Stronger at the Broken Places

How challenges can strengthen your relationship

Four Tips For Dealing With Marital Boredom

Hint: It's not necessarily about him.

Yes, it can be a real problem to be bored with one's spouse. It's a frequently voiced complaint that therapists hear from their clients. Fortunately, this condition can usually be easily fixed. Unfortunately, the source of the problem is generally in the last place that you want to look. That would be at yourself. Sometimes the very things that originally attracted us to our partner, those wonderful qualities of predictability or stability, or solidity or dependability or reliability they bring into our fragmented and tumultuous life in time become the source of our greatest irritation. What at one point in a relationship feels like security, at another feels oppressively boring. Your partner probably hasn't changed, and neither have you. Those qualities in him or her that you initially found so attractive are still there; it's just that they are less evident to you because your focus is on those aspects of your relationship that you find dissatisfying.

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The bad news is that there will always be things about your partner that displease you. And if you're like most people, you have a belief (call it a fantasy) that if you were with someone else rather than him, someone more interesting, exciting, imaginative, passionate, creative, etc., you would be a happier. Not likely. If you had really wanted more adventure and stimulation in your life rather than the predictability that your partner brings you, you would have set your sights on that kind of a person. You didn't and my guess is that you didn't make a mistake in your choice of a partner. You, like most of us, chose the kind of person that would fulfill certain needs in your life, some conscious, some not so conscious, and no one, (except our fantasy lover) can fulfill all of our needs.

The good news is that you have the ability to change the quality of your experience with your partner even if he never becomes another Indiana Jones. The solution is two-fold:

  1. Stop dwelling on what you don't like about him and start focusing what it is that you love and appreciate about him, particularly those qualities that you initially found attractive and those that make your life easier and more comfortable than it would have been without him. Don't keep your appreciation to yourself, share it with him. Don't let a day pass without speaking your gratitude to him. Don't be surprised if your words of acknowledgment don't actually seem to change the way he is or at least the way that you see and feel about him.
  2. If we can’t change a situation, then we are challenged to change the way we think about and respond to it. Sometimes boredom can result from repressed anger and resentment that hasn’t been acknowledged and expressed. When we move from the disempowered position of wishing and hoping that the other person would change, and take responsibility for how we deal with the reality in front of us, we can look inside to see if there are some truths that are waiting to be spoken that could bring more vitality into a flat relationship.
  3. Boredom can be a manifestation of not paying close attention. If we check to see if we might have taken a snapshot of our partner and put in it the photo album years ago, we might find that we are still gazing at the same old page. We have the option of looking through fresher eyes to see if our partner has made any changes at all and to not only acknowledge those to ourselves but also to speak some words of appreciation and gratitude to our partner, recognizing their growth and development.
  4. And last, but certainly not least: people who are bored are often bored with their own lives. Are there unfulfilled dreams that you haven’t tried to realize? Are you making excuses for what you don’t have in your life rather than going after it? What actions have you been unwilling to take that could possibly lead to a higher level of excitement or passion in your life? Quit boring yourself with your complaints and get out there and start taking some risks in life. Get clear about the things that you want to do before you die and start doing them, rather than complaining about your partner or making excuses as to why you can't do what you really want to do.

It’s just possible that if you do some or all these things your relationship and your life in general will become less boring and more exhilarating. It might also become more challenging and stimulating. But who knows? You might get to enjoy living on the edge. And when your partner sees how much fun you’re having, he might decide to come along and join you.

Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., and Charlie Bloom, M.S.W., are the authors of Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truths from Real Couples About Lasting Love.

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