The Internet, bookstores and magazine stands are flooded with content about breaking relationship monotony and boredom. We’ve asked our expert couples and relationship therapists to provide their insights on these issues.
Kathleen Gettelfinger, a staff therapist specializing in couples at The Family Institute, provides today’s tips.
We are driven by instant gratification and may get bored without it.
“People are often looking for the next best thing, be it a material item or even a piece of information, and they tend to want it fast. Look around while waiting in line at the grocery store or during your commute to work, and you’re likely to see many people engrossed in their phones. Why? New content is constantly being pushed out to users, which is incredibly compelling and stimulating.
However, when it comes to relationships, it’s unlikely that people are able to keep up with the dynamic expectations of our culture, and after a period of time, couples may start to feel that they’re stuck in a rut. They do the same things day in and day out while all around them, they seem to be receiving cultural cues that they should want more—and that they deserve it. As a result, boredom is vilified and often viewed as a relationship killer.”
Learn to expect (and deal with) boredom.
“Boredom can often leave people feeling disconnected from their partners. This can result in dissatisfaction in the relationship and general unhappiness, or worse, can cause a person to look outside the relationship for excitement and passion—and possibly an affair. Left unattended, boredom can grow into a coldness in the relationship that can be difficult to remedy.
At the same time, our culture as a whole can be overly sensitive toward boredom and maintaining a routine when in reality, some level of predictability is only natural when you spend years of your life with a partner.
As a clinician, I become concerned when I see couples acting too concerned OR too complacent regarding issues of boredom and monotony. On one side of the spectrum, some couples seem to assume that if the fireworks are over, so is the relationship. This isn’t a realistic expectation for relationships, and constantly seeking that “new love” feeling can lead to a repeated pattern in which those feelings seem to fade about 6 to 18 months into the relationship.
On the other side of the spectrum, I worry when I see couples who show no concern regarding boredom within their relationship. While commitments and tasks outside of the couple are normal, extended periods of distraction and monotony in the relationship make it vulnerable to feelings of disconnection and worse, affairs. Don’t assume your relationship can withstand indefinite periods of time without attention and care.”
Use tools to combat the monotony.
- Experience something new. Instead of going to “your place” and ordering the same meal as always, try a new restaurant together. Or, better yet, try a new activity together, like perhaps a cooking class or a walk in a part of the city you’ve never explored. Novelty stimulates the part of the brain that got exercised when you first met and began dating, often a time that couples look upon fondly and remember as being more passionate and exciting.
- Be wary of comparison. We live in a culture in which it’s commonplace for people to splash the best and most exciting parts of their lives all over social media (but leave the worst offline). Be careful to remember that friends and co-workers who post pictures of exciting vacations and expensive meals also pay bills, experience frustrating commutes, and have challenges with their children and spouses. They just don’t post pictures of these events to Facebook.
- Remember that some level of predictability is normal. The cultural expectation encouraging perpetual entertainment and stimulation simply cannot be applied to the human relationship. Don’t immediately assume that your relationship is disintegrating if you find yourself stuck in a rut. Instead, acknowledge the issue and take steps toward reconnecting (see number one).
- But also be careful to not be too complacent. With the demands of work, parenthood, and managing a household, relationships can often be put on the back burner. Remember to make your relationship a priority through time together and a shared sense that your relationship with your spouse comes before work, daily tasks, and even your relationship with your children. Extended periods of boredom can make a relationship vulnerable to affairs and even divorce.
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