My daughter and her husband were diligently working on changing their newborn boy’s diaper. Suddenly, without warning–there never is warning–he took aim and in seconds, they both got squirted. “We just cracked up,” she told me. They thought it was funny. But they got wet! How did they think it was funny, I wanted to know. “Yeah,” she said, “if it was somebody else’s baby, I probably would have been grossed out. But everything my baby does is cute! We just thought it was funny. So we cleaned him up, put him down, and then got ourselves cleaned up.”

Reminds me of the time, many years ago, when one of my babies burped all over me, the goo running down my back, in the middle of the night. I got hit so bad, I had to take a shower. It is funny in retrospect. At the time, I was probably too tired to laugh out loud, but I can definitely tell you I marveled at his power and aim, even then.

How does a person do that?

How does a person somehow convert a serious thing into humor?

How does a person see the funny side of the worst things? Well one answer is that if you don’t, it’s guaranteed you’ll be miserable. Because life is difficult. I don’t have to tell you that. So there really are only two choices: Buck it or laugh. I have learned that some people have an amazing capacity to do the latter. I have gone to homes of mourners who, instead of crying at the loss of a loved one, laugh as they remember his idiosyncracies or the delightful moments of her life. I marvel at playwrites who find humor in themes from war to sickness to just about every pox on mankind. Not easy, but possible. So one answer is: Work on it; find a way. You don’t have much choice.

I’ll give you another answer. When one of my sons was in first or second grade, he complained that the bigger kids picked on him on the bus. My immediate response to him: “Make a joke out of it and that will take the wind out of their sails.” It took a few years for this concept to digest–but he was a little kid, after all–and slowly this youngster emerged with a hilarious sense of humor. Slowly, the other kids stopped picking on him and became his friends. Today, he has friends from all parts of the world because of his friendly, pleasant personality–and great sense of humor.

So the next, more practical, approach to this matter would be to search for the humor in any situation, even if that search is a serious task. You can do this as follows:

  • See if you can laugh at yourself. This does not mean to go to the extreme of being self-deprecating; just recognize your own foibles and admit them. Then laugh.
  • Search for potential positive outcomes in what appears to be a negative situation. No matter how bad a situation, it is possible to find positives in it. For example, the terrible pain and grief you feel when a loved one dies is ameliorated by the fond memories of that person as well as what he or she stood for that lasts afterwards. A divorce, as terrible as it is, might be a gateway to a future that is better. In other words, there is always a future–and hope. Then allow these possibilities to bring a smile to your face.
  • Take a step back and look at the Big Picture. Does your current situation really matter in the scheme of things? Your wife overcooked the dinner. So what? You got kept waiting. So what? You were put on hold. So what? Traffic was heavy. So what? Do these things really matter in the scheme of things? Work hard on stepping back.

Here’s a second category of answer to the question: Train yourself to think like a commedian. Read the comics. Ask yourself what’s funny there. Watch Seinfeld. Go to Eddie Murphy movies. Take out books of jokes from the library. Read them. Allow yourself to get away from yourself and your problems. See the lighter side of life. In other words, try to see the world from the eyes of someone who laughs at it. The challenge will be the juxtaposition between laughing at their jokes and returning to your own life. But that is the good part, actually. It is precisely through this challenge that you will have to reconcile things. Either you will chuck the entire humor of the world and remain unhappy, or you will have to admit that humor and it will begin to color your life. You will decide.

What Is NEVER Funny

There is, of course, a caveat, and it is a big one. See my article on put-downs to understand. The one kind of joke that is FORBIDDEN, totally forbidden is to laugh at someone else that you are related to. You may laugh at the President. That is permitted. He gets well paid and goes down in history for the privilege of his title, so being the target of jokes is a small price to pay. And you may laugh at yourself because that will take you out of your glum, morose mood. But you may not laugh at those you love or ought to love.

The most important thing you can do to make your marriage happy is to find ways to laugh. Not laugh “at” your spouse, heaven forbid. Just laugh. Find the joy in life. Find the joy in your family, children, spouse, job, friends, hobbies, the blue sky, whatever. Feel it. Share it.

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