Has your relationship gotten a bit stale? Do you feel like you come home on the weeknights, plop on the couch, and scroll through your phones while you watch TV? Are you wondering if the thrill is gone?
If you’re wondering how to fix a boring relationship, don’t despair! There’s hope! Our relationships can often fall into a rut or routine because we’re not engaging and communicating our true needs and feelings.
So if you’re ready to enjoy a deeper connection again, it’s time to turn off the TV and start to tune into each other instead!
First of all, it’s not bad for couples to enjoy watching TV together. It’s no secret Bob and I are cinephiles. Anyone who’s heard us speak, attended one of our events, or read one of our books, learns that we’re constantly referring to films as cultural touchstones.
Movies give us all an escape from reality and a chance to take a break, it’s true. What’s more important, though, is that film helps us learn about the world around us and even engage on a deeper level. Since the dawn of time, humans have used storytelling and fiction to teach lessons. We can think of parables in the Bible, ancient cave paintings, and oral traditions passed down in Native cultures. Stories are interwoven into the fabric of our lives. They teach us about ourselves, how we think, and how others think. Books, lectures, and films help us explore our collective anthropology and the very origins of our humanity and emotions.
We’ve all walked away from a movie feeling strong feelings. Perhaps a film has made us cry, touched us in a way that resonates, or taught us something about a situation in our own lives. Think of the beautiful scene in Goodwill Hunting, where Ben Affleck’s character is an ally and true friend to Matt Damon by giving him some tough love. Or the great scene in the Matrix, where Keanu Reeve’s character, Neo, makes the CHOICE between the red pill (reality and truth) and the blue pill (a life of blissful ignorance).
But like any escape, film can also be abused and overused. When does our binge-watching go from entertaining and stimulating new thoughts to simply finding a way to zone out and pass the time? As with most activities, there’s a line where it can turn into too much of a good thing.
On a similar note, what should we do if we want to go out and start engaging with the world, learning, growing, and having new experiences, and our partner would rather stay back on the couch? We’ve all been phubbed—phone snubbed—where someone would rather stare at their screen or check their social media rather than really socialize. In our relationships, this can become a real concern. How do we get our partners to cut back on screen time and tune back into the real world? How do we break out of a comfortable (but boring) rut?
When it comes to any activity—shopping online, eating dessert, even working out—there can almost always be too much of a good thing. So when we engage in an activity, we have to look at how we’re using it. Are we learning something? Are we using it as a method to engage with others?
In the example of film, we can ask ourselves if we’re really engaged in the movie. Are we using it as a platform for deeper exploration of ourselves and the world around us? Do we walk away from the experience, eager to discuss the nuances, lessons, and takeaways? Is that discussion our favorite part of our movie date night?
On the other side, if we’re not sure how to fix a boring relationship, we may want to examine our activities with our partner. Are we taking on new experiences with enthusiasm, a sense of wonder, and curiosity? Are we ready to explore? Or do we use movies, books, and concerts to substitute for real connection—a way to zone out, escape, or disengage? When we find ourselves using these experiences to cope or avoid, that’s when we’re abusing them. That’s the line when they become soft addictions—time fillers, or worse, timewasters.
In the Soft Addiction Solution, I explore how we use soft addictions to tune out rather than tune in. We may have an addiction of choice—social media, watching the news ad nauseam, flipping mindlessly through fashion magazines, binge-watching, or another activity. It’s not so much the act as the intent behind our time-waste.
There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. We all love to be entertained, and it holds a positive place in most of our lives. However, there is something wrong with using entertainment, like screen time, to substitute for real interaction and intimacy. This can be especially challenging when we feel disconnected from our partner and use our soft addiction to soothe the loneliness or emptiness.
After exploring the idea of soft addictions, we may wonder how we can reconnect with our partner—is it as simple as turning off the TV, or is there more to it? Do we need to book a vacation together? Should we plan an extended getaway?
Every date doesn’t need to include windsurfing in the Caribbean or even a trip out of town. Dates with our partner don’t need to be costly, elaborate, or time-consuming. We can find moments to meet over lunch, grab dinner at our favorite restaurant, attend a lecture, or go to see the latest blockbuster. As with time-wasting activities, it’s not about the activity as much as the intent.
For many of us, that means breaking out of our comfort zone and doing something different. Even if we aren’t sure that our partner is totally on board with a higher level of engagement, we can start the ball rolling by beginning a more meaningful conversation.
We can try a new dish at our favorite restaurant, explore something new on a wine list, or ask how the chef prepared the food. If we go to a movie, we can make the experience meaningful by having a lively discussion after the film. What did each person take away from the movie? What did they think of the plot twist? Rather than a simple like-or-dislike conversation, take the critique further. Explore the why behind the assessment and share opinions.
The key to breaking out of a relationship rut or fixing a boring relationship is to try new things. For example, we may know that our partner loves movie night, but why not go to a play or concert instead? Maybe we love taking walks around the block, but what if we invite our partner and talk about what we see as we stroll? Try a new spot for dinner, taste a different type of cuisine, or do something a little unexpected.
When we experience something together with our partner, it creates a bond. These new experiences might be small risks, but they add up to greater strength. Like building muscle—we have to break down some of the fiber to grow back stronger. We have to push our minds beyond our comfort zone, so our brains grow and develop in new ways. Made up of BILLIONS of neurons, our brains are amazingly pliable. These neurons form different pathways with new experiences. Just as driving over the same route repeatedly would lead to a deep groove or rut, doing the same activities and habits over and over leaves our brains dulled as well.
Conflict isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can strengthen our relationships and lead to greater intimacy. Relationships can be messy and challenging, but they’re also fun and fulfilling. When we focus on ways to break out of the routine, we’ll discover more about ourselves and our partners.
So if your relationship needs to bust the routine, try something different. It doesn’t have to be huge. It can be a small, deliberate activity like a walk, a meditation class, or simply enjoying a new food or a new experience. Push both of you out of your comfort zone and away from your soft addictions. Your relationship will grow stronger because of it!
For more ways to build your relationship and connect with your partner, don’t miss our courses on Wright Now. We have webinars and resources to help you grow in your relationships, career, and personal life. So get the life you want today—a life of MORE.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.