relationship boredom

The thrill of the chase is a prominent part of most new relationships – but what happens when the chase is over? Are we able to sustain our own interest in these moments of steadiness? Relationship and sex expert Ellie Burrows digs a little bit deeper into our innate desire for excitement, the boredom myth – and why what you want and need might be right in front of you.

Jane is an amalgamation of many people I know.

Jane is killing it at her job. Jane likes to date. Jane meets a guy. Jane starts dating the guy. Jane is into it. The guy is smart. They guy is hot. The guy is consistent. He keeps showing up. The sex is good, real good. She likes all the weekend trips and witty texts.

It’s been three-ish months and these two see each other three times a week. She meets his friends, maybe even finds herself in a chance encounter with a sibling or two.

Jane actually likes him. Jane likes the relationship. Jane would like to see it progress. This is what she has been looking for.

Jane is also bored…and she can’t figure out why. She’s still checking Tinder on the sly. See, Jane also likes excitement. She likes possibility, choices and chases. Jane has always said that she “likes a challenge.”

Keep the spark alive. We all know this idiom very well. Rightfully so, most of the information on how to do it is directed at couples that have been together for quite some time – years, maybe decades. It targets couples who share children, finances and bathrooms. Pairs of committed individuals who know variety and privacy are distant memories.

We all know that when novelty collides with love it can feel like a roaring fire, made of flames so hot they can burn. Newness usually calls for cold showers, not more kerosene. But my friends and clients – the Janes – are having a hard time keeping newly-lit fires ablaze. And I’m talking about the fire in them. Doesn’t matter if it was lit yesterday, the Millennial climate isn’t particularly expert at maintaining heat. In order to survive (and to ensure consistent warmth), we feel compelled to light multiple fires at once.

Right now, spark plugs can’t help us. Boredom has become a real threat to not just old but new relationships. It’s a big upfront adversary and we’re not entirely sure how to manage it. And hopping on our smart phones to scroll, swipe and like might technically but not actually manage it.

So what to do when it looks like one fire could warm the space? Should we build other back-up fires just in case it goes out? Should we create extra work for ourselves and gather kindling like an insurance policy? Should we stoke several flames because the heat feels super good even though we may accidentally overheat the room and burn ourselves while we’re at it? Or, should we take all of our supplies and sit in front of a single fire, gently adding more logs to it, waiting, watching, observing and carefully stoking it so that it continues to burn as long as necessary?

FYI, I’ve been attempting the latter and it’s been highly rewarding.

“Jane,” if you’re reading this and open to it, I’d like you to consider reframing your idea of a challenge. It isn’t only about the highs and lows of wrangling another human being – after all, human beings can’t be wrangled. Perhaps the ultimate challenge is staring you in the face. Perhaps it’s confronting a boredom born of anxiety around the fact that there are supposedly so many corners with an infinite parade of potentially better things around them. There’s nothing like the stress and pressure of always looking for something else, whatever “else” is, just because. Gratuitous “else” searching can be the most epic exercise in futility, particularly when you believe that what you need and want is right in front of you.

Unless, of course, it’s not what you need and want and then, well, that’s another article entirely.

Perhaps it’s worth considering that the challenge you are facing – that lack of excitement – is actually quite exciting in and of itself. If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you might be where you have wanted to be for quite some time: at the beginning of a committed, grounded, healthy relationship with what sounds like someone who is present. Honestly, that sounds pretty exciting to me – particularly the part about it being healthy.

Staying present requires patience. When the highs aren’t high enough and the lows aren’t low enough or something isn’t progressing the way you want it to, I challenge you not to expend your anxiety around the unknown by mindlessly looking for something else to fill the space.

Sit with yourself in boredom. Stoke the flames of your own fire by getting to know who you are in the absence of space fillers and backup plans. The more you can see yourself, the brighter your flame will burn. And the brighter it burns, the more likely its twin will ultimately find it.

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