It all starts the same. Infatuation. Admiration. The feeling of little butterflies we get in our stomach when we first start a relationship. We generally like to refer to that period of time as the “honeymoon phase.” All couples dream of this phase. Everything is easy. There is often little arguing. There is little tendency to criticize, argue, or experience dissatisfaction in your relationship. But what phase comes next and when does it happen? Many like to call it the “seven year itch.”
The seven year itch is a point in time, generally around 7 years in to the relationship, where couples start to struggle a bit more. Generally, this is a time met with dissatisfaction and increased risk of divorce. However, research doesn’t really support it being 7 years. In fact, more recent studies (Kulu, 2014) have found that the rates of divorce generally peak at around 5 years. (Maybe we should be calling it the 5 year itch.)
Regardless of time, we have to look beyond that as a factor and look more specifically at what is happening in relationships around that 5 or even 7 year mark. Unfortunately, little research exists on the topic. But, if you think back on your own relationship, there is A LOT happening in the first five years, regardless of whether or not you are married. For many couples, this is a period of time marked by significant change. Marriage. Kids. Career advancement. Moving in together. Moving across country. Working to obtain a work/life balance. You name it.
For my partner and I, we had a lot happen in our relationship within the first 5 years of marriage. I graduated with my doctorate. We lived apart for one year. We had 2 children. We bought our first home. We struggled financially. The list seems to go on and on. At times, I often wonder how we were able to manage it all. I distinctly remember not too long ago (2017) where I was finishing my internship while pregnant, living apart from my husband, applying for jobs, and preparing to move out of state. Geez. Let me tell you. That puts stress on a marriage!
What is more important, as you can clearly see, is learning how to support couples through these transitions and stressors. How can couples work to move forward in spite of obstacles that get thrown their way? I’d like to talk more on these stressors and many will likely be addressed in future blogs. However, I’d love to hear from you in the comments! What stressors negatively impacted your relationship most? At what point in time did this occur in your relationship? What relationship stressors would you love to hear me address in future blogs?