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MARRIAGE DONE RIGHT

Marriage advice: Laughing together is like taking a vitamin for your marriage

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 12:01 am

Comedian Spike Jones once observed: “People are funnier than anybody.”

True, and when you're married you have the opportunity to be funny for each other and with each other. This is good news, because laughter is a powerful tool to help keep marriages strong.

Laughing together is serious business with well documented benefits.

Laugh researcher Elizabeth Scott reports laughter lowers stress hormones, including cortisol and epinephrine, and increases endorphin levels, the hormone that makes you feel euphoric.

A full-blown belly laugh exercises your diaphragm, abs and shoulder muscles, allowing those muscles to relax afterwards. “It even provides a good workout for the heart,” Scott notes.

But Scott adds the big advantage for your marriage is “laughter connects us with others.”

Marriage experts Les and Leslie Parrott agree, explaining, “laughter is the shortest distance between two people — especially in marriage.”

Comedian Milton Berle, of early TV fame, once said “laughter is an instant vacation.” But, there are two overriding rules for a laughter vacation:

•First, you take vacations with your spouse, not at the expense of your spouse. The same with laughing: Laughing with your spouse creates connection, laughing at your spouse creates distance.

•The Parrotts also explain that “our funny bones are located in different places.” If you like practical jokes and your spouse doesn't, save that humor for friends who appreciate it.

In your marriage, look for ways to laugh that will get you laughing together. Wherever your spouse's funny bone is located, “find it and use it — at least once a day.”

The best time for a good laugh is when you're feeling the greatest stress. Bill Cosby was right when he said, “If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it.”

And every marriage has countless survival opportunities: When the kids don't mind, the checkbook doesn't balance, the car just broke down, and your schedules are having a head-on collision.

When we find ourselves in situations which are absurdly ridiculous, Scott explains, it helps to do a mental fast-forward to how it will appear when you look back on it in the future and laugh. Think of how your plight “will sound as a story you can tell your friends.” Consider some of the sillier aspects of the situation and see if you can laugh about it now.

If things are coming at you impossibly fast, compare it to the famous “Lucy and the Candy Factory” sequence from the TV show “I Love Lucy.” If you've had a massive misunderstanding with your spouse compare it to the Abbott and Costello “Who's On First” routine.

By laughing as a couple about the craziness of your situation, you change the focus away from the negatives and anger, and create an atmosphere where you can more easily work as a team.

Just seeing a situation as a “challenge and an opportunity for creative thinking” instead of an “overwhelming problem” improves our ability to respond to stressful events. Laughter and humor make it easier to redefine the situation as a “challenge” you and your spouse can work through.

There are times where humor is inappropriate. People going through great sorrow usually need hugs not humor. And helping someone experiencing extreme stress may involve just being there in silent support.

Still, the general rule for your marriage is to keep laughing. The Parrotts explain that daily laughter “is like taking a vitamin for your marriage. And it is a healthy habit all loving couples enjoy.”

2011, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan's website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.