“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time.”
In talking with couples about their wedding plans, I often ask them to share with me the qualities that attracted them to one another. One sentiment I hear often is “He/She makes me laugh.” Over time the laughter may fade. In “Part One” of this article by Lisa Gerard, she shares personal examples of how laughter has oiled the wheels of her marriage train.
Using Laughter in Your Marriage: Part 1
Sounds easy. Knowing when to use laughter is the hard part. When times get tough in a marriage using laughter is just as important as anything else to keep a marriage going. Laughter helps put situations into perspective. Couples that laugh together, live together longer.
Laughter Eases Tension: My husband and I have been together for 24 years, 20 married. We have three children: two daughters now 18 and 16, and a son 14. My husband and I decided to work opposite shifts so that one of us would always be home with the kids. I worked days as a sales agent and later an owner, so my hours were flexible, and he worked second shift.
Because most things happened after my husband left for work, he felt bad that he would miss “firsts” with the kids,. I decided not to tell him when the kids did anything for the first time. The next day when they repeated whatever their first was with him, I acted excited. After a few of these special occasions, he discovered I already knew. He was upset with me for not telling him and wondered what else he was missing that I didn’t share. Really? I honestly didn’t think I was keeping anything from him, but I guess I was.
This created a minor disagreement. Which ended shortly after I said I would video tape our entire day and he could watch it when he got home every morning. After a long pause, he laughed. The use of laughter revealed the absurdity of the situation, easing our tensions and bringing a renewed sense of togetherness.
Laughter Brings Perspective: When things happen that are bad but not devastating, look for the positive. The bad that could have been, didn’t happen, so be grateful and then find the humor.
Our eldest daughter was learning to drive. It was a beautiful spring day, perfect for running errands. I decided to let our daughter drive my husband’s car — my SUV was bigger and newer. She did a great job all day. We arrived home, and she drove up the driveway to the garage. The door opened, she drove forward and caught the left wheel well quarter panel on the garage doorframe and buckled the quarter panel from the fender to the door. The sound was horrible. She freaked out when she couldn’t open the door, and I imagined the worst.
I got out and looked at the garage — nothing. I turned around and looked at the car. Wow! The damage to the car was more than I expected. My daughter walked around in a panic, crying uncontrollably. After I calmed myself, I shook my head and said: “Well, at least it didn’t happen on the street. You didn’t hit another car and we had a great day.”
After a while, I calmed her down, that is, until she told her dad what happened. He was not amused, nor was he calm. Then, he yelled at me because I was with her, and I should have helped her. Instead of getting angry and yelling back at him for yelling at me, I started laughing. He said, “I really don’t see the humor in this.”
I said, “We have a two-and-a-half car garage. No other car was in the garage. Nothing was in the way, completely clear. For some unknown reason she decides to pull left and had plenty of room. The wheel well sticks out further than either one of us thought. The car is twenty years old. The car door will open, just not all the way, the engine and lights were not touched and most importantly no one was hurt, the accident didn’t happen on the street or with another car.”
Then he said: “Why didn’t she just move forward.”
“Because that would have made sense and then the accident wouldn’t have happened, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
He admitted that he was upset at the damage, but very happy that it wasn’t what it could have been. Then he laughed and said, “Well she is your daughter.”
To which I quickly reminded him, “Yes, well, it takes two dear.”
Laughter allowed us to gain perspective. No one was injured, and things could have been worse. She could have been driving my car.
Laughter Transforms: Handling any annoying moment takes patience, tolerance and above all humor. This is where choosing your battles wisely comes into play.
My husband knows every song from the beginning of time and would often sing them to me. I’m honestly astounded at what he remembers. Some songs he sings to me at inappropriate times. Times that I am not in a good mood and really don’t want to hear him. One morning I was fussing at him for something he obviously did or didn’t do and it put me in a lousy mood even though we were getting ready to go to the ball game. On that too hot day, we parked on the fourth floor of the garage in the middle of town nowhere near the stadium.
I don’t like elevators, so I refused to go down the elevator and said I was taking the stairs. All of this added to my lousy mood. My husband silently followed me to the stairs. As soon as we set foot in the stairwell he decided to sing to me all the way down the stairs as we passed strangers. I was mortified and wanted to hide. His singing echoed around us, across the street, and all the way to the stadium.
Did I mention I was in a foul mood? I walked faster but the faster and further I got from him, the louder he sang. He didn’t stop singing until we sat down in our seats. I was so peeved I wouldn’t even look up. When the game finally started, I looked over at him, and as if a switch had been flipped in my brain, I started laughing. He smiled but didn’t say a word. Laughter — and his irritating song — transformed my mood and we had a great time at the game. As I said in the beginning I don’t even remember why I was irritated.
Oh, and by the way, the song he sang and others chimed in along the way was: “I Love you, Lisa.”
Laughter and Compromise: Men are born with the gift of selective hearing. I know it’s selective and not actually hearing loss because he hears me when I say I want us to be intimate. Often men choose to use this gift when they are intrigued by television. It doesn’t matter what is going on around them or things that need to get done. If they don’t want to hear it, they choose not to. This can cause huge upheavals in a relationship. The first step is to acknowledge it as a masculine trait, and recognize he can’t help himself. When he uses his selective hearing, don’t get upset but simply understand that it’s part of how he’s wired. Here are two things we did to rectify this problem.
Selective hearing will happen even in the middle of the night while the baby is crying. He continued to sleep even when I vigorously shook him saying “It’s your turn to get up.” This happened every night and he would not get up. No matter what I did to wake him, smacking him with a book, poking with anything handy, putting the alarm clock on high, not even gentle kisses and sweet talk. Nothing.
Every day I would say something about it and he would reply “I try, I want to help.” Then later that night, I literally pushed him with my feet out of bed and onto the floor. It was not working. I was tired of trying to get him to help. I didn’t want to resort to more bodily harm so I reasoned with him, and again he would say he would try and that he wanted to help.
Finally he said, “I’m not a night person, I’m just so tired. Okay.”
True, he does work evenings and he isn’t a night person. And, he’s a person who needs at least five hours of sleep to function. I, on the other hand, can function on little or no sleep, and I prefer nights. We then agreed on a schedule that fit our situation. After a few weeks he said, “You know, I’m not sore anymore.”
The second way we agreed to handle his selective hearing was while he was watching television. Instead of pouring water on him, he agreed to limit his watching. We also found things to watch together and as a family. We compromised and agree to watch the occasional game together — as long as he doesn’t sing. This has been working for years now and I can’t complain.
I can’t over emphasize the importance of compromise in the marriage relationship. At times the way we are accustomed to doing things comes into conflict. Going to war, battling over right and wrong, only works to bring stress and disharmony. Peace can be restored by working out our problems with patience, kindness, and a healthy sense of humor.
Contributed by Lisa Gerard
Lisa Gerard offers core-strengthening sessions daily. Strengthening sessions are non-weight bearing exercises designed specifically per individual. Each session lasts 30 minutes and the cost is $20/session — consultation and the first session are free. Contact Lisa through Marriage Chaplain for more information: Pastor.2@MarriageChaplain.com or by phone: (513) 853-6180
An Invitation from Pastor Eastman
Any time you think that some one-on-one conversation might be useful in strengthening your marriage, contact me. We know many counselors and healers who provide great support to couples, and it is my pleasure to help you connect with someone who is a good fit to help you move forward in your loving and working relationship. Calling me usually gets a quicker response: 513 853 6180, but e-mail: Pastor@OurChaplain.com or text: 513 703 8196 will also work. —Pastor Brian Eastman