What’s behind the “seven year itch”?

I read an article last month that was out of London called The Seven Year Itch is Now the Three Year Glitch and I created a poll from it as well back a few weeks ago.  You can find it here.  That got me thinking….what really is the seven year itch?  Does it really exist?  Or is it getting shorter?

Movies have been written about it…did you see the movie starring Marilyn Monroe?   The one with the dress and the subway grate?  Surely you’ve seen that scene on TV or commercials.   It was also a play on Broadway.   In the 1800’s, it was an irritating skin complaint, pimply and itchy, that supposedly lasted for seven years.   Traditionally, now a days, it is used to commonly refer to the inclination to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage.

When I was in the first 7 years of my marriage, I really thought it was something that was real.  Unbeknownst to Mr. Nutmeg to this day (well now he’ll know), I was really scared when we got to that 7th year.   Was he going to get bored of me?  Was I going to get bored of him?  Would one of us cheat on the other?   Did it start at the beginning of that 7th year or after our 7 year anniversary?  Yes, I was, and still am at times, very naive about things.   Around that 7 year time period for us was when I got pregnant with our daughter and after her birth.   Was I planning on cheating? NO!  Was he?  NO!   I was just truly ignorant to and believed what society thinks is a done deal.

I was reading several articles on the subject, one (quoted above) that suggests that maybe it happens after 3 years of marriage, and it amazes me what is published out there that people believe as the gospel truth.  In the article Can you Survive the Seven Year Itch?, they interviewed four women.  The first one in the article expected love to conquer all.  Love can’t do it by itself, and much to her husband’s sorrow, she wants to separate and divorce.  He isn’t meeting her expectations.   The fairy tale marriage blew up in this relationship.  Once all the glitz and glamour was gone and the real world set in, their marriage began to implode…at least to her.   I did agree with the assessment in this article of why 7 years is the landmark of the itch… “As soon as you’ve been married for seven years, you can’t help but momentarily evaluate your relationship. And I can see why it might be a turning point – the honeymoon period is over, the warm period of normality and familiarity may be cooling, and some people may start looking for what’s next.” I think that is why people start doubting that they made the right choice…. That huggy, touchy, feely kind of love that you had in your dating period, the fairy tale weddings, and the newlywed phase wear off, and that is where you really start to learn what love really is.

Love is just a feeling. Marriage is  a commitment.   A covenant.  “Honey, I may not feel that I love you, but I really do love you” kind of covenant.   The “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” doesn’t even factor into the covenant you made with your spouse.  When you make this covenant with your spouse, your vows don’t say that you’ll look for something new when the old flame wears out.   That’s when the richer or poorer kicks in….in sickness and in health….for better or for worse….until DEATH do us part.   I made that commitment to my husband and to God.

It would have been really easy during my refusing years to decide that it was all Mr. Nutmeg’s fault that I was so unhappy.  Comparing my marriage to others at church, thinking that they must be in a perfect marriage and hoping that I am not showing that I am not. You know, it wasn’t until years later that God revealed to me that while my marriage wasn’t perfect by any means (I mean whose is?), but that He had chosen the perfect man for me that completes me.   My spouse knew the true meaning of love and was willing to do everything and anything in his power to keep our marriage alive.   That’s basically the opposite of what Melani decided  in the quoted article above.   It was her husband’s fault that they couldn’t buy a house.  It was her husband’s fault that she wasn’t happy.  In the article, it sounds like he was very level headed.   His voice in that article sounds like my husband’s. “I fell in love with <her> the moment we met and I’d do anything to spend my life with her”.  It is obvious that unless she has a heart to heart with God and with her husband, no one is going to please her and she may doom herself in future marriages if she tries to marry again.

Here’s an article from Psychology Today to discuss a bit, too, in the comment section entitled How to Avoid the Seven Year Itch.  In the article, Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz offer 7 rules to help avoid the seven year itch and how to build a love that lasts.   My husband and I discussed these 7 rules together.  He agreed with them.   He added in our conversation that in our marriage, we don’t at this point have “opportunities” at work that some find in coworkers.   Being unhappy and discussing it with coworkers of the opposite sex that are unhappy, too….he’s right….Infatuations and affairs all come in these situations, so it is important to guard your heart and not to ACT on your infatuations.

