The secret of love is seeking variety in your life together, and never letting routine chords dull the melody of your romance
Have you ever been in a job or relationship where you have been totally certain that you could do it forever? And then suddenly you got bored? Did you ‘play’ with it to make it more fun? Lots of people do!
Doing the same things over and over again can be boring and people are willing to do a lot to feel lively. Sometimes they will even do things that are harmful for them.
Variety and certainty are very much connected to each other. They sit on either side of a scale that needs to be in constant balance. When we have too much certainty we reach a level where we are running on automatic. We look for a change to break up the monotony and bring some interest.
People are willing to do a lot of things to bring change and interest into their lives. Some changes will be positive, like innovating and creating new things, while others will be destructive, like having an affair. Remember, variety is a basic need. It gives us a kind of small panic attack that overrides everything else, even the things we claim are most important to us.
The problem with seeking variety is that when things change too much or too often, we reach an overwhelmed state. This is what happens to kids in the long summer break. They go to school every day and ache for the summer holiday so they can have something different to do. When the holidays come, they have no stability. They are not sure what will happen tomorrow and they want to go back to the stability of school, where they do not have to think about how to keep themselves entertained.
I know I juggle between my need for variety and my need for certainty. I have a strong need to be creative. In my work, I am always creating new projects and teaching plans (which is high variety). Every once in a while I find myself wishing I could have a regular job, where I go to work in the morning, do my thing, and come home at 5 (which is a need for certainly). In actual fact, I do not really want a regular job. I wish for it sometimes, just for a few seconds. This is usually a sign for me that I need some stability, something that will be easy and not changing too much.
A relationship is a constant balancing act between variety and certainty. That is why many relationships breakdown. After a period of excitement (high variety), the partners seek stability. They move in together or get married. At some stage they slide into a very routine life (certainty), which after a time becomes so boring they want to do something exciting to spice up their love life. This is when finding someone new, leaving the relationship, having an affair or even one night stands seem very attractive.
It is important to recognize that when you overcompensate for one need, the other one gets pushed off balance. Every person has his/her own point of balance. What seems out of balance for some may be in perfect balance for others. For example, Gal and I traveled the world with our kids. As the eldest, Eden traveled the most and changed many schools. We lived in many countries and moved houses so many times that people around us thought that we were completely out of balance.
Our variety was so high that we had no certainty in our lifestyle. We drew certainty from our relationships and our strong financial status. We believed that as long as we had each other and could pay for our travels we had enough certainty. Our need for variety was very high and we could gain certainty from small acts or even beliefs and thoughts. Despite our happiness in traveling, we know that not everyone considers this “balanced”.
Here are some examples of things people do to gain variety:
Read books – Reading books is a great way to immerse yourself in a new world that is constantly changing. You have no control over what the characters do or how the plot will evolve. Reading is a big surprise that every reader enters into and willingly lets go of certainty.
Drink alcohol at parties, special occasions or to open up – Some people feel very excited when they drink alcohol as a way to celebrate and change their routine. For some, it helps to open up and be more funny and adventurous. (Please note that being addicted to alcohol is not a means to gain variety, but more of a need for certainty).
Take a holiday – Time off is very important and for some people even essential in order to fulfill the need for variety. It is a great and healthy way to break away from the routine and inject some interest and excitement into life. It is similar to charging batteries. It is a good idea to schedule it ahead of time, so that people do not need to search for excitement elsewhere.
One night stands/visiting a “professional”/having an affair – When people find variety in a healthy way, they do not need to look for it in ways that get them into trouble. One night stands or having affairs are quick ways to bring excitement but perhaps troublesome in the long run. When people’s need for variety reaches a critical point, they will do anything to find excitement, even if it overrides their highest values of family, trust and loyalty.
Shopping – Shopping is another way to get something new into life. It fulfills the need for variety and generally is enough in and of itself to fulfill this need. Sadly, when the thing you bought is not new anymore, it becomes boring. It no longer gives you the excitement of the purchase. A good way to figure out if you use shopping well to fulfill your need for variety is to measure how long the new purchase still excites you. If it lasts 2-3 month, this is great. If it lasts 2-3 week, it will get you to a stage where your wardrobe as an example, will be so full it will be harder to chose what to wear.
Hobbies are great way to make life interesting. If you have a job that you go to every day, hobbies are great to break the routine. Any hobby that makes you happy can be a great addition to your daily routine. It can be sport, art, music, dance or anything that makes you happy. Hobbies can be passive or active. You can watch sport or do sport as a hobby. You can watch art or do art, play music or watch others playing music.
Gossip is away people use to gain some excitement. It can be detrimental at times but works can be effective for some people. In this instance, I would classify gossip as when you talk about someone when they are not present, sometimes in a negative way. It serves some emotional benefits that give the illusion of strength. Sadly, gossip overrides the value of friendship.
Go to the movies – Like reading bookings, watching a movie allows you to experience something without having to physically participate in it. It stimulates the mind with new thoughts and ideas. Going out to the movies adds even more variety than watching at home because you get a change of scenery from home to the big movie screen. Gal and I have been feeding our need for variety for 24 years (since Eden was born) by going on a movie date once a week. It is still pretty exciting for us.
Gambling – If you ask a gambler why they gamble, they will tell you it is the excitement that is addicting. Gambling is a game that the mind plays with imaginary wealth. The excitement of imagining future riches is so strong and real that it overrides any values of stability, family or trust.
Learning something new is one of the best ways to make life varied and interesting. Learning introduced new things to the brain. People who constantly learn stimulate the brain cells so they keep working. It is a great way to combat memory loss. Regardless of whether you can master a new skill, if we always have a learning goal, we will be able to fulfill our variety need.
Starting a fight – Have you ever seen someone start a fight for no reason and thought, “Don’t you have better things to do?” Well, this is can be the perfect example of being bored and trying to spice things up. Some people are really bored and fighting challenges and stimulates them. This can be a dangerous way to get variety.
Renovating – Apart from the desire to increase the value of the house, renovating is a wonderful way to bring change and excitement. The longer the excitements last, the better the renovation was. We got a new kitchen about 10 month ago, and we still call it the new kitchen today. We are grateful for it every day. Renovating does not need to be expensive. It can be a simple spring cleaning week. I came up with a few simple things to do in the house that fulfills by need for variety. I bought different table clothes for our dining room table and I them every 2-3 weeks. Our dining area is big and spacious so from time to time I change the position of our dining table. It is just enough to give me a feeling of freshness and newness. It costs nothing at all.
Taking drugs – For some people, taking drugs allows them to do and feel things they would not have otherwise experienced. Again, the addiction is for the feeling interest the drugs bring. (Keep in mind that some people take drugs for the opposite reason – to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed. It gives them a sense of certainty and control. They know exactly how it will make them feel and perhaps helps them ignore other feelings they do not want to deal with.)
The battle between certainty and variety is part of life and we all need to find our own, individual balance point. People will violate their values in order to have their needs met. We have to make sure we fulfill our needs so that we control our behavior rather than allow our needs to control us.
Join me next time for an explanation of the need for significance.
Until then, be happy!
This post is part of the series Six Human Needs: