Saturday, February 11, 2012

Who Cares Whether Employees Are Happy As Long As They Produce?

If you agree with me that happy employees tend to be healthier than unhappy employees, and that healthy employees tend to be happier, and that therefore they are on the job being creative, productive, and loyal, then you can stop reading. WHAT you should do now is get back to work and make it part of your job to help keep yourself and other employees healthy and happy.

On the other other, if  you suspect that happiness, fun, and positive mind-sets might be worthy workplace objectives (TRUE), but you're worried that "happy" might mean all-out buffoonery or class-clowning at work (FALSE), read a little further to find out WHY there's no need to worry.

Still on the other hand, if you get it that things like happiness, fun, and positive mind-sets will produce terrific bottom-line results, but you're not quite sure HOW to make it happen, then read all the way to the end, and then read my forthcoming book --this blog is an excerpt-- and then take my 2-day course on the topic.

…Research shows…Workplace advantages of Positive Activities and Positive Mindsets

From Positive Intelligence by Shawn Achor, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2012:

• When people work with a positive mind-set, performance on nearly every level—productivity, creativity, engagement—improves.

• People who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in the face of challenge.

• There is strong evidence of direct causality between life satisfaction and successful business outcomes.

• You can train your brain to be positive…perhaps in as little as three weeks, working at it only a few minutes a day.

• Happy employees mean better bottom-line results: low LSS scores à decrease productivity of 15 days per year due to absence. High LSS scores high customer ratings, more earnings per square foot of space (Gallup) and tens of millions of dollars in profits to a large chain.

From Creating Sustainable Performance by Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2012:

• “Worrying about whether or not your employees are happy might seem a little over the top. But in our research into what makes for a consistently high-performing workforce, we’ve found good reason to care:
     – Happy employees produce more than unhappy ones over the long term.
     – They routinely show up at work, they’re less likely to quit, they go above and beyond the call of duty, and they attract people who are just as committed to the job.
     – Moreover, they’re not sprinters; they’re more like marathon runners, in it for the long haul.

• Happiness is not about contentment, which connotes a degree of complacency; it is about thriving.

• Thriving employees are not just satisfied and productive but also engaged in creating the future—the company’s and their own. Thriving employees have a bit of an edge—they are highly energized—but they know how to avoid burnout.

• Thriving employees demonstrated 16% better overall performance (as reported by their managers) and 125% less burnout (self-reported) than their peers. They were 32% more committed to the organization and 46% more satisfied with their jobs.

• They also missed much less work and reported significantly fewer doctor visits, which meant health care savings and less lost time for the company.

• Researchers identified two components of thriving: vitality and learning.

• Vitality: the sense of being alive, passionate, and excited. Employees who experience vitality spark energy in themselves and others. Companies generate vitality by giving people the sense that what they do on a daily basis makes a difference. [AWARDING RECOGNITION AND THE GENERAL ENVIRONMENT CAN BOTH BE FUN.]

• Learning: People who are developing their abilities are likely to believe in their potential for further growth.

• The two qualities work in concert. When you put the two together, the statistics are striking. For example, people who were high energy and high learning were 21% more effective as leaders than those who were only high energy.

• The outcomes on one measure in particular—health—were even more extreme. Those who were high energy and low learning were 54% worse when it came to health than those who were high in both.

From The Science Behind the Smile, An Interview with Daniel Gilbert by Gardiner Morse, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2012:

• By and large, happy people are more creative and more productive.

• Many managers would say that contented people aren’t the most productive employees, so you want to keep people a little uncomfortable, maybe a little anxious, about their jobs. FALSE! “I know of no data showing that anxious, fearful employees are more creative or productive.”

• People are happiest when they’re appropriately challenged—when they’re trying to achieve goals that are difficult but not out of reach (and people hate being bored). People blossom when challenged and wither when they are threatened.

• What are those little things we can do to increase our happiness?

• The main things are to commit to some simple behaviors—meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep—and to carry out altruism, and all six practices of Good-Hearted Lving™.

