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10 Recommendations to Avoid the Rut

Recommendations to Avoid the Relationship Rut

During the past few years, I have increasingly come across more and more individuals, both men and women who have expressed “boredom” with their relationships or worst yet, with their marriages. In the tradition of research, I sought to discover what were some of the reasons for the boredom and here is a compilation of some of the reasons I was able to find:

  • Busy schedules
  • A lot of routine and predictability
  • Tedious repetition
  • Lack of surprise or delight in the relationship
  • Efforts to provide the family with safety and security
  • Perception of lack of hobbies outside of the marriage and family (for females)
  • Perceptions of lack of initiative for joint and dynamic planning whether as a couple or as a family (for males)

Relationships are hard and marriages even harder.  This is of course because the investments are stacked up higher. So, in addition to constant problem-solving, perseverance and an attitude of “I’m in it to win it”, are key during the hard/boring times. As long as you know the relationship is good for you, and I want to emphasize the importance of that differentiation, keep the friendship and the passion alive.

In a 2014 article in the Huffington Post, a 24-year-old male complains anonymously about the fact that he’s become so bored in his relationship with his wife, that he is considering divorce.  His chief complaint:  “she’s not passionate about anything, but us”.  He goes on to say that although he doesn’t mind that she doesn’t work outside the home, and he’s the breadwinner, but he does mind that “she is not even passionate about a hobby”.  Within that same thread, interestingly, a commenter on the thread, a female responds that “may be it’s not her and may be it’s you”.  She says this after she says that her husband chooses to go party with his friends in an irresponsible manner, and hence she feels she needs to be the responsible one.  We say, it’s probably a combination.  It takes two to Tango as they say.  

Why not both parties put some effort?

And no it’s not just about “spicing” it up with sex toys and other “extracurricular” activities, because those can eventually lead to boredom as well.  How about instead, we start by avoiding what we should, and do what we feel, and then start treating the relationship like it’s a person rather than a thing.

Many couples assume that a good relationship just is.  It’s fun, loving, exciting, etc. etc. all on it’s own, so they assume that if their relationship gets stale, it’s a bad relationship.  Not True.

It was during the Season 6 and Episode 15 of Sex and the City that I first discovered the verb “shoulding”. The episode basically described that as women, we are particularly vulnerable to doing what we should be.  For example, the show mentioned, should be married before our 30’s, having a steady income and a high profile job by the age of 30, and children before the age of 35, etc.  Samantha had just been in a clinic testing and a not so pleasant experience hit her in the face. Later on, in observation, Carrie reflected in her column and wrote, “Why are we shoulding all over ourselves?”

Relationship Rut

Here I venture to going into the topic of Relationship Rut with some of those views but also taking a global view because let’s face it, a 50% divorce rate is not anything to brag about.  First comes love, then comes marriage, has turned into first comes divorce and then comes bankruptcy.  What gives?

Relationship Rut

 

I want to first begin with a preface; that not every happy relationship has to end in marriage.  

Not every happy marriage needs to have offsprings, (one of my favorite parts of the Lion movie was the part where actress Nicole Kidman playing the role of Sheru’s adoptive mom tells him that adopting him was a choice and it was not because she and her husband could not bare children). And not every long-term marriage is a successful marriage just because it has lasted.  

The point is that we as a species have many facets to us and one of those facets is our need to relate and partner.  We’ve been acculturated to not just mate and then leave one another as a couple, but rather to pick a mate and live our lives as partners and if with children, raise our offsprings together with them. But the trouble is the process did not come with an owner’s manual.  

Different cultures and peoples of the world, have lived, loved and perhaps married in their own way and have tales to tell. Those tales have given life to today’s values and as 21st century inhabitants of earth, we live the luxury to pick and choose which values work for us and that we “should” rather than fall into.  

Even back in the days when options were oppression pressed like a cloud hard on women, as per an article by PBS Khadija, the first wife of the Prophet Muhhammad and the first person to convert to Islam, was a confident and shrewd businesswoman.  She first hired the Prophet to lead her trading caravans, and then although many years his senior, proposed marriage to him.  If she could choose the way she lived her life and relationship then,  we all can as well.  

Here are my top 10 recommendations to avoid the relationship rut:

1. Treat the relationship like a person not like a thing!

Think, plan, act is what we call them.  Think about how your significant other makes you feel and how you want to make her feel.  Plan dates, outings, communication points, getaways for her alone and for you both. And finally, play your part by executing those plans.  And if you see shortcomings as far as what they can do better, don’t hold back.  After all, a large part of conflict resolution in any relationship is to foresee and plan for positive outcomes rather than avoiding the uncomfortable conversations.  

2. How are you doing?

“Whether by phone or in person, ask your partner, what’s new in their life at least once a day and listen with intent.”
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This helps you keep a pulse on the relationship, and you are a proactive rather than passive participant.  Because women are more communicative, most men falsely believe that they are in charge of the relationship and they wait and wait for the female to express their wants and needs.  And that is not only boring but also not very satisfying for the woman.

Treat the relationship like a person not like a thing

3. Confucius says

As a cultural group, Asian Americans are sometimes referred to as the “model minority” This is based on their relative success (in business and education), strong family ties (and low divorce rate), and low dependency on public assistance. As a group, Asian Americans have the highest percentage of marriage (65 % versus 61% for whites) and the lowest percentage of divorce (4% versus 10.5% for whites).  

No culture is perfect because, as we know, no human is perfect.  But, being that cognitions give life to behaviors, it is noteworthy to know some of the cultural values that may help with keeping the longevity in Asian relationships.  

