Jen Juneau
February 23, 2016 10:13 am
Universal Pictures

Boredom is a universal feeling — and one that we probably all agree isn’t a great one. Feeling bored can be frustrating: You know you want to be doing something, but you’re just not sure what. And in the case of a romantic partnership, we’ve been conditioned to assume being bored is a bad sign.

But according to The Wall Street Journal, researchers from the U.S., Germany, and Canada have discovered that boredom isn’t that simple. In fact, there are five different types of boredom, and each type can signal something very different as far as what you’re looking for deep down.

Boredom Type 1: Indifferent Boredom

This is something we all know well: the type of boredom when we’re tired and just not really engaged in what’s going on around us, like at a happy hour after a long work day when all we really want to be doing is lounging in our jammies and catching up on The Mindy Project.

Boredom Type 2: Calibrating Boredom

The type of boredom that you feel when you’re actively looking for something more interesting to happen is called calibrating boredom. This is the kind of boredom we experience when we look around at a party to see who is there, or what opportunities there are aside from X, Y, and Z boring thing going on in the living room.

Boredom Type 3: Searching Boredom

Searching boredom is kind of like Calibrating Boredom, but at the next level. If you’re at that party and feel physically annoyed to the point where you’re playing around on your phone the whole time or you could easily be saying “I’m bored” out loud, Searching Boredom has set in.

Boredom Type 4: Reactant Boredom

Again, this is a step further than the previous type of Searching Boredom. In this case, someone has annoyed you so much that you might become aggressively reactant. Anyone else thinking of the times they’ve cleared their throats loudly due to that coworker who continues to ask questions when the end time of a meeting has already passed, or is it just me?

Boredom Type 5: Apathetic Boredom

This is the scariest type of boredom, in my opinion—the kind of boredom where you just don’t care anymore, and it’s the most difficult to take action regarding. This is the kind of boredom that is most associated with depression and the general feeling of hopelessness.

Thomas Goetz, the lead researcher on the team that defined these five different types of boredom, told The Wall Street Journal that, “Boredom is a signal that something is wrong and we need to change things.” This is great news for those of us who have, until now, used it as an excuse to wallow in the void boredom has left and just blame it on the emotion itself. By monitoring your physical behaviors and asking yourself a few questions, you can determine which type of boredom you’re feeling, and then take appropriate action.

But how does knowing about these different types of boredom play into our romantic relationships? Well, if you’re feeling bored, now you have a toolbox with which to assess your feelings. You can use the different boredom types to pinpoint exactly how bored you are, then decide what the right course of action is. Maybe it’s as simple as switching up date nights with your partner (e.g., trying a new restaurant or bar together). But it could be a little more serious—for example, if you’re feeling Reactant or Apathetic Boredom, you might want to consider couples counseling to work through your feelings about the relationship.

According to New York-based marriage and family therapist Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, if you’re feeling bored in your partnership, it’s a good idea to keep track of the specific events that make you feel that way, whether they be when you hang out with specific other couples together or when your significant other starts listing off the bad things that happened at work that day. O’Neill also points out that you should never blame your partner for the problem, but instead bring up the issue gently in case they are blindsided or hurt by your feelings.

You can read more about the study here, and join us in our feelings of relief that boredom is now an opportunity for positive change in our relationships. Because science says so.

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