Family life

Humour: The relationship cure-all

By Liza Finlay
Humour: The relationship cure-all

Humour: The relationship cure-all

Have a laugh!

One of the most potent weapons in any relationship is one we frequently neglect: humour! There’s nothing like a laugh to break the tension in a heated moment. It's the antidote to so much volatility. Recently, my husband and I got into a (rather inconsequential) squabble about body checking in hockey, and it escalated to full-on sparring. Each of us stubbornly clung to our position, committed to winning and not, as we should have been, to each other’s dignity. Finally, instead of continuing to jab or even storming out, I looked him in the eye and quipped, “OK, big guy, you better watch out, or after the kids go to bed, I’m going to body check you!” We laughed so hard we almost cried. And the kids feigned disgust — which was half the fun!

So, you see, sometimes you just have to laugh. Here’s why, and more importantly, how…

Humour: The relationship cure-allPhoto: Aleksandar Nakic/iStockphoto

Science of laughter

Laughter works like an override button. It activates a primal, reptilian part of the brain and takes us over. It's not just a reflection of intimacy, then — it can actually bridge a gap in intimacy, too.

Humour: The relationship cure-allPhoto: Laflor/iStockphoto


Tune in

So, train your brain, and activate those humour cells. Lay down some sense-of-humour circuitry. How? Tune into comedy. Watch the Comedy Network or Just For Laughs, and get into giggle mode. And make sure you do it with your partner. Together, create a shared language, a shared library of knee-slappers.

Humour: The relationship cure-allPhoto: Diego Cervo/iStockphoto

Change your attitude

Flip the switch. Think you can’t control your feelings? Think again. By changing your attitude, or the way you approach an emotion, you change the feeling.

So, when you feel your hackles rising and you want to strike, tickle instead. When you’re ready to crack his head, crack a joke. The anger will quickly dissipate.

Humour: The relationship cure-allPhoto: Jacob Wackerhausen/iStockphoto


Use the element of surprise. A piece recently published by Psychology Today suggests that bucking our inborn “pattern recognition system” — deviating from standard dynamics and expected responses — is funny.

So, do or say the unexpected, and prepare to jar your partner's circuitry! 

Humour: The relationship cure-allPhoto: Troels Graugaard/iStockphoto


Spread the laughter

Laughter has a contagious quality: Laugh, and the world (or at least your partner) laughs with you — it only takes one of you. Neuroscientists track that viral quality to a mirror system inherent in our wiring. We see someone else laughing and we laugh too.

So, even if you’ve sprained your funny bone, as long as your partner’s is intact, you’ll limp through.

Humour: The relationship cure-allPhoto: Jacob Wackerhausen/iStockphoto

Do the math

Should you laugh your way through every dispute? No. Of course not. Some matters are serious enough to warrant a serious discussion, but most of the quibbles that interrupt the harmony of a marriage are petty. And those petty problems add up. Start subtracting them.

Humour: The relationship cure-allPhoto: Joshua Hodge Photography/iStockphoto

More relationship tips!

Humour: The relationship cure-all

Sex/relationship columnist Liza Finlay shares why it's important to laugh with your partner — and how to keep a sense of humour...even when you don't want to.

This article was originally published on Mar 08, 2013

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