You know that saying, "The couple that plays together stays together?" Through years of serious and dedicated research, i.e., being in a long-term relationship, I've come to totally agree with that statement. Not because my partner and I have become synchronized swimming stars or a championship badminton team (although we do make a mean beer pong duo), but because when we play together it makes for good comedy, and laughter makes everything better, from sex to folding laundry.
The LOLs are kind of like a miracle tonic for your relationship, alleviating tension, diffusing anger, and triggering all the good feels that lead to equally good hanky-panky. Soooo ... could humor really be the secret to a happy relationship? And if so, how can you bring laughter to every part of your partnership?
According to Dani Klein Modisett, you can do so by following the cardinal rules of the comedy profession. Makes sense, right? Her new book, Take My Spouse, Please: How to Keep Your Marriage Happy, Healthy, and Thriving by Following the Rules of Comedy, lays out how you can apply tried-and-true rules of comedy to your relationship, keeping you and your partner connected, strong, and best of all, laughing. Modisett, a comedian, actress, and writer, went in search of a book to help her and her husband bring the laughter back to their relationship. When she discovered said book didn't exist, she decided to write it herself. The result is Take My Spouse, Please, which deftly combines relationship-related anecdotal research from comedians, marriage counselors, and real-life partners to deliver the message that humor matters in a relationship. "All of the people I had the good fortune to interview ... believe that when it comes to their marriage, it is better to laugh than to leave," Modisett writes.
What sets Modisett's book apart from other how-to relationship tomes is that she teaches readers how to use humor to improve every aspect of their partnership, from really listening to each other to turning up the heat between the sheets. And she's hilarious. So read on for my nine favorite Modisett-prescribed ways to keep your relationship thriving by following the rules of comedy. You'll be laughing all the way to happily-ever-after.
One of the earliest and most important lessons Modisett learned about being a comedian was simply to show up. "Fat, thin, tired, hung-over, bad-hair day, cramps — no matter what, you show up at your gig and give it your best," she writes, a sentence that can clearly apply to your relationship as well.
There are going to be times when you just want to pull the duvet over your head and binge-watch Netflix rather than physically, emotionally, or mentally show up for your partner. But as Modisett makes very clear, the only way to grow your relationship is to be present. Always. She calls it the "low-fanfare task of just being there for each other." The best part? That daily intimacy leads to relationship-sustaining inside jokes. And nothing will make you feel closer than sharing those pee-your-pants funny private laughs.
Listen. To Everything. Not Just the Words.
This is not a trick suggestion; people communicate in mysterious ways that go far beyond simple language. Modisett's main point with this one is that you need to actually pay attention. Don't be planning dinner or the grocery list while you're having a conversation with your partner, and for the love of god, put away the phone.
A stand-up comedian who sticks to her pre-written script instead of interacting with the people and situations in the room loses out on a huge opportunity to really connect with her audience. Likewise, when you're talking to your partner, don't just react to his or her words. Notice tone, posture, and above all, people, make eye contact. Not making eye contact is a sure sign that a) you don't care, and/or b) you're a serial killer. The huge bonus to really focusing on your partner is that "If you can call out the problem together and accept it, you can almost always find a way to laugh about it," writes Modisett.
Give the People What They Want
In the words of Modisett, "Sex is to marriage what jokes are to an audience: without it, the natives get restless." People get all crazy about the fact that when you're in a long-term relationship you're never going to have sex with anyone else for the rest of your life. Instead of viewing this as a prison sentence, you could use it as an opportunity to really let your freak flag fly. Mix it up, try new things, indulge your fantasies (as long as you clear them with your partner first), and above all, laugh.
"You don't need expensive ointments or an endless-orgasm pill or three other people you're schtupping on the side to create excitement and fulfill desire. You could just start laughing more," explains Modisett. When you're really comfortable slipping between the sheets with someone, you get to laugh at all the weird stuff that happens when you get down and dirty. And, just so you know, laughter is the most powerful aphrodisiac ever.
Know Your Audience
Every time Modisett travels to a new city for stand-up, she researches current events, taking the time to find out important details about her audience that will help her jokes really hit home. Knowing all the nitty-gritty details of your partner will give you the same insight and ability to connect.
Understanding how and when to use humor can be one of the most effective ways to forge a bond with your SO. "Use your knowledge and sense of humor responsibly," Modisett suggests. "Don't use sarcasm and teasing as a weapon." Just as a comedian won't tell certain jokes that will alienate or piss off an audience, practice that same discretion when you use humor in your relationship.
Pay Attention to Timing
In comedy, just like in life, timing is key. "Knowing when to hold for laughs, when to drop the punch line, when to deliver the unexpected image in a way that slays your audience is the whole game," explains Modisett. There are comics who've built their whole careers around timing, like Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman. In a relationship, it's just as important to know when to say (or do) what. Like, maybe you shouldn't bring up buying a new house if your SO just got laid off. You should also watch your timing in day-to-day interactions. Don't try to have serious conversation about finances when your partner is tired and hungry. Or literally just ask, "Is this a good time to talk about marriage/children/groceries?"
Keep Them On Their Toes
The comedian who repeats the same set over and over might as well kiss her career goodbye, and if you refuse to add some spontaneity to your relationship, it will have the same sad ending. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life/sex/happiness. "Obviously, one big concern for being with the same person year after year after year is that you will grow bored with each other," writes Modisett. Which is where the element of surprise comes in. If you and your partner can keep each other guessing, whether it's shaking it up in the sack or cracking a perfectly timed joke, things will stay hot and heavy.
Don't Quit After a Bad Night
As any stand-up comic can tell you, not every performance is going to bring down the house, and there are certainly going to be days in your relationship when your partner is not your biggest fan. However, the difference between long-term success and failure is all in how you use these bad experiences. "The trick is learning to get through the tough ones, and how to use everything you learn from the bad experience as information to work on your craft, in this case your marriage," writes Modisett. So give each other a little space, take a deep breath, figure out how learn from it and laugh about it, and move on.
Patience probably seems like a given, both in comedy and a relationship, but I literally have to remind myself on a daily basis to chill the hell out and see the funny side. Creating a strong, lasting relationship takes time — potentially decades. Modisett writes quite a bit about finding your voice, how critical it is both as a comedian and as a partner, and how it can take years. "To have a sustainable career as a comic, or a long marriage, you have to find the courage to be your most authentic self ... the only way you'll achieve this is by taking the risk of revealing your true opinion and feelings," she writes.
So yeah, it's terrifying, because what if your partner can't stand your real self. But it's also totally liberating (and sexy) to be the most true, hilarious version of yourself. Take the time to find her, and if you're with the right person, your relationship will blossom.
Get Help to Get Better
"Whether you're telling jokes to the crickets or getting into bed nightly with someone you are not sure you love or loves you anymore, you owe it to yourself to get help before you give up," Modisett writes. There is no shame in asking for help. It can be really difficult to get perspective on what's going wrong in a relationship and how it can be fixed from inside it, which is where a professional comes in handy. A comic gets help from friends, teachers, coaches, and then "fights for opportunities to improve." You can do the same thing to improve your relationship by using all the resources available to you and fighting for the happiness you deserve.
And Finally ...
Maybe, just maybe, stop taking yourself so seriously. If you're in the middle of an argument and you know you've said something absolutely ridiculous and insane, let yourself laugh. To me, there's nothing sexier than someone who can laugh at themselves, because it means they're confident, and best of all, funny. Give laughter a try, it truly may be the best medicine for your relationship.