(Photo by Nathan Greenwood)
What a rough assignment. Right after they tell you you have to establish a pleasurable sex life, social scientists Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee instruct you to go have fun. The authors of The Good Marriage say the seventh task in creating a strong relationship is "to use laughter and humor to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom by sharing fun, interests and friends." That's actually several tasks in one. Of those, the most important might be humor.
Everyday life can be monotonous, work tedious, and problems inevitable. The couple who can laugh together has a built-in buffer that protects their marriage from all the stressors that knock against it. The authors asked the wife of psychoanalyst Erik Erickson, Joan Erickson, what was the most important quality in a happy marriage (they had been married for 45 years). Joan didn't hesitate before giving her answer: "A sense of humor. Without humor, what have you got?"
Inside jokes, the abilty to poke fun at each other without getting nasty, the desire to share the funny things that happened at work or that the kids said, all help keep the joy alive. Even when life is stressful~ especially when life is stressful~ couples who can take a few minutes to clown around and be silly will build a better relationship than if they forget to have fun together.
In addition to incorporating humor into their lives, couples need to take time to share their interests, their passions, with each other. "Many happily married people say that boredom is their greatest enemy," the authors said. They have mutual and separate interests that make their relationship lively and fresh. Local politics, baseball, church, hobbies~ all provide topics of conversation and help keep the couple from growing overly introverted. Shared hobbies and humor go a long way toward building a good marriage.