It’s no mystery relationships can feel like a ride on a rollercoaster sometimes. They take a lot of work and can make you feel like running to the nearest train station some days.
We all long to know the secret formula to keeping our relationship alive and fun. We want more than to just co-exist with our partner, white-knuckling it out until we die. Right?
Well, the answer just might be easier than you think. In fact, maybe you were practicing it this morning when you banged on the bathroom door asking your husband if he fell in the damn toilet because you could have run a marathon by the time he was done pinching one off.
That’s right, teasing — busting your partners balls, giving them a hard time, and calling them out on their bullshit in a fun, loving way (we aren’t talking about bullying) — may be the answer to a longer, healthier marriage.
“Happy couples tease a lot when they’re in conflict,” says Dacher Keltner, professor of Psychology and author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, “and they tease in these really goofy, lighthearted ways…They tease in ways that allow them to express issues of conflict, but in a cooperative and pleasant way. It predicted how long they’d stay together.”
And he’s on to something with this theory. Here are just few reasons teasing has benefits:
1. It’s playful.
Teasing can be fun whether you are letting your partner know their sleep schedule is really interfering with their sex drive, or you want them to stop chewing with their mouth open. We all want to be aware of the things we do that drive our mate crazy, and making a joke about it can make them aware it bothers you yet not make them feel defensive which can lead to a bigger argument.
While doing research for his book, Keltner found “the more satisfied couples were more adroit at teasing… The playfulness of their fifteen-second teasing, we additionally found, predicted how happy the couples were six months later.”
2. It shows you have thick skin and can laugh at yourself.
Being able to laugh at yourself by taking a joke is sexy. It shows you don’t think so much of yourself you believe you are immune to mistakes or learning better ways to do things. Being able to laugh together with your partner, and make a running joke about how you always park too far away from the store, or constantly hit the curb when turning a corner can add fun and laughter to your relationship.
3. It shows you’re secure in your relationship and you accept each other for who you are.
When we tease each other, it sends the message, “This drives me up a wall, but I love you even though you smack your gum/ text me every 2 seconds if I don’t get back to you/ play with your hair at the table.”
Keltner writes, “Happy couples tease a lot when they’re in conflict and they tease in these really goofy, lighthearted ways that say, ‘The fact that you don’t do the dishes bothers me, but I still love you. It’s not that big a deal; we can work this out.”’
4. It means you have a sense of humor.
There’s nothing better than laughing together, even if it’s at each other’s expense. Over time, looks and money can fade, your kids will grow up and leave which can cause a shift in your relationship, but if you can still laugh together, that’s a comfortable bond that’s hard to break. The one piece of marriage advice I’ve always heard from couples who have been together for a long time is, “We laugh together a lot.”
In his book, Keltner writes,”For couples who divorced, on average 13.9 years after they were married, it was the absence of laughter that predicted the end of their bond. In the early stages of a marriage, anger and contempt are highly toxic. In the later phases of intimate relations, it is the death of laughter that leads individuals to part ways.”
So, the next time you feel like flying off the handle at your partner, try a little teasing, and see how it works for the both of you. It’s a fun, easy adjustment to make in your relationship and science shows it just might work.