Ask most women what’s on their list of required attributes for a mate and they’ll include “He/she makes me laugh” – often near the top. Researchers at the University of North Carolina recently explored the impact of laughter on relationships. Turns out, shared laughter is good for your relationship. Not surprisingly, laughing AT your partner when they fall over or do something dumb doesn’t build a relationship, nor does just laughter in general.
“For people who are laughing together, shared laughter signals that they see the world in the same way, and it momentarily boosts their sense of connection,” said one of the paper’s authors, Sara Algoe. “Perceived similarity ends up being an important part of the story of relationships.”
Personally, I can relate. My ex-husband was Texan (yes, WHAT was I thinking??). His sense of humour was very different to mine, largely based on cultural differences. He enjoyed the slap-stick, obvious American-style humour whereas I preferred the dry, self-depreciating Australian humour. I particularly enjoy irreverent and black humour (aka Joan Rivers or most British comedy, such as Michael McIntyre), which he found distasteful. This resulted in me, sitting stony-faced while he laughed like a drain at a show on TV. And vice-versa. There was little shared laughter and it got less and less as the relationship broke down. The lack of shared laughter reinforced the differences between us, whereas researchers have shown that people look for similarities with their romantic partner.
So, what to do?
Laughter on date night
Date night is a good place to look for opportunities for shared laughter. Choose date night ideas that will offer opportunities for shared laughter. Go to a comedy show or a movie. Try something harmlessly competitive, like go carting or time spent at an amusement parlour. Try something fun like jumping in a ball pit or playing hide and seek in IKEA. Have some fun discussions like your preferred flirting tactics (and learn something new about your partner). Have a water fight or borrow the kid’s Nerf guns. One of my favourite ways to generate share laughter is a wrestling match (mainly because my partner is 40 kg heavier than me so I have to fight dirty).
Start a ritual
You can build shared laughter into everyday life by starting a ritual. It can be tiny – like reading the joke of the day from the newspaper to your partner as you eat breakfast. It can be weird – my partner and I started a ritual of watching Dr. Pimple Popper on an iPad when we got into bed for a bit of grossness before sleep. It had to stop – the resulting nightmares got to us (although I’ve just ordered my very own extractor kit for some home-grown poppin’ fun!). You might both enjoy watching cat videos on Youtube or scrolling through the humour section of Pinterest – you get the idea. Find something that makes you both laugh and do it everyday at around the same time. It will become a habit. Just don’t choose something that is a laugh at the other person’s expense, like scaring them as they walk in the door or throwing cold water on them while they are in the shower (not that I have EVER done that!).
So, there may well be a scientific reason why the saying “Couples who laugh together last together” is true!
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