The first thing that attracted Kevin to Brooke was his sense of humor. Kevin was a pharmaceutical salesman who came regularly to the doctor's office where Brooke worked as a receptionist. "He cracked me up every time he came in," she told us. Romance blossomed between the two and within a year they married. But by their first anniversary, the marriage was in trouble. Brooke was angry and unhappy. "Kevin never takes anything seriously," she complained. "If I try to talk to him about important things—like buying a house or having children—all I get are his silly wisecracks."
Kevin and Brooke found out that humor is a two-edged sword. Humor can add zest to your marriage. It can make you more accepting of your mate, defuse difficult situations, and enhance your life together. However, misused humor has brought more than one marriage to the brink of disaster. So how do you keep humor alive and well in your marriage without misusing it? Here are some ideas.
1. Don't use humor to avoid dealing with difficult relational issues. Kevin turned most serious discussions into jokes. For instance, their first serious discussion about having a baby wound up with Kevin doing a stand-up routine about a pregnant Brooke. She told us: "He stuffed a pillow under his shirt and waddled around the room. He really was funny and I admit that he made me laugh. But that's the way it goes every time I bring up the issue—Kevin turns the discussion into a joke. The difference now is that I usually end up in tears."1