Relationships a Laughing Matter?

by Erina Lee, Ph.D.

Relationships a Laughing Matter?

Did you know that the best way to a man’s heart is through his ear? Okay, it may not be the best way, and it certainly isn’t the only way, but a lighthearted giggle or a heartfelt laugh can certainly take you a long way. On a date, a laugh at the right moment can show not only that you’re listening but also that what they’re saying is funny. This conveys aptitude in your ability to understand a joke and similarity in your senses of humor.

Besides communicating interest and similarity though, laughing affects your physiology. While laughter decreases blood pressure, it can increase vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood. Laughter can decrease levels of stress and lead to feelings of excitement and joy. Within the brain, different areas are activated to analyze words, understand jokes, react emotionally, and respond physically. Recently, laughter has also been found to stimulate reward areas of the brain. So it’s no wonder when you find yourself enraptured in good conversation and laughing more than you have in a long while, that it feels so good.

Not only is laughter a communication tool and a feel-good experience, but it’s also a mechanism for social interaction. When you’re with other people, you’re more likely to laugh than when you’re alone. Laughing with others can show comfort or relief from an uncomfortable experience. As you laugh together more, you can create social bonds, inside jokes, and overall positive experiences. Similarly, when you laugh with your date, you feel many positive emotions which grow into greater intimacy and closeness with that person. As with anything new, if you have a rewarding experience, you’re more likely to want to repeat that experience, and that might lead to a second, third, and fourth date.

The differences between men and women
There are differences in the way men and women think about humor in dating relationships. While both agree that humor is important, women prefer men who are funny while men prefer women who think that they are funny. In other words, women feel good when they are with men who can make them laugh, and men feel good when women laugh at their jokes. Remember, a great way to a man’s heart is to laugh.

There is also a difference in the way women use laughter in emerging relationships. Compared to men, women are more likely to control the flow of initial communications. Women use signals like laughter, facial expressions and body language to either encourage or discourage communication. For example, after hearing a funny story, laughing and leaning in can signal interest and encourage your date to keep the humor coming.

Although there may be gender differences in early relationships, the disparity may not hold true as the relationships progress. Research findings show that there is no difference in humor appreciation between husbands and wives. Furthermore, findings indicate that partner humor (humor from the other person) is important in predicting marital satisfaction for both husbands and wives. In contrast to initial meetings, it’s important in longer term relationships for both members of the couple to keep each other laughing.

So even though you’re serious about finding the love of your life, remember that relationships and dating are supposed to be fun. Finding someone to spend the rest of your life with is an important life decision but one of the most important qualities in a successful marriage is finding a person who makes you laugh. So, find someone to laugh with. It may not only be good for fun, side-splitting dates, but it may also be good for the long-term success of your relationship.

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