Too Comfy in the Love Nest?

When you wear your rattiest t-shirt to bed, when you don’t wash your hair for three days, when the only feathering of your love nest involves flipping over the down pillows you picked up on sale at J. C. Penny – has your relationship become a little too comfortable?

When you stop fully listening as your partner prattles on about office politics, about the baby’s newest words, about comparative gas mileage for this year’s Hondas – is that necessarily a bad thing?

Does it always mean we’re taking him or her for granted, or simply that we’re tired, we’re multi-tasking, we’ve heard these stories a hundred times before and we can nod pleasantly and that will do?

Is this the usual fare for secure and stable couples, or can we become too comfortable in a relationship? If so, how do we know when we’re there? 

Slip Sliding Away

We strive to reach a rhythm of shared trust, and a relationship in which we can be ourselves. But with the years, does comfort turn to boredom or disinterest? Is there some milepost we’ll notice along the way, so we don’t slide down that slippery slope so far that our partners look elsewhere for appreciation or excitement?

I’m not saying that getting too comfy in the proverbial love nest means we’re setting ourselves up for infidelity. But don’t we begin to lose our connection when everything is too predictable and too secure?

Need for a Change

According to an article in Psychology Today, boredom in relationships happens as time goes on, and in understandable ways. Dr. Randi Gunther writes:

New lovers are devoted to continuous discovery. They explore each other’s bodies, hearts, minds, and memories with excitement and intensity, searching for ever-new ways to join and intertwine.

The article goes on to say:

The partners in a new relationship are initially very willing to embrace whatever adventures their interaction may bring… As they get to know each other and that rate of new discovery slows, the partners become more concerned about the relationship’s future. One or both partners limit any threatening personal transformations and reward each other instead for predictable interactions.

Bingo! Does that sound familiar to anyone else out there? Whether you’ve been in a 20-year marriage, or a two-year relationship, especially if you’re ragged from juggling jobs and kids?

Oh No! Status Quo!

One can infer from Dr. Gunther’s article that during the period when a couple is not (yet) invested in the relationship’s future, they are freer to explore. As things continue, apparently we’re motivated to maintain the status quo – a secure and predictable unit – preventing us from switching things up, perhaps to the detriment of the relationship in the long run.

A 2009 article which appeared on MSNBC tells us that dull days will wreck a marriage faster than fighting:

Experts say that shared challenges and exciting diversions are what make relationships hot long after the wedding gown has been packed up and stored away. And the opposite, boredom and a dull, daily routine, can kill a marriage, squashing intimacy and romance.

And we seem to know that. Sort of. Yet we shackle ourselves to periods of too much togetherness, too little stretching of boundaries – including sexual boundaries – or the comforts of complacency. We fall into the habits of assumptions, not listening, not connecting, and not newly discovering.

Challenges? We All Have Them

Sure, we all face storms, and that isn’t the kind of unpredictability any of us wants.

If’ we’re lucky, we make it through – personal losses, job losses, health issues, money troubles, family disputes. And getting to the other side has little to do with comfort or boredom and everything to do with fortitude, character, compromise, support systems, and sometimes, forgiveness.

Of course it’s difficult during the years when we’re raising children. We’re pooped! We’re stressed! And there’s never enough patience, time, hands on deck, or money.

Routine and fatigue seem to conspire against every attempt at refurbishing the nest.

Relationship Redux

Like most of us, I’ve had relationships in which I felt too comfortable. Ironically, my marriage wasn’t one of them.

I found I did well with Long Distance Relationships, which not only meshed more easily with the demands of my single parenting status, but time apart rendered time together far more special. When I’m being scrupulously honest with myself, I wonder if I didn’t prefer those relationships at least in part for the excitement reignited after each period of absence.

These days? My kids have been kicked out of the nest – at least for now – and I am determined to bar boredom in the typical ways that it comes knock-knock-knocking at the Relationship Door. So I’m nudging myself beyond my comfort zone, and opting for edge, spice, and a little creativity in the boudoir.

It may help or it may not. I’m trying to break old habits. I’m learning.

Love That Nest?

Do I have answers?

Not exactly. But I’m hoping to make strides in this area in part by talking with long-married friends, and those in good relationships the second time around. I’m also observing some common behaviors, like genuine affection and interest in each other, respectful listening, and humor. Plenty of humor. And may I say there are also indications that those who continue to enjoy each other keep the sex going strong?

What else?

They try new things – alone and as a couple. They aren’t discarding comfort or predictability, but nor have they abandoned the delights of discovery.
 

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Comments

  1. Hmmm…maybe two things are here. Fran and I may get rather comfy/sloppy/relaxed in quite a number of things. James’ “Habit is the flywheel of society” was a positive evaluation of habit, because it is that aspect of being accustomed to one another that FREES us for what is not habit. We carry on a lot of routine stuff in the background (as boring to us as to others); good. That enables us to focus on the current adventures/stressors/ excitement and so on.

  2. I’m with Paul. Give me that flywheel. I’d sacrifice anything for it, except the truth.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You and Paul are speaking some lingo I don’t fully understand. (Is this an XY thing?) So, am I only the one who had to look up flywheel? :)

  3. My husband and I are stronger and more frequently (infants and toddler stage was definite damper on intimacy) intimate now after 20 years of marriage precisely because of the stressors of life with changing jobs, each with career demands and raising two teenaged boys. We find comfort in each other knowing we are both in it together, both equally invested in the family and as a couple. Humor and a weekly date night are also key. My husband gets Wednesdays evenings to meet with his guy friends and I get Thursday evenings for a weekly soccer game. So I guess time for separate interests is also key.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      It may not be very popular to say as much (these days), but the stress of managing / raising kids on a couple’s relationship, along with everything else in “normal life,” is not to be underestimated. My hat is off to both of you, Jenn.

  4. This is a funny read considering I am pregnant with all its vomiting glory and have NO interest in sex. Yet, my husband and I are as close as ever primarily because we’ve had to draw on other strengths (i.e. conversation and shared interests) to pull through. We’ve had our moments of boredom, and am sure we’ll have plenty more, but our volatile tendencies always lead to passionate intimacy when I can handle it.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You always make me smile, Amber. So glad you’re doing well, despite the, well… feeling sick, that goes along with it.

  5. The reference you had about wearing the rattiest t-shirt to bed made me laugh recalling a song from the quirky New Zealand show “Flight of the Conchords” called “Business Time”. It is a song about a young couple stuck in their routine life and the ever hopeful male mind.

  6. Re prior Comments:

    Regarding power and self-control, men seem to go for models of dynamos (H. Adams) and flywheels (W. James), respectively (substitute steam engines and governors if you prefer), while for their moral compass they rely on the superior intelligence of women (intelligence in the classic sense of right thinking, not the technical stuff of math and directionality).

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