I didn’t first hear about the 7 Year Itch until I was about three years into my marriage with my husband. My dad told me about it. According to what I have heard, the 7 Year Itch occurs when a spouse (either spouse) decides that they no longer want to be married any longer.
Now, this is an accumulation of many, many things, such as stress over the years of working, caring for children, the accumulation of not-so-great experiences over the years, and obviously financial pressures. This ‘itch’ generally starts out as a general irritability to one’s spouse. The once-cute little flaws, once-endearing little quirks, and once-attractive little habits start to become annoying and create tension, irritability, and creates a desire to not be around the spouse because of these things that once were attractive about the other person.
Many couples, married or not, usually get into a set routine. Same things going on day-in and day-out. Many who start getting this ‘itch’ become workaholics, may have extramarital affairs, or engage in other behaviors (some addicting, such as gambling or drinking) so they don’t feel like they have to deal with their marital issues. They just plain become miserable in their lives and either continue down this self-destructive path, or they decide that divorce is the best option.
The reason, from what I’m told, it’s called the 7 Year Itch is because, according to the U.S. Census, the average length of a marriage is about 8 years with the filing of divorce occurring around the 7 year mark (it takes a little while to get divorced).
There are ways; however, that individuals and couples can overcome these feelings of not wanting to be with their spouse.
As we all know, we are always changing. That’s what we do; we’re human. But, we don’t always change our lifestyles or our relationships to reflect our own personal changes in our needs, wants, personality, etc. Mothers, in particular, change a great deal through the process of having and raising children. A woman’s needs can change drastically through the course of just having one child. She’s no longer the same woman – her body has changed, her hormones have changed, her needs and wants have changed, her state of mind has changed – I think you get the idea. Even as her children grow and mature, she is still changing. But, she also needs to actively change her lifestyle and her relationship to reflect these changes, and her spouse must be willing and open to allow for that change and he must change along with her.
Some tips on how to move through the 7 Year Itch unscathed (as much as possible):
Self-Reflection. Before you can work on anything, you need to know who you are, what your needs/desires are. Practice self-reflection to think about your needs/desires, where you want to be in the future, what your internal and external changes are, and if you like these changes. Then, communicate these with your spouse.
Communication. Communication is key in any relationship and as much as you don’t want to hurt your spouse (this is how you know you still really do love him/her, by the way), you must have open communication. Let him or her know that your needs/desires are changing. And always be willing to listen to your spouse about his or her changing needs/desires.
The Future. Along with communicating about your needs/desires, you also need to talk about the future. Your future together. What are your plans? How are you going to make those plans happen? Do you want to buy a new car, a home for your family, or some other big ticket item? Do you want to have more children? Make sure you are both on the same page.
Ask For Help. Sometime, okay a lot of the time for me, we tend to go on auto-pilot in respect to taking care of the kids, taking care of the house, working, cooking, etc. I have had to learn the hard way that we all need to ask for help sometimes. If you are overwhelmed because you have too much to do, ask your spouse for some help with some things (i.e. laundry, shopping, running kids around, etc.). You’d be amazed at how much just taking one thing of your got-to-do list can ease some of your stress.
See A Professional. If you are feeling the 7 Year Itch coming on, before you do anything too drastic, see a professional. This can be a counselor, a therapist, a psychologist, a life-coach (which I personally recommend), a minister, etc. They can help guide you through these feelings you’re having and help you determine where these feelings are coming from and how to get rid of them. My husband and I saw a life coach several years ago and I have to say that it was the best experience I’ve ever had (although, it does depend on the person). Life-coaches aren’t so clinical, by-the-book, and they tend to not analyze you (at least in a way that it’s obvious). Get help before it’s too late! Oy! Now I sound like a commercial to overcome addiction, but it is true.
Marriage doesn’t come easily. It takes hard work, compromises, communication, dedication, and a willingness to try to make your spouse as happy as possible at all times.
Have you or someone you know experienced the 7 Year Itch? Did you/they successfully work through it? Did it result in divorce? Leave me a comment and let me know.