How humor can be an avoidance tactic in your relationship. | Michele Willmott

How humor can be an avoidance tactic in your relationship.

Is Humour Being Used as an Avoidance Tactic in Your Relationship?

At the beginning of 2024 I started working with a successful, young couple.
Despite admitting that they didn't think their relationship was 'that bad', they decided to seek my support as they were experiencing a few issues in their marriage (permission to share) that seemed to keep cropping up. 
They knew they were missing information and tools to move past these issues.

During our work together we started looking at an issue that to all intents and purposes didn't seem like 'a big deal'.
Their default way of dealing with it was to use humour.

A quick witted comment by one made the other laugh and diffused any tension between them.
I even experienced this first hand and I must admit, they were funny!

The trouble is the humour then created a situation where the issue then didn't seem to be much of an issue.
The couple would move on as there didn't seem to be a need to discuss it any further.

In this case humour was being used to deflect and skirt over what was really going on.
It was being delivered from shadow energy.
When I say shadow, I refer to the parts of us that are prone to self sabotage.
These are parts of us that are invested in trying to protect us from getting hurt.
Unfortunately, what they don't realise is that they are actually creating disconnection in our relationship.
Worse still when we behave or act from shadow energy then we are generally going to create and attract more issues for ourselves.

Humour that is being used to skirt over what is really going on will therefore usually spell trouble.
It indicates that someone isn't comfortable with the underlying discomfort relating to the issue in question.
They don't know how to shift the situation in a way that creates true connection.

More importantly, the person on the receiving end is often left with a feeling that they are not being heard.
Essentially it indicates avoidance and lack of responsibility even though this may be unintentional.

What is needed to dismantle this pattern of avoidance?

Firstly, a broader perspective which sees beyond the narrow lens that is keeping the humour in place.

Secondly, more honesty and transparency about the impact the humour is having (but not from a victim like energy).

The trouble is when we start using new strategies to go against the dysfunctional pattern, our shadow selves won't like it. They like the familiarity of a known cycle of behaviour and start to find excuses or reasons why a new strategy won't work. 

This is exactly what happened with my clients when we were discussing how a more transparent conversation might go.
Their shadows started to show themselves in our conversation:

Husband: "Talking about it is not going to change the fact that this has happened and we see it differently."

Maybe but this is not the point. Our shadow selves always miss the point.

Me: 'You don't know that it won't change anything because you haven't tried it yet'.

Husband: 'Ah yes, I can see that'.

Me: And even if you default into humour again in a similar situation, it doesn't matter. You have another conversation (until the humour isn't the default).

The more you have the healthier conversations the more you will break it down.
Then you are free to use humor in a way that is more natural, probably funnier and less avoidant or even hurtful.

What happened with my clients?

Just before we finish the session, the husband says to his wife:
"Everything we have learnt here and put into practice has worked so far."

In this moment he switched from his shadow leading him to realising the truth.
They had been putting into practice everything I was recommending and it was serving them well.
All the more reason to keep on moving forward carving this new path for their marriage.

If you would like to create a radical transformation in your current relationship situation please do get in touch to book your complimentary call here.

About the Author

Michele Willmott, Relationship Coach and Mentor. I help successful men, women and couples renew and transform their relationship for the long-term.