A recent study is shedding some light on the notion of a ‘seven year itch’ leading to divorce. According to the Census Bureau, the average length of first marriages for divorcing couples is around seven years. The recent study answers the question why a seven year itch and not a 15 year one.
Seven Year Itch
We are constantly changing over time. Researchers have found that we in fact have six to ten years of stability in a relationship. Then, the stability phase is followed by two to three years of restlessness and transition before settling into the next stage.
Sometimes we focus on work and career, and other times it is about aging, long-term plans, working through childhood and our relationships with our parents. But sometimes it’s about our intimate relationships.
Under this theory, when you first fall in love, you need something in your life to get away from your parents to have stability, to feel important, and cared for. While often never directly talked about, the other person in the relationship provides this support.
Then around seven years, one or both partners starts to get restless. The life they’ve built with its rules and routines is no longer working or fits. Why? Because your partner did a great job filling those early needs, but now everyone’s needs have changed. The solid, steady, grounding partner now seems rigid and controlling, and the spontaneous, fun-loving partner is overly dramatic.
I’ve written about the causes of divorce before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like you have reached the seven year mark and can tap out. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, whether your husband is overly controlling or your wife is a drama queen, you don’t need to allege those traits as grounds for divorce.
Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorced either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.
No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.
Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.
Around seven-year mark, couples start arguing or pulling away from each other. Or sometimes, instead of arguing, they don’t. Couples avoid all emotions and embrace life’s distractions: focusing on kids, downshifting from being a couple to being simply a parent. Or they focus on jobs and careers, working 80 hours a week, or they get distracted with something else.
Some have advised that instead of divorce or distractions, pay attention to your restlessness and emotions. Decide what you each need to change. And if you need help sorting out what you need, or can’t have these conversations easily on your own, get support from a therapist, a minister, or someone you trust.
The Psychology Today article is here.