By Lavern Nissley
Encompass Executive Director
Have you ever wanted a do-over in a relationship? A sort of golf mulligan where you didn't like the outcome of your shot, and you know it could be much better if you had a chance to try again?
Another picture of a fresh start is the feeling you have after a ferocious thunderstorm has passed, the clouds are clearing, and the sun is coming back out with a refreshing warmth.
How do we experience such fresh starts in relationships with others? That's what this series in March is all about. What you're about to see is remarkably simple, yet requires great wisdom and sensitivity to do it well. It could be as simple as a chuckle. But don't do it until you've read further!
I've noticed something about humor in relationships. If done appropriately (not cutting or sarcastic), humor can actually be a sign of the relationship returning to wholeness and health after being "prickly". Hearing Ronda laugh after we've been at odds with each other is like a cold glass of water on a muggy day. It says "we're OK again."
Erin & Todd Stevens of Marriage Week USA had this to say about humor in a recent emailed post:
"When we laugh, chemicals like endorphins and oxytocin enter our bloodstream. You may have already known those chemicals trigger feelings of pleasure. It turns out they also cause us to feel more connected to the person we’re laughing with. This is one reason why laughing together is so important. Besides being a lot more fun than arguing about where the dirty laundry belongs, it is a proven indicator of greater relationship quality."
So, it would be helpful to have a few guidelines/guardrails to keep humor from backfiring:
Another gem from Erin & Todd Stevens, quoted earlier:
"A long-term study determined that married couples show more humor and tenderness toward each other as they age. Humor can certainly help us maintain a healthy perspective. When irritating issues inevitably crop up (like those smelly socks that aren’t really hurting anybody), addressing them in a humorous way can be one of the most effective ways of dealing with them. Playfulness allows us to surface a real issue, while avoiding being unnecessarily confrontational or critical. It also helps the “culprit” be more receptive, rather than feeling the need to be defensive."
Hopefully, humor is a part of your relationships, whether in marriage, in families, at work, in groups - wherever relationships can at times become "prickly." When used well it truly does provide a fresh start!
Are you in a difficult season of marriage? Encompass Connection Center helps couples learn how to resolve issues and create fulfilling, productive relationships. For many couples, those issues can stem from a lack of participation. Just like any problem, though, participation issues can be fixed. We offer a free relationship assessment to determine your relationship’s strengths and potential threats. For more help, look into our RINGS Experience, which includes marriage strengthening exercises and a coaching model to help build real intimacy and growth skills.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.