Are relationship lulls fact or fiction?
Singles and the Seven Year Itch
It's difficult to say if the seven year itch applies to unmarried people in
long-term relationships, because the research has not been done. Sometimes,
however, avoiding the "I do" helps keep the courtship alive in a
long-term relationship, says Barbach.
But don't count on it. "I certainly wouldn't recommend two unmarried
people live together to keep the romance alive," says Howard Markman,
Ph.D., a marital counselor at the University of Denver, Colorado. "People
thrive on a commitment in relationships."
Focusing attention on the relationship is the obvious but often-overlooked
key to marriage longevity, says Barbach. Couples with children may have to make
special efforts, since Kurdek's study found that they showed steeper declines
in marital satisfaction than childless couples. He speculates that unhappy
couples either avoid divorce for the children's sake or expend more energy
raising their kids than nurturing their marriage. But he also points out that
some couples may find that having children makes them happier overall.
Some married couples don't get itchy. "Our relationship has only gotten
better over the years," says Jeanne Gribbin of Reno, Nev., married 17
years. She and her spouse follow Barbach's golden rule: Give the marriage
"People say marriage takes work, but I prefer to use the word
attention," Barbach says. "Consult your partner before making plans or
decisions, and if you both do that, you'll find you both get to do more of your
own things. Set aside time to talk on a daily basis, even if it's just 20
minutes. Take time to get dressed up and go out on dates. If a marriage
succumbs to the seven year itch, it's most likely because the couple turned a
blind eye to their problems instead of solving them."
Elaine Marshall is a freelance writer living in Reno, Nev. She also reports
for Time magazine and teaches at the Reynolds School of Journalism at
the University of Nevada, Reno.