The other day I was sitting with a client who was telling me about a new relationship she was in. She was going over the positive and negative qualities of her new boyfriend. A good partner, she said, would look like this:
1. have a good relationship with his ex-partner (if co-parents)
2. be a good father
3. have a love for animals
4. be in a stable job
5. have financial security
6. be attentive to his physical and emotional health
7. have a good sense of humor
Number seven was the one that really hit home for her. She said, “He makes me laugh a lot!”
How can something as easy as laughter be so important? Clinical psychologist Catherine Ripplinger Fenwick has been an educator and therapist for thirty years. As a counselor (and as a cancer survivor), she wrote a helpful book called Healing with Humour. She explains in the book how laughter is essential to coping with life: “A sense of humor is one of our most powerful stress-coping behaviors. Laughter is very freeing. If we can laugh at a thing, we can survive it. Laughter helps us to gain power in powerless situations and gives us a sense of control when things around us seem out of control.”
Many couples appear in my office with “conflict resolution” as a goal. We go over all the normal ways to communicate with respect and listen attentively. We learn how to carefully enter into the other person’s emotional place. But of all these methods of reclaiming intimacy and resolving conflict, finding the humor is usually an instant fix. Seeing things from a funny standpoint helps us to view the situation from a new perspective. Laughter plays an essential role in sustaining strong, healthy relationships by resolving disagreements. Being able to laugh at ourselves is more than amusement. It defuses the argument.
Do this sound familiar? “She who laughs lasts!” You may have also heard that laughter is the best medicine. There is some truth to that statement. Some of the benefits of laughter include tension and stress relief, mood elevation, enhanced creativity, and more energy. The rise of endorphins, much like what is achieved from a “runner’s high,” adds an overall sense of health and well-being, boosts the immune system, and enhances other physiological body functions.
Have you heard of laughter therapy, also called humor therapy? This type of help uses humor to promote overall wellness. The method employs the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses or discomfort, thus contributing to an enhanced quality of life and a stronger, more lasting relationship.
Now without sounding like this is a relationship made in heaven, it is to be noted that there may be times when laughter may be replaced by tears or sadness. Certainly there are life events beyond our control. It is also important to be able to share the more unpleasant events and be emotionally “there” for the other in those times. Sort of like the song, “That’s What Friends Are For,” in good times and bad times, be on your partner’s side forever more.
Enough said! If my client found laughter in her new relationship, she may just have become the new lottery winner.