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As humans, we are fundamentally social beings whose connections to others are vitalto our health and happiness. As we have noted in many places throughout this book,the evidence connecting well-being to relationships is overwhelming (see Chapters 3and 5). David Myers referred to the contribution of relationships to health and happiness asa “deep truth” (1992, p. 154). The “truth” of the well-being/relationship connection appearsto be universal. Of the many factors that contribute to well-being, only social relationshipsCHAPTER OUTLINEDefining Close RelationshipsCharacteristicsExchange and Communal RelationshipsOn the Lighter SideTeasing and HumorFocus on Research: Sharing What Goes Right in LifeFriendship and Romantic LoveClarity of RulesComplexity of FeelingsExpectationsVarieties of LovePassionate versus Companionate LoveTriangular Theory of LoveCultural Context of Love, Marriage, and DivorceWhy Don’t Marriages Last?Increased Freedom and Decreased ConstraintsGetting Married and Staying Married: Is Love the Answer?Realism or Idealism?Satisfaction and ConflictWhat People Bring to Romantic RelationshipsAttachment StyleConflict and Communication SkillsFocus on Research: The Power of the “Bad”AttributionsImplicit Theories and ExpectationsFood for Thought: Contours of a Happy MarriageWhat Can Happy Couples Tell Us?Humor and Compatibility11Close Relationshipsand Well-Being239ISBN 1-256-51557-4Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.240 Chapter 11 • Close Relationships and Well-Beingconsistently predict happiness across widely differingcultures (Diener & Diener, 1995).Relationships are responsible for our greatestjoys and our most painful sorrows. Our physical andemotional well-being is enhanced as much by supportingand caring connections with others as it isjeopardized by social isolation and bad relationships.For physical health and longevity, the magnitudeof these effects rival those of well-establishedhealth risks such as smoking, obesity, diet, and lackof exercise (see Chapter 3). The quality of our relationshipshas equally powerful effects on mentalhealth and happiness. Healthy people have strong,supportive connections to others and happy peoplehave rich social lives, satisfying friendships, andhappy marriages (see Chapters 3 and 5).The importance of positive relationships iswidely recognized by psychologists and nonpsychologistsalike. People typically list close relationshipsas one of their most important life goalsand a primary source of meaning in life (Emmons,1999b). In one study, 73% of college studentssaid they would sacrifice another important lifegoal (e.g., good education, career) before theywould give up a satisfying romantic relationship(Hammersla & Frease-McMahan, 1990). In answer tothe “deathbed test” most people point to relationshipsas a major factor that contributes to a satisfyingand meaningful life (Reis & Gable, 2003; Sears,1977). A full appreciation of the value of close relationshipsis one of life’s more important lessons,often learned in the face of life-threatening events(see Chapter 4 on Posttraumatic Growth).We have also discussed the multiple ways thatrelationships contribute to well-being. Relationshipsprovide an important coping resource throughsocial support, fulfill needs for intimacy and sharingof life’s burdens through self-disclosure, and representan ongoing source of enjoyment and positiveemotions through interactions with others. Manypsychologists believe these positive effects are builton a biological foundation reflecting our evolutionaryheritage. Humans are not particularly imposingfigures compared to the other animals they confrontedin pre-historic times, and human infantsremain relatively defenseless for many years.Evolution may have selected for a geneticallyorganizedbonding process. Going it alone likelymeant the end of a person’s genetic lineage. Inshort, humans probably would not have survived ifthey did not have a built-in biological motive toform cooperative bonds with others and nurturingconnections with their own offspring. As we notedin Chapter 5, the evolutionary basis of human connections,together with the extensive literatureshowing the importance of human bonds, ledBaumeister and Leary (1995) to conclude thatbelongingness is a fundamental human need whichthey described as, “a pervasive drive to form andmaintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive,and significant interpersonal relationships”(p. 497). Food and water are essential supplies for ahealthy life. Similarly, caring relationships with othersalso appear to be essential to well-being.Recent studies have begun to explore some ofthe biological underpinnings of our need forbelonging. For example, oxytocin is a pituitary hormonethat has physiological effects that counter theflight-or-fight stress response. That is, this hormonereduces fearfulness and the physiological arousalassociated with stress by producing relaxation andcalmness (Carter, 1998; Taylor, Klein, Lewis, et al.,2000; Uvnas-Moberg, 1998). Oxytocin is sometimesreferred to as the “cuddle hormone” because closephysical