Lighten up your relationship

Jun 10, 2011 at 10:54 a.m. ET

Laughter really is the best medicine, at least for relationships. That's the word from Tina B. Tessina PhD, aka "Dr. Romance." Tessina is a psychotherapist and author of How To Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page Books) who uses humor in her own relationship to build intimacy and stay connected. "After 29 years together, I still don't feel in danger of being bored," she says. "I seem to easily run out of things to be passionate or dramatic about, but laughter never gets boring." Here are her tips for lightening up your relationship.

Happy couple laughing

1Add humor to sex.

After you've been with your significant other for a while, some of the passion is inevitably going to wane. Tessina says that humor can really help at this point. "The burden of passion can be a heavy one," she says. "Having to rev up the energy for a passionate, heavy-breathing session making love after a hard day's work can be an appalling prospect." But getting playful with one another (having a tickle fight, wrestling on the bed) can easily to turn into something sexy -- minus the pressure to perform. "Suddenly, the heaviness and obligation are gone."

2Mix laughter & life.

Your to-do list is probably a mile long -- dishes to do, laundry to put away, work to finish, shopping to be done -- all of which can lead to arguments between you and your partner. Laughter can lighten the burden of responsibility and make solving problems easier. After you laugh together, doing something constructive about the problem as a team is easier. "Hectic lives benefit greatly from a sense of humor," says Tessina. Plus, storing up resentments against someone who makes you laugh is difficult.

3Get silly.

Humor seems to be the secret in keeping love fresh and alive, and in feeling confident that your relationship will remain strong, explains Tessina. She says of her own relationship, "I have learned that replacing the drama of struggle with the delight of humor can be a positive addiction -- and a powerful solution for what to do with our time together." She has become an advocate of what she refers to as "the silly solution." "It's working better than all the seriousness I used to think my relationships required," she says.

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