• One of the most selfish things you can do is help others. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. You may or may not help the homeless, but you will almost surely help yourself.

• And nurture your social connections.

• Twice a week, write down three things you’re grateful for, and tell someone why.

• These may sound like homilies from your grandmother. Well, your grandmother was smart. The secret of happiness is not a secret!

“Having fun is no trivial pursuit.”
Evidence From Other Researchers, Writers, Philosophers and Theorists


Mark Beeman, PhD, at Northwestern University, found that people have an easier time solving a puzzle after watching a short comedy clip. Having fun, perhaps by easing tension, may facilitate neuronal connections that are helpful for greater mental flexibility and creativity. In another brain imaging study, Dr. Beeman found that activation of pleasure centers in the brain predicted successful puzzle-solving These findings suggest that well-being helps us think more creatively and could potentially help us resolve challenging situations. ~SPIRITUALITY & HEALTH, May-June 2011

“Play is purposeless, done for its own sake. Nevertheless, such purposelessness has extraordinarily positive effects. Play quiets our busy minds, putting a stop to our constant barrage of thoughts about the past and future.”

From “The Power of Play”,  by Hara Estroff  Marano, Psychology Today, July 1, 1999:

• Having fun is no trivial pursuit. In fact, it's crucial to mental creativity, health and happiness.

• The very essence of play is antic, full of novelty and joyful abandon.

• Play's value among adults is too often vastly underrated.
      • It lifts stress from us.
      • It refreshes us.
      • It recharges us.
      • It restores our optimism.
      • It changes our perspective.
      • It stimulates creativity.
      • It renews our ability to accomplish the work of the world.

• Play may in fact be the highest expression of our humanity, both imitating and advancing the evolutionary process.

• Play appears to allow our brains to exercise their very flexibility, to maintain and even perhaps renew the neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt, to meet any possible set of environmental conditions.

• It may be that playfulness is a force woven through our search for mates. Certainly, playful people are the most fun to be around. But the ability to play may be a strong and appealing signal of something more. Especially among males, playfulness can protect us.

• It may be a way to indicate to potential partners that a man is not a threat to himself, to his offspring—or to society at large.

• One sign that males may not be dangerous either to females or to their children is their willingness to play with them. "So it is possible that females seek out mates who are playful, both for their own protection and for that of their offspring." Men, for their part, are not immune to the pleasures of playfulness in selecting a mate either. Playfulness is an indicator of youthfulness in women.

• Like art, play is that quintessential experience that is almost impossible to define—because it encompasses infinite variability—but which we all recognize when we see, or experience it.

• If Garry Chick is right, we play because it protects us. Chick, who has studied games and sports in a number of cultures, contends that the standard explanations for why we play just don't wash.

• For example, the belief that play affords practice for skills needed later in life is true—for some animals, and then just for juveniles. "Some animals appear to play at things they will be doing their adult lives," he observes. "Predatory animals play at predation, those that are preyed upon play at escape. Social animals beat each other up to establish rank and hierarchy.“

• It can truly be said that we are made for play; after all, humans are among the very few animals that play as adults. What the evidence adds up to is this: we are most human when we play—and just because we play.

Through my new book and course, we will understand all that contributes to such a necessary, and exalted, psychological state.

BONUS: Need More Fun Ideas? Not sure what to do? Need help? Here are some other unusual ways, adapted from Playfair, to celebrate the day with your co-workers:

* Celebrate International Fun At Work Day, an idea started by the gang at Playfair, Thursday, April 5, 2012. That will also help kick-off National Humor Month, all of April 1, now in its 37th year. 

* Ask all employees to bring in baby photos or pet pictures or High School yearbook photos to post on the bulletin board. Then guess who's who.

* The Traveling Bouquet. Bring in a bouquet of flowers and present it to one of your co-workers. Tell him or her, I want you to keep this on your desk for the next half-hour. Then pass it on to someone else and tell them to do the same!

* Hold a Company Limo Lottery. Hold a lottery where the winner gets driven to and from work in the company limo. (If you don't have a company limo, rent one for the day!)

