Men and women tend to love humorous people and perceive them as more attractive. They feel attracted to those with a good sense of humor and consider humor a desirable trait in romantic partners during the early stages of relationships.
How important is humor in a relationship over time? It is possible that we not only perceive humorous people as attractive but also tend to perceive someone we like as humorous (Li et al., 2009). For example, when we are happy in a relationship, we find our partner funny, even though she or he may not be objectively that funny in the first place.
How a Recent Study Conducted
A recent study conducted by Kenneth Tan, an assistant professor of psychology at Singapore Management University, and his colleagues Bryan Choy, and Norman Li. showed that humor also plays a role in maintaining and strengthening relationships. Partners use jokes and funny stories to signal continued interest in each other and improve their relationship.
Kenneth Tan and his colleagues conducted a study with a sample of 108 couples who were involved in romantic relationships with an average duration of 18.27 months. The researchers asked partners to complete daily assessments for seven consecutive evenings, reporting their perceptions of humor within their relationships and their levels of relationship commitment, perceived partner commitment, and relationship satisfaction.
This way, researchers investigated how humor and relationship quality fluctuate within established romantic relationships on a day-to-day basis. They found that humor functions as a means to signal and maintain the interest of partners in a romantic relationship.
The Study Found Complex Relations Between Humor and Relationship Quality
Their findings demonstrated that on days when partners reported higher levels of commitment, perceived partner commitment, or relationship satisfaction, they also more frequently used humor in communication with their partners. Furthermore, positive relationship quality between partners on one day increases the use of humor and perception the next day. Thus, relationship quality in current interactions positively influences the use of humor in subsequent interactions. This way, they use humor to express their continued interest in an ongoing relationship.
On days where partners were more satisfied and committed to the relationship, they found their romantic partner more humorous, both on the same day and the next. On days when they were less satisfied and committed to their relationship, they found their partner less humorous, both on the same day and the next.
The study did not reveal gender differences in its findings. Both women and men tend to use humor to maintain interest and strengthen their relationships.
In conclusion, one might typically think that humor is more important in the early phase of relationships to establish attraction than in the later stage of the relationship. However, the study found that humor did not show stronger effects on relationships that were shorter in length.
Humor, as well as smiling and laughter, improve our love relationship at any stage of a relationship.