Friday, August 7, 2009

Healthy marriage characteristic #4

Both are quick to laugh at life, and at themselves as well.

They say that laughter is good for the soul. While this is certainly true, I suspect that laughter is good for our marriage as well. At the risk of sounding a bit pessimistic however, it seems to me that as we grow older, it can become more difficult to find the humor in life-as well as the humor in our marriages-the humor that in our youth, we might have found with great regularity.

Or maybe there is a better way of saying this: as time passes and the seriousness of life increases, these inevitable life circumstances can overshadow many of the things that at one time we found so much humorous pleasure in.

I’m really not a pessimist and I do find lots of life experiences that are worthy of a laugh or two. I must confess however, that as I grow older I have to be a bit more dedicated in my search for the funny moments in life. And I think that most would agree with me that as they age (something most of us are doing!) they too have to work a bit harder to find the humor in life to laugh about.

Husbands and wives who are in healthy and vibrant marriages are intentional in their efforts to keep the machinery of laughter well oiled and often used. While they may have to overlook and peer beyond some of the natural heaviness that can happen as they age, (work, health, family conflicts, disappointments, failures, and of course, the national news to name but a few), they are usually quite successful at laughing out loud-and often-with each other.

Most of us are drawn to people who can laugh at themselves from time to time. Possibly an even more difficult challenge than finding life circumstances to laugh at and about together, is being able to actually laugh at ourselves when it is appropriate and called for. Not only do men and women who are a part of a healthy marriage laugh more in general, they also seem to be able to laugh at themselves, and to allow the other in on the “fun at their expense”, so to speak. Each is careful, though to distinguish between laughing at, and laughing with, the other person. Somehow they are able to detect with regular success when their laughing in response to the blunders, imperfections and glitches of the other is welcomed and appropriate, and when it is not.

It seems that emotionally healthy and well balanced children have learned the knack for doing just that at a very early age; they have somehow learned that it is ok and even appropriate to find a little humor in their own occasional slips and goof-ups. I doubt that for most of us human beings, laughing at ourselves comes naturally, but rather, it is learned at an early age and then needs to be practiced as we grow older.

So not only is laughter good for the soul, it is very good for the health and well-being of our marriage as well.
Ed Wimberly, Ph.D.

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