PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
Warning: Their answers are a little depressing…
My husband, Chris, and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary. And since I’m terrible with dates and didn’t feel like doing the math, I casually asked him how many years we’ve been married.
After giving me the stink-eye, Chris said, “seven” and kept flipping through the book he was reading like verbal bomb he just dropped was no big deal.
But it’s a BFD.
No doubt you’ve heard about the seven-year itch: It’s a psychological theory that happiness in a relationship starts to go downhill after seven years of marriage. It’s also supposed to be the time when couples are more likely to cheat.
And we just hit it.
Should I be freaked out on some level? And is this seriously a real thing? I spoke to several experts, and the consensus was the same: yes.
“No doubt you’ve heard about the seven-year itch: It’s a psychological theory that happiness in a relationship starts to go downhill after seven years of marriage.”
Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona, Psy.D., says the whole seven-year itch concept is actually based on stats that show a “significant” percentage of divorces occur around a marriage’s seven year mark.
“Research indicates that many married individuals experience decreases in satisfaction and fulfillment and overall happiness with their marriages following the honeymoon period,” he says. “These feelings tend to increase over years two to seven of marriage.” At that point, it’s sink or swim for couples.
That’s logical on some level—you can’t stay in the honeymoon phase forever. But decreasing happiness and marital satisfaction? Um… .
That makes zero sense to me. In the seven years we’ve been married, Chris and I have become a tighter unit, developed huge amounts of respect for each other, and laugh more than we have in years.
He’s the first person I talk to when something good (or incredibly stupid) happens, and I know the reverse is true. He also makes me coffee every morning, even when he’s super-pressed for time, and he sends me silly texts when he’s sitting right next to me, just to make me smile.
After years of being together, we click in a way we never have in the past.
I’m sorry, but my B.S. meter is going off on this one.
But licensed marriage and family therapist Lesli Doares, author ofBlueprint for a Lasting Marriage, points out that the itch can happen at any time in a relationship.
Doares says that, in addition to the data, year seven tends to stand out because couples have usually had a kid or two by then. “It is really the impact of the children on the marriage that causes the underlying disconnect that leads to the ‘itch’ to get out,” she says. “It is a combination of responsibility, lack of time for oneself, diminished intimacy, and a sense of ‘is that all there is?’”
“He’s the first person I talk to when something good (or incredibly stupid) happens and I know the reverse is true.”
Er…that makes more sense. While Chris and I love being parents, we went through a rough patch a few years ago when our son was born. I’d definitely say my marital satisfaction wasn’t exactly up there during that period. But while I wasn’t exactly thrilled with him at the time, I was never tempted to actually cheat on him.
Some people never even go through that, says Cilona, adding that the best defense against itchiness is a good offense. That means addressing any issues that crop up immediately instead of letting them grow and fester, which can lead a couple down a very bad path.
While we didn’t do that early on in our marriage (which might have contributed to our new parent issues), Chris and I have learned to speak up when something is bothering us. If one of us is pissed off, the other is going to hear about it—and it sounds like that might be a good thing.
It’s taken us seven years to get to this point, and our marriage is the best it’s ever been. So bring on year eight!