Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage
July 24, 2020
Can you laugh at yourself? I mean really laugh at yourself when you make a mistake or do or say something silly? What about when your spouse or friends tease you in a good-natured way? Are you able to laugh then?
A wonderful sense of humor is an attractive quality. It can also be an extremely valuable resource in a relationship. This is especially true during stressful times like now, when we have more “together time”, distractions are few, and we are all just a little bit stir-crazy (at least my family and I are). We could all use a good laugh. Or ten.
Unfortunately, humor is generally lacking when a relationship isn’t in a great place. Typically, the root causes are:
Insecurity / Lack of self-esteem – Let’s face it, we all have faults and areas of weakness. If you can’t hold yourself in high enough regard to handle a little ribbing, your partner (and the rest of the family for that matter) is going to pull back and stay clear. When you let anger, defensiveness, and pouting be your go-to responses, you aren’t safe for light-hearted play.
Lack of trust – When there is a lack of trust, motives may be questioned. Is it light-hearted teasing or are they trying to injure me? This is especially confusing when trust has been broken before and there are pain and unforgiveness still lingering. When you aren’t sure your spouse has your best interests in heart, the laughter in your marriage suffers.
Bringing the laughter back
If your marriage is laughter-less what can you do to change it?
Be Self-Reflective – This is the time to look inward and make an honest assessment. My marriage was void of laughter at one point too, and then I realized I couldn’t take a joke and was easily offended. My husband and kids all knew better than to tease me or give me feedback because I would get angry or pout. Angry pouty people don’t encourage playfulness.
Be thankful for your differences – You married someone who is different from you and that’s a blessing. I regularly find myself telling angry clients to be “curious not furious” when your spouse sees something differently than you. After all, they aren’t you! Instead, be intentional about appreciating the opposite qualities that make them unique, which will in turn build trust. In the best relationships, spouses complement one another. If you want more laughter in your marriage, be less critical of your spouse’s differences and more forgiving of your own.
Be a Safe Space – For a relationship to be great, there must be space for both of you to share honestly without reacting in anger, snarky comments, pouting, or heaping shame on each other. Your spouse should be able to tell you he didn’t love the new recipe you tried at dinner or that she doesn’t really want the glass of wine you poured for her. If your spouse is afraid to tell you the truth, because of how you will react, you lose the authenticity, vulnerability, and potential for laughter in your relationship.
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The silent treatment is a pretty common response I see in couples therapy. It happens when you are so angry, disappointed, let down, and you don’t feel like you have any other way to let your partner know just how upset you really are.
A lot of the therapy work I do is helping couples and partners understand what their contributions to the relationship are, and how they can start making changes for the better, specifically with communication. Specifically, when communicating with your spouse, it’s important to make sure that you are not part of the problem, but part of the solution.
I bet many of you have already seen the recent Brene’ Brown video making the rounds where she calls out the myth of marriage being a 50/50 partnership.