Please feel free to add your thoughts, feelings and experiences with the “Seven Year Itch” below.   We can all learn from each other how to keep our covenants alive in our marriage and maybe we can share things we’ve done/tried when we start to feel boredom come into the picture or feel like we are falling out of love with our spouse.  I look forward to reading your responses.

10 Comments

  1. My husband and I are coming up on our 5 year anniversary and we’ve never been happier. Do we disagree? Yes. Do we miscommunicate? Yes. Do we sometimes wonder, “What was I thinking?!” Yes. Are there times that I don’t feel loved by him and vice versa? Yes. But, like you said, a commitment is not just a feeling. My Mom told me once, ” ‘Marriage’ is what holds you together during the times that you’re struggling.” We tend to define marriage as the warm fuzzies that we feel when everything is fine and dandy – and if we don’t feel those warm fuzzies, there must be something wrong. And because we’re such selfish beings, we think it must be the other person’s problems and not ours, so we give up on them. I know Christians have as much of a high rate of divorce as the world does, and that saddens me, because God has given us the tools to avoid divorce. My husband often says that marriage is so hard because it forces you to take a look at who you really are and sometimes we’re not pleased with what we see. But that’s how we learn and grow and become better people. God has used my husband on many occasions to help me grow spiritually and to truly take a look at some of my behaviors that need changing. I am so thankful for him and for his love and patience, even when I’m being completely irrational and unlovable. If you think it’s all your husband’s fault that you’re unhappy, maybe you need to remember that you’re not such a peach to live with either! Lol!

  2. Interesting read! I read a quote that kind of goes with the, “grass is always greener” quote.

    “if the grass looks greener on the other side … it’s probably because they take better care of it”

  3. Perhaps one of the biggest issues couples face even before they’ve met is this:

    The most important thing for them in a relationship is that it fits the “movie” of their life that they’ve built up in their head. They start a relationship, it feels good, now there’s a romantic interest. It progresses toward marriage, they try to build a wedding and honeymoon that fits the story they want to tell their friends or mother. Then they try to build the life that conforms to that movie.

    From the beginning, it’s all about making reality conform to the (often ignorant and narcissistic) movie they’ve been playing over and over in their mind. They are the main character, and everyone else is oriented toward them (i.e., supporting characters).

    That dynamic drives the heart of many marriage conflicts (and, of course, the 7-year itch). “My life isn’t working the way I pictured/filmed it years ago, therefore the problem is other people.” Heh, heh.

    See, if you’re thinking that, then the problem is you.

    How many problems boil down to the fact that one (or both) can’t see that there’s another human who’s got fully valid desires and person-hood? They aren’t just a supporting character in your own movie-life? Thus your spouse becomes reduced to a forced role in the narrative/identity that you keep telling yourself is *you*.

  4. My two cents is that the supposed “7 year itch” also coincides with the prime baby making years. I think is is normal when the kids come along for women to take the man that they chose to create a family withand demote him from his place as the focal point of the family. Instead of next to us navigating the road of life, we ladies have a tendency to marginalize our guys and put them in the back seat…or the trunk.

    I said it is normal, but it isn’t right. If a husband has been “the man” the whole relationship and then his needs are prioritized behind those of the kids, dog, PTA, and driving car pool for dance class once you have children it is understandable, not acceptable or right, that he may look elsewhere to have some of those needs met. I am not talking about sexually neccessarily but if he is feeling like “the man” everywhere but at home it is going to drive a wedge between him and his wife. I am not excusing cheating or laying blame, I just see how guys fall for women who fall for them only to relegate them to second or third class status when the kids come along. I further see that they become angry and withdrawn when this happens and their wives blame them for being sullen or non- communicative or whatever.

