If you Google “what to do when marriage is boring”, you’re going to find a whole bunch of websites that suggest some sort of activity to overcome the boredom. They suggest new experiences, changing routine, rearranging the furniture, or visiting an attraction neither of you has seen before. The list goes on and on.
Some of the ideas are creative, others just aren’t realistic (no, we’re probably not going skydiving today), and they all seem very temporary. They have a lot in common with an addict trying to get their fix; they may relieve the boredom for a bit, but it’ll be back soon enough.
Boredom is a strange, human phenomenon. It’s strange because two people can have very similar experiences day after day and very different perceptions of boredom. We usually feel boredom comes “from” things. We think it comes from a lack of variety or spending too long in a routine. The reality is that boredom comes from within us; not outside us.
Anyone with pets has seen their animals contentedly go for long stretches of time doing nothing. They sleep. They eat. They look out the window. They lick themselves. They play with each other for ten seconds. Then, they’re worn out and have to sleep again. Sure, there are times they want to play or be petted, but they don’t come off as “bored”.
Boredom is rooted in a human desire for something more. When we feel we’ve experienced our current situation and it has nothing new to offer us, the emotional response is what we call boredom. The first watching of a movie may be exciting. The fiftieth probably isn’t. The more used to situations, events, and people we become, the more likely we are to feel they have nothing more to offer us.
Marriage, then, is very vulnerable to boredom. We commit to having a special relationship with a single, solitary person for the rest of our lives. That’s a long time. Eventually, our spouse has heard all our stories from before we met. Eventually, our quirks and oddities are uncovered, and they stop being cute and novel. Eventually, you’ve settled into a home together, maybe built a family, established a circle of friends, and developed many routines. Eventually, many people run out of newness and end up Googling “what to do when marriage is boring”, or worse.
When was the last time we searched the Internet for “how do I appreciate the stuff I take for granted?” or “how can I feel content instead of complacent?” Better yet, when’s the last time we asked Jesus these questions in prayer? When was the last time we considered if we’ve really run out of new things to discover about our spouse, or if we just stopped looking for them? In short, when was the last time we sincerely reflected on why we feel the way we feel, instead of reflexively trying to make the feeling go away?
The happiest couples find answers to these questions. Yes, they need to keep their marriage growing, changing, and deepening. That’s not the same thing as keeping their marriage “spicy” or “exciting”, though. They don’t need to find a new Netflix series every time they’ve run out of things to talk about! Happy couples not only look for opportunities to deepen their relationship, but they also look for ways to deepen their appreciation of their relationship. Gratitude for the person you’ve come to know and comfort being with them are the foundations of contentment. Contentment is the cure for boredom.
As winter settles in and the pandemic drags on, it’s an ideal time to reflect on what we really want, what will make us happy, and what will make us feel content. Is it chasing another experience or is it something deeper?
Maybe that’s something worth discussing with Jesus and with your spouse.