If you’re in a long-term, committed relationship, chances are you know your partner super well. Like, I can finish their sentences well. This is not a bad thing—a stable, healthy relationship is one that’s built on mutual understanding and trust. But according to positive psychiatrist Samantha Boardman, M.D., author of Everyday Vitality, this predictability can breed boredom, sometimes even resentment: “We have this almost conceit that we know exactly how they’re going to behave in a given situation,” she says on the mindbodygreen podcast.
To remedy the situation and reignite the butterflies, she recommends seeing your partner as “unknowable.” Allow her to explain.
Why you should view your partner as “unknowable.”
She cites research from psychologist Ellen Langer, Ph.D., who studies mindfulness and marital satisfaction: “[Langer] says, ‘Nobody has ever come to me after 50 years of marriage and said I’m bored of my dog, or I’m bored of my plant, or I’m bored of my kid,'” Boardman recounts.
But for some reason, we can feel “bored” with a long-term partner; according to Boardman (and Langer), that may be because we have an expectation of change for dogs, plants, children, etc. But for our partners? Eh, not so much. When you’re incredibly close to somebody, you may think you know them inside and out—and maybe you do!—but this notion can sometimes close the door on the possibility for change.
“There’s some beauty in accepting the ‘unknowableness’ of somebody and priming yourself to look for what’s different about that person rather than retreating into, ‘I know what they’re going to do, I know the end of this movie,'” Boardman says. “Instead of looking for what you know, look for something that’s different about them in some way.”
Of course, it’s important to accept and love your partner for who they are; and you don’t want to make them feel like they have to change, either. It’s about shifting your own perspective, says Boardman: Try to view your partner as an evolving human being with the possibility of change (because they are) rather than predicting exactly what they’re going to do or say. Chances are, you’ll actually learn something new.
According to Boardman, the way to never feel bored in your relationship is to actually change your own mindset—stable relationships are healthy, but don’t subconsciously put them in a box of predictability. By embracing their ability to change and evolve, perhaps you can keep those “new relationship” flutters alive.