* Offer your employees some unusual gifts (like free housecleaning certificates) to celebrate the day.

* Take some Joy Breaks during the day and teach all your employees the art of scarf juggling. . .or play marbles together.

* Hire an On-site Masseuse for the day.

* Take a group photo portrait of your office mates dressed up for Clash Dressing Day ... or Polka Dots Day ... or Suspender Day ... or Pajama Day ... or Bad Hair Day!

* Dog Days of Spring: Let all employees bring their pets to work with them for this fun day celebration!

* Bring in some champagne (or sparkling apple juice) and take time to toast each other, your successes and your fabulous failures of the past few weeks.

* Hold an all-employee pizza party ... with the name of your company spelled out across the top of the pies in mushrooms!

* Decorate Smiley faces and put them up in a "giggle gallery"; make it a contest; have themes such as love, peace, cheer, get-well, Valentines, birthdays, 4th of July, thinking-of-you...whatever; donate them to a hospital! Make you own smiley or start with the 13" diameter smiley cardboard cutouts shown below, available at

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Predict the Future of a Dating Relationshp




My dictionary defines a rut as a hollow depression which is a pretty good description of how you feel when one relationship after another doesn’t work out: hollow and depressed. One thing you can to protect yourself from the "relationship rut" is to become a better predictor of relationships.

Affirm yourself as someone who is realistic about relationships, who is developing a reliable internal guidance system. Get your head and your heart working together and you can more accurately predict the future of a dating relationship, see and properly react to the danger signs, and stop wasting time.

Ideas for Working With This List
Read the list several times. Rate yourself on each item, for example: I do this one well; I want to do better about this one; I really must do better about this one.

Identify specific relationships from the past (or present) where you could have done better. Write about them in a journal. Discuss them with a friend or in a support group. Turn them into action items.

1) Is your prospect really available? Are they truly free of past relationships legally, mentally, and emotionally? Do you see signs of addictions, dependencies, or compulsive behaviors? If your prospect is legally divorced, are they emotionally divorced as well? Starting a new relationship before a previous one has ended usually creates painful complications. Because people tend to behave in patterns, the way your prospect ended previous relationships may foretell the ending of yours.

2) Do you need to get a background check by a detective or attorney? It may not sound very romantic, but there are situations --financial, family, career-- where such information can save you a lot of grief.

3) How desperate are you for a relationship? People who are too “hungry” might eat anything. Get help with it, or wait long enough to get over desperation, before you make a commitment.

4) Does your prospect have a good sense of humor? Do they laugh and smile easily and often? Do you bring out the laughter in each other? DO you "get" and enjoy their sense of humor? Can they ease tension by finding humor in sticky predicaments without trivializing them? Is their humor good-natured rather than mean-spirited or angrily sarcastic? “Yes” to these questions is a very good sign.

5) During your first date(s), does your prospect ask you questions about yourself? Sales professionals know that a customer who asks good questions is signaling a buying mood, and the sale will likely be closed. At your first meeting, if you are the only one asking questions, it is a pretty good sign that your prospect is not “buying”. Don’t waste your time on more dates.

6) Listen to them describe their feelings about relationships from the past.  If they have had essentially good relationships that just didn't work out, that's a favorable sign.  If they are angry and blame the women/men of their past for the relationship failure they had, you will probably be next. The best prospects are those whose past relationships ended in a friendly way, without bitterness or ugliness or at least where they point the finger equally at themselves.

7) What is their life like when you meet?  Is it a good and satisfying life, or are they looking to be rescued from their financial problems, age problems, or a desperate need to be in a relationship?  Many people in need of rescue have a way of becoming romantic and sexy quickly. If you are a rescue vehicle and an object, you are not a person.  It's safest to get involved with prospects who have a well-rounded, satisfying life, and who aren't looking to you to make their life work.

