Junkins: Laughter in relationships
After God created the world, He created man and woman.
And then to keep the whole thing from collapsing,
He created humor. --Ernie Hoberecht
Laughter is in many ways one of life’s greatest mysteries. It’s commonly seen as an everyday fact of life, but not one that is understood. Laughter happens, and people like it but they do not emphasize its importance. While studies have found it is the primary reason for choosing a mate, people generally take laughter in their relationships for granted until it’s not around. Then they really miss it.
The role of laughter in relationships is often unclear and that makes it difficult to regain it once it is lost. People tend to bog down in the serious issues of everyday life like money, children and work. With their noses to the grindstone, they may be aware that life has ceased to be fun but they can’t identify the cause. They don’t tune in to the fact that they are no longer laughing.
Laughter is vital to a relationship’s wellbeing. It does much to maintain the friendship on which a relationship is founded. Couples who laugh together stay in touch with all the good things they like about each other. That enables them to enjoy each other’s company as they did from the beginning of their relationship. Criticism tends to wobble and collapse when laughter is involved and partners are more willing to negotiate and make changes. Laughter creates generosity and undermines the human tendency to selfishness. Partners feel better giving than receiving.
Relationships that have a lot of laughter also feel emotionally safe and partners want to spend time with each other. If couples allow playfulness to play a big role in things, laughter is more often present. The formula for laughter is being able to play with important things. Issues are not diminished in play but they are in better perspective. The facts don’t change but how one handles the facts does change. Laughter and playfulness in relationships also enhance communication between partners and will eradicate a power struggle, both of which are often a sore point for couples.
Laughter is also a huge stress management tool for modern day pressures weighing on couples. Keeping a sense of humor and finding ways to see issues with a sense of fun eases frustration and puts anxiety on a back burner. Since one can’t laugh and worry or laugh and be angry at the same time, immediate problems shrink in size psychologically and the future seems far away and less consuming. Laughter focuses one on the present and wraps one in a single instant in time making it much easier to cope.
The laughter that people so casually take for granted is almost magical in the way it adds pleasure to our interactions with others. In light of this fact, it’s interesting that people don’t laugh more than they do. Laughter with serious—a mysterious contradiction that oils the wheels of human relationships and makes them good.
Enda Junkins, LCSW is a psychotherapist in Ouray. She is the author of "Belly Laughter in Relationships: Something Else Positive Below the Belt." www.laughtertherapy.com