Oftentimes, when you’re in a relationship, your partner is your best friend. They’re the person you can share anything with— including a few harmless jokes.
Last year, however, science confirmed what many of us have already known: making fun of your partner can make your relationship stronger.
Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor at the University of Kansas, conducted a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Personal Relationships. In his analysis, Hall combined sample data from 39 different studies conducted over the course of 30 years. In the end, his results suggest that humor— and shared humor, in particular— is positively correlated with one’s level of satisfaction in a relationship.
So, what does this all mean?
In a statement by the University of Kansas, Hall discussed the idea of humor in a relationship. Oftentimes, you hear people say they want a funny partner who can make them laugh— but in the end, we all have different senses of humor and don’t laugh at the same things.
So, it’s less about finding a funny partner and more about finding a partner who has a sense of humor that matches yours.
“That people think you are funny or you can make a joke out of anything is not strongly related to relationship satisfaction. What is strongly related to relationship satisfaction is the humor that couples create together.”
These results seem to echo those of another study conducted by psychologists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) which showed that provoking others to laugh at you primarily has positive effects:
“Women reported more often that they tended to be satisfied with their relationship and felt more attracted to their partners. They and their partners also tended to be equally satisfied with their sex life.”
However, female participants who were afraid of being laughed at reported negative effects like being less content in their relationship and mistrusting their partner. Their partners also reported being less satisfied with their sex life than the partners of the women who could take a joke.
Positive teasing, or ‘prosocial teasing’, can benefit all types of relationships.
“It can be playful, reveal affiliations and help both the teaser and teased feel closer,” author KJ Dell’antonia noted in a blog published by the New York Times.
“After all, only someone very close to you, or someone very mean, will tell you that your feet have a certain unappealing jungle quality,” she joked.
Of course, there’s always a line that should be drawn. While there’s nothing wrong with making innocent jokes both you and your partner can enjoy, when the comments start to broach the realm of ridicule, it may be a red flag— and this applies to all relationships.
The School of Life has a wonderful video explaining the differences between affectionate and aggressive teasing— one that I’ve included at the end of this article.
People who ridicule others report higher dissatisfaction in their romantic relationships. “This is hardly surprising considering that these people often go too far and make derisive comments which can then lead to an argument,” noted Kay Brauer of MLU. Indeed, Hall seems to agree, stating that an aggressive sense of humor is a bad sign for the relationship in general— but worse when it’s used in the relationship itself— i.e. towards a partner.
In the end, Hall leaves us with a takeaway message:
“It’s not about being a great comedian but finding what’s funny in the everyday and enjoying it together, whether that’s ‘The Simpsons’ or repeating funny things your kids say or The New Yorker cartoons or relishing in the absurdity of life.”
“It is most important you do it together.”
Watch the video below!
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