“I’m bored with him.”
A young woman came to me with a question: “I keep wondering if I’m settling for less by staying with my boyfriend.”
“What’s wrong with him?” I asked.
”He’s boring. We never do anything together anymore.”
When I asked her to define ‘boring’ for me, she described a man who seemed totally engaged with life. He loved his new job. He had good friends. He played basketball every Saturday. He worked on stained glass projects at night.
What struck me about all this was that all of her boyfriend’s excitement came from activities that didn’t involve her. I had no doubt my client bored, but I wasn’t ready to sign on to the idea that her boyfriend was boring.
”What ever happened to the Salsa class you guys were taking?”
”John loved it, but I didn’t like having to change partners all the time. It made me uncomfortable.”
”And didn’t you guys join some hiking group when you moved here? I thought that might be a good way for you to meet people.”
”Yes, but I couldn’t stand the guy in charge. John thought he was great, but I thought he was a complete control freak.”
The more my client talked, the clearer it became that John wasn’t the problem. He was neither bored with his life nor boring as a partner. She was. And while John continued to do things that made him happy, she had fallen into a slump. This is what’s called “projection.”
”What have you done lately to enliven your relationship, or your life, for that matter? Are you doing anything that brings you joy?”
At that point, the “problem with John” became clear: He was interested in everything, and she was pretty miserable.
All the things he loved, she resented. She hated her job. She hated being far from her family. She hated herself for ever agreeing to move to Chicago when John got a job he couldn’t pass up.
Once my client stopped projecting her boredom onto her boyfriend, she was able to get unstuck. She immediately talked to John about her unhappiness, and they started working together on a plan to move back to Iowa, a place they both loved where most of their friends and families lived.
As it turned out, John was resenting her, too. The person he used to laugh with had become someone who refused to do anything he suggested.
The moral of the story is simple. Before you label someone else boring or self-absorbed, be honest with yourself. Is that person really boring or self-absorbed, or have you lost the feeling of aliveness in yourself because you’ve been out of touch, unhappy, or neglectful of your own needs?