While trust, communication and compromise are all key to building a strong, lasting relationship, there's one quality you might be overlooking.
According to new research, chuckling in tandem with your partner can bring you closer together and make you a happier couple overall.
Fascinated by the idea of shared laughter in romantic relationships, social psychologist Laura Kurtz from the University of North Carolina decided to put it to the test by observing 77 heterosexual couples who had been in a relationship for an average of four years.
Her team recorded each couple telling the story of how they first met and then counted the number of times the couple laughed together and how long it lasted. They also asked each couple to complete a survey about their closeness.
“Participants who laughed more with their partners during a recorded conversation in the lab tended to (also) report feeling closer to and more supported by their partners,” Kurtz tells Time. In contrast, “awkward chuckles, stunted grins and fake guffaws all are flags that there may be something amiss”.
“In general, couples who laugh more together tend to have higher-quality relationships,” she concluded.
However, it's worth noting there are differences in the way laughter is displayed in non-Western cultures. While Easterners display appreciation with close-mouthed smiles, Westerners are more prone to heartier, toothy giggles, says Kurtz.
And while you might be thinking it's no groundbreaking news that a few chortles trigger happiness, Kurtz says her findings published in the journal Personal Relationships can be used as an indicator to measure the quality of a relationship.
“Despite how intuitive this distinction may seem, there’s very little research out there on laughter’s relational influence within a social context. Most of the existing work documents laughter’s relevance to individual outcomes or neglects to take the surrounding social context into account.”
“We can all think of a time when we were laughing and the person next to us just sat there totally silent,” she continues. “All of a sudden that one moment takes a nosedive. We wonder why the other person isn’t laughing, what’s wrong with them, or maybe what’s wrong with us and what might that mean for our relationship.
“Moments of shared laughter are potent for a relationship. They bring a couple closer together.”
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