I consider myself fortunate. I married a man who likes to laugh. I suppose I could have sought out a more serious, highly intense fellow. I probably would be richer, but I don't think I would be having as much fun.
I don't know about "soul mates". I'm not sure I ever got the hang of that term.
But I do know that my spouse and I are "laugh" mates.
Laughter, as any medical article will tell us, is good for the body, the mind, and the spirit. It is reputed to boost the immune system, clear the mind, and relax the muscles. Is it any surprise then, that laughter is exceedingly good for marriage?
Unfortunately, many married couples do not and cannot seem to laugh much.
They may be too angry, having lost trust in each other. It's even possible that they never picked up the laugh habit in the first place.
But I notice that couples who are contentedly together for the long run laugh a lot. They can laugh at themselves and poke good natured fun at each other, and they can laugh with each other at the absurdities of life. They can tease each other without malice, and any sarcasm is given with love, not with the intention to wound.
Laughter builds good will, a key ingredient in marriage. Whenever we laugh with someone , we feel positive about that individual; we feel closer. There is a good connection, a union, in that sharing of a comical experience. Can we ever really dislike someone with whom we have laughed long and hard until tears ran down our faces or we had to stop to catch our breath?
Some people have more of a knack for enjoying life through playful laughter than others and are good at making other people laugh too. Maybe there is even a laughter gene. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the early American essayist, said, "It is a happy talent to know how to play."
Laughter is play, and good marriages are playful. But even if we haven't been graced by this ability to laugh easily and deeply, we can develop it in marriage. Life can be as funny as we make it if we look for the humor in daily experiences. Certainly living with someone offers up these humorous moments if we are open to catching them.
The religious traditions advocate laughter too. My favorite is the Apache myth which says that when the Creator made the first humans and gave them the five senses in order to live well, he noticed that something was missing. So he gave them the ability to laugh. "Now," he said, "you are fit to live."
To have a laughing marriage we need certain key ingredients: mutual trust and respect for the other, a healthy and realistic view of ourselves, and a sense of the comedic in small as well as large things. We have to know, for example, that our partner loves us and does not see our faults as detracting from our worth. We also have to respect the other and enjoy his form of humor or the humor won't work. And, of course, we have to have a mutual sense of the lighter aspects of life.
Humor in the marital relationship can take so many forms, all to suit individual tastes: slapstick, nonsense, jokes, puns, teasing, and, of course, poking fun at ourselves. A recent report even stated that the time of day that laughter occurs can be important. Laughing before you go to sleep, for example, is supposed to hold bodily benefits. I believe it. Furthermore, it seems to me that laughing before you go to sleep is a wonderful good will builder for a marriage. And, the medical and psychological pundits tell us, we need to laugh on a daily basis, to reinforce the good benefits.
Of course there are many situations that preclude laughter. Laughter will not cure severe marital ills. Alcoholism isn't funny, serious illness isn't funny, any form of abuse isn't funny. But laughter helps us get through the thick and thin of daily married life. The more we learn to laugh at ourselves, the less likely we are to take ourselves too seriously. The more we can learn to enjoy good natured teasing, the less sensitive we can become to our faults.
My husband likes to call me "The navigator" because whenever we travel and I tell him to turn left, it inevitably means we should have turned right. "So you figure it out," I retort in mock anger. He rolls his eyes, and shakes his head and then we both laugh.
I guess I could take offense, but I know he is often (not always) right. It doesn't take away from my worth if navigation is not one of my skills. Besides, I can't wait for the chance to pin that label on him. It's only a matter of time.
About the Author:
Deanna Kasten, M.A.,LPC, LMFT, LCDC has been in private practice as a counselor in Dallas for over twenty years and has taught seminars at Dallas Fort Worth area junior colleges in self esteem building, assertiveness training, and coping with difficult people in the workplace. She has written articles for counseling journals as well as local newspapers relating to counseling. To learn more about Ms. Kasten and her practice please visit her profile here.