We really appreciated your comments and look forward to interacting with you more. But for now, here are some perspectives that I (Paul) hope are helpful to the “newly” and “oldly” married among our readers.
1. Laughing with your spouse is an opportunity to enter into their joy. Early on in our relationship I was tempted to suppress Liz’s humor because it didn’t appeal to me. (Maybe if I acted nonchalant towards her literary quotes she would stop making them!) If anyone’s ever done this to you, you’re aware of how quickly joy can be sacrificed or stifled by the rolling of the eyes or the shaking of one’s head. Instead, if your spouse is laughing, feel free to enter into the laugh if for no other reason than that they are enjoying themselves. This may be a small way in which we can fulfill the command to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom 12:15). So laugh, and stop resisting the chance to share joy (after all, resistance is futile—see point # 3)
2. Learning to understand your spouse’s humor is part of learning to love them more effectually. I’ve mentioned learning to love in this post, but I want to give a slightly expanded argument here. In Phil 4:12, Paul says he learned to love God more than things. To be content with God alone while in the middle of having plenty, going hungry, living in abundance and being in need. Paul’s example here is a micro-lesson in love. In a sense, from the time God chose to save us we’ve been learning to love him better. We’re learning to deal with fear, and are embracing repentance. We’re dealing with guilt, and have begun to understand how to move from guilt to praise. And God delights in seeing us learn these things and thus love him better. In marriage, we learn to love in the same kind of way. We learn the things that bring joy to our spouse’s heart. And then we embrace those things and actively include them in our lives. Though Liz and I had very different senses of humor, we have each chosen to widen our “humor horizons.” In doing these we’ve learned to find funny what they find funny (as much as is humanly possible : ). But more importantly, we look for ways to interject their type of humor into their lives. We send each other blog posts or say a one liner that we don’t find funny, but we know they will. Her laughing is my rejoicing and my laughing is her rejoicing. Learning your spouse’s humor is a step (small as it may be) in learning to love them.
3. Practically speaking, if you are doing 1 and 2 above, the most likely outcome is a shared, somewhat warped sense of humor. You will find that you have more common ground in your senses of humor than you did when you got married. That’s okay, give in, go for it. Laugh at that joke you never would have ten years ago, resistance is futile.
4. Learn to cheer your spouse up. When your spouse is discouraged, knowing how to lift their spirits can be a wonderful gift. Break out that funny movie (that only they find funny), quote Jane Austen even if you don’t get it. Chances are, even if you bungle the quote, they’ll think that is hilarious and love you for trying. A penny at the beginnings of discouragement, is worth a pound when the discouragement is severe. Be intentional about humor when they are feeling down.
5. Sharing a sense of humor is a gift, but can’t really be taken as an indication of the overall health of the relationship. This is why Liz and I could truly love each other even though we didn’t make each other laugh. From a spiritual standpoint, there wasn’t anything inferior about our relationship just because we didn’t share senses of humor. In some ways, our culture has elevated humor to a level that it doesn’t deserve. It would be detrimental to rely on it as a barometer during a budding relationship. Being “in love” is an intentional thing. That being said, Liz and I have expressed some level of envy for our friends who have similar humors. It would have made dating a little bit easier. Ah well : ) We have been comforted in reminding ourselves that shared humor is a means to love and not an indication of love.
In conclusion, Liz now appreciates a good “Tick” or “Spiderman” quote and I can sit through an entire “Johnny English” movie (yes, Jane Austen and Johnny English…bizarre, I know) and get a good chuckle from it while at the same time Liz is practically weeping tears of mirth on the other side of the couch.