3 Ways to Beat Relationship Boredom
Boredom isn’t synonymous with long-term commitment, but it is a red flag.
“Boring” and “relationship” are two words ideally kept apart. Relationships should be many things — fun, exciting, passionate, interesting, and nourishing — but not boring. Unfortunately, getting stuck in a rut, and feeling an initial spark start to fade, is common beyond the honeymoon period of romantic relationships. One option is to keep chasing the initial thrill, and associate boredom with commitment. The other is to understand why boredom is in a relationship and reignite the spark with the one you love.
Boredom isn’t synonymous with long-term commitment. It is possible to rediscover fun, passion, and joy. But it does require solid communication. With work, your relationship can deepen beyond the initial excitement of the honeymoon period, to something richer, and more heart-opening. Are you prepared to do that work?
Why Can Relationships Get Boring?
Boredom is a red flag that can’t be ignored for too long. Rather than a sign a relationship is doomed, though, boredom is an opportunity to get creative and work to improve your relationship. Even the most healthy relationships have spells of boredom, especially after the initial buzz of meeting someone new wears off. Anthropologist Helen Fisher identifies this early stage of falling in love as lust or attraction, which mirrors addiction.
For a relationship to last long-term it must grow beyond this initial spell of excitement, into a deeper, soulful connection. Without making this transition, a relationship can feel stale, with both people craving a return to the days of lust. Mix in poor communication, a lack of intimacy, or life getting in the way, and you have the perfect recipe for boredom in a relationship. Jungian analyst Robert Johnson captures this in his book, We:
“We don’t like anything that is ‘simple’: To us ‘simple’ means dull or dense or stupid. We have forgotten that simplicity is a need in human life: It is the human art of finding meaning and joy in the small, natural, and less dramatic things.”
The myth of romantic love as a never-ending rollercoaster of highs and lows can create an image of love as being dramatic, impassioned, and intense. Healthy love is grounded, nurturing, and stable. But it can still be exciting, fun, and passionate, with greater levels of trust and intimacy making your sex life even more enjoyable.
Signs of Being Bored in a Relationship
To identify the signs of being bored in a relationship, first it pays to ask, what is boredom? James Dankert, professor of Psychology at the University of Waterloo and co-author of Out Of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom, explains boredom as “an unmet desire to be engaged in something purposeful and meaningful to you.” There’s a sense of desiring something unavailable, with all your current options not satisfactory.
This is a crucial definition because it points to the fact that boredom in a relationship comes from the sense that the person you’re with is, in some way, not fulfilling your needs. Perhaps your sex life isn’t exciting enough. Perhaps you’ve got used to their idiosyncrasies and have taken them for granted. Perhaps you feel your partner is predictable, or you’ve fallen into routine. Perhaps you live together and get less time alone.
You may become increasingly restless and dissatisfied, feeling that there’s something lacking, even if you’re not sure what that is. As an extension, you may begin to lose interest in your partner. Boredom is, after all, linked to motivation. When the motivation to nourish a relationship starts to fade, it could cause even bigger issues further down the line.
The Best Ways To Fight Relationship Boredom
The best place to begin is to enquire into the nature of boredom, and separate relationship boredom from the wider context of your life. If you are bored in other areas, such as your work, routine, friendships, or hobbies, it could be that you’re lacking a wider purpose that is spilling over into your romantic life. But if you generally feel satisfied, and the relationship itself feels deficient, it requires closer attention.
Psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. offers guidance to couples who need to rekindle romance. He identifies a lack of self-expansion — “people’s inherent desires to improve themselves and relationships serve as a key route to accomplishing this goal” — as a precursor to boredom in relationships. To counteract that, he suggests three strategies to add more excitement and novelty:
- Bring back the spark: Lewandowski notes that, in the early stage of a relationship, novelty and excitement comes easily. As time goes on, however, they take more conscious effort to maintain. He recommends practices, such as reminiscing on early experiences and ways to re-experience the top activities that you enjoyed together. This backs up research that suggests nostalgia has a positive influence on romantic relationships.
- Create a couple’s bucket list: a shared vision is one way of creating a sense of solidarity and togetherness in a relationship. What things would you most like to experience with your partner? Lewandowski suggests you and your partner take time to reflect on your personal bucket list, before comparing and choosing things you can do together.
- Take a relationship road trip: this allows for the time and focuses to re-nurture the relationship. Find something that works for you and your partner, perhaps even factoring in your love languages. For example, if one of your love languages is words of affirmation, take time to share compliments. If another is physical touch, take time to light some candles and massage each other (with little expectation, and lots of openness, as to where this could lead).
As well as focusing outwardly, on activities you’re exploring together, keep in mind your respective inner worlds. A lack of communication, unresolved conflict, or fear of intimacy, dull the connection between two lovers. So consider doing the necessary work to open up and cultivate deeper emotional intimacy, a byproduct of which is more fulfillment, and less boredom.
Boredom is an opportunity to improve, and to become more attentive to your partner. Excitement, novelty, and fun don’t happen magically by themselves. The true test of love is how you’re able to fall in love, again and again, cultivating a sense of freshness and appreciation. That takes inner work on opening the heart, as well as communication and a desire to make your relationship the best version it can be.