December 17, 2015

The seven year itch – fact or fallacy?

By Peter Jones, founder

There are many urban myths surrounding marriage and the duration of its journey – whether it is a sprint or a marathon as in the case of the world’s oldest couple from Bradford who have recently celebrated being married for 90 years.

One of the best known legends is ‘The Seven-Year Itch’ – a supposed tendency to infidelity after seven years of matrimony, which suggests that happiness in a relationship has an inevitable shelf-life.

In my opinion, any prescribed unit of married contentment is a fallacy. Wedded couples remain happy, or not, with each other because of reasons entirely unrelated to the actual length of time they have been together, but because of what happens to them in that time.

Good luck plays as big a part as good judgement in keeping a marriage on track. That said, the trick to tilting the balance in favour of a long, happy union, is how well a couple evolves together and stays close during changing circumstances outside of the marital home.

For example, one partner might accelerate professionally while the other’s career stalls. Such situations can breed resentment and put distance between a couple unless they make time for each other and consider the other’s feelings. This might involve making up for long working hours away from home and not regaling their partner with tales of glittering achievements. It could also entail taking an interest in the job of a high flying spouse.

The failure to evolve together and the chasm it brings can also happen via one partner’s social life and friends, their sporting pursuits or pastimes – or extended family. Just as with work, all these factors can bring outsiders – who might interfere and ‘shout from the touchlines’ – into the equation.

Once in that gap between being happily married and breaking up, there is often nobody to guide you through the unknown territory – with the danger that the divide eventually becomes unbridgeable.

So, look out for the warning signs:

  • Complacency
  • Disinterest
  • Lack of communication
  • Avoiding marital responsibility
  • Temptation to take solace in other people

It would also be wise to look out for certain ‘danger times’ which can be triggered by the following events:

  • University graduation or professional qualifications
  • Starting a new job or promotion
  • The birth of children
  • Joining clubs or meeting new friends
  • Children leaving home
  • Retirement

In a nutshell, the ‘seven year itch’ is more likely to be the gradual realisation that the common denominators that brought you together in the first place have eroded and that you are drifting apart.

I often say that if I could show couples how they will look just years from now, we could cut the divorce rate dramatically, because they could see how easily and quickly they can glide into things – then avoid doing so.

So, if and when, you realise it is happening, take steps to repair matters quickly; much damage may already have been done by the time you realise you are in dangerous waters.

As in any aspect of marriage, talking candidly, honestly and constructively is the best route. Face the issue and talk about what has gone wrong with your partner – and what both of you can do to put things right.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the advice of a sensible friend or family member. However, for neutrality – and your partner’s perception of neutrality – consider a professional family counsellor to help guide you through.

At such a critical time, do everything you can to stop yourself from becoming yet another divorce statistic who harbours deep regrets about splitting up long into the future.

If you have any comments, queries or concerns on divorce related issues, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce.