Bringing Laughter Into Your Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
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Focus on the Family
The more you laugh together, the more you love your spouse.

Essayist and biographer Agnes Repplier, who was known for her common sense and good judgment, said, “We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh.”

We couldn’t agree more. And we believe the implication of her statement is also true: The more you laugh together, the more you love your spouse.

So, with this in mind, we offer the following tips on bringing a daily dose of laughter into your marriage.

Remember rule #6

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him. “Peter,” he says, “kindly remember rule number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by a hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember rule number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology.

When the scene is repeated a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of rule number 6?”

“Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so seriously.'”

“Ah,” says his visitor, “that is a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”

“There aren’t any.”

Rule number 6 is a good rule for every spouse who’s looking for a daily dose of laughter. If you’re like most people, you can take life and yourself a little too seriously, and that always stunts laughter. So lighten up. Relax. Remember what really matters. And remember rule number 6.

Poke fun at your spouse — carefully

In college I (Leslie) shared a single bathroom with several other girls on the same floor of a residence hall. I enjoyed communal living during that time of my life. We all became good friends and learned so much about each other — especially each other’s little quirks. One of the girls, for example, was often irritated by the little globs of toothpaste that inevitably appeared in the bathroom sink each morning from so many users. Everyone knew Lisa would complain. We came to expect it and often joked with her about being a neat-freak.

When Lisa got married at the end of our school year, we were all at her wedding, and one of us (who shall remain nameless) warned her soon-to-be husband about her dislike of toothpaste in the sink. Apparently, he made a mental note of the comment, and when Lisa went into the bathroom on the first morning of their honeymoon, she found the following message written in the sink with a thick blue line of toothpaste: “I Love You, Lisa!”

This new husband understood the value of a good marital laugh right from the beginning. And while his first attempt at poking fun at his wife could have backfired, it didn’t To this day, years later, they both love telling the story.

Now, let’s be clear that poking fun at your spouse must be done with caution. For example, you should steer clear of joking about sensitive issues, such as your partner’s weight, family, work, and so on. In other words, if you’re not sure if your partner will think it’s funny, you’d better refrain.

Laugh when you don’t feel like laughing

A woman discovered a shelf of reduced-price items at a local bookstore. Among the gifts was a little figurine of a man and woman, their heads lovingly tilted toward one another. “Happy 10th Anniversary” read the inscription. It appeared to be in perfect condition, yet its tag indicated “damaged.” Examining it more closely, she found another tag underneath that read “Wife is coming unglued.”

Let’s face it, no spouse is immune to stress. We all feel like we’re coming unglued at times. And wise experts agree that the best way for anyone to cope is with a good laugh. “Humor makes all things tolerable,” said preacher Henry Ward Beecher. “Laugh out loud,” says Chuck Swindoll. “It helps flush out the nervous system.” On another occasion Chuck said, “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.” Arnold Glasgow said, “Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.” The point is that even when you’ve had a tough day, or should we say especially when you’ve had a tough day, you need to laugh. It will help wash away the stress and keep the two of you together when you’re coming unglued. So help each other to find something funny even when it’s not easy.

Look for the funny around you

On a recent flight between Seattle and Oklahoma City, I (Leslie) had my head buried in a book and was oblivious to my husband’s boredom. He had nothing to read, and in his desperation, he began thumbing through in-flight magazines. Unbeknownst to me, Les was cutting various pictures out of these magazines with his handy Swiss Army pocket knife (this was before such a gizmo would be confiscated by airport security). He found a large photo of a monkey head and placed it in the window next to his seat. He cut out the watch from a photo advertisement for Rolex and taped it to his wrist. And to top off his cutting spree, he found a red ball and taped it to his nose.

Knowing that timing is everything when it comes to humor, Les waited. We sat side by side in our cramped little seats, and he waited. I read. He waited. Les waited for me to look up from my book so he could see my reaction to a monkey looking in on us at thirty-five thousand feet. He waited for me to ask for the time so he could see me react to his “Rolex.” He waited to see the reaction I’d have to a clown nose taped to the somber face of my husband. Les waited so long — he fell asleep. But that didn’t spoil the fun.

When I finally looked up from my book, I saw his handiwork. But I muffled my laughter to let him enjoy his sleep. In fact, I decided to take a catnap too. Who knows how long we slept, but it was long enough for two flight attendants to don red noses and wake us up to tell us we were landing.

You never know where you can find a good laugh. So look for the funny around you and create it when you have to.

Study your spouse’s funny bone

One of the reasons many couples never reach their “laughter potential” is because they have never taken humor seriously. Sounds strange, but to bring more laughter into your relationship, you need to know what makes your husband or wife laugh. After all, each of us has a unique sense of humor.

As public speakers, we’ve experienced occasions where someone will laugh out loud at something most everyone else would barely chuckle at. And, of course, some people never crack a smile at something almost everyone else thinks is hilarious. So your job is to find those things your partner thinks are most funny by paying attention to when he or she laughs.

“I never realized how much Susan laughs at a silly comic strip,” a participant at one of our seminars told us. “When you asked us to think about each other’s humor styles, it dawned on me that I hardly ever laugh at comics in the paper, but she seems to really enjoy them.” This enlightened husband went on to tell us how he was now learning to laugh at comic strips too. He now makes a habit out of reading them and even cuts one out to show Susan from time to time.

Maybe your partner likes a sarcastic wit. Maybe it’s slapstick that makes him or her laugh. Or maybe it’s the old classic sitcoms like The Andy Griffith Show. Wherever his or her funny bone is located, find it and use it — at least once a day.

From The Love List, published by Zondervan. Copyright © 2002, Les and Leslie Parrott. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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About the Author

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Dr. Les Parrott is a clinical psychologist and his wife, Dr. Leslie Parrott, is a marriage and family therapist. They work together as a team to offer marriage and parenting help through their popular speaking engagements and writing. They address audiences in 40 cities a year and are New York Times best-selling authors whose books have sold more than two …

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