Relationship boredom. It happens, even to seemingly happy, strong relationships.
One day, you look at your partner and wonder how you became so distant. Sometimes we get busy, life moves along, we’re going about our day-to-day activities, but we just don’t feel the same spark we once did.
What can we do about it? How do you make a boring relationship fun again? How can you get back the spark?
Studies show that boredom is a true relationship issue. Couples don’t break up because of bad stuff…they break up because there’s a lack of good stuff holding them together. When we feel dissatisfied in our relationships, we may start to seek attention elsewhere. We’re looking for novelty.
Think back to the days at the beginning of your relationship. Chances are you were feeling high on your partner. You were stimulated by all this new information. You couldn’t wait to know more about this fascinating, attractive, engrossing person you were dating.
As the years go by, that newness fades. It’s not because our partner has changed or become less fascinating, attractive, or engrossing. It’s because they’re less new. There’s less to discover about them. The fun and exciting exploration wanes.
I was working with Sharon, who told me of her 25-year marriage, “My mother always said, ‘settle for boring and stable over exciting.’ So, I guess I’m expecting too much from Dale. Maybe I should just be happy that he’s a nice guy who’s a decent breadwinner and leave it at that.”
As we explored this a bit more, I said, “Well, what first drew you to him? Did you always find him, ‘boring and stable’?”
“Oh no! When we were younger Dale was always so intelligent and interesting to talk to. We used to stay up having these fascinating talks about science and space. It was like he knew something about almost everything. He was this shaggy-haired, professor who drove around on his moped, played guitar, and read Carl Sagan.”
As we talked further, she realized it wasn’t that she had settled for her husband. It was that she had settled for that status quo in the relationship and in her life overall. She admitted that she wasn’t satisfied in other areas of her life as well—her job, her relationship with her friends. We talked about ways to raise her expectations all around, both of her relationship and herself.
We can think of our relationships as both a womb and a crucible: a place where we are nourished and nurtured, and also a place where we’re forged and become stronger. In both cases, it’s important to remember that growth isn’t always a comfortable or static state. Sometimes it’s painful.
The spark found at the beginning of a relationship doesn’t go away with time, but you’re used to the thrill of it. This isn’t just relegated to the bedroom “spark” either. The attraction and passion you feel at the beginning comes from intimacy, yes, but intimacy is also born from engagement and connection. Making a boring relationship fun again means finding that connection again.
There’s a great importance of novelty. Trying new things, learning, and discovering are vital to our happiness and sense of purpose. Novelty wakes our brain up; it helps us feel more alive, engaged, and stimulated. When we do something new, life becomes an adventure!
This attraction to the new and exciting goes back to what’s called the self-expansion theory. Our relationships expand and influence our interests. When we try new activities, we start to see life differently. The way we feel changes. Each interaction shapes and expands who we are at our core.
So, the truth of the matter is, perhaps it’s not your relationship that’s lost the spark and needs work. What are you bringing to the relationship and how are you fueling the fire? It’s really the spark inside YOU that needs to be rekindled!
If the passion and zest for our relationship starts with us, how do we get that feeling back? How do we reengage and rediscover our partner and ourselves?
Couples grow stronger through affirming, celebrating, and empowering each other. Sharing power, making decisions together, and working as a team.
Carol, another woman I worked with, was a married, working mom of two. One of her children had developmental issues and required a lot of her attention. She was feeling frazzled, unappreciated, and stuck in the monotony of every day life.
She realized part of her frustration was coming from the lack of support she felt from her husband, Dave. It wasn’t that he didn’t help, but he wasn’t as expressive as she would have preferred. “He never says, ‘I love you,’ spontaneously. I feel like he never tells me, ‘you’re doing a great job.’” We talked about the ways Dave did express his affection—through doing things for her and assisting her.
So, how could she shift the pattern they were stuck in? How could she get the affirmation she was craving?
