7 years for a marriage or a long term relationship is commonly known as the year of the 'itch'. Contemplating some turbulent decisions or re-evaluating the relationship in general, this is the year it happens, but this doesn't necessarily mean that time is up at this point, it's just the idea that maybe the relationship has become a bit stagnant.
It is all too easy to get stuck in a rut and some effort to make each other feel special is overlooked, so do you jump over another hurdle together or do you agree the spark has disappeared and you go your separate ways?
Overwhelmed by the years flying by so quickly and with life, children, expectations or relocations occupying 90% of those years, it really is no wonder that you might forget about making each other happy. Going back to the beginning of the relationship when everything was brand new, going on dates and asking important questions, it was a time of excitement and butterflies. It is only natural that this feeling fades but for some people, they really notice it's absence.
I was married to my daughter's father for 6 years when we decided to split up. We didn't quite make the 'year of the itch' but were only 3 months from it. Now I know this wasn't a coincidence, because things weren't great anyway, but one thing I can use in comparison, is that we had reached that moment where we knew our marriage was over. We couldn't go on any longer together being unhappy, we just couldn't jump that hurdle, we were tired.
So let me try and explain where I'm coming from and list below some common reasons this might actually be a thing:
The honeymoon phase
This is aptly named for the beginning of a relationship/marriage being the period the couple are excited, sometimes at the very mere sight of their partner. There's so much to explore together, holidays, the physical world of each other's bodies, moving in together and getting to know extended family. I know I can see you smiling, you remember it well, so do I. That's why we forget in later years that that phase existed and has well and truly disappeared.
Decline in satisfaction
Whether we agree or not, everyone has needs and expectations, yes these are meant to be dealt with as a couple cautiously and gracefully, but they can often be forgotten too. When this is happening early on in the relationship, it's time to either speak up or move on, never to be ignored.
Loss of love
To some people on the outside of your relationship, they can not grasp the idea that you have separated with someone because you didn't love them, but what do they know?
Being honest with yourself is literally the best thing for everyone involved, I would know. Yes I broke up my family but not loving him was already making things extremely difficult at home and our daughter was seeing it all, that was only going to escalate to worse situations later in the future unless we pulled the plug.
If there is loss of love between you, you should consider what underlying issues are causing it and why. Talking about it between yourselves first might sound tricky but you may also find your partner feels the same and actually wants to clear some air or vent their feelings.
Same old same old
We can sometimes become dependent upon others around us being our shoulder to cry, our muse or just simple company in a moment.
But why do we fall out about the same old things time and time again? Wasting our breaths and explaining things repeatedly is just pure exhausting, if you're not willing to forgive, this will always be an indication that you're not willing to change either.
Then there is the physical side of things too, a same old same old place you go to or a mundane routine, can all lead to loss of interest. Doing things you love together, exploring new things and being happy in that moment, can help break those old traditions.
This one is pretty obvious, if disagreements are not a distinguishable sign then certainly a combination all the above is. Too many disagreements in any relationship, whether it's about work, home or children is quite unhealthy, some common triggers are;
Lack of resolving problems
On the plus side, experts say disagreements can sometimes be a good thing, making you stronger together to overcome hurdles. But when is enough enough? I knew personally I could not cope with our disagreements causing tension and unhappiness, I knew my breaking point had been met.
Here's a few statistics to illustrate my point.
- In 1990 the US recorded divorces taking place, was after an estimated 7.2 years into a marriage
- In 2010 China reported divorce rates at an estimated 5 - 8 years
- In the UK marriage counsellors reported 12% of their clients were seeking advice at the 5 year mark
- And finally only 50% of marriages remain together for life
When all is said and done it really is more to do with the marriage itself than the number of years logged together, we know this, but recognising the signs, being aware of things slipping and acting upon them can only help strengthen your relationship.
Sit down with your partner and write down 5 things that made you realise that they were the one, and then if things get tough, just remind yourself and consider if those things are still there, it might just cool that itch.
So, is the 7 year itch a myth? I'd love to hear from you.
Have you ended a relationship in the 7th year?
How many happy years have you and your partner celebrated recently?