Midlife Dilemma – The Boredom Of Being With A Good Spouse
Most people get bored with their spouse by the time midlife hits. Mannerisms you found endearing 20 years ago are starting to grate on you. The way they snort when they laugh was cute on your first date. Now it drives you mad.
Your partner is fundamentally a good person who loves you a great deal. They’ve done nothing wrong. So why do you feel restless when you see them toiling away in the garage or kitchen?
Team Vippi grabs you by the scruff of your neck and asks: Why are you so selfish?
Why do our life partners become boring?
The mundane stuff can be the most meaningful.
Over a few years, various factors can turn a passionate hookup into a beige fountain of routine and predictability. But the main factor is human nature.
The ones who don’t get bored are those who find safety in routine. The more their marriage becomes a routine, the more they enjoy their marriage. The longer your partner sticks around, the less likely it is you’ll be forced back into the world of dating.
The length of time you’re in a relationship = the length of time you no longer have to look for love.
For the rest of us who still relish excitement during midlife, marriage can be a bottomless black hole of boredom. And there’s a ton of reasons why.
It’s hard to be excited by the same person as every year goes by. Your responsibilities increase. There are more life goals to achieve, and you have less and less time to achieve them.
There is more structure to life. You just can’t get up and go for a vacation – those are restricted to the kids’ summer break from school.
Every evening sees you facing up to school activities like art club, and every weekend sees you cheering on your kids’ basketball team. You love your kids and shout GO TIGERS! with all the enthusiasm you can muster. But you can’t just whisk your partner off for a romantic weekend. What if that’s the one weekend your kid scores a 3-pointer?
The length of time you’re in a relationship = the length of time you can’t dedicate to spontaneous passions because of love.
The friction between those two equations will always be what drives long-term couples to boredom – and possible separation.
The good, the bad, and the risky
There’s always one partner that is going to be more mature and responsible than the other. They make sure the kids are where they need to be on time, keep everything ticking over, and pay the bills. For this partner, everything has a time and place. We’ll call this partner The Regulator.
The Regulator is usually the “boring” one, but the household would fall apart without them.
The other partner feels afraid of losing their youthful spark. They do anything they can to escape routine and re-engage with the passions of their youth. They may well be the dreamer of the couple. They haven’t picked up a dishcloth in 3 years, but they provide the excitement and drive of the relationship.
We’ll call this partner The Deprived Thrillseeker. They perceive some kind of loss of freedom and energy in the relationship.
To The Deprived Thrillseeker, the dilemma of living with The Regulator seems terrifying on many levels.
On one level, their partner is doing well, functioning as an adult, and carrying the brunt of the responsibility. But they’re losing their sense of youthful adventure in the process.
That’s mortifying to some people. Where did the wild side go? When did I say goodbye to the person I married 10 years ago? Who is this weird, organized person living in my house?
The next level is the balance between risk and safety. Risk has an addiction and thrill to it – it’s why people go skydiving. But the risks involved in extramarital fooling around will have you skydiving straight from someone else’s pants into a divorce lawyer’s office.
Affairs can be as exciting as falling in love – but that thrill is short-lived and its effects wide-reaching. Is it worth the risk?
The safety factor of being married to The Regulator is also powerful. Stable and grounded partners offer a wonderful, nurturing environment that can nourish The Deprived Thrillseeker and provide a foundation.
Put these ideas together, and you have a big, tasty dilemma: how can you be naughty when your partner is nice?
Do you have to put up and shut up?
You’ve got a responsibility to take a deep dive into your soul and show some self-discipline. For a start, you’re not exactly Madonna or Richard Gere yourself.
Are you as exciting as you once were? Are you as charming and good-looking? Do you have the same libido and energy? Did you take one second to put the selfishness and arrogance aside to realize that maybe they are tolerating you, too?
Maybe The Regulator believes in staying with The Deprived Thrillseeker more than they believe in being in love. It’s no coincidence that there are more love stories in the fiction aisle than the non-fiction section.
