A while back someone messaged me, asking about the seven-year itch and whether it was a reality in our marriage.
According to Wikipedia “The seven-year itch is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage.”
I did some online research and found a few studies that suggested marriages do experience a slump around the seventh year.
By the time year seven rolls by, the “honeymoon” season is in the rear-view mirror. A couple has been together long enough to decide if to put up with the other person’s baggage and quirks or make a break for it.
Year seven or thereabouts, also represents a time when a couple might be balancing young kids, strained resources and energies.
All these forces attack the relationship, and they begin to ask themselves “Is this all there is to life? Whats next for me?”
That’s what the studies stated.
Now let’s talk about what I really think.
If you ask me, whoever came up with the seven-year itch should have similarly come up with the first-year itch and the second-year itch.
Because for my husband and I, things were pretty rough in those years. (See How Humility Saved The Course Of Our Marriage) In contrast, year seven was a breeze.
So as far as the seven-year slump is concerned, I don’t believe there is a rule which limits struggle to a specific time: marital angst can happen at any time.
There’s no hard writing on the wall that confines problems to a particular season.
That’s why we have to be wide-awake; marriage will get slumpy if we fall asleep on the wheel, no matter how long you have been married.
So what can you do as a newlywed to ensure your marriage doesn’t fall into a rut, whether that’s in the first year or the seventh year or the fifteenth year?
1. Get rid of the seven-year itch notion
The more you consider the itch a possibility, the more you’ll tip your marriage towards it because we become what we believe.
So much so that even when we experience usual marriage problems, we attribute them to a seven-year depression and end up feeling powerless because we’ve assigned difficulties to something outside our control.
The Bible tells us “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
We are not meant to live in fear.
And there’s power in belief. For our marriages to be better, we must expect better. We must resist the pull to lean our relations against things outside our control. (See 6 Phrases You Should Ban From Your Marriage)
2. Stay engaged
The only way to avoid itches or seasonal slumps is to give consistent, thoughtful attention to our marriages.
If you want to strengthen your bond, you have to keep watering it. You have to be engaged.
When my husband and I were newly married, he felt harassed and I felt abandoned. Tommy has always been a quiet ruminator, and he preferred to figure things out before engaging in difficult conversations.
But he married someone who happened to love dissecting issues as they arrived. I was a relentless can’t-sleep-till-we-iron-all-differences pursuer. Suffice to say; it was a bumpy start to married life.
But now, almost ten years of marriage later, he doesn’t run, and I don’t crazy-pursue. What happened?
We stayed married.
So often we think the answer to our marriage problems is to disengage: go back to mama until he gets his act together, move out of the bedroom for a few weeks, separate to teach her a lesson, shut down and give him the silent treatment. (See Silent Treatment: Why It Doesn’t Work)
But marriage rarely improves from a distance.
You need proximity; you have to stay connected. Indeed there are instances when separation is unavoidable, even necessary. But most marriages aren’t in that category.
Marriage will not get better in a vacuum. Marriage gets better as a result of “stay.” Iron doesn’t sharpen iron from a distance. It sharpens from proximity.
So if you want a great marriage that weathers the ebbs and tides of seasons, you stay.
Also, when you are busy working on your marriage, you have no time to make excuses. You don’t blame the wind for blowing away your flowers, you shut the windows and find a sturdier vase.
3. Accept changes
Everybody changes. That is a fact of life.
You don’t look the way you did when you were eighteen. Your body, mindset, experiences, priorities, and goals, they’ve all changed, hopefully for the better.
A one-year-old marriage will not look the same as a six-year-old marriage. Marriage changes because the people in it are changing.
Maybe he used to chase you for sex in the early years, but nowadays you seem to want it more than he does. Don’t chalk it up to an itch and throw in the towel. Talk about it, research, get help.
Read these posts
Maybe you were content to work outside the home in the early years but two kids later you feel stirred towards a career that affords more family time.
Don’t blame the uneasiness to a seasonal slump. Talk about it. Figure out time-frames and transitions. (See What if God’s Telling Me to Quit My Job–but He’s Not Telling My Husband?
Maybe sex was exciting in the months, but now it feels dry and dull. Don’t blame the age of your marriage. Talk, get proactive, freshen up your routines.
Read these posts
The bottom line
When you notice changes taking place in your marriage or your spouse, don’t be too quick to take up cultural assumptions or famous tales.
Change isn’t always an enemy. Adjust what you can, accept what you can’t, pray about everything and get help for those issues you can’t handle alone with your spouse.
Your turn. What do you think? Have you heard of the seven-year itch? How are you planning to avoid it?
For more practical ideas on how to avoid the slump and make your marriage thrive, pick up my book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years. I’ll teach you how to navigate the early marriage hot spots so you can enjoy marriage as God intended. Get on the road to a great marriage (or improve the one you have) Amazon Paperback I Amazon Kindle I Barnes & Noble I PDF I PDF UK/Europe. Or click here to go to book page