This weekend my husband and I will celebrate our seventh anniversary. Some may say it is a lucky year, but science says we should start to get kind of itchy.
“The Seven Year Itch” is a psychological term that suggests happiness starts to decline around the seventh year of marriage. It is backed up by numbers from the National Center of Health Statistics, who confirm from the 1920s to modern time, most marriages that end in divorce have an “average median duration” of you guessed it, seven years.
The term was also popularized by the 1955 movie of the same name in which a husband is tempted to leave his wife and young child after seven years when he is charmed by a blonde model played by Marilyn Monroe. It is the movie where Marilyn’s iconic white dress flies up as she stands on a Subway grate. Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of those around here. (That applies to both subway grates and Marilyns.)
Scientists who have studied this see that at this time period many couples have raised their children through the grueling infant years and once that happens reality sets in: oh I am stuck with this person. And even with childless couples, the habits that were overlooked or even thought of as cute in the beginning of the relationship suddenly become intolerable. Other research suggests our minds and bodies actually go through physiological changes in seven-year cycles and our needs in our partners may change. So if our well-established routines stay the same and we don’t respond to our partner’s new needs, well then Marilyn (or Marlon) can start to look quite tempting.
But even in couples where there is no sexual infidelity, researchers say this may be a period where couples start to drift apart. Maybe one spouse starts hyper-focusing on the kids, while the other one does the same thing with work.
Basically, the honeymoon is over.
All couples who have been together for a long time know the butterflies don’t flutter as much as they did in the beginning.
There are things about Frank that absolutely drive me crazy now. Like why he insists on putting bowls on the top rack of the dishwasher. It leaves no room for the cups!
Something about the way I make coffee and put the garbage bag in the kitchen can drives him equally nuts. And I’m sure there’s much more.
And yes, we’ve heard each other’s stories ten thousand times and there are not many mysteries left to be solved, (other than the dishwasher and garbage bag situations).
But still, there is no person I want by my side as we get through this thing called life than the man who never cleans out his pants pockets before throwing them in the dirty clothes, and I hope he feels the same way about the woman somehow manages to get bleach spots on all of his favorite T-shirts.
The vast majority of the greatest love songs, sonnets, poems, movies and television series plots have always been based on unrequited love or love that faces some seemingly impossible hurdle.
Romeo and Juliet is viewed as one of the greatest love stories of all time and they ended up killing themselves after spending only one night together as a married couple, and many would agree that first night is pretty darn good.
Katie doesn’t end up with Hubbell, nor does Alvy with Annie Hall. Whitney Houston wasn’t “Saving all her love” for a man she had been married to for decades.
And how many seasons did we have to watch to see if Sam ended up with Diane, or Ross with Rachel or Carrie with Big?
For some reason, yearning for something we can’t have or don’t have yet is celebrated as some great act of love. As if somehow heartache and pain and lying awake at night in misery must mean you are this star-crossed super couple who the universe is conspiring to keep apart and somehow that is real love.
I’m calling bullsh*t on this.
Though it is rarely celebrated in song or sonnet, true love, in my opinion, comes much later and is far less sexier. It actually comes when that honeymoon is over.
It’s after Ross and Rachel settle down and when she secretly wants to smother him with a pillow every night because he snores like a freight train, but she doesn’t. It’s when Romeo quietly goes to the Capulets every year for Christmas because Juliet insists her mother will lose her mind if they don’t, even though he hasn’t seen his Montague cousins in years. But he does it for her.
And yes, it’s when far more serious problems arise than body noises and holiday schedules — even some that seem insurmountable — but you both know you are in this together for the long haul and you both know you want to get through it together, rather than just walk away.
Expecting and being able to conquer all of these itches together over seven, 14, 21 or 50 years is what true love is all about, not double suicide. Sorry Romeo and Juliet.
To my sweet husband, my best friend, who is always my biggest cheerleader and can always make me laugh, I look forward to gettin’ itchy with you until death do us part, even if those bowls never make it to the bottom rack.