Marriage Hack #8: Humor Me
Before I got married, I asked my mom about the secret to her 50 year marriage to my dad. Without hesitation, she replied, “Humor.” Then she added, “No matter how stressful things got, your dad could always make me laugh.”
One of my favorite things about my husband, A, is his sense of humor- he makes me laugh all the time. So, I thought, Great! We’ve got that going for us! At the time, we were in pre-marital bliss and hadn’t yet experienced any big life stressors. Nevertheless, my mom’s response made an impression on me and I filed it in the back of my mind.
One year into our marriage, and still blissfully in love, we experienced our first big life stressor- a miscarriage. Little did we know that this would be a turning point in our relational dynamic. What had been, up until this point, an easy, practically effortless, relationship in which we felt happy and in love, would become one that was fraught with tension, anger, disappointment and sadness.
My miscarriage wasn’t to blame, but it was the catalyst. In the months and years that followed my first miscarriage, failed fertility interventions, an ectopic pregnancy, an emergency C-section, a premature first baby, financial stress, a move, a baby with developmental delays, and very, very little sleep created a perfect storm that decimated our connection.
At the height of our marital turmoil, I had a venting session with my mom. She listened and empathized as I broke down bawling, and expressed my hopelessness and then she said, “Honey, you and A have lost your humor. You need to focus on getting it back.”
Hello, Aha moment!
Her secret to a lasting marriage began to resonate. No matter what kind of stressors we were dealing with, if we could somehow hold on to our humor and still make each other laugh, it would be easier to navigate this storm. Our humor had been washed out to sea, and it desperately needed to be rescued.
With this marital secret in my pocket, I decided to reclaim our humor. I filled A in on my mom’s insight and he agreed--our humor was definitely missing in action. “It’s true,” he said, “I used to make you laugh all the time. Now you hardly ever laugh at my jokes.” It was true. And it was time to make a change.
Mission: Humor Resuscitation
In the weeks that followed, we made an effort to lighten up, to laugh more, and to find the humor in difficult parenting and marital moments. I became aware of how serious and, frankly, grumpy I had become and I became intentional about shifting out of this humorless state of mind. When A or the kids did something that annoyed me, I intentionally tried to find the humor in it rather than immediately reacting and stewing around in my disgruntled misery.
Did A just throw his dirty clothes in the laundry room sink instead of in the laundry basket, where they belong, for the millionth time? Yes, yes he did. It’s annoying, but why not make a joke about it instead of a passive aggressive comment? “Hey, babe, are we hand-washing the laundry these days?” I ask in a joking (not sarcastic) tone. H and C are whining because I said they couldn’t have a snack? Why not pretend I’m the “Snack Monster” and chase them around the kitchen threatening a tickle attack rather than showing my annoyance and going into lecture mode?
Little by little, as A and I both tried to replace moments of tension with moments of humor, the strained dynamic in our marriage began to dissipate. As it turns out, infusing humor into otherwise tense moments really does shift the energy and prevents minor frustrations from escalating into full-blown arguments. Mom’s advice was right on the money.
If you and your partner are stuck in a humorless dynamic, I challenge you to embark on your own humor mission. God knows that we could all use a little more laughter and a little less tension during these challenging years of parenthood.
For more tips on how to strengthen your marriage, click here.