Not all humor is alike. And everyone has a different sense of humor. I’m a serious person by nature and I think that makes me pretty hard to please from a “funny” standpoint. Others, however, find humor in just about everything! So that means we need to know what makes our spouse laugh - what does he find funny? What does she laugh at online? Once you know what your spouse finds humorous, you can use it to improve your marriage.
Positive humor is humor that is “clean” or generally funny - but doesn’t insult people, especially not each other. Lots of humor falls under the positive humor category.
Instrumental humor serves a purpose in the relationship. It’s used on purpose to impact the situation.
Negative humor is generally insulting to the person you’re talking to.
How does this impact our relationships?
According to research by Satici and Deniz (2020) negative humor is seen as aggressive. It tends to provoke conflict and causes distance in the relationship. It is NOT constructive and it tends to be associated with low marital satisfaction. I strongly suggest you don't use this style. It might be tempting - I know marriage can be irritating - but it will only damage the relationship in the long run. This is consistent with Scripture: Proverbs 15:13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
Instrumental humor is functional - it can be used to prevent tension, reduce stress, and repair negative feelings. This may include mild self-deprecating jokes and general funny one-liners to lighten the mood. This serves a positive function so use it well! Psalm 126:2 NIV says, "Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them.'"
Positive humor has amazing relationship outcomes. I always knew humor had a place, but I didn’t realize the extent of it! Satici and Deniz found that positive humor is as important as feelings of love, trust, and affection. It's one of the traits most sought after in relationships. POsitive humor helps spouses to become closer, feel appreciated, strengthens marital connections, and increases warmth. It also sustains high relationship satisfaction and develops affection in marriage. Appropriate positive humor during conflict is related to high relationship satisfaction. Proverbs 17:22 NIV tells us, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
Need some ideas? Here are some good places to start...
Focus on the family has great funny stories of marriage and family -
Fun Dad jokes - This book has fun "dad jokes" - great for making your kids roll their eyes!
Clean jokes - Great all-around family fun.
Tim Hawkins provides great comedy for the whole family!
So, figure out what’s funny to you and your spouse and start watering your garden with it! The benefits are endless...