7 Year Itch in a Relationship – Fact or Fiction

by Gideon Hanekom
January 12, 2022

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In this post, we’ll look at the 7 year itch in a relationship, as well as what’s true and what’s not. We also consider the implications of this concept and what they might mean for your relationship.

To begin, the seven year itch in a relationship is a phenomenon that is said to occur in long-term relationships, usually around the seventh year.

It is said to be the point in a relationship when the initial excitement and passion have faded and have been replaced by boredom and routine.

Let’s take a closer look.

What Is the 7-Year Relationship Itch?

The 7-year itch is widely believed to be a myth, but there may be some truth to it.

The 7 year itch in a relationship is a theory that after being in a relationship or married for approximately 7 years, the couple will begin to grow apart and have problems for a variety of reasons, which we will discuss later.

This theory, however, has yet to be proven, or at least not specifically.

According to a study conducted by Lawrence A. Kurdek, PhD, a psychologist at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, despite the fact that the 7-year itch in a relationship has not been proven by research, it is still a reality in practice.

The fact that it is a seven-year itch is entirely coincidental.

A study of 93 married couples over the first ten years of their marriage revealed two separate periods of decline.

A decrease in marital quality was defined as a decrease in desire, relationship satisfaction, shared activity, and agreement between the partners.

The marriages started out explosively, frequently with high levels of passion, but as the “honeymoon effect” wore off, they showed a decline in overall quality over the first four years.

Marriages then tended to stabilise until around the eighth year, when another decline began.

In other words, while many new marriages do decline in the first few years, the seven-year itch is entirely coincidental.

7 year itch in a relationship

However, the facts remain the same in that many marriages end within the first couple of years due to factors such as boredom and relationship dissatisfaction, and this is something to keep in mind as a couple.

So, what are some of the 7-year relationship itch symptoms that you should be on the lookout for as a couple?

Symptoms of the 7 Year Itch in a Relationship

As previously stated, it is said that after about 7 years of marriage, the passion and excitement that was once present begin to fade, and the couple may find themselves yearning for something new.

While there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim, it is something that many people believe to be true and has some merit, as seen above.

Ignoring what we do know about the relationship between marriage decline in the first few months and years and divorce, later on, is, therefore, a mistake. 

We need to look beyond the 7-year itch idea and instead start to identify any potential symptoms and underlying causes and address them as soon as possible.

So, as a couple, what should you be on the lookout for?

1. You have the feeling that you are stuck in a rut.

The 7-year itch theory is based on the fact that after being in a relationship for approximately 7 years, the couple has most likely grown tired of each other.

The monotony and boredom of the same old routine can become extremely taxing on a relationship.

2. You don’t communicate well.

When the 7-year itch strikes, communication between a couple can suffer.

This is frequently due to the fact that they have grown so accustomed to each other’s mannerisms and moods that they no longer feel the need to be more expressive with their words.

7 year itch in a relationship

Communication is essential for a happy relationship, and a lack of it can be extremely damaging to a couple’s bond.

3. You are not communicative.

One of the most serious issues with being stuck in a rut is that couples begin to “jail bar” themselves from discussing anything other than the absolutely necessary stuff like “what’s for dinner?”

And when that starts happening a couple usually also stops communicating their true feelings and can very easily fall into a state of emotional stasis.

4. You stop caring about your partner’s issues

When a couple becomes bored with each other, they begin to look for other things to occupy their time and minds.

As a result, a couple who is bored with each other also loses interest in communicating and have less patience for the problems of the other person. 

They reach a point where they just don’t care all that much anymore.

5. You’ve begun to avoid topics that used to cause conflict.

When couples become bored with each other, they begin to avoid discussing topics that used to irritate them.

They may start asking each other questions just to get them talking again, but after a while, they even lose interest in the things that used to bother them and stop bringing up sensitive topics.

When you’re bored with someone, you start to minimise their problems, as it ain’t your problem and focus on more interesting things

6. You’ve begun to be harsh and critical of one another.

If you become bored with someone, you may become critical and unfair to them.

You may say hurtful things that would never have occurred to you before, and they may begin to be afraid of saying or doing something wrong.

7. You’ve begun to exclude the other person from your life.

If you become bored with someone, you may begin to distance yourself from them and spend less time with them.

This is significant because the more time you spend with someone, the more interested you become in them.

You place less value on their existence if you spend less time with them.

7 year itch in a relationship

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Another article that covers more symptoms of the 7 year itch in a relationship is, “11 Signs Your Relationship Won’t Make It Past The 7-Year Itch” on Bustle.com which is worth a read.

Causes of the 7-Year Relationship Itch

There is no one-size-fits-all explanation for what causes a 7-year relationship; it varies according to the individuals involved.

Growing apart, boredom, a lack of communication, or mismatched priorities are some of the more common causes.

