“How can you joke at a time like this?” I demanded to my husband, as I fought the smile that was forcing its way across my face despite my tears. I was really upset over an issue we were facing, and it frustrated me that Brian would try to be funny in the middle of a tense discussion.
He shrugged, “Humor is just how I deal with stress.” Then he gave me a playful grin, adding, “You know you want to laugh—just let it go.”
Although I tried to fight it, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing, and we both felt some of the tension between us disappear.
There’s a great Bible verse that says: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Psalms 17:22). To be honest, I’ve struggled with a “crushed spirit” most of my life. There have been times when depression and anxiety have gotten the best of me, including in my marriage. During these times, it feels so good to cry, but crying too much can make me feel worse. That’s why my husband’s sense of humor is such a gift to me and to our marriage. It’s a kind of “medicine” he gives me, often when I need it the most.
Research shows that laughter is actually a good medicine for stress, and equal to exercise and eating well when it comes to overall health. “Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress,” Dr. Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California, told Time magazine. His research has found that laughter may reduce stress-inducing hormones, while increasing the production of positive chemicals that make us feel good, like dopamine.
I’ve certainly found this to be true in my life. When I’m really sad, or just stressed out, Brian will tell a joke or share a funny story, just to try to make me laugh. Sometimes, he’ll imitate a person we both know, including family members, and I’ll laugh so hard it hurts. He also tries to be funny during an argument, and sometimes (not always) this helps calm things down between us. When I laugh, I immediately feel a release of tension and even sadness, and although the problem I’m facing doesn’t disappear, I feel better able to handle it.
What’s crazy is that I did not realize I’d married a comedian until after we’d been married a few months. I don’t know why Brian hid this side of himself when we were dating, but discovering his humorous side was a pleasant surprise. It is one more way Brian and I complement each other. He sometimes needs to be more serious or to express his emotions, and I definitely need to laugh more and not give into my emotions as much. When he makes me laugh, even when I want cry, I am reminded why we are so good together, especially when we embrace our differences as the unique gifts that they are.