When asked to describe our perfect partner, most people will include the phrase “a good sense of humor.” As it turns out, when we say “good,” we may just mean “exactly like mine.” A forthcoming paper in the journal Personal Relationships concludes that most people really just want someone who laughs at the same jokes they do.
Jeffrey Hall is a communications expert at the University of Kansas. For his new paper, he analyzed the results of 39 different studies of humor in relationships, amassing results from more than 15,000 participants.
The upshot? Being funny is good [PDF], but getting your partner’s jokes is even better. “It’s not about being a great comedian,” Hall said in a statement, “but finding what’s funny in the everyday and enjoying it together, whether that’s The Simpsons or repeating funny things your kids say or The New Yorker cartoons or relishing in the absurdity of life.”
Also important: laughing with your partner, not at them. This may sound like the kind of wisdom we learn in nursery school, but it’s worth repeating. Good-natured teasing is fine, Hall says, but someone who repeatedly makes their partner the butt of every joke is only going to foster resentment.
So: Be silly, but be nice, and look for ways to find some comedic common ground.
"It’s good to have humor,” Hall says. “It’s better to see it in your partner. And it’s best to share it.”