contacts such as touching, hugging, andkissing stimulate its release (Hazan, Campa, & Gur-Yaish, 2006). Oxytocin is responsible for the releaseof milk in nursing mothers. The calm emotionalstate and feelings of safety produced by the hormoneare thought to contribute to infant–maternalbonds. For both men and women, oxytocin levelsare at their highest during sexual orgasm (Uvnas-Moberg, 1997). These findings suggest that ourdesire for intimate connections with others and thecomfort these connections provide are at least partiallymediated by biological responses. Obviously,there’s more to a hug than just biology, but that hugmight not feel quite as good if it weren’t for biology.The connection of satisfying relationships towell-being is clear. What is not so clear is how peopledevelop and maintain good relationships. In thischapter, we will explore what psychologists havelearned about close, intimate relationships thataddresses the following sorts of questions: What isthe difference between close relationships and morecasual acquaintances? How does an intimate connectiondevelop between two people? What does itmean to be someone’s friend? To be in love? Whatcharacterizes good and bad relationships? Given thewidely shared belief in the importance of close relationships,why do half of all marriages end indivorce? Why is it so difficult to sustain a satisfyingISBN 1-256-51557-4Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.Chapter 11 • Close Relationships and Well-Being 241long-term marriage? Can “happy” couples tell ussomething about the ingredients of a successfulmarriage?DEFINING CLOSE RELATIONSHIPSCharacteristicsWe encounter many people each day as we shop,talk on the phone, keep appointments, visit, work,go to school, go to church, and relax with familymembers, friends, or spouses at the end of theday. While all the relationships involved in theseencounters are potentially significant, researchershave spent most of their time studying our closestrelationships—specifically friendship, romantic love,and marriage. Our best friends, lovers, and spousesare the most important people in our lives and havethe most impact on our overall well-being across thelife span.Close relationships can be distinguished frommore casual acquaintances in a number of ways,but the degree of intimacy seems most central tothe distinction. In everyday language, intimacyoften implies a sexual and romantic relationship.We may be more likely to describe a good friend asa best friend or a close friend, rather than an intimatefriend. However, relationship researchers usethe term “intimacy” to capture mutual understanding,depth of connection, and degree of involvement,whether or not the relationship is sexual. Theterm “intimacy” can apply both to friends and tolovers. It is in this sense that our closest relationships,sexual or not, are the most intimate ones.Although some researchers believe that close relationshipsand intimate relationships are distinct andindependent types (see Berscheid & Reis, 1998), wewill use the term “intimate” to describe our closestrelationships.Based on an extensive review of the literature,Miller, Perlman, and Brehm (2007) suggest that bothlay-persons and psychologists seem to agree on sixcore characteristics that set intimate relationshipsapart from more casual relationships: knowledge,trust, caring, interdependence, mutuality, and commitment(see also Berscheid & Reis, 1998; Harvey &Weber, 2002).Brief descriptions of these six characteristicsare given in Table 11.1.KNOWLEDGE Our closest friends and intimate partnersknow more about us than anyone else. Theyhave extensive knowledge of our personal history,deepest feelings, strengths, and faults. Intimateknowledge in close relations develops through themutual self-disclosure of personal information andfeelings. Self-disclosure means revealing intimatedetails of the self to others (Derlega, Metts,Petronio, & Margulis, 1993). These details have todo with our “true self” and the actual state of affairsin our lives, which is likely different than the publicself presented to less intimate others in everydayinteractions. That is, we share things with intimateothers that we typically keep private when we arein the company of strangers or casual acquaintances.Sharing of personal information, in turn,provides the basis for developing a deeper connectionthan is typical in casual associations. To havesomeone accept, like or love you, when they knowyou as you know yourself, is powerful affirmationof the essence and totality of self. This is one reasonwhy rejection by a good friend or romanticpartner may be so painful. The relatively completeself-knowledge shared with another may makerejection by that person feel profound. In contrast,the rejection of someone who has minimal and partialknowledge of us is likely to be less upsetting,TABLE 11.1 Characteristics of intimate relationshipsKnowledge—mutual understanding based on reciprocal self-disclosure.Trust—assumption of no harm will be done by the other. Keeping confidences.Caring—genuine concern for the other and ongoing monitoring and maintenance of relationshipInterdependence—intertwining of lives and mutual influence.Mutuality—sense of “we-ness” and overlapping of lives.Commitment—intention to stay in the relationship through its ups and downs.ISBN 1-256-51557-4Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.242 Chapter 11 • Close Relationships and Well-Beingbecause only the more superficial aspects of theself are invested.Research suggests that self-disclosure both signifiesand enhances mutual liking and affection. Amajor review by Collins and Miller (1994) foundstrong empirical support for three disclosure-likingeffects. (1) We disclose to people we like. (2) Welike people who disclose intimate self-informationmore than those whose disclosures are less intimate.(3) We like people to whom we have disclosed.Research has also identified a strong tendency fordisclosure to beget disclosure, an effect calleddisclosure reciprocity (Derlega et al., 1993; Miller,1990; Reis & Shaver, 1988). People tend to bothreciprocate a disclosure and match its level of intimacy.The process often begins with non-intimateinformation and then moves on to more intimatefactual and emotional disclosures over time. If initialconversations are rewarding, then over time boththe breadth (diversity of topics) and the depth (personalsignificance and sensitivity) of topics that arediscussed increases (Altman & Taylor, 1973). Thismovement of communication from small talk to theexchange of more sensitive personal information isconsidered central to the development of relationships.Reciprocal self-disclosure captures theprocess of how we get to know someone. Theknowledge that results from disclosure describeswhat it means to know and be known by someone.The power of self-disclosure to produce feelingsof closeness is dramatically shown by a studythat manipulated the intimacy of two conversationpartners (Aron, Melinat, Aron, Vallone, & Bator,1997). Participants began their exchange as completestrangers. They were first instructed to talk for15 minutes about personal topics that were relativelylow in intimacy such as, “When did you lastsing to yourself?” During the second 15-minute interval,topic intimacy increased to include things like,“What is your most treasured memory?” During thefinal 15 minutes, conversation partners wereinstructed to talk about very personal topics invokedby questions such as, “When did you last cry in frontof another person? By yourself?” “Complete this sentence:‘I wish I had someone with whom I couldshare . . .’ ” Compared to a group of non-disclosingparticipants who engaged in 45 minutes of smalltalk (e.g., “What’s is your favorite holiday?”), participantsin the disclosure condition reported feelingvery close to their conversational partners by theconclusion of the experience. The researcherscompared closeness ratings for the group thatengaged in self-disclosure and the group that madesmall-talk. Surprisingly, the experimental subjectsreported feeling closer to their experimental partners,than one-third of the small-talk subjectsreported feeling to the person with whom theyshared the closest real-life relationship! This isstrong evidence for the importance of self-disclosureto the development of intimacy.Reciprocal disclosure is most evident at thebeginning of relationships and less so once relationshipsare well established (Altman, 1973; Derlega,Wilson, & Chaikin, 1976). In a new friendship, weare likely to feel an obligation to reciprocate when aperson opens up to us with personal information. Ina budding romance, the disclosure may be quiterapid and emotionally arousing, which may add tothe passion we feel. Telling a romantic partner yourdeepest secrets and your innermost feelings is exciting,especially when it is reciprocated. One of theironies of romance is that the better we know ourpartners, the less we may experience the excitementof disclosure. Baumeister and Bratslavsky (1999)argue that passion and deepening intimacy arestrongly linked. They believe one reason passionfades in long-term marriages is that spouses alreadyknow most everything about each other.In well-established relationships, intimacy issustained more by responsiveness than by reciprocity(Reis & Patrick, 1996). That is, in our interactionswith best friends, family members, and marital partners,it is less important to reciprocate and moreimportant to respond in a supporting, caring, andaffectionate manner (Laurenceau, Barrett, &Pietromonaco, 1998). If you tell your spouse all yourangry feelings about your boss after a bad day atwork, you aren’t looking for reciprocation. Youdon’t really want to hear about her or his bad day atthat moment. What you want is a sounding board, asympathetic ear, and expressions of care and empathyfor your feelings.TRUST Mutual trust is another vital ingredient ofintimate and close relationships. To trust someonemeans that you expect they will do you no harm.Chief among the harms we are concerned about isthe breaking of confidences. When we open up toother people we make ourselves vulnerable. It is abit like taking your clothes off and feeling selfconsciousabout the less than perfect shape ofyour body. In a network of friends or co-workers,ISBN 