After reading your recent column on infidelity, I wanted to get your thoughts on the legendary seven year itch. Is it really a trying time in marriages? —P.L., Radnor
When the seven-year itch comes to mind, people think of the comedic movie of the same name starring Marilyn Monroe. (You know, the one with the classic Marilyn-over-the-air-vent scene.) In reality, the seven-year point in a marriage is a time when divorce is most likely to occur—even the U.S. Census noted in 2011 that the average length of a first marriage that ends in divorce is eight years. Either a couple is knee-deep in child rearing and concentrating mainly on life stressors and money, or they don’t have kids and are focused on whether they really want to live out their life with this one person. It is at this point in a union that husbands and wives need to make a choice: They can either work on their ever-changing relationship, or split. For those who want to move forward, here are seven ways to help sure things up.
• Communication is the key to a healthy relationship. We all know it is not what you say, but rather how you say it. Take time to talk things out and listen to what each other is expressing. Dialogue is the oil that keeps the machine running.
• Don’t be afraid to seek outside help. Even in the best marriages, couples often still sit down with a relationship counselor. It actually may be the best gift that you can give to each other. Since there are three sides to every story, why not bring a third party in to help smooth out any rough edges?
• Prioritize your spouse. Yes, raising the kids is all consuming, but one of the worst mistakes a parent can make is to live his or her life through the children. At the end of the day, your kids will leave the nest and you will be left with just each other. Instead of dreading being an empty nester, put the time and effort into the one you started it all with. This should be done day-by-day and year-by-year so the two of you can enjoy your older years together as much as you did your courtship.
• Schedule date night. Just like you put doctor appointments and soccer games on your calendar, put down some alone-time with your spouse. Whether it’s on a weekend, during the week or even an afternoon, this one-on-one time away from the hustle-bustle is what it’s really all about.
• Encourage individuality. Just like scheduling one-on-one time is important, so is time spent apart. Whether it is a golf outing with friends or a day of beauty just to relax, spouses need girl- and guy time with their pals. We all benefit from an opportunity to pull our noses away from the glass from time to time.
• Fantasize about the future. The kids go from being in diapers to graduating high school in the blink of an eye. Rather than only talking about mortgages and college funds, take time to plan out the rest of your life together. Think about your mutually agreed upon bucket list. Put money aside for that as well as all of life’s other demands. You can put that special vacation spot on your computer as a screen saver so you can wake up smiling everyday.
• Have sex. Sex is the glue that keeps marriages together. Young and old alike need to make their mate feel special and loved. Just think how much fun it will be once the kids leave the house and you don’t have to sneak in your kisses or brace that chair against your bedroom door. (Do any of your kids knock?)
Research shows the first, seventh, fifteenth, and thirtieth years of marriage are the hardest. Once you have hit your 31st anniversary, breathe easy. You’ve made it.