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Boredom In Relationships with Boredom Researcher (but exciting guest), James Danckert | Ep 36

Where does boredom come from? What can you do when you start to feel bored in your relationship? What can boredom teach you about yourself? In this podcast episode, Dr. Susan Orenstein does an Interview with James Danckert, Boredom Researcher, but Exciting Guest.


James trained as a Clinical Neuropsychologist in Australia before moving to Canada for my Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cognitive Neuroscience. He took up a Canada Research Chair at the University of Waterloo in 2002, where he currently works. His research interests are in boredom, attention, and mental model updating.

Connect with James on Twitter or visit his Website. See also his Google Scholar page.



  • What triggers a sense of boredom
  • Boredom in relationships
  • How can you benefit from boredom?


In the current research, two main factors that can create a sense of boredom in people are:

  • Monotony: People do crave a variety of changes, and having things always be the same can cause us to stagnate and become frustrated because variety is a part of life.

Monotony in boredom is also derived from a lack of meaning when people do not feel that what they are doing has a purpose or brings meaning into their day.

  • Agency: Having a sense of agency and choosing to do the task before us helps people to feel that what they are doing is meaningful.

However, when we are required to complete a task outside of what we want to do, that lack of agency can trigger a sense of boredom.

The activity itself doesn’t matter, but that we chose to do it and that we effectively executed that action gives us a good sense of agency, and when we’re bored we’re lacking that sense. (James Danckert) 


There is a balance between seeking variety and being secure in a routine. Having variety in your relationship with your partner is important, but having your relationship depend on variety for its success is too extreme, and potentially unhealthy.

This is the same on the other end of the spectrum, where your relationship’s success is dependent on a strict regime that cannot change.

You’re trying to strike a balance between that kind of comfort and security and knowledge that you have each other’s back … and the sense that you’re not stagnating, that you are doing some things together. (James Danckert)

When people feel like they are stagnating in their relationship, most people will do one or two things. They may:

  • Seek out novel experiences to do together, adventure-seeking or trying something new
  • Go towards more secure and comfort-based things such as doing something that you always used to do together.


Perhaps one of the things we need to do most when we’re thinking about people we might be attracted to or not attracted to is to actually first reflect on who we are. (James Danckert)

Boredom can be a powerful motivator. A relationship cannot work if both people are dependent on one person to be the personality in the relationship.

You need to bring your vitality, energy, goals, and ambitions to the table to give the relationship variation, and then start the work of combining those sets of interests and encouraging interpersonal growth.

Boredom is really pushing you to figure out what goals are important in your life, and that in turn is going to force you to face … “who am I” and “what is important to me”? (James Danckert)

If someone is prone to boredom, they may be self-centered and not concerned with the other person in the room. When you are interested in someone, you have to do the hard work of listening to them to see what they have to offer.

  • Either they may be boring because they are self-centered
  • Or you may be bored because you are not fully engaging with them.

You need to decide, beyond a superficial idea of them, if you feel they are a good fit for you or not.


BOOK | James Danckert and John D. Eastwood – Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom

BOOK | Christopher Burney – Solitary Confinement


About your host:

Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Orenstein is a licensed psychologist and relationship expert  with over twenty years of experience. In 2005, she founded Orenstein Solutions, a private counseling practice in North Carolina that serves children, teens, adults and couples. 

She created the After the First Marriage Podcast to support individuals through the significant life transition of divorce. She whole-heartedly believes that “happily ever after” is an option for everyone, and is dedicated to helping divorcées regain the confidence to pursue a fulfilling future after the first marriage. 

Whether you listen to the podcast, join the Facebook community, or follow along on Twitter,  you’re in the right place!

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