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The Maui Syndrome

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

Human beings have great adaptive abilities. We’ve evolved to adapt. This is good news for humans, but it can be a bit tricky for relationships. I call this adaptive ability the Maui Syndrome. We acclimate and habituate as an important part of our survival. But there is a down side to this adaptive ability. It's called boredom.

Let me share an experience with you that will help you understand how this adaptive ability can negatively impact your relationship.

I was hired to speak for a training in Maui. I had never been to Hawaii before and I was thrilled. I was staying at the Hyatt Regency and at the time some 30 years ago, it was considered one of the most beautiful hotels in the world. I am sure it still is. When I checked in I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Maui and the hotel. I put my bags in my room and decided to take a walk along the beach at sunset. I stood there feeling the sand on my bare feet, feeling the gentle breeze kiss my cheek, hearing the waves roll in and out. It was heaven on earth. As I wiped the tears of wonder and appreciation from my cheek, I felt altered, alive and bursting with the deepest appreciation and awe.

A few days into my trip, I went shopping. There was a t-shirt store with all of the different sayings and pictures showcased on the wall. I asked the owner of the store, "What is it like to live in paradise?" He pointed to a t-shirt on the wall that read, Just another shitty day in paradise. What? I thought. How could he not see how truly blessed he was to live in such an amazingly beautiful place?

I was there for a week. At the end of the week I was standing on the same beach, same sand, same waves, same palm trees dancing beautifully and yet I wasn't teary eyed like I was the day I arrived. I was stunned that in seven short days, I too had acclimated to the overwhelming beauty before me. This is a perfect metaphor for what happens to people when they fall in love. In the beginning we can barely catch our breath. We are thrilled, excited and overwhelmed with gladness. But then what happens to our awe?

Early on, relationships are easy—that is the magic of infatuation. In those beginning stages, just like me arriving in Maui, everything about your partner is new and exciting. Everything they say is cute or endearing. Their stories are fascinating, their jokes are funny. Your time spent together is fun and enjoyable, merely because you’re with them. We are happy, thrilled and energetic.

Why don't those feelings don’t last forever? Well, life happens. Work, obligations, life stressors and kids begin taking more and more of our energy. As the months and years fly past, relationship excitement not only erodes, but our energy and focus diminish and then the early magic seems to disappear. You can feel stuck in a rut. Instead of energetic and happy, you feel tired and bored.

As we learn more about our relationship partner, there are fewer opportunities to learn new things. As we fall into routines, there’s less excitement. The excitement we feel early on in any experience dissipates over time. We can begin to feel that we are living just another shitty day in paradise.

So what can we do to combat the Maui Syndrome? It is simple really, you must allow yourself to remember how you felt when you first fell in love. Don't acclimate to the wonders of your spouse, remember them. Don't take the person you love for granted, appreciate them. It is easy to get lost in frustrations over small irritations and lose sight of the bigger picture. Only you can choose to remember all that awed you about your partner, and allow it to awe you all over again.

Relationship and personality expert Dawn L. Billings is

the author and architect of the Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests and Insight Tools and the inventor of the patented parenting tool for toddlers called CAPABLES.

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