The seven-year itch. It’s a psychological term that indicates that happiness in relationships often declines around the seventh year. Married couples have been warned about it, but what they do not know is that boredom in marriage can kick in as early as the second year.
Having said this, we can expect husbands and wives to find themselves in a boring marriage before they even realize it. And the worst part is that we have no choice. It’s how our hedonic adaptation works.
Hedonic adaptation, according to Wikipedia, “is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.” It means that humans have a set point of happiness to which they return after a period of emotional events. Because of hedonic adaptation, we always go back to square one and find ourselves back where we started.
To understand hedonic adaptation further, try to remember the first time you took a bite of your favorite cake when you were a child. It was so delicious and flavorful, right?
You were so happy. You might even have thought that you could eat the same cake over and over for the rest of your life.
But now that you’ve grown and you’ve probably eaten the same cake many times during your birthdays, can you honestly say that it still gives you the same excitement? Do you still feel the same level of happiness compared to the time you took the first bite?
Maybe yes, maybe no. But if you answered no, then your hedonic adaptation is to blame.
Let’s look at another example. Research claims that winning the lottery doesn’t make winners happier in life. Well, the thrill of bringing home a huge pot of money did drive them to a high level of happiness at some point.
But they still rolled down the hill of happiness after being exposed to mundane pleasures every single day. Apparently, lotto winners end up as happy as they were before they hit the jackpot. Ironic as it sounds, studies back it up.
Hedonic Adaptation and Marriage
Now, let’s see how hedonic adaptation works in marriage. You’ve been there. You fell insanely in love. You got married. It was the happiest day of your life.
Then, you started your married life, still crazy in love with your spouse. You were both too clingy. You always wanted to do things together. All your positive emotions toward each other were heightened.
The romance was euphoric and magical. The sex was also great and truly satisfying.
But slowly, things changed. Somehow, you got bored doing the same crazy stuff with your partner. Nothing was exciting anymore.
You wondered if you were falling out of love. But you were pretty sure you still loved your spouse.
However, you just can’t feel the same thrill you had before. It was like your flower of love suddenly withered.
Is this familiar to you? If yes, then that’s your hedonic adaptation working in the background.
An interesting article from Irish Examiner discussed this further and revealed that hedonic adaptation converts passionate romance into a companionate kind of love, according to a 2003 research on couples married for 15 years. The study surveyed 1,761 married couples and found that the heightened emotions of love wear off after year two of marriage.
During this period, boredom hits husbands and wives. They get so used to the same old routines that their marriage just gets boring every single day.
It doesn’t mean, however, that their love has faded. Their romantic love still exists.
But loving each other has become a routine. So if you’re expecting the old magic or flame of love, you can’t find it there.
What Can You Do to Prevent Boredom in Marriage
We now know that our innate hedonic adaptation can kill the thrill in marriage. What do we do about it?
The good news is that although we cannot reject hedonic adaptation from our biological system, we can slow down its process or prevent it from happening. So, if you think your marriage is boring and you need a reset, the next wave of information we have here should be interesting for you.
As per Psychology Today, we can halt or slow down our hedonic adaptation using the “Hedonic Adaptation Prevention (HAP)” model. HAP highlights two moderators that apparently forestall hedonic adaptation. These moderators, according to study authors Kennon M. Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky, are continued appreciation and variety.
Appreciation is the full understanding and recognition of the value and importance of something or someone. It is an effort that we make to savor the enjoyment and satisfaction we feel from the good things that we see and receive.
When we appreciate people and our positive experiences, we focus on what we have gained and delight in the fact that we have earned something good. It elevates us to a different level of happiness.
In marriage, couples are likely to remain happy for a longer period if both of them learn to appreciate each other. Because we tend to take for granted the things that we regularly see and receive, we forget the feeling of being fortunate and the happiness that comes with it.
See, if we channel our energy into appreciating what we already have, we are breeding happiness in our own backyard. That means we don’t have to look somewhere else to find it.
So, if we continue appreciating our spouses, happiness continues to grow in our marriages. Sharing our lives together with our partners will be the opposite of boring, as there’s always something to value and be happy about.
The problem we face in a boring marriage is the “getting used to” phenomenon. Can we blame ourselves?
Try to think of your favorite TV show. What did you feel after watching the series finale?
You felt thrilled and you probably wanted to find another TV show that delivers the same storytelling and great casting, right? Although you liked the first series very much, you are willing to tune into another that promises a similar plot.
You are doing it because you want to feel the same level of exhilaration. And you know you can’t get that anymore, even if you rewatch the first series.
Most of us have an insatiable hunger for excitement and something new. We cannot be stimulated with things that we have already seen or received. That is why variety is crucial.
When everything has become repetitive, we get bored. We require variety. We need surprises. We crave something we have not seen before.
For long-term marriages, it is highly likely for happiness to last if spouses infuse their relationship with positive changes in a variety of ways.
Perhaps you and your spouse go on dinner dates every Friday night. It’s good for you to keep to your schedule. But the next time you do it, try a little surprise.
You can do the same things over and over. That’s what long-term marriages look life after all. However, you can do the same things in different ways, too.
If you add variety in the ways you do things for your spouse, you are challenging your hedonic adaptation. You cannot easily adapt to something that’s constantly changing. Therefore, the speed of your hedonic adaptation process is slowed down.
Other Factors That Contribute to Boredom in Marriage
Boredom can strike anytime, anywhere and we cannot singularly point fingers on our hedonic adaptation. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a boring marriage because we get stuck in routines that stagnate our lives.
Here are other factors that contribute to boredom in marriage.
