Is Boredom In A Relationship Why People Cheat?

    bored-couple-thinking-about-cheatingWhen Jeff’s wife caught him cheating, she was devastated. She asked and asked, “Why?” Their marriage felt stable, she knew she was still attractive, and she thought they were happy. Finally, once she got him into marriage counseling, he answered her. “I know it sounds awful, and I feel like a jerk, but I was bored. Our relationship is boring, and cheating was exciting.” So, is boredom in a relationship really why people cheat, or is Jeff unique?

    Well, there are lots of reasons why people cheat on those they love, but Jeff is not unique in his reason – at all. Sadly, boredom in a relationship is often a reason people cheat on their spouse. But it’s a specific kind of boredom within a relationship that causes the problem.

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    The Boredom Of A Good Relationship

    Let’s begin by acknowledging that people cheat on their partners for a variety of reasons. Very often those reasons have to do with problems within that relationship. Constant fighting, alienation of affection, lack of sexual attraction, and falling out of love are all reasons given by both men and women for having cheated. But what about those who are in what seems like happy, healthy relationships? Why would you cheat on what’s arguably a good relationship and mess things up?

    In a word – boredom. Boredom that leads to cheating in what’s otherwise a good relationship is referred to as hedonic adaption. Hedonic adaptation is the idea that neither happiness nor unhappiness is a fixed state, it waivers. In other words, there are highs and lows and overtime our minds normalize those extremes. So, suddenly, the amazing thing in your life is just a normal thing in your life and doesn’t feel so amazing anymore.

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    Consider buying a new car. It’s shiny, has lots of gadgets, and let’s not forget that new car smell. You probably baby it, park it far away from other cars or dirty trees and keep it neat and clean. But after a while it’s not a “new” car anymore, it’s just a car. It may still be shiny, all the gadgets are there, and even that fantastic smell – it just doesn’t feel the same. It’s no longer exciting because you’ve adapted to its presence in your life, and it just doesn’t thrill you the same way it used to. This is hedonic adaption.

    A spouse, of course, is more important than a new car, but the same process can occur. You fall into a routine, get bogged down by the mundane, swept up in work and family issues, and before you know it what was once a fun and romantic relationship feels boring.

    This is part of a natural process as a relationship matures. The lust and excitement that’s felt in the beginning turns into a different type of love. This is the love that allows a couple to bond, grow together, and potentially raise a family.

    The danger with this kind of love is that “normal,” “routine,” and “stable” are all relatively boring adjectives. When a relationship has reached this point and hedonic adaption sets in, it doesn’t matter how fantastic your wife is, or how fit your husband is – you are at risk of becoming bored. And when presented with the possibility of a new relationship (even if it’s a one night stand), that feels exciting, energizing, and sexy, some are unable to resist the temptation and they cheat.

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    It should be said that, although there’s a name for this state of mind, it doesn’t make cheating acceptable. We are all equipped with the ability to say “no” and make the right choice. So, call it boredom or hedonic adaption, cheating on your spouse out of boredom is a bad move and will cause your fairly-good-even-if-boring relationship to become a very-bad-pain-and-betrayal relationship.

    How To Avoid Being Bored In Your Relationship

    Jeff was adamant during counseling that he still loved his wife and that he felt the cheating was out of boredom and had nothing to do with his feelings for her, something she had a very hard time believing. As they worked through things it became clear to each of them that, over time, they had both completely forgotten to take care of their relationship with one another. At this point they weren’t even sure what taking care of a marriage looked like and, for Jeff’s wife’s part, if she even wanted to.

    One of the characteristics of hedonic adaption is that once you settle in to your “new normal,” even if it’s a happy normal, you start to lose appreciation for what you have and take it for granted. This is a huge problem when it comes to a relationship, so finding ways to protect your relationship from boredom, and keep the love and appreciation alive is crucial. Thankfully, there are ways to do that. But they require effort, planning, and time. Some ideas to consider are below.

    • Planned spontaneity. This seems like an oxymoron, but when you have a busy life and possibly a family, it can be difficult to be completely spontaneous, sometimes it takes a bit of planning. So, take a last-minute trip somewhere, go get massages, or go to a play. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what might be fun, take some time together to create a couple’s bucket list of things you’d each like to do together. Then, when you’re ready to be “spontaneous” pick something off this list, do it, and check it off.
    • Adventures together. Nothing is more exciting than a new adventure. So, try exploring places you’ve never been to, or trying things like finding a new hiking spot, going skydiving, or taking on a project together.
    • New hobbies – together. It’s good to have things that are your own and not to be reliant on your partner for entertainment, but too much of that means that you stop enjoying each other. So, try a new hobby together. Dancing, painting, woodworking, furniture refinishing, etc. There’s no limit to your options.
    • Becoming sexually adventurous. One of the easiest and worst places for routine to set in and lead to boredom is in the bedroom. Over time it can lead to a disinterest in sex (at least with each other).

    Dr. Kurt frequently works with couples who say their relationship was good, yet one partner cheated. According to him, sexual boredom is a big factor.

    Dissatisfaction with sex is one if the most common complaints I hear in counseling, and a big contributor to boredom and cheating. Most people don't set out to cheat, but when opportunity comes along and you're bored with your relationship you're really vulnerable to making a bad decision. The excitement of getting to know someone new, especially physically and sexually, is very, very appealing. So boredom with the sex in your relationship really puts you at a heightened risk for cheating. If this describes you, then do something about that boredom before you put your relationship, family and life as you know it at risk. If you haven't said it already, then start by telling your partner you're feeling bored."

    Keeping things sexually interesting is important in a relationship. This doesn’t mean hanging a trapeze from the ceiling (unless you want to), but it might mean new approaches, techniques, etc. Of course, your partner needs to be comfortable with things and trust is required for intimacy. So, be careful not to go too far until you know you’re on the same page.

    • Use the element of surprise. Some people love surprises, and some don’t, so you have to know your audience. But meeting your husband at the door in a sexy outfit, or surprising your wife with day of no kids and marathon movies for the two of you might be fun.
    • Romantic gestures. Staving off boredom doesn’t have to be grand or expensive. Small, romantic gestures are probably one of the best ways to consistently keep things interesting. Love notes, romantic texts, taking care of the little chores you know they hate, or small, even handmade gifts are fun ways to show your spouse you’re thinking of them. Keeping the romance alive in a marriage is a routinely overlooked element that can lead to boredom in the relationship and potential cheating.

    In addition to the things above, you need to remember appreciation for what you have is crucial. It’s easy to assume that what you have now is what you will have forever, but that’s not a given. If you’re bored in your relationship and decide to cheat to find more excitement for yourself, you put everything in jeopardy.

    A relationship is a two-way street and requires the commitment of both in order to be healthy and bring happiness. It’s not up to just one partner to keep things interesting to avoid boredom. For this reason, it’s important to communicate with your partner on the best ways you can each take care of your relationship. This is something Jeff and his wife failed to do.

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    Getting too comfortable and too routine in a long-term relationship is normal – it happens to everyone. And there is something to be said for that comfort. Knowing and trusting your mate and feeling secure enough to not always have to be “on” is good. But too much of that without the right efforts at keeping the interest and excitement alive can be dangerous.

    So, is boredom in a relationship why people cheat? Yes, sadly it often is. And even more sadly, in these cases, much like Jeff and his wife, it can be a huge threat to what is otherwise a good relationship. So, if you’re feeling bored, consider it a warning sign of problems ahead and change it.

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