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How To Avoid Marital Boredom

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One little mentioned reason for a dying marriage is boredom. It's usually unlikely that one partner is wholly responsible. But it is easier to blame someone else and find excitement on the other side of the fence.

It used to be that boredom was expected, although no one said so -- at least not openly. But it was generally conceded that married life was inevitably routine. Going to work everyday and coming home happily to the same woman was what a man was expected to do, while his memories of nights out with the boys grew brighter, more passionate and more unreal.

Having a baby was thrilling, but after the first few months it was a lot of work, less sleep and no play. Her majesty the baby took over the household. Moms were too tired for sex, and fathers had a diminishing role. Jokes about the sexual frustration of post-baby husbands are common. "Men get frisky while women have babies" was the folk saying in New England, along with the belief that sex after the honeymoon is on a downward path. In many divorces in my study there had been no sex for more than 5 years, or at least not in the marriage. And how many times can you go happily to the same neighborhood restaurants or how many fancy new dishes can the exemplary wife concoct? Plus do you really have to visit grandma every Friday night or play bridge or bowl every Tuesday with the same couples?

Of course what some folks consider boring, others crave. One happy husband, a bored stockbroker, could not wait to get home nightly. Sitting quietly in the kitchen at the end of each day, watching his wife cook or joining her by tasting some new dish and listening to her light, witty chatter about their friends and neighbors made his day worthwhile. He adored her for the pleasure she provided, and for the oasis she had created to protect him from the grim marketplace.

There are many ways to lighten the routines of family life. But they take imagination -- try some. Some successful couples had dinner out weekly with no talk of the children allowed. Their children soon got the hang of it, and joined in dressing Mom for her heavy date -- laughingly promising to "wait up." Other couples took long weekends away. The rich rented a fancy hotel suite. Those on strapped budgets went camping. Some couples always took three short vacations a year: one with the kids, one together, and one separately. Others took up new interests ranging from yoga to art to a new language to kayaking.

A good marriage is not a hothouse. It has windows open for new vistas, for continued renewal, including meeting new people, visiting exotic places, and finding new interests. Keep your eyes open, hold on to your sense of humor, and avoid the terrible drag that you've "been there and done that". You may soon be astonished at how good your marriage feels.

For fuller description about how to maintain interest in your marriage see my detailed description of 50 successful marriages in
Judith Wallerstein & Sandra Blakeslee. The Good Marriage How and Why Love Lasts. Warner Books. (1995) New York and Boston.