The reason the seventh year of marriage is the hardest

The seven-year itch is one of the biggest fears of otherwise happy couples approaching marriage, or deep in their first years of otherwise wedded bliss. Marriages fail for many reasons, but suffice to say the idea that, around year seven, one party or both is going to suddenly want to cheat, or leave, isn’t strictly accurate.

As psychologist William J. Doherty told the LA Times, it’s more to do with the marriage itself, rather than the number of years logged. “There is nothing magical about seven years of marriage, except that half of the people who are going to get divorced do so by the seventh year of marriage,” he noted. There are plenty of struggles with any marriage, but the simple fact is that, by year seven, a couple will either have figured things out — or not. 

Marriages falter when real life takes over

Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona, Psy.D., agreed, telling Women’s Health, “Research indicates that many married individuals experience decreases in satisfaction and fulfillment and overall happiness with their marriages following the honeymoon period. These feelings tend to increase over years two to seven of marriage.”

Marriage and family therapist Lesli Doares, author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage, points out that, actually, the so-called “itch” can happen at any stage, particularly if the couple has kids. “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 said. “It is a combination of responsibility, lack of time for oneself, diminished intimacy, and a sense of ‘is that all there is?'” 

If you find yourself going down that road, rather than seeking comfort elsewhere, utilize a different strategy. “If you feel attracted to another person, move closer to your spouse, make the relationship more sexual, more communicative, more intimate, and reveal more of yourself,” clinical psychologist Frank Pittman advised the LA Times.

Children complicate matters for married couples

Seven years into a marriage is often around when couples decide to have children, if they haven’t already, with therapist Michele Weiner-Davis warning the LA Times, “Marital satisfaction goes down dramatically with the birth of each child. With the complications of raising a child, the friendship goes out of the relationship and there is more conflict.” Pittman noted that men tend to feel they’ve been replaced by the new baby, too. 

Regardless, Karl Pillemer, author of 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice From the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, told Huffington Post, “Couples should not dread the seventh year as a unique threat.” However, he acknowledged, “Studies do show that on average, marital satisfaction and overall quality drop over the first several years people are together, as ‘real life’ — and in particular kids — enter the picture.”

Cilona argues that the best way to combat the seven-year itch is to address any underlying issues head-on, rather than letting them fester. Don’t be afraid to fight, as Pittman advised, “The point of marital conflict is to understand each other better. You can’t be right and be married at the same time.”

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