I Googled those words and there were 184,000,000 results. If you’re bored, you’re in good company. We’re bored at church, bored at ballgames, bored in line, bored with our jobs. Why should our marriages escape the curse of boredom?
Along with his team, John Eastwood, New York University psychology professor, created a working definition of boredom.
“Boredom is the aversive state that occurs when we (a) are not able to successfully engage … in satisfying activity, (b) are focused on the fact that we are not able to engage attention and participate in satisfying activity, and (c) attribute the cause of our aversive state to the environment.” http://pps.sagepub.com/content/7/5/482.abstract
In a state of boredom, we waste time, we overeat, we get sucked into addictions, and we neglect important social skills. We feel entitled to not be bored. We blame our tasks for being too hard or too easy. We blame the people we’re with. We look for change. We think that we can escape boredom in marriage or life by changing our environment, but the psychologists tell us that line of thinking won’t work.
If we find ourselves saying, “I’m bored in my marriage,” we should first pause long enough to rule out the possibility that what we’re really saying is, “I’m a bore.” As an individual, do you smile? Are you developing knowledge and learning skills? Do you have a recent experience to talk about—not work-related? When was the last time you laughed out loud? If you didn’t like the answer to those questions, consider what’s keeping you trapped.
Some seasons in life are repetitive and monotonous. How many times can you (or your spouse) read Goodnight Moon? Are you/your spouse home with the baby in an unfamiliar city while your husband/wife is finishing residency? Are you caregiving? Homeschooling? Are you living Groundhog Day? We all endure seasons where we are wretched bores. This season will pass. In the midst of it, we can relieve the boredom by actively engaging in activities that will change things up a little. Maybe we’re due for a night away from home. Maybe procrastination is robbing us of that touted “satisfying activity.” Together with our spouse, we can seek something to hope for or dream for. We can endure the boredom of the budget when we dream of burning the mortgage. We can read a book. We can attempt a new position in the bedroom. We can stay together and invest in the season to come.
Often, it’s not the season; boredom sprouts from somewhere inside of us. Some personality types are prone to boredom. In today’s media-crazed world, we can slip into the mindset that we must stay entertained, occupied, and distracted. Our attempts to plug in to the acceptable level of busyness leave us feeling more empty and less satisfied than if we had stopped and stared at a blank wall. Adolescence has been reckoned the peak age of boredom. That suggests that if we are bored in marriage, there is a point to which we just have to grow up and develop enough self-discipline to focus on making marriage non-boring. It’s a good practice to figure out what it is we want, and pursue it.
Feelings of boredom are emphasized when we feel stuck in a situation. If you’ve committed to a lifetime with your spouse, you may be feeling stuck—bored. The very word monogamous sounds lackluster. Who’s getting the ratings? Faithful, monogamous Charles and Caroline Ingalls? or Addison, Derek, and Meredith?
Not everything about boredom is negative. We allow ourselves to live in the present, feeling every ounce of the boredom alongside our spouse. The boredom serves as a catalyst for improvement. The achievers we respect with superior skills had long seasons of boring repetition and monotony. After practicing scales and archipelagos, the skilled pianist. After shooting a hundred free throws a day, the star athlete. After diagraming compound-complex sentences, the author of the year. After making the bed with military corners, graduation from the academy. After conjugating Spanish verbs into their thirteen verb tenses, bilingual. These monotonous days of repetition result in this thing called fluency or mastery. When we push through the boredom and hard work, we reap the reward. And so in that sense, boredom is a beautiful gift that we can embrace. It is through boredom that we can achieve a level of fluency in our marriages that the giver-upper never finds. Bored in marriage? Smile. Reflect. Dream. Create. And stay married. For it is in the boring days that we find inspiration to master the art of marriage.
P.S. – If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use the form below to request more information about our Marriage Helper workshop for troubled marriages. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for you and your particular situation.