Laughter plays an important role in any romantic relationship. That much is common knowledge. But new research indicates it’s how we laugh with and at each other that may be crucial in helping determine the strength of our romantic bonds.
The study, published in Journal of Research in Personality, enlisted 154 heterosexual couples, with interviews conducted about their relationship with respect to overall satisfaction, sex life and how they handled being laughed at.
“Earlier studies have shown that people are looking for a partner with a sense of humour and who enjoys a laugh,” Professor René Proyer said in a news release. The MLU-based psychologist conducted the new study together with Kay Brauer.
But how people react to being laughed at differs wildly — some are afraid of being laughed at, viewing it as negative, while others love being the centre of attention. Finally, certain people enjoy laughing about others and making them the object of a joke. Researchers like Proyer and Brauer can construct profiles drawing on a combination of these three traits. “All of these characteristics are normal, up to a certain point — including being afraid of being laughed at,” Proyer said.
Some Funny Results
Analyzing the responses to their interviews, Proyer and Brauer found that partners are often similar in terms of their individual characteristics and laughter profiles. If these matched, they were usually more content in their relationships.
Being able to provoke each other to laugh increased relationship satisfaction among women and sex life satisfaction with both women and men. On the other hand, being afraid of being laughed at tended to have negative effects on relationships — people who exhibited this trait were less content and were more likely to mistrust their partner.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was little in the way of demonstrable relationship interdependence when it came to people who enjoy ridiculing each other, although (of course) they tended to argue more often.
Putting the Results to Good Use
So how does this science help produce better relationships? Mainly in counselling and therapy situations. And of course, there’s a lot more to a happy cohabit than laughter — but the way you look at humour is a good place to start when analyzing whether your relationship is going to go the distance.