Remember when everyone referred to relationship boredom as the seven-year itch? Recent research has shown that couples are reporting relationship boredom at approximately the three-year mark. That's not shocking considering the increase in social networking online. And people are simply being stimulated at a higher and more intense rate than in the past.
We may feel it but many of us are hesitant to admit that after being in an intimate relationship with someone for a while a sense of boredom may slip in. We habituate to the routines of day-to-day life and assume a sense of predictability. As much as human nature seeks to adapt to an optimal level of predictability in our daily lives, too much of it can lead to under stimulation and boredom. Your partner may not necessarily be bored of you but rather the routine that has become your relationship.
There are many people who have ended relationships because the spark has disappeared. They believe love is something that is hot and passionate. In many ways it is, but it may be a fair question to ask yourself what have you done for your relationship lately to ignite the fire.
Surprisingly, the key to getting past the three-year itch appears to lie in compliments and self care. In studies, new couples reported complimenting each other approximately three times a week. This lowers to just once a week at the three-year mark and none at all at five years. The number of compliments also paralleled the frequency of sexual engagement between couples.
The problem is most people think that love is enough in a relationship and everything else will just follow. However, staying in love involves work and engagement with your partner.
A recent article in Time Magazine listed the top 10 passion killers for couples:
1. Weight gain/lack of exercise 13%
2. Money or thriftiness 11%
3. Number of work hours a week 10%
4. Hygiene issues 9%
5. In Laws (too much or too little) 9%
6. Lack of romance 8%
7. Alcohol consumption (too much) 7%
8. Bed habits (snoring) 6%
9. Clothing/fashion sense (wearing same old clothes) 4%
10. Bathroom habits (stray nail cuttings) 4%
The compiled list of annoyances reported by partners has several prevalent themes: the lack of self-care and a lack of effort in showing care for your partner. Some couples often dedicate some "me time" during the week where they engage in activities that they enjoy doing without their partner. Making sure that work isn't taking over your life is also important because self-care is usually the first to go when that happens.
So there is some truth to the old saying of unless you love yourself you can't love someone else fully. We can also sometimes forget to remind our partners just how wonderful they are when they've been in our lives for a while. Couples often come into therapy saying "I'm quite sure I told you how beautiful you are recently." In reality that was three months ago. Some people also have the perspective that their partner should know that they are beautiful and wanted and if they have to be reminded they are simply insecure. Imagine working for someone who never gave you feedback. How do you know when or what you are doing well if they don't tell you?
Novelty keeps our interest and you don't necessarily have to find someone new to experience that. You may simply need to turn the key in order to unlock something new about your partner you might not have experienced or seen.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.