Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

The Two Sides of Humor in Relationships

Being able to laugh with (not at) your partner is a bonding thing.

There are many things that can make relationships work, and many more that can make them completely unworkable. One of the things that many lucky couples agree upon is the value of having a partner who makes you laugh.

Joanne Woodward, who was married to Paul Newman, said, "Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat!" In a business where unsuccessful marriages are the norm, she and her husband have not just stayed together, but they are a glowing example of a great relationship. Being able to laugh with each other seems like a big part of that.

Having a sense of humor will not only help you love better; it will help you live better. We all know that laughter and joy will lower stress and people with good attitudes tend to live longer than those who are anxious or depressed. It only makes sense that those couples who can crack each other up would have happier and more successful relationships.

The Other Side of the Coin

It is also important to note that people have different tastes and values when it comes to humor. What makes one person laugh may actually offend someone else. If you're seeing someone who makes "off-color" remarks that raise the hair on the back of your neck, you may not be seeing the right person. If you're in a committed relationship with a person who thinks they're funny, but you don't, it's best to get this elephant on the table and let them know how you feel.

What this means to the wanna-be Jerry Seinfelds and Rita Rudners out there is that is doesn't matter how funny you think you are if no one (or just your partner) gets you.

Hopefully, you're comfortable enough with your partner that you can talk about this or anything else about your personality that they don't fully understand or appreciate.

It is wise to remember that humor can be biting, especially if one is prone to sarcasm or "put-downs." This can actually hurt someone you love. So be careful that you don't make your loved one the brunt of your humor. In the long term, this will only damage a relationship.

Some people actually use humor as an excuse to be verbally hurtful. If that is going on in your life, you need to put a stop to it. The pain that you are giving (or receiving) will corrode your love and turn your life into constant cat-fight. Relationships are meant to be comfort zones, not war zones, and humor is not a weapon. If you find that you resort to this tactic as a means of "self-protection," your communication skills need to get a tune-up. If you neglect this you are setting yourself up for trouble.

Once you have created a balanced sense of humor in your relationship, you will find that the positive effects are far-reaching. Laughter is the best medicine; it may also be the best aphrodisiac. Couples who laugh a lot seem to have healthy sex lives as well as healthier relationships. The benefits are as endless as the jokes on "I Love Lucy." Treat yourself and your partner to the joys that can only come from living with someone who makes you laugh to tears.

Here's a thought. This evening, instead of saying your usual good nights, try whispering into your loved one's ear, "Did you hear the one about…"

More from Psychology Today

More from Barton Goldsmith Ph.D.

More from Psychology Today