Studies have shown that boredom is more corrosive to love and marriage than constant fighting. Why? Because our society abhors boredom over anything else.
We have built entire industries dedicated to keeping couples from getting bored with one another. When our relationship fizzles we spice things up with sex toys, porn, lingerie, a romantic spa, or a dinner out. There are literally thousands of boredom killing entertainment options devoted to married folks. And in response, couples spend billions of dollars every year to escape the negative effects of boredom on their marriage or relationship.
Boredom Is Quite Human
Humans climb mountains “just because they are there”. We seek excitement, just for the thrill of it. We pursue love and romance with equal fervor. The human need for novelty makes it hard to be satisfied. Our “human dissatisfaction” is baked-into our expectations of love and marriage. Ask any young person, we expect marriage to mark the end of playful romance and mark the beginning of serious (un-fun) love.
At an unconscious level we accept the idea that relationships will get stale over time. We readily trade the thrill (and angst) of relationship uncertainty for the comfort and security of committed love. But when we trade romance, spontaneity and adventure, for security, routine and responsibility, we create hidden challenges for long lasting love and marriage.
Today I want to discuss a few of the hidden threats of boredom on committed love.
Are We Bored Yet?
It's hard to recognize when boredom strikes a relationship. It feels normal for the excitement of romance to dwindle. As lovers become husband and wife, then mom and dad we expect the thrill to leave as passion gives way to comfort and being settled. We view “feeling settled” as a badge of honor, a sign that the relationship is moving forward. This is why it's hard to recognize boredom with our partner, until it’s too late.
Here are three signs boredom is chipping away at your relationship.
#1 Time Together Feels Like Work
When we dread the idea of time together, there is a good chance that boredom has descended upon our relationship. When we feel like interaction with our spouse or partner is a chore, that's a good indication that things in the relationship have gotten boring. Whenever our actions are motivated by obligation we are letting boredom enter our love.
Yes, that means in the spots where we struggle with our duty and roles as husband and wife, mom and dad, we are actually struggling with the boredom built into the titles. (The exception here is dealing with a newborn, the sleep deprivation that happens with a newborn is just plain hard).
When we are bored with our relationship roles, it means we haven’t found a way to make them interesting and fun yet. In fact, most people view the frustration they feel with their relationship roles as normal, but take note this type of frustration showing us the exact location of boredom within the relationship.
#2 The Thrill Is Gone
When a desire to impress a partner is gone, it could be a sign of maturity, but most often it’s a sign that one or both partners feel a little bored. When you stop wooing your partner it’s a clear signal that the romance has faded. Wooing is committed love’s version of flirting. Wooing means to romantically pursue. When we no longer want to ”put ourselves together” physically or emotionally, to engage with our lover, it's a clear signal that things have settled into boredom.
#3 The Ultimate Act Of Boredom
Boredom is right at the top of the list of reasons why people cheat in marriage. The attention, affection and passion an illicit affair offers can make a person feel special. The sexual energy and thrill of an extra marital relationship can make a person feel youthful, vital and attractive. Youth, vitality and attractiveness are important ingredients to break the grip of boredom on the psyche. This is why the option to cheat feels so attractive to a partner who is bored with his or her relationship.
Sometimes cheating is not even about feeling a lack of love and connection at home, it simply means that thrill and excitement has left the partnership.
Two Types Of Bored
According to psychologists, there are two types of boredom. The first boredom is when couples experience a lack of invigorating activity together. This type of boredom communicates I'm bored with life. Bored with your partner suggests a desire to create new memories together and to get out of a rut. It is a sign that a couple hasn’t experienced any exhilaration together for a while. Boredom with your partner indicates a need for more adventure together.
The second kind of boredom is a loss of interest in the company of a partner. When this happens we are bored of or by our partner. Feeling bored of your partner shows as a loss of interest in their conversation. When our energy is drained when we see our partner or we feel dull and apathetic about life when we are with them, we are bored of our partner. When we are bored of our partner, the television, cleaning out the cat litter box or doing the dishes all feel more exciting than engagement with our partner.
Fixing Boredom With Your Partner
Studies suggest heart pumping adventure produces greater connection between couples. To fix boredom with your partner, a couple just needs to add challenge, excitement and exhilaration to their relationship. The simple addition of adventure or even danger can transform boredom into bonding.
These same studies show that couples who cook together, take walks together and watch movies together bond but bond less than their more adventurous counterparts.
It seems that difficult challenges and tasks, like scaling a cliff, riding a scary roller coaster, or going through town on scooters together, produce the powerful relationship love drug dopamine. Couples who associate the feel good drug dopamine with their spouse or partner will create a more intense bond and connection with one another.
Fixing Bored Of Your Partner
Being bored of or by your partner is a much different situation. When one partner is bored of the other it's often because the relationship has hit an emotional plateau. Couples become bored of each other when they’ve exhausted their exploration of each other. Being bored by your partner happens when a couple is no longer able to create a positive emotional connection with each other.
The cure for couples who are bored of one another is to pursue personal growth. Partners who are bored by each other must develop their interior lives to ensure that they maintain compatibility and relationship health. When each partner focuses on their own personal growth, a rich new relationship landscape is created. Personal growth marriages and relationships gives each partner new territory to explore within the relationship. Personal growth also allows each partner to interact with the more enlightened version of themselves and their partner.
Boredom Signals A Loss
Boredom signals a loss of relationship purpose. Purpose helps us know that our efforts and sacrifice mean something in a relationship. Having a purpose allows a couple to feel that life and love have meaning. Meaning matters. The meaning we make for our relationship determines the level of satisfaction we feel within it.