Carol began a new habit whenever Dave did something nice for her. She would say out loud, “Oh you did this for me?! That means you love and appreciate me!”
He would, of course, respond by saying, “Yes, exactly!”
The more he was affirming her, the better she felt. She appreciated his help and naturally, he started doing even more to assist her with the children and around the house. She felt loved and he felt better about himself and more empowered in the relationship.
It means that you and your partner need to stop talking about just the logistics and minutia of the day and discuss the big stuff.
Those topics that might even feel scary or “off-limits” are exactly what we should get out in the open. It’s time to “go there” instead of avoiding it.
Now, all couples talk about what’s for dinner, what’s on the agenda this weekend, or who’s going to run the next errand. But sometimes these little topics take over our conversations. We stop discussing feelings, hopes, fears, and our vision for the future. We lose sight of the bigger picture and deeper meaning in our union.
Get back to getting to know each other. Find time to talk about the bigger topics, rather than the logistics of the day. What’s weighing on your heart and your mind? What challenges have you faced recently? What support are you looking for from your partner? What do you appreciate about them and how do you want to support their dreams?
Don’t be afraid to talk about the difficult topics either. Be honest about what upsets you and what resentments you might be feeling. Tell your partner what you don’t like and what’s frustrating you. Agree to speak and listen in turn, without interruption. Express what you’re feeling honestly and truthfully and hold space for your partner to do the same. Conflict and yes, fighting, can bring us closer together. Difficult, honest, and even angry fights are more helpful than bottling up our feelings or sweeping them under the rug. Get it out and battle your way toward bliss.
Remember—boredom isn’t just about your relationship. It starts by looking within yourself. Feelings of boredom and disconnection in your relationship are often mirrored in other areas of your life. Are you disengaged with your partner or are you disengaged all around? It’s easy to say, “my relationship isn’t making me happy anymore,” but our happiness is our responsibility.
In our book, The Heart of the Fight, we discuss the Rules of Engagement. These are 7 important rules to fighting fair and productively in your relationship. One of the most important of these rules is that YOU are 100% responsible for your own happiness. Similarly, no one in a relationship can take more than 50% of the blame. Remember, it takes two to tango. It’s not your partner’s responsibility to make you happy, nor is it fair to blame more than 50% of your relationship frustrations on your partner.
What can you do to add more excitement and adventure in your life? How can you become engaged, fulfilled and satisfied? Look at what areas of your life may need some attention.
Excitement in a relationship comes from building a stronger connection and discovering new aspects of our partner. While we may think of the bedroom as the place for intimacy, we can have true intimacy anywhere and everywhere. Sex may be a great way to express intimacy, but it’s not the only way and usually not the best way to express our connection. Our connection comes through being emotionally open…naked and honest with our partner.
When we bring this level of intimacy into every day, each moment of our life together becomes foreplay. We experience greater closeness and joy. Now, this doesn’t come by simply being affectionate with our partner. This comes from digging in and forging ahead together. It comes from teamwork and working together toward a goal. It can be fun, but intimacy also comes from work.
We can liberate ourselves from our patterns and break out of our routine by mixing things up. This means making the choice to fight FOR our relationship rather than fighting against our partner. Fight to bring back the thrill. Refocus your efforts from being annoyed or indifferent toward your partner, to finding new ways to connect. How can you introduce novelty and variety into the every day?
So, if you’re ready to make a boring relationship fun again, roll up your sleeves and get to work! Find ways to introduce novelty and excitement into your everyday life. Examine your needs and yearnings and express them to your partner.
Embark on a project with your partner, take a class, try a new hobby, or go on an adventure. Engage in honest, open discussions and focus on bringing the intimacy and connection back to your relationship.
For more ways to strengthen your relationships please visit The Wright Foundation. We have a number of exciting networking events on the calendar, giving you a great chance to connect with others on their journey. Start your self-discovery today and unleash your fullest potential.
About the Author
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.