According to www.healthymarriageinfo.org , one such value differentiation is the fact that Asians do not believe that love in a relationship needs to be vocal;  in other words, they believe that rather than extroverted expressions of love, a good relationship is based on silent, yet persevering acts of self-sacrifice and long-term and undissolvable commitment.  

4.  Singin’ in the rain

You know that one song or series of songs, which as soon as you hear immediately, brings up a warm feeling to your heart or a fond memory of a happy occasions?  What if you could actually duplicate that feeling and multiply by 10?  Take some time to make a playlist of favorite songs you both love.  Make one list of slow and one list of fast songs and call them “Our songs”.

5. Vents without borders

One of the biggest complaints that exist in relationships goes like this:

  • “he never listens to me”
  • “she is always complaining”

These statements are one of the reasons boredom creeps in. And in addition to boredom, a myriad of possible other not-so positive feelings such as resentment, or annoyance. Freud the father of psychoanalysis believed  in a process called Free Association. This is basically where you vent and vent and vent and allow your thoughts and feelings to freely flow and get expressed without feeling judged or interrupted. Almost everyone’s phone comes equipped with a voice recorder these days.  Rather than call up your friend, your family member or your partner after not having seen him or her after however long it may be, use the recorder to your heart’s content to vent and vent and vent some more.  And once your venter is emptied out, you will notice a sense of relief, which will allow you to be less neurotic, and more relaxed.   

6.  Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Depending on our current sense of self, and previous experiences with certain tasks, we constantly go from the feelings zone to the cognitions zone. In other words, sometimes we want our partners to be compassionate and just listen, and sometimes we want our partners to help us problem solve.  Rather than just vent without purpose, first decide in your own mind which zone you are in before you bring your partner on-board, this way you avoid the pitfall of feeling unheard or thinking your partner is unable to help you.

Sometimes we want our partners to be compassionate

7. Simon says

Share where your head’s at.  One sentence is all it takes.  Ex. “I have had a very exciting day and I feel very energetic!” , “I have had a very demanding day and feel exhausted!”, “I’ve had a situation with a coworker and feel furious!”,  “”Our daughter has been nagging for the past hour and I feel depleted”.  Etc. etc.

This emotionally intelligent technique accomplishes two things at the same time:  

  • It allows you to acknowledge your feelings, and
  • It informs your partner what they can expect and what you can expect of them.  

This step should definitely be done after you’ve already done#3.  Then, you start with the sentence,  ask for a time line of 5. 10, or 15 minutes for yourself, and then you end with one sentence that summarizes how you feel/think as described in #4 and provide that information to your partner.

Eg. I feel stuck with a situation at work and need your help to problem solve. Or

I am very pissed with something that happened today, and I am sharing that with you so you don’t think it’s about you.

8.  Rome wasn’t built in one day

Romance is not just hugs and kisses, flowers and chocolate.  It is common interests. You don’t have to hibernate the entire week or the entire month, because you are waiting for that vacation, that event, or that invitation. Live your life for today and build everyday moments together. Build a bucket list of everyday activities, fantasies, places, or discoveries you both like to make together and depending on your schedule, designate one day of the week to take turns and do them together.  

9.  Knock it out of the park

For those weekdays where you have had a very busy, stressful and possibly annoying work day, have on reserve a brainless exercise where you both let off some steam while having a fun and silly time.  Yes, rather than the usual “let’s have dinner and veg in front of the T.V., how about some of these activities: playing a favorite video game from your “Our Songs” library from #2 above, taking a 15 min walk holding hands, observing the scenery around you and not saying a single word, playing a favorite relaxing/upbeat tune (depending on your energy level) paired with a nice glass of wine,  cup of relaxing hot tea, or warm milk with honey and ginger and dancing together, etc. etc.

10. Surprise, surprise

Many couples, especially those with small children fall into the rut of thinking they need to do every task in their household before venturing to make love with their partner.  Big Mistake! Locks, music and action is what we say! Sex before anything else.  Saving the best for last is not always the way to go people!

Remember the scene in Pretty Woman, where Richard Gere returns to the hotel after work, and Julia Roberts or Vivian as she is called in the movie greets him with her nude body, wearing nothing else, but a tie she has bought for him earlier in the day and Kenny G is playing in the background?  Close your eyes for one minute and imagine one of you at the stove, and the other walking through the door.  You exchange a quick hello and a quick glance and then off you go to the routine of homework, getting food on the table, then clearing the dishes and cleaning and before you know it, it is 8pm and time to go to bed.

By this time, your passion has been replaced by stains on your shirt from cooking, tired feet and over stimulation from adhering to everyone’s needs except for yours and sex seems like another task.  Flip the switch and put that fun activity first and what you have is more love in the kitchen, more peace and relaxation over dinner around the kids, and more smiles.

And oh yes, do not bring the Tube into the bedroom.  I repeat do not bring the Tube into the bedroom  This includes, laptops, Ipads, phones, and even books, yes I said even books.  Your bedroom should be your sanctuary and retreat cave.  The only stimulating and entertaining thing in it should be the two of you.  

“Do not treat your marriage as a finished product, but rather as something to cultivate.”
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That is a realm of Confucianism as opposed to the western thought as well, which believes that marriage is the beginning of a love affair rather than a happy ending to a romance.  

  VERIFIED EXPERT
Farnaz Namin is a private psychologist with specialties in both in clinical and Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the Center for Work Life, a Coaching and Consulting firm in Central Florida. She serves on various public policy and regulatory governing panels including her role as the Florida Key Psychologist, representing the Florida Psychological Association in state and federal workforce regulatory planning and legislature.

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