Chapter 1 Excerpt
Laughter is Part of the Attraction
"The number one reason for choosing a mate is the ability to laugh together." --Parade Magazine poll, 1985
What we do know about laughter is that it’s a good thing. Most laughter is positive and adds quality to our lives. These are reasons we seek laughter in our relationships. When couples meet, laughter is a big and wonderful part of their initial attraction for one another.
Nathan, for example, goes to lunch with no thought of meeting the woman of his dreams. He and his companions are more interested in their corned beef sandwiches than romance. While enjoying his lunch, Nathan laughs easily with his friends in their corner booth in the restaurant. His laughter catches Madeleine’s eye because he looks so pleasant and upbeat. She likes the way he tosses his head back when he laughs. As she watches him, she finds his laughter contagious, and she begins to smile herself. She lights up, and it’s as if she has hung a welcome sign around her neck.
Madeleine catches Nathan’s attention, and he is attracted by her smile. Impulsively, he approaches. Confident and relaxed by his laughter, he feels good, and he’s riding a natural high. His eyes are shining, and laughter still dances in their depths. Something in their smiles and the laughter moments before creates a bond between them, and a new relationship begins.
Laughter makes it much easier for Nathan and Madeleine to meet. Comedian Victor Borge maintained that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Nathan and Madeleine would certainly agree. Although potential love will find a way without any shortcuts, anything which smoothes the way is a plus. The mystery of laughter and the mystery of love are an unbeatable combination. We’re all fortunate that they are intertwined.
When coupled with biological forces urging us to connect with other human beings, laughter makes us feel safer and adds the qualities of fun and playfulness to our attraction for one another. It eases much of our awkwardness and helps us glide through those moments which might otherwise leave us red faced and stammering. Our laughter is contagious, and even those of us who seem inclined to a more solemn approach to life find ourselves drawn into laughing with someone we love.
In addition to talking a lover’s talk, we seem to laugh at even the feeblest attempt at humor on our partner’s part. By doing so, we give him or her the gift of feeling witty. In addition to giving this gift, without even knowing it, we let go of our own anxieties. Past and current embarrassments evaporate with laughter, and we feel marvelous as a result. When we release anxiety through laughter, our love surges to the surface, and we are able to fully experience and enjoy it. It’s a wild and joyful ride.
Nathan and Madeleine seem swept along by forces of nature, caught up in both the pleasure and the intensity of being in love. As they spend time together, they are lifted and carried by their laughter, even at the most serious moments. They don’t think about it much, but they laugh when they need it most, easing conflict and creating intimacy. It makes them want to be with each other even more, warts and all. In laughter, they have what may be the only time in their relationship when "the warts" don’t matter because they love the "frog" who made them.
In love, Nathan, Madeleine, Bryan and Victoria are each delighted with the other’s differences. Each is interested in everything about the other. For now, difference is not a threat but an advantage. Their differences compliment each other, and they feel more complete.
By falling in love and laughing with one another, they have created a welcome relief from the scrambling to compete that they generally experience in everyday life. They feel safe with each other. These four people have found what we’re all seeking—unconditional acceptance. They have a friend who won’t leave and who likes who they are.
When we’re in a laughing, loving relationship, the hurts we experience in everyday life are not as overwhelming. Our laughter shrinks them to a smaller, if not inconsequential, size, and we don’t have to face them alone. We have someone to support us and to commiserate with us. As we hold onto one another in times of distress, we grow closer and closer together. As a result, even distress has its good side.
Bryan can’t do enough for Victoria. His laughter has opened him up emotionally so he can express the love he feels inside. He doesn’t question why he feels so generous and openhearted with her. He accepts the fact that love creates laughter, and the laughter creates an environment in which his love can grow.
As a man, he has learned to believe that he has to control his emotions most of the time. He has done it for so long that it has become a part of what he considers his nature, but loving Victoria creates an exception to the rule. However, in addition to love, he finds himself coping with other thoughts and feelings as well. He feels things he doesn’t even recognize because they have long been buried in his unconscious mind. His feelings, creaking a little from disuse, have begun to surface because his unconscious mind perceives his relationship as a means for healing old wounds.
Although it can be a little unnerving for him, it also feels surprisingly good. Feeling means laughing, and he likes laughing again. At first, he wonders why he ever shut it down to such a degree. Then he is amazed to discover he doesn’t care why. He realizes he just wants to let go. When he does, laughter fills him up with good feelings that support his love for Victoria.
In accepting the gift of laughter without question, Bryan avoids one of the major pitfalls curtailing the ability to laugh. Laughter is born of right brain activity and, therefore, lacks reason and defies analysis. It’s deliciously out of control because it’s not a rational process. Unfortunately, that makes some of us uncomfortable, and we start to question.
When people start to think about their laughter and try to isolate its origin, they stop laughing. Rational analysis is a left-brain function and not conducive to laughter. If we feel we have to offer ourselves or anyone else an explanation about why we are laughing, it is the end of our laughter. Fortunately, couples in love aren’t overly concerned with reasons for their good feelings, and, therefore, laughter flourishes.
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