When you trip in public, do you cringe in humiliation, staring straight ahead and doing your absolute best to pretend nothing happened? Or perhaps you get angry at the sidewalk, glaring at it as you stomp away.
If, on the other hand, you are the type of person who has a good laugh at yourself when you do something embarrassing in public, and can likewise take a little good-natured teasing from your friends, you’re likely to be happier in your relationships.
According to a study conducted by psychologists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany and published in the Journal of Research in Personality, there are three main laughter-related dynamics that can positively or negatively influence relationships: the joy of, or comfort with, being teased or laughed at (gelotophilia); fear of being laughed at (geloophobia); and experiencing joy through laughing at others, usually at their expense (katagelasticism).
Turns out that not only does the ability to laugh at oneself and not take oneself too seriously tend to increase overall personal happiness and satisfaction, but also points to greater relationship satisfaction. When both partners in a relationship are gelotophilic (enjoy teasing and laughing at themselves and one another in a loving way), the positive effect is increased.
Relationships in which one partner struggles with fear and discomfort at being teased or laughed at are negatively associated with relationship satisfaction. “People who have this fear are less content in their relationship and also tend to mistrust their partner” (as quoted from the study’s press release). Conversely, couples whose laughter categories matched, particularly as gelotophiliacs, reported the highest relationship satisfaction.
Couples who banter and laugh at and with one another frequently also reported a higher degree of sexual satisfaction:
“Women reported more often that they tended to be satisfied with their relationship and felt more attracted to their partner,” study co-author Kay Brauer stated. “They and their partners also tended to be equally satisfied with their sex life.”
The ability to laugh at oneself and accept well-meaning teasing from those close to us is generally associated with more self-confidence, a higher level of trust in others, and a greater degree of comfort with vulnerability. These are all traits that are crucial to creating and maintaining closeness and intimacy in relationships.
The act of laughter itself releases powerful endorphins and other feel-good chemicals, can strengthen neuropathways in the brain, and can enhance feelings of closeness – all great ingredients for increasing happiness and satisfaction both in and out of relationships.
The next time that section of sidewalk sabotages your strolling efforts, why not try having a good laugh at it, and yourself, instead? You may just improve your love life.