How to Spice Up a Bland Relationship – Psychology Today

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Posted June 2, 2022 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
Date nights can be wild adventures. But not all couples approach dating like Bear Grylls—willing to traverse mountain ranges and eat exotic bugs for the thrill of it. For some couples, date nights may become boring. A new study published in the journal Personal Relationships helps explain why some relationships become boring and what couples might do to regain their passion.
The excitement, sparks, and chemistry that many couples experience often fade over time, especially if they don’t do something about it. It’s easy to get “stuck in a rut.”
Lavish nights out on the town and deep, meaningful conversations may slowly turn into predictable dates at the Costco food court and brief chats about which items to buy in bulk. (I should note that there’s nothing wrong with Costco dates. You can’t beat the price of that $1.50 hotdog and soda combo.) But if dating becomes bland, routine, or predictable, then couples may feel bored with their relationship and miss the passion they once felt.
When couples first start dating, it’s common to feel passion, or a longing to be together emotionally and sexually. Each late-night conversation and fun, new experience that a couple shares can expand a partner’s sense of self. People’s self-concept grows, or expands, every time they learn something new, pick up a new skill or hobby, or share a novel experience with a romantic partner.
Thus, it’s not surprising that passion tends to be highest when couples are in the early, exciting stages of their relationship. But passion can decay over time. Partners might start to feel disillusioned and crave the spontaneity, unpredictability, laughter, energy, and butterflies that once marked their relationship.
Luckily, psychologists have studied why some couples feel bored with their relationships and what they can do to spice up bland date nights. The current study explored why couples who feel bored with their relationship often don’t do anything to fix it.
Psychologists Cheryl Harasymchuk, Atara Lonn, Emily Impett, and Amy Muise asked couples, who had been together for an average of two years, to complete a daily survey about their relationship for three weeks. Each day, couples reported how bored they felt about their relationship—i.e. whether it felt “like a chore”—and how much passion they felt.
Couples also reported how much time they spent every day in exciting, shared activities with their partner and the extent to which these activities were high quality. High-quality activities referred to those which made the couple feel close to each other and satisfied with their relationship.
Results from this dyadic study showed that couples 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.
Three months later, the couples were again surveyed about their passion. Findings showed that couples who felt highly bored with their relationship at the beginning of the study felt significantly less passion later on.
Given the study’s longitudinal design, the researchers speculated that boredom caused couples to plan fewer, and poorer quality, dates over time, which in turn led couples to feel less passion three months later.
Just because bored couples tend to plan fewer fun and exciting dates does not mean they’re incapable of doing so. Often, it just takes a little work and creativity to rekindle an exciting dating life.
Exciting dates are subjective. One person’s idea of a fun night out may not be fun for someone else. So, to spice up your next date night, take your partner’s perspective and try something new that you think might appeal to them. The latest research in psychology suggests it may pay off in the long run.
References
Harasymchuk, C., Lonn, A., Impett, E. A., & Muise, A. (2022). Relational boredom as an obstacle for engaging in exciting shared activities. Personal Relationships. Early view publication available online.
Brian Collisson, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and professor at Azusa Pacific University. His research is at the interface of romantic relationships, personality, and prejudice.
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There are many temptations to organize our life around the experience of earlier trauma. But that may short-change the future—which starts by our envisioning something better.

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