Bad Humor, Bad Marriage: Humor Styles in Divorced and Married Couples


  • Vassilis Saroglou
  • Christelle Lacour
  • Marie-Eve Demeure


Humor has been found to play a key role in close relationships, including marriage. The objective of the present work was to investigate the role of specific humor styles, i.e. affiliative, self-enhancing, aggressive, earthy, and self-defeating, with regard to (a) relationship quality among married and divorced people and (b) divorced versus married status. We compared men and women from 98 married and 48 divorced couples (total N = 292) who evaluated their humor styles, anxiety and avoidance in attachment, marital satisfaction, and (ex-)spouse’s humor styles. Constructive humor (self-enhancing and/or affiliative), especially among men, was related to increased relationship satisfaction and to non-divorced status. Self-defeating humor, especially among women, predicted marital satisfaction but also divorce. Use of antisocial humor (aggressive and earthy), especially by men, predicted divorce and was related to low (retrospective) relationship quality among divorced couples. Humor styles were unique predictors of divorce beyond the impact of insecure attachment. Finally, partner similarity in the high or low use of self-defeating humor and the (transgressing social norms) earthy humor was observed in both the married and divorced, but the latter were dissimilar in the high or low use of humor styles implying positive or negative quality in interpersonal relations. Partners’ humor styles provide unique and gender-specific information to our understanding of factors influencing marital stability and dissolution.