Laughter is an essential ingredient in a healthy relationship. Everyone knows that successful relationships always have the key elements of mutual respect and kindness, but did you know that shared laughter is a great predictor of relationship success? Marriage and Family Therapist Kelly Hoffman shared why laughter is important and also how to add the fun without going too far.
1. Don't use sarcasm or put downs. DO be witty. The difference? Are you trying to make the other person look bad or just point out a funny/ironic/silly side to the situation? Pointing out a non-emotionally charged fact that causes laughter is GREAT! Its call wit and we pay people to be witty and make us laugh. Do be witty every chance you get. Laughter that you get because you cause everyone else to laugh AT someone else is not cool, but is VERY not cool when that someone else is your partner. There is no safety in sarcasm and mockery, and no relationship without feelings of safety.
2. Be funny when you are not fighting. Have lots of opportunity for laughter and fun, do not let the only time your partner sees you cut loose be when a disagreement is brewing. Make sure you are doing your part to allow fun times to happen, don't squash the other person when they are being funny, be willing to laugh at yourself and have laughter in your relationship.
3. Remind yourself of funny things that happen. Tell the story to friends, to each other, your kids, whatever. If it was funny, tell it. This creates a feeling of joining around the event and establishes that "in our relationship, its ok to laugh at ourselves" that transfers to the next time you are feeling the need to raise your voice. You will be more likely to be willing to let the situation diffuse if you feel that you and your partner are good at laughing together.
4. Do something whacky, and maybe preplan it. Scientists have found that the sounds of high pitched yelling cause stress reactions in people, so try a different voice on purpose. Talk about it before you are in conflict, so you know you are each trying to diffuse the situation rather than be blas'. In John Gottman's research, he found that couples that were able to "soften" in arguments through laughter often did things like stick out tongues at each other at just the right time to cause laughter. They were able to make fun of themselves, and the other person was able to accept the attempt at humor as a way to diffuse the situation rather than taking offense by it. So work on your whacky and your acceptance.
Above all, be willing to say "I love you, I'm your best friend, I want to work this out". Having this attitude and being willing to say it will create the safety in your relationship for laughter to happen.