More On Meaning
Meaning is something everyone wants to find for their life. Meaning is the quest for things to make sense in our life. Without some thread of order and connection, life loses meaning. When a couple has no purpose for their love, they lose meaning from their love life. When the reason we love is lost we lose our understanding of how our love fits into the bigger picture of our life, society and world.
When the big picture perspective of why we love is lost a couple will also experience a loss of gratitude, trust and hope for the future of their love. Without meaning, love becomes stale and brittle.
Finding Short Term Meaning
Struggling couples won’t take time to find meaning for their love, instead they create a short term purpose and pursue that in lieu of meaning. A short term purpose is anything a couple can pour themselves into for a few years. A short term goal can feel like a purpose. A short term purpose feels all consuming, and it gives meaning to a couples existence, as long as the goal exists. For example, having a baby produces meaning for a couple’s love. The time, energy and focus needed to care for a baby feels like unity and teamwork. But the baby-phase of child rearing is short lived. Babies grow up and become more independent, and as that happens, couples who haven’t done the work to create a lifetime purpose for their love, go back to struggling.
Having a baby, consciously or unconsciously to beat boredom (i.e. fix a relationship) will only unify a couple until the day the baby is no longer a baby. This is usually around seven years of age. At the seven year mark many couples experience a feeling of lost purpose. A couple who never took time to invest in finding their long term purpose together come out of those baby rearing years feeling rudderless and without a unifying purpose.
A Short Term Purposes Will Always End
An additional short term purpose that couples mistake as a long term purpose is saving for and buying a starter home. The future planning and preparation for buying and owning a starter home can give meaning for a couple’s sacrifice. The goal of owning a home provides focus for their thoughts and action. But starter homes are a short term couple purpose. Once a starter home purchase is accomplished a black hole is left where all of the unifying sacrifice, planning and budgeting was and the couple is left without purpose again.
To beat boredom and stay together, a couple has to convert short term purpose into what I call an infinite purpose for their love.
Infinite Purpose Of Love
When I work with clients in the Purpose Building Retreat, our goal is to create a purpose that is big enough to grow with the couple. This big purpose I call an infinite purpose. An infinite purpose never ends and is always being fulfilled. Taking the Purpose Building Retreat, couples find meaning for their love and purpose for their actions within the relationship. The Purpose Building Retreat helps couples become a unit and work as a team. Couples learn to create a love that can last a lifetime. They literally leave with a “meaning for love” that never gets old or boring. At the end of the Purpose Retreat participants leave with a shared vision for the expression of their love.
Creating Purpose In Your Love
Here are a few things you can do, besides attending my retreat, to help you find deeper meaning in your love and beat boredom.
Work Out Your Reason For Being Together?
One of the twenty-two questions couples work through in the Purpose Retreat is “Why are we together?” It is a question worth asking yourself and discussing with your partner. Couples sometimes find that their reasons for being together are not unified. And sometimes a couple finds out that their reasons for being together actually clash with one another. When a couple understands their reason for being together they can find purpose and meaning in their love together.
Re-Think Your Reason For Being Together
If you find that you aren’t satisfied with your reason for being together, write a new one. You are the creator of your love. You get to say what is meaningful for you and what is not. There is no one “healthy” way to relate in a relationship. Healthy relationships come in all forms.
To re-think your answer to “Why are we together?”, ask yourself “What do I want from love?” The answer to this question will help you and your partner close in on a beautiful reason for the existence of your own love.
Finding New Motivations For Your Love Together
The reasons why we love our partner tend to evolve over time. For example, you may have married because you didn’t want to be alone or you felt the person you met was the only person in the world for you. Over time this “reason for your love” may feel silly, or even disdainful to you. Instead of feeling silly about loving your partner or feeling disdain, find a new motivation for your love together.
The first step to finding a new motivation for your relationship is to understand the motivations that already exist between you. Once you identify why you chose your partner you can pursue your highest intention for loving them.
Your highest intention will be a motivation that elevates you and your partner. For example, We are together to take care of the kids could be your existing motivation but it isn't your highest intention. Suppose we swap the motivation above for this one: We are together to support our growth in love for each other, our family and the world. The latter motivation is a bigger one, one with a more beautiful intention. It also includes the goal of taking care of and raising children.
Writing Is Key
Meaning and motivation are created through the words we tell ourselves and our partner. This is why I want you to focus on the words you use to create meaning. Are the words you use to describe the meaning and purpose or your relationship confident, loving and full of trust? Or something less than that?
Our words mark the boundaries of love, so pay close attention to what you write, say and think about the love you want to create in your life.
Boredom is a threat to the security and comfort of love. If you want a long relationship you have got to understand your own boredom and how to put the right remedies for boredom in place. When you understand whether you are bored with your partner or bored of your partner, you can apply the proper remedy for your boredom. Whether you are bored with or bored of your partner, find ways to create challenge, purpose and meaning into your love. This will increase your feelings of affection and bonded-ness to your partner and bullet proof your love. Struggling couples often rely on short term goals to create a sense of unity, instead of working on themselves to create a deeper meaning for their love. If you want to fix boredom in your relationship, work out your reason for being together. If you struggle to find a good fix for boredom, sign up for my Purpose Retreat.
In the Purpose Retreat I help couples form a new vision of love. Couples learn to shift their bored arousal away from destructive fighting, cheating and working alcoholism. Each partner learns to relate with and love the other, because each partner has experienced personal growth and become more interesting to the other.
You can sign up for the Purpose Retreat here.