8) How did you meet?  Were you both flaunting symbols of success, achievement, and career; or of physical allure?   The more each of you played symbol games in the beginning, the more the relationship will have a gamey, fragile quality. Without a foundation in authenticity, it may become highly volatile and will tend to be either easy-come-easy-go, or it will last longer before it crashes and burns.

9) How about you?  How do you really feel about the opposite sex?  What's your history in relationships?  And how do you perceive the opposite sex in general? Most important, do you really want a relationship or do you just want to be with someone who knows how to leave you alone? (Men, especially, may be prone to this tendency.)

10) Do you suffer from the fallacy that you can undo the hurts, abuses and injustices a prospect may claim have been done by others in their past? If they may make you larger than life at the beginning, inevitably they will include you as one of the disappointing and dysfunctional people they’ve been involved with.

11) Do you really like the realities of your prospect’s life when you meet? Do you feel positive about their family, friends, habits, values, tastes, the way they eat, how they groom themselves?  The more you have to overlook and rationalize at the beginning, the more you will have to deny and block feelings in order to remain in the relationship.
12) Can you disagree --even argue-- with them without feeling guilty or responsible? Can the two of you bring conflict to a reasonably successful resolution?  Does your prospect accept responsibility for communications problems as often as they point a finger at you?

13) Are you willing to look at your own hang-ups and their painful effects on relationships with people who try to get close to you?

14) Are you both willing to share your test results so you know what risks you might be taking regarding STDs, HIV and AIDs? If either or both of you have been sexually active within the past 10-15 years, getting tested is smart. Make sure that sharing the results is a requirement.

There's much more incredible advice like this in my book, "Toilet Paper, Toothpaste, and Tuna-Noodle Casserole: Observations and Advice on Love, Marriage, and Authentic Intimacy From a Psychologist Who's On The Practice-Makes-Perfect Program." Click here to buy it now.

Oh, Promise Me: The 27 Commitments for Happiness in Long-Term Intimate Relationships

"Your mate doesn't live by bread alone; he or she needs to be "buttered up" from time to time."
~Zig Ziglar

Love, Honor, and Obey?
As a psychotherapist, marriage counselor, and a person with more than a few intimate relationships under his belt, it is clear that the traditional marriage vows are just not enough to sustain really successful truly intimate long-term relationships. Anyone who is aware of the divorce statistics knows this.  Even the vows couples design for their own nuptials aren't enough to keep them together.

Conflict is Inevitable; Misery is Optional
Research shows that long-tern successful intimate relationships of 15-25 years or longer, have likely  hit several lengthy rough patches. These are times for re-alignment. Your car needs periodic alignment because of the rough roads and potholes you have been through; your relationship needs it, too.

In fact, the most successful relationships start with a sustainable set of commitments that also become the tools to do the required periodic maintenance. Start with a good set of tools, then use them as needed.

It might not seem very romantic. It may be difficult and unpleasant to get under the chassis and fix things. But, the smooth ride and extended mileage you'll get will be well worth it.

Stay Out of the Ditch
Before you commit, take time to discuss each of these statements and come to agreement.  The less agreement you come to, the less likely you are to sustain romance, intimacy, love, support, and happiness; you'll be off the road in a ditch much sooner than you expected or hoped for.  The more agreement you can come to, and the more willing you are to use these commitments as tools, the more likely you are to sustain happiness in the long run.

1. I realize that fairy-tale romance doesn't really exist and that "happily ever after" demands a lot of work.

2. I understand that if I am not happy with myself, I will never be able to make you happy.

3. I realize that communication is the most important aspect of any relationship, and I promise to share my deepest secrets and dreams with you.

4. I promise I will confront problems as they come up, not wait and hope they will go away.

5. I understand that marriage is a commitment and that it is in some ways confining; I choose to accept that confinement in the firm belief that it will help me grow as a person.

6. I understand that there will be joy in our relationship and that there will be pain and sorrow as well.

7. I will not try to change you so that you better fulfill my needs.  If I want to see change happen, I will fulfill your needs and see what happens.

8. I will keep my mind and body healthy, and I will expect you to do the same.

9. I believe that self-knowledge is the most powerful tool a person can have, and I expect you to help me know myself better, even if it means criticizing me.

