When Familiarity Breeds Boredom - A Tale From The City


A parable to describe how familiarity in a relationship can lead to a sense of boredom

This applies to your relationship, but before we directly address your relationship, let me start by sharing a recent experience that I had. It is not about me in relationship, but I think that you will be able to view it as a parable whose idea will be clear and explained.

It was that morning of the year when the clocks have sprung ahead in the middle of the night. In the middle of the night some of our clocks self adjust while others will still need to be manually updated. Although of course, I couldn’t remember which clocks take care of the change and had failed to change my bedroom clock, so I found myself in a taxi on the way to catch my bus out of town. As I was worried about making my bus, my focus, even as a passenger, was on the road - hoping that traffic would be flowing smoothly, and surprisingly for New York it was. I was watching my driver's speed and of course I had the one New York taxi driver that was driving the speed limit on the open highway. I was mentally checking my list of all the things that I was trying to complete and pack. In my mind, I ensured that everything was done before my trip. While still feeling pressured, I was feeling pretty good.

Then, as we went from one highway to the next, another taxi came from the other way. I looked over into that taxi. The occupants were clearly tourists. There was joy all over their faces as they looked out and saw the sites of New York. The sites I had become numb to. In fact, in the prior couple of weeks, I had been so busy preparing to be away and getting ready for what I was going to do that I had lived as if I was not in New York: traveling from home to work to home, not eating out, not enjoying any of the culture around me, ignoring invitations. The smiling tourists reminded me of the love and joy I had had in exploring all that is here in New York. They were fresh and for me the city had become so familiar.

As I reflected, I realized that while the last few weeks had been intense and in which I had only managed my routine, the reality was that for an even longer time I had not been taking advantage of all that New York is and what had once excited me. In saying this, I am not talking about places like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty, not even Broadway shows and world class music. I am even referring to the parts of life such as the diversity of the people, being able to have a great ethnic meal for a few dollars, time with friends, exploring different churches on Sunday, … In some ways, these things had all become really familiar to me and in their familiarity I was acting as if I was bored with them. Of course, as I gave them less attention, they also did not draw me out into relating with them. What the tourists saw in the excitement of the city is something that can easily wear off as familiarity sets in. What did I see in my city when I took a chance to step back and look at it afresh, just as I did when our bus headed out west and I got to see the big picture of the city as I watched the skyline on our journey away from the city as we journeyed out through New Jersey.

If you treat this story as a parable for your significant relationship your partner is the city and you are me. Rather than retell the story, let me ask you some questions:

  1. Do you get so caught up in details of your life and concerns about how things are going that you don't even see your partner and all your partner has to offer?
  2. Have you lost interest in or at least the excitement about your partner while others appreciate what you used to appreciate?
  3. How do you react to others seeing things in your partner that you used to recognize?
  4. Do you allow life to get in the way of nurturing your relationship?
  5. Do you want to reengage your partner? How will you start?

Boredom in a reflationship can be a sign that you have become very familiar with each other, which is not totally a bad thing. With some good exploration, there are things that you can do to reignite things in your relationship. Ebbs and flows will occur in any relationship. The key to wholeness and peace is seeing the signs that point out that something needs to be done and then doing it. Perhaps, you can do this on your own. Perhaps, you need to have a counselor or therapist help you find ways to get past the boredom. For myself, I'm taking a friend to a concert when I get back and at least once a week I plan to do something "city". What are you going to do?