    For women, baby and child rearing is hard. I remember looking in my closet and seeing nothing suitable that didn’t have spit up stains on it. I couldn’t even use the bathroom alone. We are made to feel guilty for wanting anything for ourselves and are told to focus our attention on our kids. Our husbands are “grown-ups” we are told. They have needs that they can fill themselves. A newborn is helpless, a five-year old “needs” you more.” But what we aren’t told is that the space we are creating between ourselves and our husbands is the very thing that is making us dissatisfied. ” He doesn’t tell me I am beautiful” “He doesn’t flirt” “He never surprises me with gifts” “If I didn’t talk to him there could be days where we never shared a word.” I felt all of those and I questioned the wisdom of my choice in a husband. It was easy to blame him for my lack of satisfaction.

    Here is what I learned and what has made year 21 of my marriage the best EVER. The first rule is that sometimes we ladies need to take the lead. He never called me beautiful anymore…well to tell the truth I wasn’t making the most of my looks and was carrying around just 5 lbs less than I had been when I delivered our twin daughters! So I fixed that, and he can’t stop telling me how pretty he finds me. I started sending flirty texts and guess what…he sends them back, I started buying little gifts for him that let him know I was thinking about him during my day. I started expressing an interest in his interests and guess what…we share conversations all the time now that he initiates.

    My kids are older so that made it easier but I am ashamed that during our years of raising kids I was so focused on them that it never occured to me to send him and email that told him I was proud of him or grateful to him. How much time would it have taken from the kids to pick up/make something he would like @ the store or ask for and take his advice?? I could still have been the great mommy and his rockin hot woman but I didn’t really see my part in making that happen.

    It happened because I put him in the drivers seat where he belongs, I began to give first, we started dating again and CN made it so that he couldn’t wait to see what fun bedroom spice I came up with next.

  5. “I know Christians have as much of a high rate of divorce as the world does,” That comclusion from Baran’s research is simply not true. Christians marry more than non-Christians and thus over all there are a larger number of divorces. But compared to non-Christian marriages per capita is lower. Also if you include non-Christians who live together for years and breakup as divorce the Christian divorce rate is even lower.

    Check out
    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700112586/Christian-divorce-rates-disputed.html

  6. We are currently in our 7th year! Our relationship has never been better, only by God’s grace and some effort on our part. I too had thought about some of the same things Spicy Nutmeg said like: “does it happen during the 7th year or after the 7th anniversary?”. 🙂 Our anniversary was in January and I started reading this site shortly after and lots of other books on marriage and sex. Not because we were officially in the 7th year, and not because things were bad. We were just in a place of needing to be more purposeful about our marriage and sexual intimacy. I had a feeling that there was more for us in marriage. I felt a need to go deeper with my husband in all areas. I wanted to go deeper in God and He began showing me things that were holding me back in intimacy with my husband. I suppose there is an element of me doing my part to safe guard our marriage from infidelity, but really the effort and prayer is for our growth and joy and God’s glory.

  7. I just want to add that a lot of my feelings of wanting/needing change and improved intimacy came after we had our first child. Things for us were easy breezy before she was born, and we were married for almost 5 years. She is almost 1 1/2, so we are out of the “figuring out the new baby” phase and have settled into a routine of toddler care. 🙂 It has been amazing for us to have our daughter. It has made me fall more in love with my husband and I find him more irresistible than ever.

    I am wanting to be his “rockin hot woman” and a great mommy as Tommygirl says. 🙂 So if the Seven Year Itch has done anything so far for us it has only brought us closer together.

  8. Yay supergirl . I wish I had figured it out long before this but I didn’t and now things are so sweet that I think this path is the one we were supposed to be on from the start. It’s like that Rascal Flats song that says he would walk right back through the pain because it got him “here” That’s how we are now and I never knew our marriage could be like this!

    So happy for you and all the other younger marrieds that are putting it together sooner than I did and so grateful that my husband stuck with me even when I was not really giving him what he needed!

    Oh and he is a terrific dad too and I know what you mean about that making you just want your man more!

  9. So true, we all have that “movie” and are disappointed when it doesn’t “end” the way we want it too.

  10. Wow! Just wow! I’m loving your comment, tommygirl!


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