10. I will give you unconditional respect as a human being at all times and I expect the same in return.
11. I promise that I will never be too busy to sit and watch the sunset with you.

12. I realize that, even though you may be able to anticipate some of my needs and preferences, you are not a mind-reader and I need to ask for what I want.

13. I will compliment you sincerely; I will compliment you in front of others and save criticism for when we are in private.

14. I will touch you gently.

15. I understand that it is important to be romantic and I will never stop courting you.

16. I realize that individual space is important and I need to respect your right to privacy; when we spend time apart it will be because our separate interests generate interest between us.

17. I will not fear change because change in our marriage can mean growth.

18. I understand that fighting fairly includes: no threats, accusations, or name calling.

19. I know that in spite of my best efforts, my human imperfection will provide many opportunities to apologize;  I am willing to say, "I'm sorry."

20. I recognize that foolish pride and holding on to anger is dangerous to our relationship; I am willing to say, "I forgive you."

21. I understand that appreciation and recognition cannot be taken for granted; I am willing to say, "Thank you."

22. I will develop my sense of humor and invite you to laugh with me.

23. I will develop my ability to connect with you in your feelings; there will be times when we will cry together, and doing so will bond our hearts.

24. I know that it is unrealistic for either of us to always be strong; weak or strong, our marriage will be interdependent.

25. I will make a habit of performing caring acts daily.

26. I will look for love, even when I don't "feel" it or hear the words.

27. I understand that "getting married" is a life-long process; I will be patient.

Bonus Commitments, not in my original list
28. I will cultivate optimism so that we can celebrate rainbows after the rain.

29. I will use my sense of humor to help us maintain perspective, to uplift us, and never to hurt us.

30. I will celebrate the sound of your laughter and the times we share laughter for whatever reason.

More terrific advice like this is included in "Toilet Paper, Toothpaste, and Tuna-Noodle Casserole: Observations and Advice on Love, Marriage, and Authentic Intimacy From a Psychologist Who's On The Practice-Makes-Perfect Program," by Steve Wilson. Click here to buy it now.

The Top 10 Ways To Avoid Getting Into A Relationship Doomed To Fail

It was my great privilege as a marriage counselor and as the customer of marriage counselors on more than a few occasions*, to get to look behind closed doors of relationships and learn a thing or two about what goes right and what goes wrong.

During this "month of love" I will share with you some of the best advice I ever received or figured out. What's below was adapted from Dennis R. Tesdell, author of "Self Care Weekly" newsletter and numerous lists and articles on self care.

These are ten of the most common things men & women do when they are searching for love or for a relationship where they want to be loved. In each case, it will inevitably *NOT* meet their needs:
1. Forcing your desire for a relationship onto the other person, and because the other person doesn't know how to say "no," they stay with you. (A sick “sixth” sense.)


2. Everything about the other person tells your head and "gut" they are NOT the one, but you ignore your intuition and mind and go ahead anyhow. (“Who do you trust?”)


3. You mix up someone being nice or friendly with you with romance. (Approval-seeking)


4. You fear or hate being alone, so you latch onto the first person who comes by and is available. (Lonely vs. alone. Your own best friend.)


5. You look only at the person's looks and outside "wrappings & trappings" and do not investigate or pay attention to what they are really like as a *person*. (Superficialism projection. Self respect.)


6. Even though you know this person has done bad things to other people in past relationships, you choose to believe that he/she will not do the same to you. (That leopard is a snake!)


7. You mistake your great sexual adventures and fun with this person for love. (“This must be love!”)


8. You are in a relationship, but you don't express your feelings and needs to your partner for fear you will hurt their feelings or make them angry. (Authenticity deficiency.)


9. You know your partner is deceiving you but you refuse to believe it, even though you know the truth. You stay in denial about it all. (Red-flag Syndrome.)


10. The other person shows a lot of interest in you and you respond quickly and passionately, without really finding out if this person is who or what you really want in a relationship partner. (Be authentically free. “Trust, but verify.”)


