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The Secret Sauce of Healthy Couples

A healthy marriage isn’t the byproduct of many secrets. In the simplest terms, couples who are happily married simply love one another well. They don’t do it perfectly, but they do consistently find a way to love each other even when they don’t desire to do so or find it difficult to do so. The love each other.

But there is one secret weapon that healthy couples use which seems insignificant to those in bad relationships. Healthy couples laugh a lot WITH each other. (Order my new book Happily: 8 Commitments of Couples Who Laugh, Love & Last)

Notice the WITH. Unhealthy couples oftentimes laugh a lot, too. However, they laugh AT each other. As distrust grows and dissatisfaction rises, couples in a bad relationship begin to use sarcasm, cutting humor, and laughter as a weapon against each other. In an attempt to protect their hearts, they laugh AT their spouse. This habit makes a bad relationship worse.

Healthy couples avoid this temptation, but instead intentionally seek out ways to laugh with one another knowing that the laughter creates a protection from the stress of marriage.

What Laughter Does

Laughter inoculates us against stress. Just like a flu shot protects us in two ways–by preventing some cases and lessening the severity of others–so too, laughter keeps us from experiencing some stressors and lessens the impact of others.

Healthy couples laugh their way through some things which unhealthy couples fight through. They just don’t stress over minor differences or mistakes which greatly irritate other couples. By knowing one another, giving an extreme amount of mercy to each other, and having fair expectations about marriage, a couple can avoid some of the frustrations which others endure. Many things which cause us stress aren’t solvable issues. We are different people and approach the world in different ways. Also, we all have faults and struggles which we won’t overcome. A clumsy husband will always be clumsy. A forgetful wife will always be forgetful. Instead of being irritated by these aspects, why not laugh about them? Doing so will make it easier to cope with problems.

While healthy couples don’t avoid stress, it often has less impact on a healthy couple. Because they regularly laugh their way through life, when they do experience stress, that stress feels less major. It’s one difficult issue in the midst of many positive issues. This puts the stress in a different perspective. By regularly laughing and enjoying each other, the stressful times seem a little less stressful.

Why Laughter Leaves

Every couple is different. Some have hysterical personalities and experiences while others are far more serious. While every couple is different, very few people choose to marry someone with whom they never laugh. Laughter is almost always an aspect of dating and early marriage. It’s natural for the amount of laughter to decrease through the years, but it is a major red flag when laughter disappears from a relationship.

Laughter leaves for several reasons:

Decreased trust. If trust is broken, laughter is often one of the first casualties. In nature, smiling and laughter is intended to connote safety. When we don’t feel safe, we don’t laugh. (See: Stop Making Fun of Your Wife)

Weariness. When we stay up late with friends, we often become silly. One night without sleep lowers our inhibitions and leads to more laughter. But long-term weariness doesn’t have the same effect. When we are tired, overwhelmed, and stressed, we laugh less.

Lack of Intention. We laugh more in dating, in part, because laughter is an attraction. We intentionally find fun things to do, make jokes, laugh at the jokes of others, etc. Yet once we have a mate, we lose our intention. When was the last time you intentionally sought out an experience with your spouse that would lead to laughter?

No Free Space. Laughter often occurs in the margins. As we create, our minds make connections which leads to enjoyment. Whenever we fill our schedules and are continually on the move, we lose the free space necessary for laughter to occur.

How to Regain Laughter

What do you do when laughter is gone? If at some point you laughed a lot with your spouse, but now you no longer do, something needs to change. Assuming there is not an obvious issue at play–a season of great grief, adultery, addiction, etc.–consider these actions as a way to bring happiness back to your marriage.

Seek humor. Find a comedian you like. Watch a funny movie. Go to a comedy club. Read the comics. Search it out.

Be playful. Most laughter is not the result of a joke, it is the response to playfulness. (See: Playfulness–One Sign of a Healthy Marriage)

Increase non-sexual touch. This is an often overlooked aspect of laughter. We laugh more when we connect more. By increasing non-sexual touch, we are more likely to feel connected with each other.

Spend time together. You can’t laugh with each other unless you are sharing an experience. By intentionally spending time with one another, you increase the likelihood that something funny will happen.

Laugh, Love & Last

Jenny and I had a tough day today. It was busy, stressful, and easily could have been considered a bad day. But it wasn’t a bad day. It was a good day. One of the main reasons it was a good day is because we laughed our way through it. We didn’t laugh at the tough situations or bad news. But we laughed at each of own quirks, found humor in little coincidences, and saw the good (and communicated the good) that was around us.

Laughter is often the secret sauce of healthy couples. Those that laugh tend to last in love.

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