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.”
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 Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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