Your Jokes Give Away Your Relationship Issues
There is typically nothing funny about attachment theory — a psychological framework used to explain why some people end up in stable relationships and others remain chronically single or vulnerable to unhealthy relationships, based on how their parents met their needs (or not) growing up. But if you’re particularly drawn to the aggressive humor of Don Rickles or self-deprecation of Joan Rivers, you could fall into the latter category, a new study suggests.
Individuals who are insecurely attached generally fall into one of two categories: anxious or avoidant. While avoidant people tend to dodge close relationships because they don’t trust them based on past abandonment, anxious individuals tend to fear rejection or abandonment so much that they will cling to unstable or abusive relationships.
Again, not very hilarious.
However, past research shows that both avoidant and anxious attachment styles are more drawn to negative humor styles, whereas more securely attached people prefer positive humor that facilitates connection. For the current study, researchers expanded on these findings and focused on anxious and avoidant attachment specifically, and what type of humor they use.
In particular, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist Alberto Dionigi and his colleagues recruited 636 Italian participants to complete a series of questionnaires to determine where they fall on the anxious-avoidant spectrum and what type of humor they most identify with. The eight comedic styles they were able to choose from were fun, humor, nonsense, wit, irony, satire, sarcasm and cynicism, based on the Comic Style Markers survey.
Although Dionigi admits that it’s not black and white, “generally negative styles of humor that are mostly based on mockery and ridicule are correlated with poor mental well-being and tenuous relationships,” he explained in an article for PsyPost. “That means that the humor of a person is related to the attachment style developed during childhood and represents a way to interact with others. Individuals with an anxious attachment style fear rejection and abandonment, and they may inhibit their use of more benevolent forms of humor that is strictly related to having a cheerful outlook on life.”
Along those lines, sarcasm might be a strategy for “psychological and emotional distance from others as this form of humor is based on being critical of others, and conveying contempt.”
All of which is to say, if your Tinder profile boasts that you’re “fluent in sarcasm,” you might want to look for a therapist instead of a date.