How ‘Boredom’ Can Eliminate ‘Passion’ From Relationships
“[C]ouples who were bored… had a hard time getting out of their rut… less frequently they did exciting activities together.”
The fact that boredom can shut the door on passion in a relationship sounds rather intuitive. What isn’t obvious, though, is how. Learning that — or, at least, one of the many “hows” involved in the route from boredom to dispassion — might help people avoid that end. That’s, perhaps, what drove a team of researchers from Canada.
Published in Personal Relationships, their study focused on the way boredom impacts shared activities between partners. The team built its research on what they defined as a “well-documented” fact: that “exciting, shared activities” can promote passion in intimate relationships. Unfortunately, though, as their findings suggest, boredom can prevent people from pursuing such activities with their partners, paving the path for dispassion in their relationship.
To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers surveyed 122 couples, who had been in a relationship with each other for an average of two years; whether they were all cis-gendered and/or heterosexual isn’t known. In the first leg of the study, the participants had to answer survey questions about their relationship everyday for three weeks. Their answers helped the researchers understand the degree of passion they felt toward their partners — besides gauging whether their relationships felt “like a chore” to them.
The researchers found that the more boredom a couple felt within their relationship, the fewer “fun” activities they participated in. Subsequently, when they were surveyed about their passion three months from the first leg of the study, the researchers found that couples who were more bored earlier had witnessed greater falls in passion over the course of three months — attributable, perhaps, to not engaging in more exciting activities together that could’ve helped them “feel close to each other and satisfied with their relationship,” igniting their passion.
“[C]ouples who were bored with their relationship had a hard time getting out of their rut. The more bored couples felt, the less frequently they did exciting activities together. When bored couples did spend time together on ‘exciting’ shared activities, they tended to be of lower quality,” Brian Collisson, a social psychologist and professor at Azusa Pacific University, who wasn’t involved in the study, wrote in Psychology Today, breaking down the findings.
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The reason why this study is relevant is that boredom can seep in rather easily into long-term intimate relationships due to a variety of factors — ranging from losing one’s individuality and feeling overtly comfortable emotionally and physically, to lacking novelty in the manner of activities chosen, among other things, to having mostly been in toxic relationships earlier that involve a lot more emotional highs and lows, unlike safe, healthy relationships. And so, for couples experiencing boredom while trying to get their passion back, the study holds interesting insights.
Boredom may, however, result from other, not-easily-dismissable factors too. “Getting bored in a relationship might be a sign that your partner isn’t a good match for you… However, having a pattern of getting bored in relationships over and over again may be a sign that you have an insecure attachment style,” Elizabeth Earnshaw, a couples therapist, had told Bustle in 2019. In such situations, of course, reigniting passion might involve therapy, and not just “fun” dates.
While the present study may not have provided a one-size-fits-all solution, then, for couples struggling to “keep the spark alive,” it does provide one way to combat boredom — besides emphasizing, of course, how destructive not doing so can be to the passion a couple shares.
Another thing to remember, though, as Collisson writes, “Exciting dates are subjective. One person’s idea of a fun night out may not be fun for someone else.” Escape rooms might be exciting for some people, for others, perhaps, nothing less than adventure sports would suffice. For yet others, maybe, an exciting date probably hinges on emotional intimacy through deep conversation that might be had in the comfort of their very homes, over glasses of wine, beer, or even just a plate of biryani.
And since partners are still different individuals, at the end of the day, they may not necessarily see eye to eye on “fun” date ideas. And so, it’s also important to strike a balance between diverse interests. As Collisson advises, “[T]o spice up your next date night, take your partner’s perspective and try something new that you think might appeal to them.”
Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, a painter by shaukh, and autistic by birth. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.