karelnoppe/ShutterstockJust like your senses of sight, smell, or touch, a strong sense of humor could literally save your life. Laughter helps our brains tell the difference between threats and jests (is that a lion growling in the bushes, or just my son making fart noises?), it magically helps bond us to friend and stranger alike, and has even been shown to improve bloodflow and immune system health across age groups. And most importantly to many of us, humor can also tell you whether you’ve found your perfect mate.
It’s no surprise that one of the most sought-after traits in a romantic partner is “a good sense of humor.” And, as it turns out, there may be a scientific reason for that. A new paper from University of Kansas professor Jeffrey Hall gives data-backed validity to something you may have figured for yourself: couples who laugh together, stay together.
To take a broad view of the power of humor in relationships, Hall surveyed the results of 39 related studies published over the last 30 years, involving more than 15,000 male and female participants. After crunching the data, he found that when it comes to romance, a “good sense of humor” means far more than being able to tell a good joke, or even being considered funny—relationships in which couples are able to laugh at the same things prove the strongest and most satisfying.
“It’s not about being a great comedian, but finding what’s funny in the everyday and enjoying it together,” Hall explains in a statement from KU, “whether that’s The Simpsons or repeating funny things your kids say or The New Yorker cartoons or relishing in the absurdity of life. It is most important you do it together… If you share a sense of what’s funny, it affirms you and affirms your relationship through laughter.”
To this point, Hall shares another finding: it’s crucial to laugh with your partner, not at them. Having an “aggressive” sense of humor, i.e. making your partner the butt of too many jokes, undoes the magic of shared laughter, and likely indicates an underlying bitterness deeper than any joke.
Hall notes that this is all true even between potential mates, not just established relationships. So, first-daters, make sure you have a few short jokes up your sleeve to test the romantic waters, and save the insults for those who deserve them: politicians.