In life and love, keep sense of humor

Humor in relationships is important. Life cannot be serious all the time, and though I know that sometimes it has to be that way, no one can live like that constantly. You have to make room for a little lightheartedness if you want to have a balanced love life. Being able to laugh is healthy for everyone.

Humor -- if used correctly -- can help defuse uncomfortable situations. A sense of humor in a relationship has been recognized as so important that there's an annual conference on how to use humor in therapy. Yes, it can make a difference in your relationship.

Cultivating humor in your relationship requires that you both are respectful in your banter. This is not standup comedy or razor-sharp repartee. It is two people playing with words. Keep it harmless, blameless and don't ever use humor as a weapon. Once you have those ground rules clear, it will make it easier and safer to have more fun with each other.

Humor in a relationship is not just about saying funny things; it's also about doing things together with a sense of humor. I know couples who crack each other up so much that it can take them hours to do the dishes. They are having that much fun together.

Even if you don't think you are especially funny, you can approach life and love with a fine sense of humor. It's not about making jokes that rival the likes of Jerry Seinfeld's. It's about seeing the lighter side of living and reveling in it. Life can be ironic, and that can be fun and funny. It's worth the effort to find the humor in life and appreciate your mate for his or hers.

Everyone has his or her own style, and if your loved one's humor is not to your liking, you need to have a conversation about it and set appropriate boundaries. Some folks enjoy insulting, or putdown, humor, and that won't work for you in a relationship. Jokes or actions have to be life-enhancing, and they should never make things worse. It is always wise to think before you speak, and if you think your mate might take what you are about to say in the wrong way, don't say it.

One of the signs of a healthy relationship is when you are facing a difficult situation, and you both can see some humor in it. That means that no matter what you are facing, you will get through it together and be able to smile (at times) through the process.

We cannot travel through life without hitting a few speed bumps. When you can find the humor in it, things will go much easier for both of you. Sometimes that may take a little effort, and perhaps you will find something amusing and your partner will not, or the other way around, and that's OK. A sense of humor may be the best friend (next to your mate) that you can have when the world isn't working the way you would like it to.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of "100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence -- Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too." Email him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com.

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