Couples Find it Difficult to Disagree with Their Partners.
When two people enter a mutual relationship, they irresistibly go with the flow and find it difficult to disagree with their partners. This is backed up by Dating Expert and Founder of “Samantha’s Table Matchmaking” Samantha Daniels, who said in a report by Bustle that couples limit themselves in disagreeing with their mates because of their desire to be the “good partner.”
Sometimes people get so set in their ways that they just don’t disagree or discuss things with their [partner]. Life becomes about agreeing to go to certain restaurants, even when you don’t want to, simply because you’re trying to be the “good partner,” claimed Daniels.
Keeping your opinion on matters quiet in order to avoid conflicts is good sometimes. But it’s not a good habit for long-term relationships because you cannot keep your ideas and beliefs to yourself forever.
Maybe you think that you can be chill about it for the first few years. But soon you’ll realize that you’re acting robot-like. Then, boredom will hit you hard because you find no fun in doing things that you do not like.
Also, you cannot be the “good partner” if you tolerate things that are not agreeable to you. You have to speak your mind and share ideas that you think could benefit both you and your spouse. Perhaps in that way, your spouse will appreciate you more and recognize what amazing and brilliant person you are.
Couples Neglect Their Personal Goals and Dreams.
Marriage unites the husband and the wife. It doesn’t require couples to sacrifice their goals and dreams.
One of the reasons why married couples find themselves stuck in boring marriages is the neglect of their personal needs, wants, dreams, and goals. Though it’s true that there are habits and plans that need adjusting after marriage, it doesn’t mean that couples should sacrifice their own ambition.
Sometimes, couples think that setting aside their goals will make their marriage better. However, it’s a huge mistake.
Your dreams are absolutely not variables to sacrifice in marriage. Giving up your plans to achieve your goals means giving up your own happiness. It will be pretty hard to find happiness in a relationship if you don’t have it within yourself. And if you’re not happy, marriage can be boring.
Couples Become too Comfortable with Each Other.
Long-term marriage leads couples to a secure place where they can act and be their own selves. Because of this, they tend to become too comfortable with each other. But we all know that too much of anything is good for nothing.
The “too comfortable” zone hurts marriages in a passive way. Couples may not notice the dangers until the bag of issues has gained weight. Let’s look at some examples.
Couples who are too comfortable with each other no longer flirt or romance their partners. Sex is not just about doing the deed. Where’s the fun in sex without a little foreplay? A marriage with a boring sex life is a boring marriage.
Then, there are also couples who become too comfortable with each other that they disregard communication and dating. No more texting or sending emails. No more surprise flowers. No more date nights. Can you imagine how boring that marriage is?
Couples Fail to Engage in Activities Together.
The opposite of being “too comfortable” in marriage is being “too different.” Some couples fell in love, married, and live in the same roof. But then they go separate ways.
One of the reasons your marriage is boring is your lack of interest in each other’s interests. Though it is encouraged for married couples to find their own hobbies outside of marriage, it is also a must that they share activities together.
Research suggests that couples who engage themselves in new experiences together are more likely to stay interested and committed to each other. Having said this, married couples must make it a priority to find activities that both of them will be fascinated in.
Hobbies like cooking, baking, and gardening are examples of activities that couples can do together. And they’re easy, too, as couples can do them at home.
But if you’re the adventurous type, then you might want to try biking or hiking on a weekend. There’s really a lot of activities out there that married couples can try to kill boredom in marriage.
Couples Forget Their Lives Outside Marriage.
If you think your marriage is boring and that you are unhappy with your life right now, it might not be your marriage’s fault. You could be the person who is making your life boring.
When you’re in love, it’s easy to forget your life before marriage. You can put your friends, hobbies, and your own individuality to the side because you’re floating on cloud nine.
However, it’s just a phase. Sooner or later, your relationship gets boring and you get stuck in there, wondering what went wrong – when, in fact, nothing is wrong in your marriage. You’re just bored because you dropped all the activities that filled up your happy tank before you married.
With this said, it is important for you to never forget your hobbies and activities as an individual. Your marriage can be your source of happiness, but it’s not the only one. Activities outside your relationship can give you a different sense of fulfillment and happiness that your marriage cannot supply.
So make sure that you and your spouse have lives outside your marriage. Spice things up in your lives by doing hobbies together with colleagues and friends.
Couples Spend More Time on Their Mobile Phones or Gadgets.
Have you seen a group of people dining together with all their attention focused on each of their phones? It’s sad. And it happens in marriage, too.
It hurts to have a partner who’s always present but mentally unavailable. So if you or your spouse spend much of your time on your mobile devices or laptops every single day, you are slowly wrecking your marriage.
Let’s look at it this way. If your husband or wife took you for granted because he/she is busy on his/her mobile phone, would you let it go without resentments? Wouldn’t you think it’s unfair that he/she prioritizes his/her gadget over you?
And if this situation plays on and on, you would surely feel bored by your marriage. It will be an empty home where your husband or wife is invested in his/her device while you watch him/her do it. This is a boring marriage and a boring life. And this is not something you want your relationship to be, so if you see this in your marriage, find a way to rectify it.
All marriages go through a period of stagnation. We just can’t tell exactly when it happens.
For some couples, it happens after the honeymoon phase. For others, the 2-year study applies. And there are also married couples who attest that the seven-year itch is real.
Well, it’s no surprise that these couples experience this boring period. After all, boredom is a natural feeling that we get when we do things repeatedly over time.
But it’s a challenge you can win if you do not let yourselves get stuck in there. With the help of the information we shared in here, we hope you can equip your marriage with the proper tools to kiss boredom goodbye.