Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. And in between all of the highs ― the wedding day, trips around the world, births of children ― there are going to be some lows. When you’re in the throes of one of those unavoidable rough patches, a shared sense of humor can truly be a lifesaver.
Writer Lisa Munn, aka Sarcastic Mommy on Twitter, told HuffPost she and her husband have relied on humor to get them through some of the challenging parts of their 18-year marriage, including job changes, multiple moves and parenting.
“Life is hard. It becomes a little more bearable when your significant other can cheer you up and put a smile on your face when you feel like doing anything but,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried and my husband has made me laugh at the same time. It never hurts to lighten a heavy situation with a little humor.”
Munn and her husband are on to something; science says laughing together can be an indicator of how strong your relationship is. Although there isn’t a ton of research on the subject, a small 2015 study from Laura Kurtz and Sara Algoe at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, published in the journal Personal Relationships, found a link between the amount of time couples spent laughing together and how supported and close they felt to one another.
Kurtz and Algoe recorded 71 heterosexual couples talking about how they first met. During the retelling, researchers tracked each couple’s shared spontaneous laughter and how long each of those instances lasted. Couples also completed a survey gauging the quality of their relationship. From this, Kurtz and Algoe learned that couples who spontaneously laugh together more often tend to also report feeling closer to and more supported by their partner overall.
“The results were found while controlling for any other laughter that occurred during the conversation but which was not shared ― i.e. all of the solo laughter for each person in the couple,” Kurtz explained to HuffPost. “What this suggests is that it’s not so much about how much your partner laughs or makes you laugh ― the real magic may be in those moments where both of you find yourselves laughing together.”
“The real magic may be in those moments where both of you find yourselves laughing together.”-- Laura Kurtz
Karl Pillemer ― author and professor of human development at Cornell University ― interviewed 700 Americans ages 65 and older for his book 30 Lessons for Loving. He, too, found that a shared sense of humor is one of the keys to a lasting relationship.
“One of the best pieces of advice from people who have been in very long marriages is to lighten up. And this is what the ability to laugh does for a couple,” Pillemer told HuffPost. “Most people have had the experience of getting ready for a knock-down, drag-out fight, and then just start to laugh because the issue is so idiotic. So in general, humor is good.”
“However, be careful that ‘humor’ doesn’t extend to sarcasm and unwanted teasing,” he cautioned. “Sarcastic comments may seem funny to he or she who makes them, but they can kill the quality of a relationship. Laughing together is the key.”
Writer, husband and father of four James Breakwell, who runs the popular @XplodingUnicorn Twitter account, told HuffPost that when it comes to life’s stresses, “you can laugh or you can drink. I find it helps to do both.”
“My sense of humor saves my life every day. It’s all that stops my wife from smothering me in my sleep,” Breakwell ― who has been married 10 years ― told HuffPost. “It helps that I’m a comedy writer. Every time something terrible happens, I turn it into a joke and hopefully make some money off it. Then neither of us feels so bad. There’s always profit in pain.”
It might sound corny, but it’s true: a sense of humor really can be the glue that keeps a couple together when everything else is going to sh*t. Marriage is no joke, but if you can laugh together, you’re on the right track.