A “good” sense of humor is something most of us look for in a mate—but what does that mean exactly? Psychologists have identified four main types of humor, and one stands out as especially helpful in romantic relationships.
According to researchers charged with the unfunny business of analyzing jokes and jests, humor can be divided into four broad categories:
If you and your partner can’t agree over how to spend the weekend or whether it’s okay to keep texting an ex, affiliative humor might help, based on a forthcoming study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. A team of researchers led by Heike Winterheld, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Cal State East Bay, videotaped dating couples as they tried to resolve real-life conflicts in their relationships.
Affiliative humor tended to be well received—and the more upset couples were, the more it helped cut the tension. People who used this style of humor not only reduced their partners’ anger, they also boosted their own satisfaction with how things turned out.
That’s not surprising. People who are able to calm down their partners this way probably feel great about it afterward. Past research has shown that using affiliative humor is associated with higher self-esteem, increased well-being, and lower anxiety and depression.
Ultimately, humor can help make—or break—a relationship. In a study of 146 married and divorced couples, use of affiliative and self-enhancing humor, especially by men, was related to greater relationship satisfaction. On the other hand, women who used self-defeating humor and men who used aggressive humor were particularly likely to be divorced.
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