Couples begin marriage in the honeymoon stage; all is lovey-dovey. This is eventually followed by the power struggle phase. Romance fades and couples realize the other person is not perfect and is not going to meet all their needs. Figures from the
Statistics show that most divorces occur within the first seven years of
marriage. More marriages break up during this stage in life than at any other
time. National Center
The power struggle phase is difficult for couples to resolve. (For more on power struggles see blog from May 2012.) Although you may not be in an obvious struggle, boredom and restlessness may signal an avoidance of conflict or a passive struggle. Often one partner will give in or avoid expressing dissatisfaction, rather than upset the other person. He or she may say yes to whatever is asked and then never get around to doing it - using passive resistance.
The “Age Thirty Crisis” often coincides with the “Seven Year Itch”. For older couples, there may be an “Age Forty Crisis.” Many of us reevaluate our lives during each decade year. At age thirty (or forty) we begin to realize that our youth is gone and we won't live forever. Couples at this age are also under great stress trying to balance two careers and the demands of raising children. Divorce too often seems to be the answer to any problems.
The seven year itch need not end in divorce. How can you prevent divorce? Gently insist that your partner talk with you about his or her feelings—even if what he or she has to say may hurt you. In order for a marriage to work both partners need to be able to be open, honest and be themselves with each other. The “Seven Year Itch” can become an opportunity to grow, to communicate more openly about the marriage and about hopes and dreams for the future.
Counseling and marriage enrichment groups can be very helpful with the seven year itch, helping you grow together rather than apart. These can help you let go of past resentments, overcome power struggles and adopt new ways of relating to each other that meet both your needs.
It’s also important to find ways to liven up a marriage that seems boring. It’s easy to get into ruts and relate to each other in very routine ways. There’s no spontaneity or imagination left in this type of relationship. Relationships take work and this is true especially for marriage. Couples who put as much thought and care into their marriage as they do into their careers reap the benefits of a satisfying and interesting marriage and one that continues to grow.
There are several books which offer many ideas about how to resolve problems and enrich your marriage. I recommend: Getting The Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, Married People: Staying Together In The Age of Divorce by Francine Klagsbrun and The Case Against Divorce by Diane Medved. See also www.smartmarriages.com.
“So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce.’” Malachi 2:15-16 The Message