The Power of Humor in Romantic Relationships: New Research Reveals its Role in Strengthening Bonds

A study published in Psychological Science explores the significance of humor in established romantic relationships, highlighting its ability to signal interest and improve relationship quality.

Humor has always been considered an attractive trait in potential romantic partners. However, its role within established relationships has remained largely unexplored. A recent study conducted by researchers from Singapore Management University sheds new light on the importance of humor in maintaining and strengthening romantic bonds. The findings reveal that humor serves as a powerful tool for expressing and gauging continued interest in a relationship, ultimately enhancing relationship quality.

Investigating Humor in Established Relationships

Traditionally, research on humor in relationships has primarily focused on its role during the early stages of courtship. However, the study’s lead author, Kenneth Tan, and his team sought to delve deeper into the association between humor and relationship quality in established relationships. They aimed to understand how humor continues to influence couples over time.

The researchers recruited 108 romantically involved couples from a large university in Singapore. These couples had an average relationship duration of 18.27 months. To gather comprehensive data, the researchers employed a daily-diary approach, where participants completed daily assessments for seven consecutive evenings. This approach allowed for an in-depth examination of the day-to-day fluctuations in humor and relationship quality within established romantic relationships.

Humor as an Indicator of Interest

The study’s findings strongly supported the interest-indicator model of humor. According to this model, humor serves as a means of signaling and maintaining interest in a romantic relationship. The researchers discovered that on days when individuals reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction, commitment, or perceived partner commitment, they also reported greater engagement in humor with their partners. This suggests that humor is utilized to express and gauge continued interest in an ongoing relationship.

Furthermore, the researchers examined lagged effects to understand the directionality of the relationship between humor and relationship quality over time. They found that positive relationship quality on one day predicted increased humor production and perception the following day. This indicates that relationship quality positively influences the use of humor in subsequent interactions.

Gender Similarities in Humor Usage

Contrary to previous theories suggesting that males may use humor more to attract mates, the study did not find significant gender differences in the relationship between humor and relationship quality. Both men and women in established relationships used humor similarly to maintain interest and strengthen their bonds. This challenges the notion that humor is primarily important in the early stages of relationships to establish attraction.

Limitations and Future Directions

While this study provides valuable insights into the role of humor in established relationships, it is essential to acknowledge its limitations. The participants were college students in dating relationships, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to older adults or long-term marriages. Future research could explore these relationships to determine if similar patterns emerge.

The researchers also express interest in examining the bi-directional associations of humor in different relationships, such as work or parent-child relationships. Additionally, they aim to investigate the psychological indicators or traits that couples associate with their partners when humor is present. For example, do couples in established relationships also perceive their partners as creative, intelligent, and warm when they display humor, similar to the early stages of relationships?


The latest research on humor in established romantic relationships reveals its vital role in signaling interest and improving relationship quality. Humor serves as a powerful tool that couples use to express and gauge continued interest in their partners. The study’s findings challenge previous assumptions about gender differences in humor usage and emphasize the importance of humor in maintaining strong and fulfilling relationships. While the study focused on college students, future research could explore the role of humor in relationships among older adults and long-term marriages, broadening our understanding of its impact across different stages of life.






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