The Secret Pleasures of a Boring Relationship

Love and Sex

The Secret Pleasures of a Boring Relationship

Illustration: Sushant Ahire/Arré

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I sat in our living room on Saturday evening, debating our options for the evening. Should we go watch Justice League, against the advice of all our friends? Or maybe we should head to a club in Bandra, where some UK DJ with an unpronounceable name would be playing a set until 3am?

There was a third option that both of us were secretly hoping for — staying in for another binge-watch of The Office — but we were afraid of voicing it. An unspoken fear stopped us both; the fear of coming across as what is probably the worst thing to be in a long-term, committed relationship: Boring. Old couples sat at home and did supposedly uninteresting things like watching re-runs. Not able-bodied and hot-blooded 26-year-olds like us, neophiles constantly in search of their fix of novelty.

But maybe there is a case to be made for boredom. In a world that constantly and consistently prioritises the new, and shuns the old and snarks upon the repeated, maybe there is a wisdom in growing bored together.

Most relationship advice articles will tell you that boredom is the death knell of a relationship, the silent cancer of the world of romance. That is probably true too — if your relationship is a rom-com, and you’re Channing Tatum and your partner Emma Stone. But if life were anything like the movies, underdogs would always win, the jock would fall for the nerdy girl at the end of term, and I would be Batman.

Sadly, however, these are the cards that you’ve been dealt. And boredom has a significant role to play in our relationships.

I realised this that Saturday. My girlfriend and I finally caved in to some imaginary peer pressure and went to the Bandra club where we were stuck in a crowd of overdressed, underworked college students. My girlfriend stood in front of me, but was unable to so much as turn around to get a word in edgeways, for the press of humans around us. Clearly, the people dancing around us were overjoyed to be there, but we discovered our bliss 24 hours later. Sunday evening became the date for our The Office marathon. We didn’t have the borrowed excitement of clubbers around us, but we had an enviable level of comfort. In that moment, boredom was bliss.

It’s not something that seems evident at first, because who wants to deal with being bored? I have access to the World Wide Web and anything I want to read about through my phone in my pocket, everyone I know wants to update me with the details of their lives through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, and I have plans to go for a stand-up show, a gig, and a pop-up flea market this weekend.

With so much happening, why would I seek out boredom? The answer lies in that sinking feeling you get when an agreed-upon plan inches closer, and you’re forced to honour the commitment to have fun you made when you were in the supposedly consequences-free world of Facebook Messenger. The plans to go paintball, go-karting, or bungee jumping, instead of being liberating activities, begin to feel constrictive.

Because, none of this is actually fun beyond a point. It’s exhausting to keep up, the pressure to be cool, and with it, and switched on all the friggin’ time.

If doing the same things over and over equals boredom, then boredom must also equal comfort.

In contrast, boredom is minus pressure and free-flowing. The decision to be bored with someone is what gives me the time to leave handwritten notes to my girlfriend on individual leaves of our rolling papers. When my girlfriend is bored, she makes us both delicious French toast with honey. I’ve lived off the fruits of boredom ever since we moved in together without even realising it. The penny dropped when I read about the same idea put forth in this Wall Street Journal article, titled “Why a Little Boredom Could Be Good for Your Relationship”. Being bored, posits the piece, can spur creative ways to connect between couples.

Too often, especially in this age of social media, we judge relationships not by how compatible two people are, but by how many Insta-worthy moments they’ve had. So conditioned we are to accept spontaneity — running through airports, showing up under someone’s window to serenade them — as a sign of true love, that it leaves no room for the actual little things.

Sometimes, excitement needs to step aside for comfort. It’s impossible to live your life bouncing from one thrilling experience to the next, so you need someone who makes those boring periods in between even more thrilling. And if doing the same things over and over equals boredom, then boredom must also equal comfort.

When you live with your partner, as I do, it becomes even more important. Yes, we look forwards to weekend trips and going out for drinks together, but there’s also enjoyment in doing nothing at all: Coming home from our jobs, ordering pizza, and watching a movie together wordlessly.

We don’t even realise it, but most of the time our relationships end in a moment of silence: The empty sound of a couple tapping away at their phones because they’ve got nothing to talk about, or maybe the oppressive quiet in a parked car after a huge argument when neither party knows what to say to comfort the other.

And then there is a different kind of silence, one that doesn’t need to be broken with an awkward conversation-starter, a petty story, or a half-hearted suggestion to go out somewhere. You know the person you’re sharing this silence with is happy with you, and you with them, and you both don’t need an external stimulus to keep you invested in your relationship. That’s a moment of bliss, and it can only be found by couples who allow themselves to be bored, together.

To know more about the writer’s journey, you can listen to the Audible Original, Ae Dil Hai Complicated, a 24-part audio series based on real-life stories, hosted by Neena Gupta. The episodes are available on the Audible Suno app.