things your spouse finds funny by paying attention to when he or she laughs. Then try to return to those kinds of things and see what happens.
A Final Thought on Humor
Norman Cousins, former editor of Saturday Review and subsequently professor at UCLA’s School of Medicine, wrote about his life-changing experience with humor. He called laughter “Inner Jogging” because every system in our body gets a workout when we have a hearty laugh. The cardiovascular and respiratory systems benefit from more than twenty seconds of robust laughter than from three minutes of exercise on a rowing machine.
Gaining MarriageM o m e n t u m . . .
So how’s your funny bone? Heard any great jokes lately? Has your spouse done something or said something lately that just cracked you up? Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott suggest using the following self-assessment to help you measure how much humor you are bringing into your marriage. So take a moment, individually, to answer these questions as honestly as you can, then compare your answers with each other.
T F I have a fail-safe strategy to make my partner laugh and it almost always works.
T F Since humor can sometimes backfire, I’m pretty good at knowing the moments when I should avoid it.
T F I can remember something specific we both laughed about yesterday.
T F We have several inside jokes that few people would understand.
T F I’d say we laugh together more than most couples do.
T F While I know to be careful, I feel safe poking fun at my spouse on occasion.
T F If asked to describe my partner’s sense of humor, I’d have a pretty good understanding of it.
T F I sometimes make fun of myself to make my spouse laugh.
T F I use humor (very carefully) on occasion to defuse a tense moment between us.
T F We often recall humorous incidents we’ve experienced, days after they’ve occurred.
Now here’s what you do: Add up the number of “true” responses. If it is eight or higher, you are well on your way to enjoying a daily dose of humor. If your total isn’t that high, you will certainly benefit from the tips offered in the chapter of The Love List for finding something to laugh about each day as a couple.
So now go refill your coffee cup and come back to the table and chat through these reflection questions:
- Recall one of the funniest things your spouse has ever done.
- How would you describe you and your partner’s funny bones? In other words, what makes each of you laugh?
- Have you ever found yourselves laughing at something that nobody else thinks s funny? What do those moments reveal about your shared humor?
- Are you more likely to laugh at Louis C. K or Jimmy Kimmell? Why?
- Recall a time when humor backfired in your marriage. What happened and what can you learn from it?
- How can you incorporate more humor into your married life?