Maybe you’re expecting spontaneity a little too late. Life doesn’t work like that – the landscape of every journey changes as time progresses. Similarly, people change and adapt as they fulfill the journey. That doesn’t make it a good idea to sacrifice safety and contentment so that you can relive old urges.
For f*ck’s sake, get a grip.
Why the moaners on Reddit should get over themselves
If you’re reading this, Reddit: f*ck you.
The comments on these Reddit threads are pathetic (or should we say r/pathetic). All these moaners sound like they’re angelic, blameless, and unchanged since their twenties. Meanwhile, their partner has transformed into a hideous beige lump overnight that fills the Redditor with dread.
Just take stock of what you have, look in the mirror, and snap out of it. What is wrong with you, seriously?
Boring sex is one of the most common issues faced by a midlife marriage. But you know what? Everything else seems okay, apart from the usual lumps, twists, and counseling sessions – you know, the sh*t every couple faces.
When was the last time you gave yourself a reality check? Or, y’know, a slap.
Today, everyone tells you to be gentle with yourself, love yourself, and forgive yourself. This is what you wanted. Embrace your choices and move your life forward.
Except – Nope. Not in this case. Not in the f*cking slightest.
Evaluate the sacrifice and price of your actions
You are affecting family members and wrecking the balance you have found over many years. You are eroding your moral core and taking out a huge karmic debt. Grab yourself some lotion or an adult toy, head to the bathroom, and sort yourself out.
Get over this common temptation. You’ll climax after banging a stranger, come back down to Earth, and realize you have to look your partner and children in the eyes again. There has never been a story about an affair that led to a happy ending. But there has been a horror story or two.
Sometimes, it’s good to watch your partner from a distance as they work. Watch their brow furrowed in concentration. You can see the dedication and commitment despite the work being boring.
They don’t have an issue and aren’t making it a big deal because they know the end game supports their whole family. They understand the compromise at play. Would you seriously want to upset that balance? Are you so childish that you need constant stimulation?
Is there such a thing as The One?
Infatuation isn’t the same as love. Long-lasting relationships don’t have to be built on an immediate surge of lust or even a lasting acknowledgment that no one else will do.
The One is fiction, built by growing up with one too many romantic comedy narratives. There are 8 billion people on the planet. There are plenty of individuals with whom you could be happy and settled – none of them will fit the idealized notion of The One, but you can grow together and live a contented life with the partner you have now.
You may well have a close connection with your partner, and they’re the one you have right now – but not The One. There’s no one you were destined to find, just someone you chose to build a life with. But a shared life is easier to build than rebuild. It’s not worth trashing the fragile construction of a collaborative journey to follow hormone-led follies.
Can we only build a happy life with The One?
Plenty of people build romantic connections after their first marriage. Even if they find someone more suitable, neither partner will have been The One.
Also, whoever is The One for you at some time in your life may not be who you need now. Major life events can transform a romantic landscape and show people’s true colors. They might be stunningly attractive, funny, and intelligent, but then bail on you during a cancer diagnosis.
Alternatively, someone you settle for might not seem like the dream partner you always lined up for yourself but can come through for you in unique ways and show true love through personal sacrifice and deep, meaningful companionship.
Team Vippi knows an individual who was married twice. Her first partner was funny, charismatic, and handsome. Women often made passes at him on vacation. They had two kids together and seemed to have an idyllic life.
Except they stopped loving each other after 5 years. The mannerisms and life events that used to bring them together tore them apart. He hated the lists and neurosis. She couldn’t stand his impulse purchases and flirting.
Her second partner was more sedate, less of a looker, and not the type to be sought after by women at all. But he goes out of his way to give her the life she wants and provide meaningful support to her and her (now adult) children with whatever they need.
To judge a lifelong relationship based on “The One” is to see a listing of a home for sale and put down a deposit without visiting the property first.
