At 23, I thought I was entering into marriage without any veils of illusion or idealism, understanding that love runs far deeper than emotion. Yet there’s an undyingly romantic part of my heart that still expected married life would be a constant adventure.
I found myself surprised, then, when several months into our vocation my husband and I both found ourselves...restless. We were far from family and seeking community, eating similar meals each week, watching The Office every night. Even as we savored the newlywed days of discovering what our life together would look like, we searched for a sense of direction.
We craved routine, but didn’t want to be bored. We knew we weren’t one another’s ultimate earthly fulfillment, yet still desired to feel fulfilled.
Have you experienced a relationship rut like this? Maybe your own sense of restlessness has looked like mine, in the form of seeking more variety in your newlywed life after the activity-filled periods of your wedding planning and honeymoon. Maybe it’s a lack of quality time together in seasons of travel, deployment, or new parenthood.
While I can attest to the benefits of resisting idleness, pursuing new hobbies together, and establishing meaningful morning and bedtime routines, I also encourage you not to push your restlessness aside, eager to fill it and move on. Instead, lean into your sense of hunger. Ask yourself why that sense has taken root.
In my experience, Saint Augustine’s famous words that only in the Lord do we find true rest are the reason I ache. A longing for the Lord--the source of all beauty, fulfillment, joy, adventure--is why I find myself particularly unsatisfied on the days I don’t pray, the days I can’t stop the social media scroll, the days I selfishly prioritize myself over my husband and children.
It’s good to shake up my routines, to seek new pursuits that make my mind and soul come alive, to create a sense of order within my day. Yet I remind myself these goods can become distractions if I forget they’re rooted in who I am: a person, willed out of love and made for more than this world.
When this deepest truth of my identity gets pushed aside for worldly things, that’s when boredom and restlessness settle in. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “this aspiration in the human heart is indelible...the thirst for the infinite that dwells in men and women is not slaked. Instead a frantic, sterile search for ‘false infinites’ begins, that can satisfy them at least for a moment...We must uproot all the false promises of the infinite that seduce men and women and enslave people. Truly to rediscover ourselves and our identity, to live our dignity, we must return to recognizing that we are creatures, dependent on God. The possibility of a truly free and full life is linked to recognizing this dependence — which in our inmost depths is the joyous discovery of being God’s children.”
In those early days of marriage as my husband and I struggled against what felt like the mundane, the Father, in his loving grace, gently drew our focus back to him. I felt a pull on my heart to invite him into my daily tasks and maintain a dialogue of prayer throughout the day; truly, this practice began to center me. My husband and I began attending weekly Adoration hours and gradually became involved in ministries and relationships at our parish.
We found when we followed through on commitments related to our personal holiness and worked on developing a shared spiritual life, the restlessness faded into the background. We felt more alive in our marriage and our daily responsibilities. At the same time, everyday rituals and hobbies came more easily and organically; there was less Netflix scrolling and more seeking beauty, more long walks to explore our new state, more literature, more putting our phones away.
What’s more, the mundane suddenly didn’t seem so difficult. Daily prayer and a sense of intention in our actions brought a new sense of contentment and purpose to laundry, dishes, and errands. Even less-fun tasks felt more meaningful when I stopped to remind myself that this, a shared life with a man who cherished and sanctified me, was what I always dreamed of.
I still recall this sentiment several years later, as our daily lives are heavily focused on raising our young children. These are the days I prayed for; may I not lose sight of these gifts.
Boredom, I now realize, is the Lord urging us to return our gaze to him.
The parable of the Prodigal Son comes to mind when we find ourselves in a rut: it is a hunger, an ache for more, that leads him to seek that which is away from God. Ultimately, it is that same hunger that brings him home, back to rejoicing and to the true feast.
If your own current season feels aimless, restless, or boring, I encourage you to sit for a moment in your feelings. Embrace quiet or discomfort, and listen for the Father’s voice. What is it he is calling you to?