Relationship Needs: Balancing Sameness and Change

Gina has been feeling pretty bored for the last couple of months, even in her marriage to Paul. But she’s not worried—it turns out that she knows exactly what to do to address the boredom. “I’m the type of person who can feel stuck if I don’t change my routine, especially if Paul and I fall into the same routines week after week.”

Relationship Needs: The Need for Sameness and Change

Like all of us, Gina has emotional needs, and if those needs go unmet for an extended period of time, they will cause her to feel like something isn’t working in her life or relationship. In this instance, the need that requires attention is the need for novelty, and she can begin to meet that need by introducing change into her routines with her husband.

However, with that said, keep in mind that routines themselves are still important. Let’s look at the flip side of novelty:

The need for sameness (familiarity) helps us feel grounded and emotionally safe. This is clearly an important need, and couples should be attuned to the routines that create a stable foundation in their marriage/relationship.  The benefits of familiarity can be summarized as:

Sameness => predictable/stable routines => increased sense of control & emotional safety.

And the opposing need for change (for novelty) is just as important for many couples. Novelty prevents relationship ruts from developing and infuses your relationship with new energy and life. Shared novelty facilitates self-growth, relationship-growth, and creates a sense of play and adventure that can strengthen your marriage/relationship. The benefits of novelty can be summarized as:

Change => infusion of new energy => increased emotional stimulation and connection.

Each person’s need for sameness/change is different—you might need more change in your relationship routines than your spouse/partner. The important point to remember is that if you’re feeling bored and antsy in your marriage/relationship, what might be needed is for you and your partner to introduce a little novelty into the relationship.

So what worked for Gina and Paul?

They committed to going to a new exhibit at their local museum (something Gina loves), to hike together at least twice a month (something Paul loves), and to prepare a new dish or try a new dish at a restaurant once a month (something they both love).

What do you think will work for your relationship?

Until next time,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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