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?
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.
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?
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.