A simple way to keep your marriage fresh and fun — take every opportunity to share laughter-filled moments with your spouse
MAKING MY WIFE LAUGH is part of my mission in life. And Amy’s laugh is truly something to see. She goes silent, places her hand over her heart, leans forward and stops breathing. After I tell her a particularly amusing joke, I’m careful to follow up with, “Breathe, babe, breathe.” I’m not always successful at making my wife laugh, but I’ll take a chuckle, snicker or smile any day. Laughter in our marriage keeps our relationship fresh and fun.
Whether you’ve been married a few years or several decades, being intentional about the simple things, including shared laughter, is life-giving. This is what fascinates me: If Amy and I are intentional, little connections begin to feel natural again. If we’re not intentional, we drift apart. No one chooses to drift in marriage; drift sneaks in when we stop enjoying life together. Here’s how you and your spouse can stay intentional and keep the laughter rolling:
Most of the time, a good joke needs no introduction. One of the keys is the element of surprise. You don’t want the other person to see the punch line coming.
But that’s not my wife’s method. She introduces her jokes and humorous stories with, “I’m going to tell you a joke” or “I need to share something funny that happened to me today.” What she’s really saying is, “I’d like you to laugh after I tell you this.”
Her approach is brilliant because it gets a double laugh almost every time. I often start laughing right away because her upfront request is humorous enough. And if the punch line isn’t very funny, or if I’ve heard the joke before, I fake laugh, and then we both crack up. We’re so good at the fake laughter and do it so often that it turns into genuine laughter soon enough.
Amy makes me laugh the most when she forces herself to laugh at my groan-worthy dad jokes. I tell them just so she can get the ball rolling with a forced chuckle. Laughter is contagious—even when it starts with a fake laugh.
Laughter in the grind
When Amy and I were dating, no one needed to tell us to laugh more, spend time together or speak kindly to each other. What came naturally early on needs to become intentional later on.
As time passes, the grind of life can become grueling and exhausting. In the midst of our labor, King Solomon reminds us to enjoy life together: “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9). God did not give you a spouse to cause you exhaustion. He gave you your spouse so you could navigate the grind of life together.
When Amy and I are in a rush to get out of the house, or if the kids or dogs need our attention, I intentionally hold back on the jokes. Yet moments of laughter can provide a welcome break in the routine of the daily grind.
Healing laughter in marriage
Laughter can help us cope with difficult seasons and stages of life, but there is a time and place for joking. Amy and I are careful never to use humor to avoid hard conversations. Humor can often defuse tension and conflict, but if we take things too far, jokes can easily turn to sarcasm. At least in our marriage, we’ve found that sarcasm does not build intimacy. Good-hearted humor does.
We don’t always have control over the trials of life, but we have plenty of input when it comes to enjoying life together. A couple can choose to either allow what life throws at them to bring them down or maintain a sense of humor in the midst of it.
The humanity of laughter
Humor helps us lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously. Yet Amy and I are careful to avoid humor that involves name-calling and references to looks or appearances. There are plenty of times we need to be serious in life, but taking ourselves too seriously can be draining. And while making fun of yourself can make you more relatable, making fun of your spouse is a terrible strategy for building intimacy.
For example, 25 years of marriage hasn’t stopped me from modeling my wardrobe for Amy as I’m getting dressed. I have been known to strut like a New York runway model and give my wife “the smolder.” Don’t know what the smolder is? It’s a tilt of the head, a raise of the left eyebrow and a whimsical, sexy pucker of the lips. But trust me, when I do the smolder, there is nothing sexy about it.
In other words, I can make fun of what I’m wearing, or my messy hair, but I don’t do that to my wife. Part of our shared humor is that Amy defends me when I’m using self-deprecating humor. It’s odd when your spouse defends you to yourself, but it makes for some lighthearted, honoring moments in our marriage.
Physical laughter in marriage
A hearty laugh burns calories. According to one Vanderbilt University study, you can shed up to 40 calories a day with just 15 minutes of vigorous laughter. A good belly laugh also reduces tension throughout your entire body. You know that relaxed feeling you get after a good workout? The same feeling occurs after you exert yourself in laughter. I love when people laugh to the point of saying, “My face hurts” or “My side aches.” That’s a good sign that you just released a whole lot of tension.
Are you ready to laugh? To lighten up, cut loose and enjoy life together? Make it a goal to bring a smile to your spouse’s face. Share something embarrassing that you said or did today. Practice a joke on the way home and deliver it over dinner. It might not get a belly laugh, but more often than not, it will likely yield a smile that says, Thank you for the attempt. Considering all the benefits of laughter, what are you waiting for?
©2022 Ted Cunningham. Used by permission. All rights reserved. This article first appeared in the 2022 February/March issue of Focus on the Family magazine as “Laugh Together.”