Sometimes, marriages get boring. Your interactions are all routine and without thought. You're both just trying to get through the day. You may even go days without eating together or having sex or saying more than "please pass the salt."
It's never a good idea to ignore a boring marriage. Almost any excitement from outside your marriage -- a flirtatious member of the opposite sex, a single friend who is jealous of your spouse, a new hobby that excludes your mate, an addiction in the making, or rewards for over-investing in your work -- can gain a foothold a lot more easily when things get boring.
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, reports a good deal of research showing how to change a habit that's doing you no good. First, you figure out the behavior you want to change and what it gets you or promises to get you. Then you figure out what triggers it. You substitute a different behavior that will get you more of what you want, and you practice watching for the trigger and replacing the old behavior with the new one.
If you've ever switched from candy bars to carrots when the 4 pm slump hits you, you know how this is done. And you know it takes weeks of being conscious of what you're doing before the carrots become your new habit.
So, say your spouse gets tired before you do most nights, and you've made a habit of watching a late TV show. When you arrive in the bedroom, you would need to wake your spouse to have sex, and that's not as much fun as it was before you became parents or added 80-minute commutes to your lives, so you just go to sleep. And your sex life withers away.
Your trigger is the timing of the TV show. Your desired result is entertainment, but you also want more intimacy and more orgasms. So you swap the behavior. You record the show and head to bed when your spouse does. Then you watch the show later that night or earlier on another night. New habit. Less boredom.
Or maybe you come home from work and check your email while your spouse cooks dinner. Your trigger is coming home from work. Your desired result is efficient use of your time, but instead, you're watching the latest cat video from a friend or adding unpaid overtime to your work day while losing the most important connection in your life. So you swap the email catch-up for a hug for the cook, interest in what's cooking, maybe even some impromptu dancing while the pasta boils or while you set the table. Or you wait until your spouse leaves for yoga class to check those emails, and you set a timer, because you're after more efficiency, not the illusion of useful activity.
Is every weekend pretty much the same set of chores and hobbies? How about marking off the first one each month on your calendar for doing something different with your spouse or the whole family? Novelty increases the odds of feeling the emotion of love, and it's that emotion that keeps up the "in love" feeling while your investment in the relationship and commitment to each other keeps up the "I love you" feeling.
Help out your fellow Assume Love readers. What habits have you changed to keep your marriage interesting and full-contact? Tell us about them in the comments. (If you receive this by email, or you're reading it on a page full of posts, click on the title to get to the online comments form.) Help stamp out boring marriages!