You may be familiar with the phrase “the seven year itch.” It refers to a theory that happiness in a relationship declines around the seventh year of a marriage.
This theory is backed by data that says the highest instance of divorce occurs between years five and eight of marriage, with the average around year seven.
My husband and I recently celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. These statistics got me thinking, “What is it about these years in particular that pose such a high risk for divorce rates?”
When my husband and I got married, he was 24 and I was 25. Being in your 20s and in love is amazing. Sometimes I yearn for those days — that honeymoon phase — where we thought love would conquer all. However, we naively neglected to think about what happens when real life happens, and perhaps love can’t conquer it all.
In our early 20’s we assumed marriage would be easy, that careers would materialize, houses could be purchased, bills would be covered and children would be well-behaved.
But as many married couples know, that’s not the case. Before my husband and I married, we should have asked the questions and had the hard conversations that have been the source of discourse and disagreement over the course of seven years. Most commonly: career decisions, bills and money, holidays, religion and politics, housework and issues surrounding children.
When we are young and in love — thinking about committing for life — we didn’t contemplate the issues that so frequently drive a wedge in marriages and threaten that love.
It is easy to see why — after seven years and tough questions, changing needs, debt, loneliness, loss of a job, illness and conflict — couples find themselves contemplating divorce. Especially if they haven’t taken the time to talk about the tough stuff beforehand.
It’s also important for couples to realize your spouse is not the same person they were when you married them.
Who I am at 32 is significantly different than who I was at 25. My wants, needs, desires and aspirations have grown and changed as I’ve grown and changed. The same for my husband. The same, I’m sure, for many couples.
So how can you help combat the seven-year itch?
1. Remind yourself why you are grateful for your spouse and let them know.
2. Realize that the honeymoon phase isn’t meant to last forever.
3. Don’t stop communicating. I know it’s cliché, but communication is key. Make sure you’re communicating in healthy ways. Seek outside help if needed.
4. Find healthy ways to process stress. Don’t take it out on your partner.
5. Try to new things in the bedroom. Sometimes, after almost a decade, romance can become pre-prescribed. Have fun.
6. Put the electronics away. Carve out time every day to spend with one another — sans electronics. This means Netflix, too.
7. Work on yourself. Dissatisfaction with our self can get lumped in with dissatisfaction in the relationship, placing blame where it doesn’t really belong.
Next, you and your spouse will have to update your vision as a couple. Be open and honest and ask, “Can you still love this newer version of me?”
Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska Omaha.