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Published on November 29, 2019

Why Your Relationship Has Become Boring (And How to Fix It)

Why Your Relationship Has Become Boring (And How to Fix It)

Esther Perel says that we need two things in relationships: stability — knowing your partner has your back, and desire.

Unfortunately, stability kills desire. Conversely, what creates desire? Risk.

In the beginning of a relationship, we have plenty of risk. What if you get your heart broken, what if the other person doesn’t like you as much as you like them? Is this the one? Are you wasting your time?

There is the thrill of the chase in the beginning stages of romance. It’s exciting and creates the butterflies, the intoxicating feeling of love. Love conquers all.

This new love high usually lasts 1to 2 years and then we settle in and become comfortable in the stability of the relationship.

While the stability is important and imperative to the success of a relationship, it’s not very exciting. We have a home to take care of and bills to pay. This isn’t the sexy side of being in relationship. We may not always agree on things which can cause additional stress and strain on the relationship too.

Is It Normal to Be Bored in a Relationship?

It’s completely normal to become bored at some point in your relationship and it’s not your fault.

We work hard to find the one. The person who completes us, then what? We live happily ever after in a blissful state of union of course. This is what we’ve learned from fairytales and Hollywood. Most of us were never taught how to maintain a relationship nor did we have great role models to show how to keep the romance and passion alive.

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Unfortunately, this stuff isn’t taught in school and most of us didn’t receive a reference book for guidance. Although it probably should be with divorce rates in the US still hovering around 50%.

Why Do Relationships Get Boring and Lose Their Luster After Time?

In the beginning of a relationship, many times we put forth so much effort to woo our potential partner; planning activities, experiences and even surprises for one another. We go to dinner and talk for hours because we have so much to share and learn about one another. We have engaging conversations about everything, inhaling and soaking in the essence of one another.

Then life happens. We settle into our daily life and routines, maybe throw in a couple of kids and the busyness of life allows us to easily put our most important relationship on the back burner.

Date nights are now relegated to dinner and a movie if we make it out of the house at all. I get it, you’ve worked hard all week and planning a date night probably seems overwhelming and putting on your pj’s ordering take out and watching Netflix seems like the path of least resistance.

When the word date or dating is mentioned, most people conjure up images of single people who are dating and looking for that special someone. Rarely do we as a society think beyond to the fact that we should never stop dating our spouse or long-term partner.

The reason many relationships become routine and boring is that couples stop dating each other. It’s as simple as that.

Giving your relationship scraps of time can lead to its demise. In the beginning of a relationship, it’s very easy to be intentional but over time if you don’t pay attention to it, it’s easy to get into a relationship rut.

How Long Does It Take for a Relationship to Become Boring?

We’ve all heard of the 7-year-itch. The estimated time when the happiness of a couple diminishes.

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Every couple is different and it really boils down to how exciting you keep your relationship. If you quickly get into a relationship rut of doing the same boring things, you will become bored with your relationship more quickly. However, if you are committed to avoid falling into this routine and are intentional about keeping the desire alive in your relationship, you can avoid becoming bored for the most part.

Relationships do have ebbs and flows and of course, there are times your relationship will be more interesting. The problem arises when your relationship becomes stale for long periods of time.

In most relationship studies, romantic love dwindles over time and we lose the butterflies we once had in the beginning. In a relationship study conducted by Dr. Arthur Aron at the University of New York at Stony Brook, it was determined that novelty or trying new things can create the chemical surges of courtship and can significantly increase the satisfaction in relationship when practiced consistently.[1]

Life can be messy and even great relationships can become stale and boring at times; this is absolutely normal. You won’t be at risk of abandoning your relationship if you’re aware of this and have a plan to get out of your rut when you see this happening.

What to Do If You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

Plan a date of course! I’m a fan of surprise dates. In fact, I recommend this to my clients. Commit to plan one surprise date for your partner every month and have them plan one surprise date for you each month.

Preferably an interactive or doing date. Then when you grab a bite to eat, you’ll have something to talk about, the new experience you just created together.

When is the last time you really had a great conversation? A conversation that doesn’t involve talking about work or the kids?

When you share a novel experience, this gives you something new to talk about after your date. It’s great to print out a few questions to take on your date. You can find some great ones on the web or another option is TABLETOPICS Couples: Questions to Start Great Conversations if you need more inspiration.

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You can keep it light with something like “If you had a super power what would it be?” to something a little deeper such as “If today were the last time we saw each other what would you want me to know?” These probing questions provide greater insight and awareness into your partner and them of you.

The great thing about taking turns planning dates for each other is that you eliminate the age-old question, “What do you want to do tonight?” which is usually followed by, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” Then after debating for 45 minutes, you may end up doing nothing.

This is the secret sauce of the surprise date. Just tell your date when to be ready and what to wear and there’s no debate or resistance. No shooting down your date ideas. Just the addition of novelty and doing something different together to increase connection and romance.

Once a month, you get to give the gift of adventure and surprise and once a month, you get to sit back, relax and enjoy the date.

If you’re on a budget, no problem. There are numerous free date ideas. Some of my favorites are building a tent over your bed, a scavenger hunt, or dance lessons using free YouTube videos.

If you’re still craving more date night inspiration check out 32 Cheap and Uniquely Fun Date Ideas for Couples, it’s filled with date ideas you can do on any budget.

Final Thoughts

When your relationship becomes stale, you may feel like the solution is to find a new one that’s more exciting, which is the easy way, but it’s only a temporary fix.

If you continue with your same patterns in your new relationship, you’re bound to end up in the same predicament months or years later.

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While relationships take effort, they are so rewarding when you are in a good one. My hope is that you create an amazing relationship, and that you never settle for one that’s just good enough.

Innovation in relationship is the key to avoiding boredom, and ensuring that you have a relationship that will go the distance and last a lifetime.

One of my favorite quotes by Tony Robins is,

“If you do what you did in the beginning of the relationship there won’t be an end.”

Create the relationship of your dreams by being intentional about adding novelty and surprise through interactive date nights. You’ll be happy you did!

Featured photo credit: Vince Fleming via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dana Lam

Dana is a busy mom of two boys, author and co-founder of the Surprise Date Challenge.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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