Are Humorous Spouses Happier than Somber Spouses?

According to a recent study led by Glenn E. Weisfield of Wayne State University, couples who laugh together are happier than somber couples. Previous research has focused on trying to determine if spouses use humor as a measure of intelligence. “In fact, studies have shown a correlation between measures of intelligence and ability to produce humor,” said Weisfield. “But results are mixed on the question of whether or not spouses like the same jokes, so humor may not be used to choose a mate of similar  —  or high  —  intelligence.”  Additionally, one of the primary goals of mate selection, reproduction, relies on the sustainability of the relationship, not just the immediate satisfaction through intelligence matching or humor. “A satisfying, stable marriage tends to produce healthy, competent children to pass on the parents’ genes.” Weisfield added, “If women choose humorous men and the resulting marriages are generally more satisfying and stable and produce more healthy children, then this preference would eventually have been selected for in prehistory and have remained universal. Similarly, if a humorous husband were relatively intelligent, his intelligence might enhance the couple’s reproductive success or the reproductive success of their (intelligent) children; women who chose a humorous husband would then have been favored by natural selection.”

To test this theory, researchers interviewed over 3,000 married couples from five different cultural regions. The team used a questionnaire that gauged the spouses’ opinions of their relationships based on humor, satisfaction, closeness, intimacy, and other factors. The study revealed that humor was directly related to overall marital happiness. “Having a humorous spouse was associated with one’s marital satisfaction in all five cultures, and slightly more so for wives’ satisfaction,” said the team, noting that humor remained an important factor for satisfaction throughout long-term marriages. “Happy couples tend to make each other laugh, but this is probably a sign as well as a cause of marital satisfaction.” Weisfield added, “They are happy and low in anxiety, and so they exchange jokes.”

Reference:
Weisfield, Glenn E., Nicole T. Nowak, Todd Lucas, Carol C. Weisfield, Olcay IMAMOGLU, Marina BUTOVSKAYA, JILIANG Shen, and Michele R. Parkhill. “Do Women Seek Humorousness in Men Because It Signals Intelligence?” Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 24.4 (2011): 435-62. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kendra

    Kendra

    October 25th, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    This is kinda a no brainer for me. Anyone who can make me laugh is naturally going to make me a happier person, and I think that this study proves the point that this is true across the board. Who wants to live with some old fuddy duddy with a scowl on his face all of the time? I need someone to make me laugh. That is the secret to marital success right there!

  • Jude

    Jude

    October 26th, 2011 at 12:12 AM

    Happiness dies mean a lot of benefits..It gets you rid of tension and keeps you from being depressed..There is just so much goodness in laughter and a happy mind that its no surprised that it helps marriages too..!

  • Clay Swain

    Clay Swain

    October 26th, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    I would hate to be married to a somber spouse! What a life of dullness and drudgery that would be. We need to be able to laugh together as a couple to get through difficult as well as good times, and I’m happy to say my wife and I laugh a lot! Ten years together so we must be doing something right. :)

  • MorgaN

    MorgaN

    October 26th, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    But there are those who always seem to be laughing on the outside but they are dying on the inside. They are just using that smile as a coping mechanism to make everyone think that everything is ok when in reality it is not. Just something to think about.

  • TaniaChapman

    TaniaChapman

    October 26th, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    The day I met my soon-to-be best friend at a party, she said to me after several hours of us chatting, “You HAVE to meet my brother. He’s got a weird dark sense of humor too!” What a compliment eh LOL. How could I resist.

    From the minute he and I met, we connected. Whether it was his comment about my taste for psychedelic shirts or the fact that I zinged him right back about the tatty pants he was wearing, I don’t know. Instantaneously there was this “ah, a worthy opponent at last!” moment.

    Humor has definitely been the common thread that’s held us together in times of adversity, sorrow and triumph.

  • Meg K. Hannigan

    Meg K. Hannigan

    October 26th, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Psychology professor Robert Provine opined once that laughter was the first form of communication between humans. He calls it “part of the universal human vocabulary”. Is it any surprise that we bond on a deep level then with our mates that can laugh with us? Laughter’s a very sociable act. It brings us together.

  • G.D.

    G.D.

    October 26th, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Any relationship that doesn’t make room for laughter is doomed in my opinion. If there’s no fun or lighthearted side to it, why stick with that partner? Life and love is to be enjoyed and celebrated. You don’t need to come over all seriously suddenly because you’ve settled down and had a family.

    Sure, you’ve now got responsibilities. All the more reason to make time for a good stress-busting laugh.

  • Trixie Nolan

    Trixie Nolan

    October 26th, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Laughter’s played a big role in our fourteen year marriage, as it did in that of my parents and grandparents. I can remember how much warmth and love there was in their homes and between them when I was a child. Those days were filled with laughter, always someone teasing somebody else in a good-natured way or joking around. It was never mean or vicious too!

    I wanted my own children to experience that same type of home environment. I deliberately looked for a kind man who was quick to laugh and slow to criticize. Lucky for me I found him before he was snapped up! :)

  • W.Svenson

    W.Svenson

    October 26th, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    Yeah certainly is true that people who laugh together tend to bond well and get along easily. So it makes sense for couples to share some chemistry there – that would certainly help. But the one problem is both need to be sportive because what often happens is that you’re both enjoying a joke and one suddenly jokes something about the other and there starts the stink.

  • Simone Hanson

    Simone Hanson

    October 27th, 2011 at 11:58 PM

    I can’t imagine a life without laughter, inside or outside my marriage. It keeps you young in spirit and heart. Life’s too short to spend it moping about and being somber. My husband’s a joy to be around because he’s so much fun! Never a day passes that we don’t have a call or visit from somebody wanting to spend some time with him. He makes everyone feel better no matter how their day has been. :)

  • Leo Harrison

    Leo Harrison

    October 29th, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I think if you are similar in nature, you’ll be more compatible as a couple and have a happier marriage. The prevailing myth that opposite attract is rubbish. I’ve never seen a couple last that were very different personality wise. So if you are both somber, it will work out just fine.

  • GillianBooth

    GillianBooth

    October 29th, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    @Leo Harrison–it may work out just fine but it would be terribly boring if you were effectively twins. Variety is the spice of life!

    Having a partner who’s very different from you teaches you much about how other people think and their perspectives. I don’t want to marry myself, despite me thinking I’m perfect in every way! Sing it with me! “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble…” :) Just kidding.

  • Valerie Forbes

    Valerie Forbes

    October 30th, 2011 at 12:09 AM

    @Leo: I can see where you’re coming from. That doesn’t mean I agree with you though. :) I don’t think you have to be cut from the same cloth to enjoy a good and lasting marriage. I’m very open and friendly for example. My husband is more cautious about folks. He’s very thoughtful in his assessment of them, whereas I tend to go by my first impression and that’s what sticks. Sometimes I’ll tell him to loosen up and accept so-and-so for who they are, and sometimes he’ll tell me to pay more attention to their actions, not their words.

    We balance each other out in many ways. The one thing we do have in common is we both like to laugh a lot. :)

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