do relationships have an expiration date?

Fact or Fiction: Are Relationships Affected by a Seven-Year Itch?

The seven year itch is the popular belief—sometimes quoted by psychologists—that happiness declines significantly about seven years into a marriage. But is it fact or fiction? Is the seven year itch a real threat to marriage longevity or just a popular culture myth that we’ve all come to believe is true?

It seems statistics do in fact back up the theory of the seven year itch. The median length for a marriage to end in divorce is 7.6 years according to the National Vital Statistics System.

(By the way, most divorce filings are made in January, as the holidays can be tough on relationships. Instead of letting the holiday stress get to you, download and try Relish for relationship resources insight quizzes, thoughtful date nights, and texting with your personal coach to get you through to the new year!)

Psychologists say there are key two points in a marriage where it is common for couples to report big dips in relationship satisfaction. The first is around the first or second year of marriage. This makes sense: the excitement of planning a wedding is over and the honeymoon period has come and gone. If couples make it past this hump, they are in for another period of smooth sailing until about the seven year point. The stress of raising a family, dealing with ailing parents, changing jobs, or just some sense of monotony can make couples feel a little...itchy.

While statistics about married people support the concept of the seven year itch, unmarried couples in long-term committed relationships aren’t immune to waning passions around the seven year mark either. (In other words: marriage isn’t the issue here, it’s simply a matter of time.)

It’s not that some curse befalls all relationships on the seven year anniversary. The seven year itch isn’t inevitable, it’s just that relationships require care and attention to survive, but often working on our relationship sinks to the bottom of our priority lists when more immediate and pressing issues require our attention.

The best way to prevent the seven year itch from taking hold is to get on top of it before anyone feels the urge to scratch. If you are experiencing a seven year itch (or a two, four, or seventeen year itch…) don’t panic, know that you are not alone and that waning enthusiasm and the impulse to jump ship are normal things to feel from time to time in a long term committed relationship.

Here are some suggestions from marriage experts:

Put Pen To Paper

Journaling can help us clarity and articulate our feelings. Finding 10 to 20 minutes a day to write down your thoughts can help you identify specific issues or impulses that are impacting your relationship. This can be a first step towards taking action and improving your union.

Talk It Out

Sometimes it can be scary to reveal dissatisfaction in a committed relationship. Especially in our curated social media age it can be hard to talk to friends and family about difficulties like a seven year itch. But research shows us that relationship satisfaction ebbs and flows over time. Chances are your friends have experienced the same kind of dips with their partners.

Reaching out to a trusted friend or family member and sharing your experience can help normalize it and empower you.

Communicate With Your Partner

Telling your partner you’ve caught the seven year itch could be disastrous. It sounds like a recipe for anger, hurt feelings, and defensiveness. But statistics show that one of the major causes of divorce is lack of communication. Relationship scholar John Gottman developed the communication method known as XYZ statements—“When you do X in situation Y, I feel Z.”

This method is extremely helpful because it enables you to communicate in a way that focuses on your feelings and offers tangible, actionable information. It also invites your partner to share their experience in a similar, proactive way. Communication strategies are something our relationship coaches are experts in!

Schedule Couples Time

Relationship satisfaction wanes when couples stop focusing on one another. Seven years is often the time when people are building families and finding space for quality time as a couple becomes very hard.

Scheduling date nights (or mornings) ensures some couples only time. If it is not possible to leave home, check out these at-home date ideas. The more time you are able to invest in your marriage, the stronger it will be.

Consider Couples Counseling

Seeking help from a marriage counselor offers you and your partner a safe space to explore any relationship issues.

Therapists have seen it all and have the experience and wisdom to help you navigate martial rough patches. Marriage counselors are unbiased, calm moderators who can help improve communication and understanding between couples.

See A Sex Therapist

Not all relationship issues start in the bedroom, but many of them are related to sexual intimacy. Sex therapists are experts in intimate relationships and can help couples indentify and work through issues related sexuality.

Famed relationship therapist and writer Esther Perel said, “fix the sex and your relationship will transform.” That’s exactly what sex therapists do!

Try An Open Relationship

This one is definitely not for everyone, but some couples find that exploring polyamory or ethical non monogamy helps spice up their relationship leading to greater intimacy.

An open relationship works best when everyone is on board and boundaries, rules, and expectations are well established.

The seven year itch is neither fact nor fiction. There is no marriage timer that goes off on everyone’s seventh anniversary and sends us all scrambling to a divorce lawyer. But seven years does seem to be a time when a lot of couples experience a lull in satisfaction that most experts attribute to under prioritizing the relationship.

Figuring out what’s right for you and your partner is challenging, but our relationship coaches will create a customized lesson plan unique to you and your relationship. Download now to start your free one week trial!

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