What you think you’re missing is the excitement of learning someone new. But there’s always more to learn about the partner you have – and rebuilding trust with a new partner is sometimes not as easy.
What if there’s a One Who Got Away?
You might know someone who ticks every box and isn’t the person you built a life with.
They might be an ex with whom things didn’t work out – it could be someone you pined after for years but never approached. It might be that when you were around this person, it wasn’t the right time for a relationship, or the circumstances weren’t ideal for committing to a long-term connection.
Your thoughts might even go there when you’re with your long-term partner. It’s natural to look back and wonder what might’ve been different had you made other choices.
But just as you shouldn’t drop a career to pursue another and jeopardize your family’s security, you should engage with the idea that life is about finding meaning in what we have now, not chiseling out what seems like a perfect life.
That “perfect life” seldom turns out to be what it seemed on the surface. Every “One Who Got Away” has flaws you didn’t know about.
Why relationships change over time – science has a role to play
When you start a new relationship, you experience a flood of hormones that make you horny and excited. Adrenalin, serotonin, and dopamine spike throughout your body giving you the urgency and thrill that can accompany sleeping with someone new.
Over time though, these hormones wear off and get replaced with a new chemical messenger: Oxytocin.
Oxytocin’s nickname is the hug hormone, and for a good reason: it provides more warmth and contentment from slow-burning physical closeness rather than full-on sex. It’s like all of your hormones were Bruce Willis, but at some point during a relationship, they all got replaced by Mr. Rogers.
Can you honestly imagine running on adrenalin your whole life? You’d be constantly drained, you’d fritter your savings away every time you built any up, and your family would never get to have a stable platform.
Tips for finding happiness in a less-than-exciting relationship
We get it. You’ve completed Netflix together, the sex routine has been the same for around a decade, and your brain wants to burn down everything you built and hook up with a younger model.
One of your friends might be newly single and loving their new, exciting life. But, deep down, we’d bet that they’re envious of you, too. Everyone wants what they can’t have. In their case, that’s stability and trust – and you and your partner have it in spades.
A new partner isn’t going to solve anything. What you need is a new perspective.
Do new things together
We don’t just mean “find a new TV show” – yes, you have a routine, but why can’t that routine involve more exciting things?
One member of Team Vippi hasn’t cycled since childhood. But he and his wife rediscovered cycling together during lockdown, and it’s now a part of their everyday routine that they both look forward to. They can feel the wind in their hair and see the world rushing by – most importantly, it makes them feel young again.
Engage in new, wholesome activities that nourish you both – and do it together. Try new food, avoid revisiting the same city twice (unless you love it), and take that hunger for new sensations into the bedroom, too.
There might be one partner who’s more hesitant to venture to pastures new than the other, but that’s why all of these suggestions are pretty mundane – they’re normal enough to feel stable but new enough to add color and spice to your average day.
If you’re getting tired of how “normal” your life has become, just change what “normal” looks like.
Why is excitement the only form happiness can take? Why should stability, comfort, or trust not be the goal?
We get it. Excitement is… well… exciting. The further you get from the carefree, youthful life of random hookups and zero ramifications for your actions, the more you crave those exotic, alien adrenaline bursts.
Feeling excited isn’t the only way to be happy. Plus, you can find excitement in a good page-turner or your child’s adventure through learning French. A little excitement isn’t worth shaking your foundations for.
Instead, close your eyes and embrace the quiet. Enjoy the stability – the fact you know where your family’s next meal and mortgage payment are coming from is remarkable in and of itself. If you can remember a time of extreme anxiety in your life, watch your partner messing up the cake they’re trying to make in the kitchen, smile to yourself, and thank your lucky stars how far away that anxiety is.
And lap up the level of trust you and your partner have built. Trust is such a rare commodity in the 21st century. The fact that you have this level of trust with someone is a phenomenal achievement.
Bored with your spouse isn’t the worst thing to be.
Look at what you’ve built together.
Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither was your family. Think back to the scrappy young lovers who, many moons ago, talked about getting a house together. Maybe what you have isn’t exactly the life you pictured. Maybe there are more kids, fewer pets, and no tire swing in the front yard.
But two people who at one time didn’t know each other at all have constructed a pretty awe-inspiring life together. You’ve got great kids, a robust social circle, a career that keeps you all safe, and an overriding sense of companionship and love.
Don’t only think about what you’ve built – think about what you’ve overcome to finish the job. Couples get through so much as individuals and as a unit throughout their lifetimes. Midlife means you’ve got through a good chunk of that journey. Bask in that achievement instead of pining for something different.
No, your life’s not perfect. Yes, you have your lumps, bumps, and scars – but those are trophies of the battles you’ve fought and won together. All of these achievements are a result of being ‘bored with your spouse’, so do get a grip.
Talk to each other about how you feel.
Your partner should be your confidante and someone you share with.
So if you feel that aspects of spontaneity have trickled out of your life, bring this up with your partner, frickin’ talk to them.
Let’s say you’re The Deprived Thrillseeker, and they’re The Regulator. Do you not think that they, too, might be bored of their role in the driving seat? They constantly manage a million priorities at once, and they know that if they put their feet up for just a second or engage in selfish whims, no one else will be picking up the slack.
Perhaps if you stepped in with some of those responsibilities, they’d feel more freed up to engage in some of the passions they had in earlier life, and your dynamic as a couple would be more robust.
But you’ll only know if you talk to them about how you feel. Maybe you can come up with some rejuvenating ideas as a team.
Change some aspects of your life, or find excitement in other places
You might be projecting onto your relationship from other parts of your life. Sick of your job? Ugh, my partner’s so dull. Terrible work/life balance? Ugh, my partner’s so dull.
Instead of sabotaging your relationship, take a look at other aspects of your life – for example, why do you feel this way about your partner and not the friends you’ve known for 40 years?
Perhaps you need to place your relationship in context. It’s a critical part of your life, yes. But it is just one part of life. Maybe you need to find some new hobbies, look at changing your job, or take joy in exercise and relaxation. Why can’t your relationship provide contentment, trust, and connection, and your tennis games with friends provide the excitement instead?
Don’t forget about sex – but do accept that sex drive changes from time to time, and you might not be in the same place
We know, we know. You want to feel the rush of emotions and hormones you did when you first hooked up.
You still have sexual feelings, but approaching sex differently than you did doesn’t mean it has to be any worse. Just because you have a routine now, and your partner isn’t some random stranger you’re making out with at a bar, it doesn’t mean that your sex is terrible.
Sex with a long-term partner might be better than your random flings of yesteryear. You know each other’s bodies better than you know anyone else’s. Responsibilities get in the way, but you can still make each other climax when you put aside the time.
You should be asking yourself: when was the last time you put in the effort? When did you last wear your best clothes just for your partner, set time aside, and make them feel special? When did you last make them a candlelit dinner? When did you last genuinely compliment the way they look? Being bored with your spouse is possibly because you have become a boring spouse yourself.
If you genuinely don’t have an answer to this question, that’s 90% of the problem. Don’t forget that your partner needs to connect with you sexually. You’ll have obstacles, sure – and it’ll never be the same as it was. But you need to embrace your life the way it is now.
Your hunt for excitement is understandable – midlife marriages can be boring, sometimes. Being bored with your spouse is a common feeling in midlife. Making rash decisions is not. What you have to do is find enjoyment in every day, appreciate the trust and connection you’ve built over time, and realize that excitement isn’t always the end goal.
Many couples go their separate ways because one partner got too wrapped in memories of how life used to be. Embrace midlife’s unique qualities. The pressures and joys are different. You may have to tilt your head a little to spot them – but make sure you do.
Team Vippi believes this: The reward is massive as long as you can find perspective on what you already have.
Felman, A. (2020). Why your relationship changes over time. https://greatist.com/live/relationship-changes-over-time
Oxytocin. (2020). https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/oxytocin/