How to End Boredom at Home Without Resorting to Anything Too Weird

How does a couple get past mutual boredom? Behavioral economist Dan Ariely suggests they reframe their perception of the dilemma.

Dan Ariely: Somebody asked me about boredom in their lives. So this was a woman that said her husband works out of the home; she works from home. Every day he shows up and they say, "What are we going to do tonight?" And she said they've gone to every restaurant in the near vicinity multiple times. They know the menu by heart. They can't find anything exciting to do that they agree on and because of that they either end up watching TV, which they both don't like, or they go to one of the restaurants that they've been to too many times.

So think about this question and say, "OK, it's not just about husband and wife." I said look, if we take a step back and we think about what this question is all about, it's a question about finding mutual solutions, a mutual solution. You have two parties and the two parties are trying to find something now that would be better than every restaurant or TV, but you don't seem to find that. You don't have something that you both enjoy more than something else that comes easily to mind. So what happens is you do nothing interesting. So I said, "What if we changed this problem from a simultaneous solution to a sequential solution? What if instead of looking every day for something that you both enjoy, why don't you look for something that at least one of you really loves? Maybe it would not maximize your mutual happiness every day, but every other day one of you would get to do something that you really enjoy." So imagine, for example, that I have one set of preferences and you have different preferences. In the simultaneous solution, we're looking for something that we would both like more than TV, but if that thing doesn't exist, is TV always the right thing to do or should we one time go ballroom dancing, which is something you really love and sometimes go to a book club, which is something I really love? And each of us would not be as happy on that particular day when the other person's preferences is coming about, but together we will do more fun things.

And then on top of that I said, "Add some random experiences into the pile." Life is about trying new things and certainly often we settle way too early. We try some things. We find some things that we like, but we stop exploring. We don't try lots of different things. We don't try lots of new things because of loss aversion, because if the idea that if something is good, it's great, but if something is miserable, it's really unhappy. We really lose lots of happiness. But I suggest that what you should do is put some things in there that you don't know if you'll enjoy or not enjoy — pottery classes. Things that you have no idea from time to time you might have a miserable night and maybe laugh at it, but from time to time it might be really fantastic.

How does a couple get past mutual boredom? Behavioral economist Dan Ariely suggests they reframe their search for solutions. Instead of fruitlessly seeking out activities they both enjoy, a simultaneous solution, they can instead aim to satisfy one party on day one and the other on day two — a sequential solution. Like many problems in life, the solution to domestic boredom may very well be to rethink the question.

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