If you’ve never read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, here’s a brief synopsis to set the stage: there are five basic ways to show love to someone, and each person has their own preference and strong suit. In order to contribute to a healthy relationship, you need to learn how to speak the receiver’s love language, not just your own. The five languages described in depth and with examples in the book are acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, physical touch, and quality time.
To determine your primary love language through a quiz, click here. But keep in mind that, like most quizzes, sometimes all of the answer choices suck. Instead of picking the answer that most applies to you, you must choose the answer that is least offensive to you (the lesser of two evils, so to speak). After taking and retaking the quiz for couples multiple times, I’ve noticed 2 things:
- Our needs change with time and circumstances;
- I’m not fully satisfied with the options—something’s missing.
I may be a complicated person, but odds are that someone reading this is thinking “AMEN.” While all of the languages listed in the book are important to a strong bond, there’s one quality in my own life and countless others’ that seals a bond, builds the most memories, relieves the most stress, and brings the most peace:
I’m not the only one who sees humor and laughter as staples in a healthy relationship. How many times have you heard someone pronounce their love for another based partially on the fact that the other makes them laugh? How many readers out there look for a great sense of humor in love interests and friendships? You’ve read it in books, seen it on social media, and watched it in movies. It must be significant.
But research also has something to contribute to the conversation. In The Journal of Psychology, Butzer and Kuiper (yes, I’m giggling too), researched the use of humor and its effects on relationship satisfaction. They found that “humor is one strategy that individuals can use in romantic relationships to achieve particular relational goals such as increased bonding, reduced tension, or avoidance of a certain topic or conversation.” Obviously, some uses of humor can damage a relationship, but according to the research, when used appropriately and not to bring a loved one down, spouses consider humor to play an important role in successful marriages (Lauer, Lauer, and Kerr 1990).
And Huffington Post quotes Jeffrey Hall of the University of Kansas: “Hall found that ‘playfulness between romantic partners is a crucial component in bonding and establishing relational security’ and that laughter, ‘particularly shared laughter, is an important indicator of romantic attraction between potential mates.'”
But laughter isn’t just important for romantic relationships. Humor is closely associated with a greater connection in any relationship. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkely published How laughter brings us together and quoted a social psychologist: “for people who are laughing together, shared laughter signals that they see the world in the same way, and it momentarily boosts their sense of connection…Perceived similarity ends up being an important part of the story of relationships.” This applies to you and your coworkers, your kids, your friends, your neighbors, and your dog. Maybe not your dog, but give it a try. Shared laughter, meaning laughing about the same things, creates connections, or bonds. And laughter releases endorphins, relieving pain and stress and boosting happiness.
Understanding the significance of laughter, here are some ideas to help you bring more laughter into your relationships and create that bonding experience you desire:
- Watch funny videos/shows.
Remember that it’s important to find something that makes you both laugh. If you like Dumb and Dumber but your friend finds it offensive, find something else. Some suggestions include cat videos, comedians, and favorite talk show hosts, like the Ellen Degeneres Show. Make sure that you’re both in a good mood from the start to increase your laughing potential. However, this method can also be a good way to cheer someone up or serve as a temporary, safe distraction when troubled.
- Be silly together.
Dance, sing, make funny faces and sounds, act like children. Stepping outside your comfort zone (together) and embracing your insecurities will likely result in a giggle, if not an obnoxious laugh with a snort. Don’t forget to laugh at yourself.
- Learn a new language together.
My husband and I tried to learn French together after visiting Turks and Caicos. We failed and got sidetracked eventually, but we had some laughs listening to each other try to pronounce seemingly impossible words. I don’t know how the French do it.
- Find humor in the tough times.
This one is hard for some, but changing your perspective to see the humor in a tough situation can bring about some serious comic relief (irony intended). Ask yourself, “What’s ironic about our current situation?” or “Ten years from now, what will make us laugh about this moment?”
- Be kids again.
What did you enjoy doing as a kid? Do it again, together. Blowing bubbles, splashing in the pool, racing in the backyard, coloring/painting, giving wet willies, wrestling, playing board games (but don’t get too competitive!), jumping on a trampoline, riding bikes, and the list could go on and on. Go back to a time when you were care-free and recreate those memories. Maybe you’re with someone different today, but this experience will also allow them to live some of your childhood experiences, enhancing your bond.
- Do something you’re bad at (borrowed from Bustle).
This is even better if both of you are bad at some of the same things. If you’re bad at disc golf, go disc golfing together, and laugh at yourselves as you compete to see who can play the worst. Maybe you’re not a good painter; paint a portrait of each other and then laugh at the masterpiece. As the article points out, eliminating the pressure to succeed or impress will allow you to relax and just enjoy the activity.
- Find jokes.
Dad jokes, knock-knock jokes, yo momma jokes, whatever jokes strike your fancy. My husband loves a good cheesy joke. I enjoy them if they’re particularly clever. You can buy a book or just surf the internet. Consider starting your day either at work or at home with a joke of the day.
- Smile more (borrowed from daringtolivefully.com).
This is a practice particularly useful for those of us with a resting b*&%$ face. But it’s also handy for someone with anger issues. According to Psychology Today, “even a forced smile can lead to a mood boost.” Smiling has been known to be contagious, but it actually improves smiler’s mood as well. When I’m angry, it’s hard for me to convince myself to smile. I feel stupid and I want to be angry. But this is a simple strategy to help manage one’s anger. For more on managing anger, read this post.
- People-watch together.
While it’s not nice to laugh at people, let’s be honest: there are some interesting characters out there who go unnoticed from day to day. Watching people, even your family or neighbors during their mundane, daily activities, can offer the chance for some good laughs. But don’t be too conspicuous, and don’t watch them struggle for five minutes when you could offer to help—depending on the person and the situation, a minute or two might be justifiable. For my husband and me, watching our son explore his independence brings the most laughter to our home these days.
- Do something new.
Similar to numbers 3 & 6, doing something new allows you to take it easy on yourself instead of holding yourself to impossible standards. You also get the benefit of witnessing yourself and someone you love make fools of yourselves as you enter new territory.
What other ways do you add laughter to your household? Comment below, and leave a related pic or gif to bring a smile to another reader.