Seven Ways to Beat the Seven-Year Itch
The dreaded seven year itch. Heard of it? If you haven’t, it’s every couple’s nightmare. If you’re in a relationship that’s survived it, then you know just how agonizing it can be. The seven-year itch describes a major relationship hurdle that typically occurs after a couple has crossed the seven-year mark of their relationship.
According to statistics, the seven-year-itch is a very real phenomenon. For instance, divorce rates tend to peak around the seven year mark. It’s become so prevalent that movies, plays and books have been constructed from the term. One hypothesis suggests that couples get married, have kids then split soon after. Given the fact that 69% of couples report relationship decline two years after the birth of a child, this could be one possibility. Another hypothesis affirms that physiologically, our bodies have a significant drop in dopamine around this time, which is the pleasure center of our brain and taps into love, lust and sexual pleasure. Whatever the truth may be, if our relationships go through a major uhaul during this time, then how can we steer clear of its path? Below, find seven ways to beat the seven-year itch.
- Find your friendship. We take life, and each other for granted. It’s inevitable but doesn’t have to wreak havoc on our lives. As long as you’re aware of it happening, you can nip it in the bud. Remember that person you fell in love with some seven years ago? Or maybe you can’t because all you’re immersed in is the negative. Your relationship has become saturated with pet peeves, criticisms and constant arguments. How can you possibly remember that you used to be best friends? Finding your confidant, trusted ally and partner again is imperative and crucial for not letting the itch creep up on you. First, sit down with your significant other and be honest about your current state. Next, make a commitment to each other to make it better. Set time aside each day to get to know each other. Do away with the gripes and everyday annoyances that bog down your relationship. Find your humor, be playful, and learn what excites the other. Plan special dates where you can connect and invest in a mutual hobby. Make greetings at the end of the day habitual and something to look forward to.
- Small things often. Winnie the Pooh said it perfectly; “It’s often the smallest things that take up the most room in our heart.” Pooh knew where he was going with this. Couples sometimes think they need to make grand gestures of love and commitment to turn things around, but that isn’t the case. Flowers, trips and lavish extravagances are wonderful, sure. But those don’t cancel out the everyday. Doing small things to improve your relationship goes much further. Be courteous and gentle, fight fairly, speak kindly, be selfless of your time and needs, give freely and do things that show how much you appreciate your spouse. All it takes is a bit of daily thoughtfulness to pass that seven-year mark with ease.
- Fight fair. We get into power struggles and all-out relationship wars far too often with our loved ones. I know how easy it is to do when you feel disrespected, wounded, resentful and bitter. Make a pact to work on how you argue as conflict is inevitable, and in many ways a healthy part of any relationship. Try not to argue your point of view. Instead, fight fair and listen, hear the other person’s point of view and accept responsibility for your part of the equation.
- Accept influence. “Admit when you’re wrong. Shut up when you’re right.” Just think about how many arguments you could prevent by following this guideline by relationship guru John Gottman. Sometimes it’s not about fighting just to be right. Peace and harmony should be paramount. Remember that your relationship is more important than coming out on top, so take some influence from your loved one, empathize with their feelings, and be able to apologize and forgive, even if it takes everything out of you to do so. If you practice this, your partner will follow suit (guaranteed!).
- Turn towards. When our relationship drifts, our ability to answer our partner’s needs and desires tend to be overlooked. We more often withdraw and turn away from their bid for connection than look towards them and answer their call. Watch out for those subtle cues from your loved one that’s signaling a call for closeness. They’re inadvertently telling you, “I want to share this small experience with you.” Or, “I want you to hug me right now and tell me everything is going to be ok.” Or “I’m feeling alone in this relationship and wish you would make me feel safe again.”
- Scan the environment for everything your partner is doing right. Around that seven year mark, I can guarantee that most of what happens in your head is frustration over everything your partner is doing wrong. “She didn’t make me breakfast this morning.” “He is so selfish and purposefully used all of the coffee creamer this morning just so I wouldn’t have any coffee.” If you’re looking for ways to slander your partner, I will most definitely find them. Try looking for the things you appreciate about your spouse instead of the things that have irked you. “Wow, she must be really busy today because she usually always makes me breakfast before I leave for work.” “I know if he didn’t have that big project coming up that he would have stopped by the store for the cream.” See how a little shift in perspective can sometimes change your entire outlook? Be careful how you internalize the actions of your partner. It could become a lethal playground.
- Increase intimacy. Once all of the above are in place, this is where true romance thrives. Foreplay happens in all of the steps above, and it takes a lot of loving and caressing in order to make it to the bedroom. Once there, intimacy with your spouse can seem a bit mundane. You have to work on this as you would anything else. It takes trust, commitment and creativity to get those juices flowing again and can be a hopeful path for renewed excitement.
The itch doesn’t have to creep up on your or your loved one. Knowing the warning signs and staying connected throughout is a surefire way to avoid the pitfalls and maintain peace, happiness and longevity.
By April Eldemire, LMFT