When that happens, and a couple is no longer able or interested in meeting each other’s needs, the relationship is likely to deteriorate further and eventually end.

Of course, there can be a variety of reasons why partners become bored or dissatisfied in a relationship in the first place.

For one thing, the relationship may have lost its lustre and excitement when compared to the beginning of the relationship, which is commonly referred to as the “honeymoon” period.

Maybe the couple has stopped doing the things they used to do together and they have started growing apart emotionally, either as a natural consequence or for other reasons like children taking up most of the focus.

However, for all practical purposes, they have become like ships sailing past each other at night.

There may also be unresolved issues or communication issues that have caused a schism between the partners, causing them to stop trying or caring about what happens between them.

Furthermore, if either partner feels that they are no longer appreciated or valued in the relationship, this can lead to dissatisfaction and, eventually, the fraying of relationship ties.

However, while there are numerous factors that could lead to a relationship’s eventual demise, at its core is the problem of one or both partners being unable to keep up with a partner’s demands or expectations.

To put it another way, the expectations of being in a relationship have outpaced their ability to keep up.

In other words, the couple is unable or unwilling to meet the emotional and/or physical demands of their relationship.  

When that happens, and one or both partners aren’t interested in discussing or addressing the direction their relationship is taking, they can very easily wake up as strangers to each other.

7 year itch in a relationship

Boredom is another common reason why couples crave excitement and may feel the need to look elsewhere.

And, because boredom and dissatisfaction can take root quickly, it’s critical to address them early on and address their underlying causes.

One way to do this is to check in with your partner on a regular basis and talk about your shared life and how you’re feeling about it.

If you’re feeling disconnected or uninterested in certain aspects of your relationship, it could mean that your current version of your life together needs to change.

Once you identify them, you can begin addressing the underlying factors that are causing you to feel disconnected or uninterested in certain aspects of your relationship.

Myths vs. Facts About the 7-Year Itch in a Relationship

As previously stated, the “7-year itch” is a popular term used to describe the point in a relationship when couples begin to experience problems for a variety of reasons.

There are numerous myths and facts about this phenomenon, however, but below are some of the more important ones to be aware of.

Myth: The 7-year itch is caused by a relationship’s natural decline.

Fact: The 7-year itch is more likely to be the result of boredom or complacency in a relationship.

Myth: Only people who are infatuated or newly in love can get the 7-year itch.

Fact: The 7-year itch can also be felt by couples who have been together for a while but no longer feel the same spark that they once did.

When partners take a “us versus them” stance, problems between couples often escalate.

According to research, couples who rely on one of these points of view rarely last.

Myth: The 7-year itch indicates that things will improve after the first year.

Fact: If you’ve had the 7-year itch, things might not get any better.

In fact, the chances of them worsening are high.

A 2009 study found that how you handle the first few months of marriage is critical to the longevity of your marriage.

A decrease in love, affection, and responsiveness, as well as an increase in ambivalence, can predict divorce after 13 years of marriage.

7 year itch in a relationship

The same study discovered that couples who divorced within the first two years of their marriage showed signs of disillusionment and were critical of one another in the first two months of their marriage.

Myth: If you have an open marriage, the 7-year itch will be less painful.

Fact: The 7-year itch can and will put any open relationship arrangement to the test.

According to Neil Wilkie, a relationship expert, psychotherapist, author, and founder of The Relationship Paradigm, an online couples therapy platform,

“It is estimated that less than 1% of couples are in an open marriage and 20%  of couples have tried consensual nonmonogamy, but open marriage has a 92% failure rate. 80% of people in open marriages are jealous of their partner.”

Neil Wilkie, Relationship Expert

The point is, being in an open marriage does not shelter you from the realities of relationship breakdown and marital satisfaction decline.

Your Main Takeaway

In reality, there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim that couples experience a 7-year itch in their relationship.

Relationship experts, on the other hand, believe that all relationships experience natural highs and lows and that it is normal for couples to experience some turbulence after being together for a long time.

Some couples may experience it around the fourth year, while others may experience it much later.

The goal is not to overreact to it but also not to ignore it.

The goal of this post was to make you aware of the reality of the decline in marital satisfaction for many couples and to instill some positive energy in your relationship as you prepare for 2022 and beyond.

So focus on what works for you and your partner – and why you love them.

Celebrate and constantly focus on that.

And, at all costs, avoid complacency and boredom.

About the author 

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a renowned relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website shares valuable insights on creating healthy relationships life. Gideon holds a Master's degree in theological studies and transitioned into professional counseling more than a decade ago. In addition, he since completed post-graduate studies in Psychology at Massey University. With over seventeen years of marriage to his wife and two children, Gideon brings both professional and personal experience to his relationship advice. His articles have been featured on respected platforms such as Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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