The Power of Laughter: How Humor Strengthens Romantic Relationships

New research uncovers the significance of humor in maintaining and improving relationship quality

Humor has long been recognized as an attractive trait in potential romantic partners. However, a recent study published in Psychological Science reveals that humor plays a crucial role in established relationships as well. The research, conducted by Kenneth Tan and his colleagues at Singapore Management University, delves into the impact of humor on relationship quality and sheds light on how couples use it to signal continued interest and strengthen their bonds.

Understanding the Role of Humor in Established Relationships:

While previous studies have primarily focused on humor’s role in the early stages of courtship, Tan and his team sought to explore its significance within established relationships. By examining the association between humor and relationship quality, the researchers aimed to fill the gap in our understanding of how humor continues to impact relationships over time.

The Study:

The study involved 108 couples from a large university in Singapore, all of whom were romantically involved with an average relationship duration of 18.27 months. Using a daily-diary approach, participants were asked to complete daily assessments for seven consecutive evenings, providing a comprehensive dataset for analysis.


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

Furthermore, the researchers found that positive relationship quality on one day predicted increased humor production and perception the next day. This indicates that relationship quality positively influences the use of humor in subsequent interactions.

Gender Differences:

Contrary to some 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.

Limitations and Future Research:

While the study provides valuable insights into the role of humor in established relationships, it is important to acknowledge its limitations. The participants were college students in dating relationships, so the findings may not directly apply to older adults or long-term marriages. Future research could explore these relationships to determine if similar patterns emerge.

Additionally, the researchers believe that the results should generalize to married, older couples from Western cultures as well. They also suggest examining the bi-directional associations of humor in different relationships, such as work or parent-child relationships.


This groundbreaking research highlights the significance of humor in maintaining and improving relationship quality. The findings demonstrate that humor serves as a powerful tool for couples to express and gauge continued interest in their relationship. Regardless of gender, individuals in established relationships use humor to strengthen their bonds and foster a sense of connection. As we continue to unravel the complexities of human relationships, understanding the role of humor offers valuable insights into how couples navigate the ups and downs of long-term partnerships.






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