Laughter is the glue in a relationship

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laughter lib INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Those who had a good belly laugh were able to withstand up to 10 percent more pain.

Auckland - Ah, hindsight. The most disastrous relationship I ever had could (possibly) have been predicted by his astonishingly underdeveloped sense of humour. He laughed rarely; he certainly could never laugh at himself; and in response to my laughter he’d sometimes declare – sombrely and defiantly – “I don't find that funny at all”. Good times!

So when I read of a new study that says women find men who can make them laugh more attractive – but only in the context of one-night stands – I just couldn’t get on board, whichever way I looked at it.

I doubt I know a single woman who could remotely relate to that finding.

Because you may not want a 24/7 joke machine on legs, but if you don’t have a partner who can laugh with you, often and heartily, then I’ll bravely bet that’s not the right partner for you.

Not that personal experience colours that assertion at all. Not even a bit.

Anyway, the study – conducted by the University of Stirling in the UK – involved asking men and women which two items they’d bring along to a deserted island.

Afterwards, a separate group were played audio recordings of their answers.

The men who used humour in their responses were deemed more attractive by the women – especially when it came to their potential as a short fling rather than a long-term prospect.

Analysing this outcome, researchers concluded that humour is interpreted as flirty or peacocky behaviour, which lends itself to a “no-strings” type of dalliance. (Or: “It nurtures an impression of not being serious or willing to invest in a mate.”)

Interestingly, funny women were also judged (by the men) as more appealing for a short fling. There was a slightly different motivation, though: apparently, a woman’s humour translates in dude brains as “she will be receptive to (my) advances”.

Of course, there are one billion other contrasting studies that show women just find humour in a man all-round awesome. In a Men’s Health survey of more than 1 000 American women, 77 percent ranked a “sense of humour” as their number one criteria in a partner. Even more than intelligence, passion, confidence, and generosity.

Not all joke types are equal, though: in 2011 another study found women are most drawn to men with a dry and sarcastic type of humour.

But why does humour even matter? Why does emitting a hoots of laughter make our hearts feel good, and our prospective partners more appealing? Maybe it’s because humour can reflect emotional intelligence, awareness of life’s absurdities and an ability to keep them in perspective.

Humour can indicate humility, too – laugh at yourself and you simultaneously acknowledge your flaws. All up, it’s the glue that bonds us to other humans with similar levels of emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

Or, as poet Robert Frost put it, “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”. - New Zealand Herald

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