Laughter can be, if not the best, at least great medicine for your personal health. You may not be aware, however, of the many relationship health benefits of sharing a smile or laugh. Couples who successfully navigate their inevitable periods of conflict and disagreement in long-term relationships know how best to use constructive, rather than destructive, methods of resolution.
A key component to relationship health is that happy couples know how to relish their happy moments together. When you laugh with your partner, you’re serving as a source of positive reinforcement. As your partner increasingly comes to associate you with rewarding experiences, you boost your partner’s motivation to be with you (and vice versa).
Positive emotions do more than provide psychological comfort, however. According to University College of London’s Sophie K. Scott and colleagues in 2014:
Laughing helps your body as well as your mind. That study focused on the general relationship benefits of being able to manage emotions. Called “emotion regulation,” this is the ability to make yourself feel better when you feel bad. If you’re capable of emotion regulation, you can put the brakes on such negative emotions as anger, frustration, and hostility. You can also keep humorous reactions in bounds, reflecting the situation as appropriate (unlike the “class clown”).
That the same quality that allows couples to regulate negative emotions at one point in time allows them to feel more satisfied with each other. Only a true experiment could rule out this possibility. There’s also a strong case to be made for a directional arrow from downregulation at one point in time to marital satisfaction in the following years.