As a couples therapist, I see many romantic relationships that are affected by boredom, and find that there are layers and many possible root causes. Do you find yourself in a mundane routine, or need a lifeline to resuscitate the connection in your relationship? I got you covered! But first, you have to discover what the underlying issues could be, and how to address them with empathy to your partner.
#1. Could you be conflict avoidant?
For many couples, I have found that what they perceived as boredom had manifested in them being conflict avoidant, and not knowing how to advocate for themselves and their needs. There can be a fear of rocking the boat, or causing drama by saying how you feel or bringing up an issue. Also people believe that their partner wouldn’t change or care, and they had to resolve that this is the way things are and had to deal with it.
Give yourself permission to ask for what you need, and to talk about the current issue that is affecting your relationship. Remember not to blame, shame or criticize your spouse, and keep the discussion on the current issue by not throwing everything but the kitchen sink in. This might seem uncomfortable at first, but if done with compassion and understanding, it can help you get clarity about what you both need to be happier.
#2. Do you assume your partner is bored too? What if they are and aren’t nice about it?
Never assume someone else’s reality or how they feel. It’s always important to inquire and be curious about what your spouse’s experience is. If they are bored and they aren’t nice about it 1) You can handle it, 2) Even though it might be tough, listen to them without trying to defend yourself (huge!) Validate their feelings and let them know that despite it being uncomfortable to hear that they feel that way, you want to understand how you can best meet their needs. 3) Have empathy and compassion. Anger or them not being nice is just a front because they are probably deeply hurt and longing to be connected to you.
It takes some emotional muscle and couples need to have these honest conversations for growth. People have the tendency to think of how things can go wrong if they say they were bored, and try to predict what their reaction would be, so many times opportunities for connection get shut down. Remember we can’t control how our partner will react, and we also can’t make assumptions that our partner will be offended as well. We can only treat the other person with compassion, kindness and care as we share what is going on with us.
#3. Are you asking the right questions?
I think it’s helpful when couples find themselves in this situation of boredom to reminisce and start from the beginning. I ask my clients: “How did you meet?” What attracted you to each other” “How did you feel when you were with that person?” “What did you have in common then? Have them tell the story of their relationship, which usually allows them to shift from complacency to nostalgia. I would also ask, “If you woke up tomorrow and a miracle happened, and you had the perfect relationship, what is one thing that you would wish for?”
#4. Are you avoiding the truth?
In my experience, sometimes boredom is also a choice to stay comfortable in a current relationship that may not be serving them. Rocking the boat and wanting more passion and intimacy would force some to make hard choices, or walk away from a relationship before they are ready to. I’ve seen this happen many, many times where there is a payoff to the “holding pattern” of boredom. Pay attention to where you are at with your marriage. If things stayed like this for the rest of your life, would that be ok with you? If it’s not, it’s time to take action.
There are also specific ways to talk about boredom without saying the words “I’m bored.” It usually means there is a need I have that I am unsure how to articulate. This is a good exercise to help couples get in touch with that.
We all need the 4 A’s:
- Acknowledgement (to be noticed and seen. Very primitive need; inconsistently unacknowledged they feel like they do not matter)
- Acceptance (Who I am is good enough for you)
Couples can have a conversation and each partner can talk about what the four A’s mean to them with examples, and commit to making measurable goals for each one. i.e. – I want more attention from you, this means I want undivided attention after dinner with no phones or devices, or I want to hold hands with you more, or get more than a peck when we kiss.
Take these tips to heart and start the process towards bridging the gap to greater clarity and communication, making boredom a thing of the past.