In the beginning, when marriage is shiny and new and your life is all walking hand in hand to pick out throw pillows and grab brunch and talk future baby names, you don’t have to work to not be bored. Things are naturally fresh and exciting. Over time, of course, life gets busy and new becomes routine. Boredom is a natural byproduct of this, especially when you forget to focus on your relationship. “Many people look at the beginning of their relationships with fondness, but then life gets filled with work, carpools, school activities, etc.,” says William Schroeder, who runs the Austin-based counseling practice called Just Mind. “The relationship gets pushed to the background.”
Boredom can lead to bad decisions. Arguments. Resentment. Infidelity. If you find yourself bored in marriage, the key, then, is to take time for each other, even if it’s only small pockets here and there. A simple gesture like having dinner ready for your spouse, sending a flirty text, or just making time to stare into one another’s eyes (yes, seriously) can help bust up the routine and keep boredom at bay. Here’s how to get out of the black hole of boredom in marriage.
Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is a cornerstone of nonverbal communication, one that is vital for relationships. It informs someone that they are the object of your attention, allows you to see them clearly, and feeds you those feel-good chemicals. But many couples, per Slatkin, have a hard time actually doing it. The everyday distractions of kids, screens, and life in general tend to keep couples from doing this and, as a result, lose connection. “Taking the time to gaze into your partner’s eyes is a refreshing reminder,” Slatkin says. “‘Oh, it’s you! Where have you been all this time?’ The deep intimate connection you experience, he says, will surely reignite the flame of a seemingly stale relationship.”
Take a Trip Together
When you’re living your day-to-day life as a married couple, the scenery rarely changes. You see the same house, the same office, the same supermarket, day in and day out. The lack of new places and new surroundings can rob a marriage of its excitement and sense of adventure. It’s essential to get out of town every once in a while, but perhaps more so to have something to look forward to on the calendar. “Besides providing much-needed time away, traveling returns you refreshed and invigorated and hopeful that you can establish new patterns that help you avoid getting sucked back into the humdrum of everyday living,” says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor and the co-founder of the Marriage Restoration Project, which offers tips on how to get out of the black hole of boredom in marriage.
Walk Down Memory Lane
In keeping with the idea of changing the scenery in your lives, it’s important for couples to visit places they used to frequent when dating. That happy hour spot with the dollar oysters. That dive bar with the crooked pool table. That hiking trail, special out-of-the-way location, or any place from the past that takes the both of you back to the moment where you first felt that spark. “By returning to that place and remembering those positive experiences,” Slatkin says, “you can actually relive in your mind and heart what happened.”
Get Educated Together
Maybe it’s a language. Maybe it’s a welding class. Maybe it’s archery. Whatever it is, learning new skills together is an easy way to spend time together. More so, learning new things stimulates your brains, creating new neural pathways and sparking excitement. “Do it together with your spouse and the positive energy is compounded,” says Slatkin. “It also provides a fresh new experience that you can share together.”
Share Some Positive Energy
When was the last time you told your spouse how great he or she really was? Slatkin recommends trying something he calls the “flooding exercise,” in which one spouse actually floods the other with positive affirmations and admiration. The admiring spouse shares three physical characteristics, three behaviors, and three qualities they like about their spouse. They face their spouse, who is sitting down, share one item, and continue the process until they are finished. “With each successive comment, they raise their voice and excitement level,” Slatkin says. “They then shout out a global affirmation of why they love their spouse so much. This exercise really changes the energy in the room and the relationship and allows the spouse on the receiving end to truly feel cherished.”
Don’t Neglect Surprises
What better way to break the routine than to actually do something that completely surprises your partner? Just hitting them with an unexpected gesture or action could ignite that feeling of excitement and anticipation that fueled the early days of your marriage. Sometimes that unexpectedness, even more than the action itself, is what your partner is craving. The feeling of not knowing what might happen next. “It could be something as simple as surprising them at work for cup of coffee that can create the thrill that once swept you off your feet,” Slatkin says.
Show Some Appreciation
As anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship can tell you, saying the right thing matters. Just as the wrong words can upend a marriage, the right words can restore it. If couples can take just a little more time sharing with each other what is good about their relationship, they will shift their focus away from what might be boring. “The light of appreciation can push away a lot of darkness in a relationship,” Slatkin says. “Taking a few minutes every day to share what you appreciate and why will do wonders for your relationship.”