* I summarized a whole lot of my best advice in "Toilet Paper, Toothpaste, and Tuna-Noodle Casserole: Observations and Advice on Love, Marriage, and Authentic Intimacy From a Psychologist Who's On The Practice-Makes-Perfect Program." Click here to buy this incredible book now.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Funny Valentine Could Be Serious

By Steve Wilson, Psychologist, Joyologist
©1998-2012, All Rights Reserved

"A relationship without humor is like shaking hands with gloves on."--Sherry Suib Cohen

"Your mate doesn't live by bread alone; he or she needs to be "buttered up" from time to time."~Zig Ziglar

"Love may make the world go around but it's laughter that keeps us from getting dizzy."
--Donald Zochert

"I kissed my first girl and smoked my first cigarette on the same day.
I haven't had time for tobacco since."
--Arturo Toscanini

"Acting is not very hard. The most important things are to be able to laugh and cry. If I have to cry, I think of my sex life. And if I have to laugh, well, I think of my sex life." --Glenda Jackson

"The most difficult years of marriage are those following the wedding." --Unknown

In my psychotherapy practice I have worked with thousands of singles and couples who are searching for answers to an eternally contemporary question, "When the weight of daily responsibilities drags us down to grim seriousness, how can we recapture the color and exuberance we once enjoyed?" Even in relationships that are comfortable, when you know everything is okay, you can get to feeling bored by the predictability of the same old thing. The answer may be easier and more fun than you might expect.

The great abundance of books, articles, and TV investigations by Geraldo, Sally, Phil, Oprah, Jerry, Tom, Dick & Harry have tried to find the answer which may be as plain as the nose on your face. It isn't really news that a successful relation requires effort. You cannot take it for granted; you have to nurture and care for it. But this is what I find fascinating: one of the most important ingredients for keeping the spice, spark and sizzle in your love life is a good sense of humor and taking time for fun.

What Do You Want In A Mate?
Here are some interesting facts. Glamour magazine reports a survey of 350 brides-to-be who were asked what they admired most in their man. The quality most often mentioned as attractive: sense of humor (outranking romantic nature, intelligence, and good looks).  Speaking for the sponsor of the study, Alice Kolator said, "These women take the decision to marry seriously.  But the courtship has also got to be lighthearted."

A Newsweek article reports that, in a study of 351 couples married 15 years or more, researchers Robert and Jeanette Lauer found that the most admired qualities in a spouse were integrity, caring, sensitivity, and a sense of humor.  A report in Men's Health shows us what a publishing company found when they tallied the attributes most frequently mentioned in its newsletter's personal ads.  Humor topped the list for men and women alike.  The results, Published in East West Journal, looked like this:

1. Sense of humor  
2. Intelligence   
3. Nonsmoker   
4. Sensitivity   
5. Being committed
6. Being slender
7. Being compassionate 
8. Attractiveness 
9. Warmth   
10. Maturity   

1. Sense of humor
2. Intelligence
3. Warmth
4. Attractiveness
5. Nonsmoker
6. Being caring   
7. Being sensitive
 8. Being caring
9. Independence
10. Honesty

Clearly, the report concludes, Sylvester Stallone is no match for Woody Allen in the rugged world of romance.

A Google search on the topics shows that "humor" ranks 1 or 2 on almost every list.

Because true mirthful laughter always discharges emotional tension, it helps you feel relaxed and is part of the "ice-breaker" you need when you first meet someone.  As your relationship progresses, the two of you will develop "in" jokes, pet names, and code words which help you feel special, draw you closer together, and reinforce your bonding.  When the tough times come (and they will), your sense of humor will help, again, by relieving tension, and giving you a perspective from which you are less likely to be overwhelmed.

When Are You Too Old for Fooling Around?Many octogenarians maintain that you don't stop playing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop playing.  And it has been said that "you can't be truly sexy if you are afraid of looking foolish in bed." 

Sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer says, "In a relationship, if there is laughter from making fun of your partner, that's not always good.  But if a joke is used to break the tension, it can be very effective in defusing an explosive situation.  For example, if a man gets mad because his girlfriend squeezes the toothpaste from the middle instead of the end, he shouldn't make a big scene.  A little joke will help much more." 

Westheimer adds, "A sense of humor in bed can be very nice if used the right way.  But it can also be very dangerous.  Some tickling or telling funny stories in bed can make sex more interesting."  (I wonder if this could be the origin of the saying that "timing is everything!")

Writer Peter Mehlman says, "Without a sense of humor, life is the kind of thing that can leave a bad taste in your mouth."  And, as Sherry Suib Cohen points out, "If you can count on a laugh, sometimes once a day, sometimes more, from your nearest and dearest, consider yourself blessed.  I suspect that when we are old and gray we will remember the times we had each other in stitches far more vividly that the times we just had each other.

One of the most common blocks to having fun is the mistaken belief that "I must act my age."  Those who suffer from this attitude refuse to take part in fun activities because they feel they are too old for "foolishness."  Author Doris Jasinek encourages us to overcome this idea by remembering that roller skates, bicycles, slides, and swings come in all sizes.  George Burns tell us, "You can't help growing older, but you can help growing up -- that is a state of mind."  After all, you can be 30 years old or seventy years young, it's up to you.

A Funny Valentine Could Be SeriousPet names, private jokes, whimsical gifts, and shared fantasies are the games of love.  In an extensive study, William Betcher, M.D., discovered much about how and why lighthearted play and humor can kindly, renew, and reaffirm romance, ease stressful situations, help solve problems, circumvent crises, and add excitement to our relationships.  He maintains that humor is important not only for the pure pleasure it offers, but for the loving way it allows you to deal with trouble spots.

Jim Pelley, a humorist in Sacramento, California, suggests several specific ways a man can humorize his love life.  There is absolutely no reason why a woman couldn't use these ideas, too.
* Waltz her around the room while you hum her favorite song.
* Ask her what's the matter in your best Pee Wee Herman voice.
* Leave little surprise notes around the house for her, such as, in the freezer: "Honey, the meatloaf was great!" or, about 100 pages ahead of the bookmark in her bedside mystery: "I don't know whodunit, but I'd like to do it with you."
* Slip a new tape into her car stereo if she's been complaining about traffic jams on the way home.
* Carve a heart encircling your initials in the bar of soap she takes to the gym.
* Put a candy bar in her briefcase if you know she loves chocolate.
* Underneath the bread in the sandwich she takes for lunch: "I love you!"

From the first meeting to courtship, marriage, and beyond, it is apparent that a sense of humor and an element of playfulness is vital.  However, if your sense of humor isn't enough to get you successfully all the way through the marriage phase, you can always employ it at time of divorce.  Not too long ago

Dear Abby offered these examples of authentic divorce announcements:

SPLITAfter Six Years
Lester and Betty
Have seen the light
Married November 8, 1966
Divorced November 6, 1972
Both are happily back in circulation.
Call Lester: 555-6500 (after 9 p.m.)
Betty: 555-1115 (anytime)

Lionel and Jane announce with pleasure
the severance of all legal
and/or other bonds that may have
existed between their daughter
Janet and That Boy.
With the new month of August
Janet enters into a new and
Beautiful single life.
As for That Boy -- May the Great
Honcho in the sky love him and
Keep him -- someplace else.

Clearly, improving your laugh life will improve -- or save -- your love life, make you more attractive, and bring satisfaction to your intimate relationships.  Here is my best tip for marriage: Pam and I try to maintain a sense of humor about our marriage.  I don't try to run her life, and I don't try to run mine, either.  That works out real well!  (And Henny Youngman is our favorite marriage counselor.)

Excerpted from: "Toilet Paper, Toothpaste, and Tuna-Noodle Casserole: Observations and Advice on Love, Marriage, and Authentic Intimacy From a Psychologist Who's On The Practice-Makes-Perfect Program," by Steve Wilson, 1998.