A couple of months ago, I attended a training seminar for educators and therapists. We had all signed up to learn a particular method of couple’s counseling. I arrived a bit late and grabbed a chair at the back of the hall. In front of me sat an elderly couple, somewhere in their late seventies/early eighties. As I tried to focus on the lecture, I couldn’t help but to observe this couple, as they were practically ‘in my face’.
I was touched by the loving smiles they continually exchanged throughout the lecture. I was moved by the way they kept looking out for one another, each making sure the other was OK. After about an hour and a half of being in their presence, the lecturer announced a ten minute break.
Being the ‘not-so shy’ person that I am, I introduced myself and told them what a cute couple they are. They appreciated the compliment and I explained that I lecture and write about dating/marriage and that I often interview couples. This statement led into my question, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” They were game, so I asked, “How long have you been married”? The husband said, “Not long enough!” Then he told me to guess. I said, “Approximately fifty years.” He said, “Close! We are married 56 years!”
Now, I know that every successful couple has their ‘secret’ to their success. So my next question was, “What is your secret to success?” They replied, “You’ll never believe us!” I said, “Try me!” They replied, “Humor…we laugh our way through life. When we’re dealing with annoying bureaucratic errands and everyone around us is complaining, we’re cracking up. We laugh at ourselves, we laugh at our marriage. Since we argue a lot, we end up laughing at our marriage quite a bit.”
What a beautiful message and important insight into the power of humor. Let’s take a look at what this couple is teaching us:
*”We laugh our way through annoying bureaucratic errands”:
Humor has the power to alleviate some of our pain and frustration, so that we can deal with life. As Frank Howard Clark said, “I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.”
*”We laugh at ourselves”:
Humor can help us step out of the moment, so that we can get a broader perspective. And although we need to take ourselves seriously, when we take ourselves too seriously…we lose our focus and effectiveness. Oscar Wilde once stated, “It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.” I would add, ‘too seriously’. Since we’re on a role with quotes, I’ll throw in another, “Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is (Francis Bacon).”
*”We laugh at our marriage”:
When this couple shared their secret of humor with me, they were also sharing their discovery of the fact, that although we’re all imperfect and although every marriage is imperfect, humor helps us to look beyond these imperfections so that we can lovingly accept ourselves…and our spouse. In turn, humor allows us to experience the joy and/or wisdom hidden in every situation, relationship…and within ourselves. I’ll end with one final quote which I feel sums this up. “Love is an attachment to another self. Humor is a form of self-detachment-a way of looking at one’s existence, one’s misfortune, or one’s discomfort. If you really love, if you really know how to laugh, the result is the same: you forget yourself.” (anonymous)