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Why the “seven-year itch” is a real thing

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2023 | Divorce |

You’ve probably heard of the proverbial “seven-year itch,” when many married couples are believed to start feeling unhappy or restless in their marriage and perhaps look around for someone more interesting or exciting than their spouse.

There’s actually something to that. U.S. Census Bureau findings show that the average length of marriage for divorcing couples (in a first marriage) is just over eight years. What is it about the way humans are wired that makes that a common marker?

Why people often need some kind of change after about seven years

Researchers have found that, as Psychology Today puts it, “Adult development moves in roughly seven-year blocks.” People can handle about seven years of stability before becoming restless and transitioning into another stage of life over the next few years.

People in a first marriage are often moving away from their family home for the first time and taking on adult responsibilities, like supporting each other financially and emotionally, settling into married life and maybe preparing to have children.

As that seven-year mark gets closer, one or both spouses starts to get restless. Often, they’ll just start to resent their spouse and “itch” to move on to the next phase of their life.

Infidelity doesn’t always occur. Some couples just start fighting more or barely talking at all. They may spend more time and energy on work or kids and less with each other as they gradually pull away from one another.

Other changes in life that can cause couples to reevaluate their marriage

Some couples continue on for another seven or eight years, focusing on kids, work or something else. That’s why many couples who survive that initial seven-year itch then divorce once they become empty nesters or when they retire.

Certainly, this doesn’t mean that all married couples are preordained to divorce when they hit that seven-year mark or any of the milestones that follow – or even to become unhappily married. However, it is wise to take stock of your relationship at these points, maybe get some joint therapy and determine what the best road forward is for you.

If you determine that divorce is the best option for you, or even if you’re considering the possibility, it’s wise to seek legal guidance early. This can help you feel better prepared for whatever happens.