Study finds good humor is linked to good relationships

New research from the University of Kansas highlights the importance of humor in romantic relationships.

“I’ve been studying humor in romantic relationships since I was in graduate school (10+ years). I’ve been long interested in how couples work together to create humor and whether they share a sense of humor, whether that style of humor is conventional, silly, in poor taste, dark, or quirky,” explained the study’s author, Jeffrey A. Hall.

Hall used a statistical method known as a meta-analysis to investigate data from multiple past studies. He ended up examining data from a total of 15,177 participants.

The study found that individuals who said they could both produce and appreciate humor tended to be more satisfied in their romantic relationships. The same was true of individuals who thought their romantic partner was good at producing and appreciating humor.

Humor created and shared between partners was particularly predictive of relationship satisfaction.

“The humor that couples create together matters more than having a sense of humor that people outside the relationship would call funny,” Hall told PsyPost. “There is a weak positive association with romantic relationship satisfaction for being a funny person in general, but a much stronger positive association with satisfaction for sharing and creating humor with your partner.”

But self-defeating humor and humor that involved making fun of others were both negatively related with relationship satisfaction.

“Negative humor, especially directed at your spouse, is not good,” Hall explained. “So, all humor is not created equal. If you it to attack, distance, belittle, or pick on your partner, it is associated with less satisfaction.”

“Aside from negative humor directed at your partner, your style of humor really doesn’t matter. It is whether or not you and your partner share it that matters.”

The study was published March 10, 2017 in the journal Personal Relationships.