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Can Humor Be Beneficial to My Relationship?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

To be honest, I love to laugh. Whether it’s with friends, family, in my relationship, or even just by myself, laughter is something that is very important to me. And I also use laughter quite often in sessions with clients (when appropriate, of course). So how can you use laughter in your own relationships? And is it even beneficial to do so?

For dating couples, the use of positive humor (like using it to cheer up your date) can positively contribute to relationship satisfaction. In another study conducted with 3,000 married couples from five different countries, both husbands and wives were found to be happier with a humorous partner. However, this trait was reported to be more important for the marital satisfaction of the wives than the husbands (Greengross, 2018). Regardless, married couples overwhelmingly say that humor has a positive impact on their marriages. Greengross (2018) offers some insight into how humor can change your relationship. 

Conflict resolution

When things aren’t going well, can humor help resolve conflict in marriages? In one study done, researchers found that in couples that reported high stress, the more the husband used humor, the greater the chance the couple would separate or divorce. By contrast, in a similar study, a wife’s use of humor predicted greater marital stability over six years, but only if the humor led to a decrease in their husband’s heart rate (Greengross, 2018). In other words, if the humor calms the husband, then it might be beneficial to their marriages. 

These two studies show the different functions of humor for men and women. For men, humor might serve as a way to distract from dealing with problems in the relationship, even as an attempt to reduce their own anxiety. Women, on the other hand, may use humor to create a more relaxed atmosphere that helps bring resolution.

Laughing at you, not with you

Recently, there has been an increase in research on the topics of gelotophobia (the fear of being laughed at), gelotophilia (the joy of being laughed at), and katagelasticism (the joy of laughing at others). You might expect that a person who likes being laughed at would be a good match with a partner who likes laughing at others. And that is exactly what researchers found in a study done with 154 heterosexual young couples (Greengross, 2018). However, that correlation wasn’t very strong. What was stronger was the idea that romantic partners tended to have similar preferences—they both liked being laughed at or to laugh at others at similar levels (Greengross, 2018). 

An interesting finding was that for men, having a partner who had a fear of being laughed at reduced their own sexual satisfaction in relationships, probably because their partner’s insecurities made them less appealing. In contrast, women who loved being laughed at were more attracted to and enjoyed higher sexual satisfaction with their partner (Greengross, 2018). 

Humor and sex

On the topic of sexual satisfaction, women appear to have the edge. Women who have humorous partners enjoy more and stronger orgasms compared to women who have less funny partners. Women with funnier partners also initiated sex more often and had more sex in general. However, these effects have not been found in women with higher humor production (Greengross, 2018). Why is this? Perhaps it is because it requires less effort to satisfy the sexual desire of men.

These results may highlight sex differences in light of sexual selection. Women have higher reproduction costs (being pregnant, breastfeeding, shorter reproductive window), which makes them choosier than men. On the other hand, men with good senses of humor may signal their intelligence, warmth, creativity, and friendliness, which are traits that are important in any relationship, especially in romantic ones.

If you find yourself struggling with balancing and finding humor in your relationship, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our counselors at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 


Greengross, G. (2018, November 17). How humor can change your relationship. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from 

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