Most research into how to manage conflict in long-term relationships focuses on eliminating problems, but research suggests that dullness and feelings of boredom may be a much more significant cause of marital dissatisfaction than previously thought.
A long term study, which was carried out by Irene Tsapelas and Arthur Aron of State University, New York and Terri Orbuch at University of Michigan, involved consecutive interviews with more than 100 U.S. married couples after 7, 9 and 16 years of marriage. After seven years of marriage all the couples were asked the following question: “During the previous month, how often did you have a feeling that your marriage was in a rut, or was getting into a rut, that you do the same routine things all the time and rarely get to do exciting things together as a couple?”
Individuals who reported being bored and who experienced dullness at year seven were significantly more dissatisfied with their marriage at year sixteen. The study also found that when couples felt bored they experienced less closeness which added to their dissatisfaction. In contrast, couples who were not bored after 7 years of living together experienced a much smaller decline in marital satisfaction after 16 years of relationship.
The researchers say that theirs is the first study to provide direct evidence of a significant long-term negative effect of marital dullness. Co-author, Arthur Aron believes that “It is not enough for couples to be free of problems and conflicts. The take-home message of this research is that to maintain high levels of marital quality over time, couples also need to make their lives together exciting.”
Aron’s previous studies have suggested that couples can make their marriage work better by doing new or challenging things together. Whether it is ensuring that you have a date night each week, taking up a new hobby, going back to night school, learning to fly a plane or setting up a blog, it seems the old adage is true… “Couples who play together, stay together”