1-256-51557-4Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.Chapter 11 • Close Relationships and Well-Being 243sensitive information can have damaging consequencesif someone tells others how you “really”feel about someone—your boss, for example.Violation of trust is damaging to relationships andwill likely lead the betrayed person to be lessopen and more guarded in revealing personallysensitive information in the future (Jones, Crouch,& Scott, 1997). Trust is an essential ingredient inclose relationships, partly because it is a necessaryprecondition for self-disclosure. We don’t discloseto people we don’t trust.CARING Caring means concern for and attentionto the feelings of others. We feel more affectionand appreciation for our close partners than formost people. When we ask a casual acquaintance,“how are you doing?” we most often expect andreceive an obligatory and cliché response: “Fine,”“Hanging in there,” “Not bad,” and so forth.Neither person expects a deep revelation aboutpersonal feelings. At one level, in those passinggreetings, we aren’t actually asking for informationabout how the person is really doing. We’re justfollowing polite social rules for greeting andacknowledging people as we encounter them. Inour intimate relationships, the same question carriesdifferent expectations. We expect and want amore detailed and genuine response, especially ifthings are not going well. And the other person isexpected to be more honest in describing howthey really feel, and not to pass off the questionwith a stock answer used in low-intimacyexchanges. Caring also involves all the little thingswe do to express our appreciation and valuing ofa relationship: providing support in times of need;recognizing special occasions like birthdays, holidays,and anniversaries; inviting people for dinnerand other shared activities; and keeping in touchwith a phone call or an invitation to get togetherover coffee or lunch. All these things reflect thesimple fact that more intimate relationships takehigh priority in our lives. We have more invested,so we take care to maintain the quality of ourclose relationships.INTERDEPENDENCE The lives of people in intimaterelationships are deeply intertwined. The mutualinfluence of each person on the actions, feelings,and thinking of the other is, for some researchers, adefining characteristic of close relationships(Berscheid & Reis, 1998). We typically care moreand give greater weight to the advice and judgmentsour family members, friends, and spouses than wedo to people we know less well. This is particularlytrue regarding self-relevant personal issues andactions. We may consult an expert when ourcomputer malfunctions, but we are likely to seek thesupport and advice of spouses and friends in timesof personal challenge, such as interpersonalconflicts at work or caring for aging parents. Ourfeelings and actions are also intertwined. Theemotional ups and downs of our intimate partnersaffect our own emotional states and actions.Intimate partners share in each other’s emotionalexperiences. Compared to casual relationships, themutual influences characterizing close relationshipsare more frequent and involve more areas of ourlives. And they are long-term. For example, mostparents find that they never stop being parents, interms of showing concern, giving advice, and offeringhelp and support to their children. Childrenwould likely agree that the influence of parents doesnot end when they leave their parents’ home andbegin their own lives.MUTUALITY Mutuality is another distinctive featureof our closest relationships. Mutuality refers to feelingsof overlap between two lives—that is, theextent to which people feel like separate individualsor more like a couple. These feelings are revealed inthe language we use to describe our connection toothers. Plural pronouns (we and us) have beenfound to both express and contribute to close relationships(e.g., Fitzsimons & Kay, 2004). People use“we” to signify closeness. In a developing relationship,shifting from singular pronouns (e.g., “sheand I”) to plural (“we” or “us”) contributes to feelingsof closeness and mutuality.Another way of capturing mutuality and feelingsof closeness is to ask people to pick amongpairs of circles that overlap to varying degrees (seeFigure 11.1). Called the Inclusion of Other in theSelf Scale, this measure has been found effective inassessing interpersonal closeness (Aron, Aron, &Smollan, 1992). Sample items from this scale areshown in Figure 11.1. People simply pick the circlepair that best describes a relationship partner specifiedby the researcher (e.g., closest relationship, bestfriend, spouse, etc.). The pictorial representation ofmutuality seems to be a direct and meaningful wayfor people to express their feelings of closeness foranother person.ISBN 1-256-51557-4Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.244 Chapter 11 • Close Relationships and Well-BeingSelf OtherSelf Other Self OtherSelf Other Self OtherFIGURE 11.1 Sample Items—Inclusion of Other in the Self ScaleCOMMITMENT Commitment is a final component ofintimate relationships. Commitment is a desire orintention to