Relationship Help: What Is the 7 Year Itch?

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If you’re in a long-term relationship, you may have heard the rumors of the 7-year itch. So, what is it, exactly? As explained by psychologists, the 7-year itch refers to the idea that relationship happiness significantly declines about seven years into a marriage. But is it true? 

The answer: Yes and no. Some statistics do back up the theory of the 7-year itch. The median length for a marriage to end in divorce is 7.6 years according to the National Vital Statistics System.

Psychologists say there are key two points in a marriage where a dip in relationship satisfaction is common: Around the first or second year of marriage (after the honeymoon phase subsides), followed by the seven-year mark (the stress of raising a family, dealing with job issues, etc.). 

While statistics about married people support the concept of the 7-year itch, unmarried couples in long-term committed relationships aren’t immune to it! In other words, marriage isn’t the issue here—it’s simply a matter of time. That said, there are ways to stay on top of relationship satisfaction and avoid the downfall of the 7-year itch (since it’s not inevitable). 

Here are some suggestions from marriage experts:

Put Pen To Paper

Journaling can help us clarify 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. Once identified, you can work on addressing them. 

Talk It Out

Sometimes it can be scary to reveal dissatisfaction in a committed relationship. But research shows that relationship satisfaction ebbs and flows over time, so those feelings are normal! Chances are, your friends have experienced the same kind of dips with their partners, so talking it out with them can help get you through it. 

Communicate With Your Partner

Statistics show that one of the major causes of divorce is a 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. 

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkqsua1SL04 

Schedule Couple 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, so try scheduling regular date nights! Even if your date night activities are at home, you’re still investing in each other which in turn strengthens your relationship. 

Consider Couples Counseling

Seeking help from a marriage counselor or relationship coach offers you and your partner a safe space to explore any relationship issues. They have seen it all and have the experience and wisdom to help you navigate marital rough patches. 

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.

Try An Open Relationship

This is definitely not for everyone, but some couples find that exploring polyamory or an open relationship helps spice up their relationship, leading to greater intimacy. Of course, this only works when everyone is on board and solid boundaries, rules, and expectations are clearly laid out.

The 7-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. That said, seven years does seem to be a time when a lot of couples experience a lull in satisfaction. By keeping each other a priority, you can avoid the dreaded 7-year itch and keep your relationship happy, healthy, and thriving!