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Boredom Can Badly Hurt Family Life

November 23, 1989|MARY JO KOCHAKIAN | THE HARTFORD COURANT

No, it doesn't flatten you like a divorce or a death in the family. But boredom with family life is an insidious problem--and ignoring it can have unpleasant consequences.

"In terms of the happiness and pleasure of the family, and good will in the family, (boredom) really can create havoc," says Milton Schwebel, professor emeritus of psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Typically, family members begin to avoid one another, following pursuits that put even more distance between them. Alienated people often create "family defense mechanisms--people love each other, they want to be together, but are having trouble when they're together. They get angry, irritable and they find a way of being apart," Schwebel says. For example, a parent might become overly involved in work or fitness.

"The other bad consequence is that kids become irritable and fight, and then the parents get involved and the parents get irritable, and they start fighting," he says.

Such a situation is bad enough to be considered a crisis by Schwebel and four other Schwebels. Three psychologists and two educators, together they wrote "A Guide to a Happier Family: Overcoming the Anger, Frustration and Boredom That Destroy Family Life" (Jeremy P. Tarcher, $17.95).

Couples who once truly enjoyed time together often in later married life seem hopelessly tied to routine. Schwebel advises them to figure out when they stopped having fun and work on what they used to have.

In all cases, the bored will have to get to work. Prepare a list of possible activities--let it run into hundreds of suggestions, Schwebel says. Narrow the list to five or 10, taking children's interests into account. But don't choose competitive activities. Couples who decide to play against each other in tennis are not going to have heartwarming moments on the court.

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