continue a relationship into the future.Research suggests that people associate commitmentwith loyalty, faithfulness, living up to yourword, hard work, and giving your best effort (Fehr,1988, 1996). In short, commitment means persevering“through thick and thin.” This can be contrastedwith the lack of commitment shown by a “fairweather friend,” who is there when things are goingwell, but not when a supportive friend is neededmost. Successful friendships and marriages requiresome amount of work. This means spending timeand energy maintaining closeness and workingthrough the inevitable conflicts and problems thatarise in long-term relationships. Close relationshipsalso require some degree of personal sacrifice andcompromise of individual self-interests for the goodof the relationship. Mutual commitment helpsensure that relationship partners will do the workand make the sacrifices and compromises necessaryto sustain an intimate connection.Our most satisfying relationships will likelyinvolve all six characteristics: knowledge, trust, caring,interdependence, mutuality, and commitment(Miller et al., 2007). Both research and everyday personalexperience suggest that these characteristicsdo, indeed, capture the essential elements of what itmeans to be a close friend or intimate partner. If weview these six features as ideal standards, thendegree of intimacy and closeness might be evaluatedaccording to the relative prominence of eachcharacteristic. Fehr (1996) argues that the differencebetween a friend, a good friend, and a best friend islargely a matter of degree. With our best friends, weknow more, trust more, care more, are more deeplycommitted, and so forth.It is important to recognize the diversity ofrelationships. That is, close relationships are a bittoo complex to be captured by six ideal characteristics.Deep affection and caring can exist withoutpassing the six-feature test. For example, the movieGrumpy Old Men portrayed two elderly men(played by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon) whocompeted for a woman’s affection, constantly criticizedand insulted each other, and spent considerabletime planning and carrying out acts of revengethat stopped just short of mayhem. Yet their relationshipwas utterly endearing, caring, affectionate and,despite its peculiar nature, loving. Fitting this longtermfriendship to the six characteristics would be achallenge! In a similar vein, marriages come in allshapes and sizes, reflecting the unique needs andpersonalities of spouses. A marriage may “work”despite a lack of fit to the ideal. Both of your textbookauthors, for instance, know of a successfulmarriage based on high independence rather thaninterdependence. That is, a couple that takes pridein not exerting much influence on each other interms of careers, vacation travel, mutual friends, oreven shared activities at home. This may not seemto many of us like a recipe for a satisfying relationship,but they are both very happy with their marriageand wouldn’t have it any other way.It is worth keeping in mind that none of thesecharacteristics, in and of itself, guarantees an intimaterelationship. Self-disclosure, for instance, doesnot guarantee intimacy or deep affection. Sometimeswhen you really get to know a person, you find thatyou really dislike them! Perhaps this has happenedwith a relative or a co-worker with whom you’vehad frequent and long-term contact. In a similarvein, commitment might not signify a desire to workon or enhance a relationship. A married couple inISBN 1-256-51557-4Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.Chapter 11 • Close Relationships and Well-Being 245an unhappy marriage might make a mutual commitmentto stay together because they believe it is bestfor their kids. In short, relationships are complex.The six features of intimate relationships should beconsidered general guidelines rather than hard-andfastcriteria.Exchange and Communal RelationshipsIn addition to the six characteristics that define intimaterelationships, such relationships also differ inhow we think about and evaluate them. Accordingto Clark and Mills, relationships come in two basicforms, exchange relationships and communal relationships(Clark, 1984; Clark & Mills, 1979, 1993).The two forms are related to different patterns ofthinking, evaluating and behaving in a relationship,and to different levels of intimacy and closeness.Clark and Mills provide evidence showing that, asintimacy increases, people’s relationships shift froman exchange form to a communal form.Exchange relationships are typically moreformal, less personal, and in the beginning stages ofdevelopment. They are built on fairness and mutualreciprocity. That is, in an exchange relationshipeach party is expected to return favors in a mutualfashion. I do something nice for you and you returnthe favor. Exchange relationships are evaluated bykeeping mental track of what we have done for othersin comparison to what they have done for us.We may feel satisfied if our exchange ratio is fairlyequal; conversely, resentment may build if we feelwe are putting ourselves out, but getting nothingback. A sense of indebtedness might result frombelieving we are “falling behind” in doing nicethings for another person.Communal relationships are more typicalwith our closer friends, romantic partners, and familymembers. In these relationships, the tit-for-tatreciprocation of exchange relationships would probablyfeel a bit funny and might even be damaging.What would you think if your best friend reciprocatedevery one of your favors, like an accountantwho keeps track of assets and liabilities on a ledgersheet? Clark and Mills (1979, 1993) found that whiletit-for-tat reciprocation of favors increased likingamong low-intimacy and formal relationships, thesame favor reciprocation decreased liking amongfriends and in more intimate relationships. With ourlong-term friends, family members, and spouseswe are in it for the long haul. We tend to pay moreattention to keeping track of others’ needs, ratherthan logging all the specific things we have done forthem and they have done for us. We are highlyresponsive to others’ emotional states and respondappropriately. In communal relationships, we sharean ongoing mutual concern focused on the overallquality of a relationship and the needs and welfareof the other. We do not expect to be repaid for eachpositive act.The distinction between exchange and communalrelationships is not hard-and-fast. All relationshipsprobably involve some kind of exchange anda close relationship does not necessarily mean thateach person takes a communal view (Clark & Mills,1993; Mills & Clark, 2001). Some married couplesundoubtedly do focus on what they put in versuswhat they get out of their marriage, although thisprobably signifies a less healthy and less maturerelationship. And, thinking about costs and benefitsseems entirely appropriate when close relationshipsbecome hurtful, conflicted, or dominated by oneperson’s self-centered needs.ON THE LIGHTER SIDELove and friendship are built on the same foundation.Knowledge, trust, caring, interdependence,mutuality, and commitment are the basic buildingblocks of all close relationships. As these basicingredients develop, our thinking shifts from anexchange perspective to a more communal perspective.One reason relationships are so stronglyconnected to health and happiness is that they representa sort of safety net to catch us when lifeknocks us off balance. The depth of knowledge,care, concern, and trust that characterize close relationshipsprovide confidence that we don’t haveto go it alone. Support from friends, family members,and intimate partners in times of trouble hasbeen consistently documented as one of ourstrongest coping resources (Berscheid & Reis,1998; Ryff & Singer, 2000; Salovey, Rothman,Detweiler, & Steward, 2000; Salovey, Rothman, &Rodin, 1998; Taylor et al., 2000). However, relationshipsalso enhance our well-being when thingsare going well. Most of the “good times” we havein life involve shared activities and fun with ourfamilies and friends. These good times translateinto more frequent positive emotional experiencesthat, in turn, allow us to reap the benefits of positiveemotions shown in research and described byISBN 1-256-51557-4Positive Psychology, by Steve R. Baumgardner and Marie K. Crothers. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.246 Chapter 11 • Close Relationships and Well-BeingFredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory of positiveemotions (Chapter 3).Teasing and HumorAside from sex, which is arguably more intense, butfar less frequent (at least when you’re older), laughteris one of our most commonly experiencedsources of positive emotion. From childhood to oldage, laughter is a universal experience and it’salmost always social (Lefcourt, 2002). We may, onoccasion, laugh when we’re alone, but we have themost fun with others. We both enjoy and seek outpeople who make us laugh. Large-scale surveys findthat a sense of humor is one of the most valuedqualities that people seek in choosing opposite- andsame-sex friends, dating partners, and marriage partners(Sprecher & Regan, 2002). Certainly, humor canbe used for negative purposes, such as the humiliatingteasing of a schoolyard bully. However, in satisfyingrelationships, humor is typically prosocial andserves positive functions (Keltner, Young, Heerey, &Oemig, 1998). Teasing, playful banter, exchangingjokes, and contagious laughter are typical features ofclose relationships and one of the primary reasonswe enjoy them. Even serious occasions are oftenmarked by humor. For example, it is not uncommonfor people to tell humorous stories about thedeceased at a funeral reception, especially if theperson was elderly and lived a long, full life. Humoris a positive coping strategy in the face of loss(Bonanno & Keltner, 1997). Humor helps lighten upserious situations by replacing negative emotionswith more positive ones. Humor is widely regardedas an effective way to release stress-related tension,deal with sensitive issues, and help confront andresolve interpersonal conflicts (Argyle, 2001;Lefcourt, 2002; Martin, 2007). Laughter helps putboth the mind and body at ease.Humor is important

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