When it comes to long-term relationships, you’ve probably heard about the seven-year itch. It’s basically the idea that long-term couples will fall into a sort of relationship slump around the seven-year mark. One or both partners may start to feel restless, they might start questioning their feelings, and there’s a tendency to feel less satisfied in the relationship as a whole. If you think the seven-year itch is just another old wives’ tale, relationship experts actually say otherwise.
“The seven-year-itch is real,” author and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra. “Just ask any of your married (or divorced) friends.” Interestingly enough, the seven-year itch isn’t typically due to any big relationship problems. “The tendency to separate at or around the seven-year mark has much more to do with little things not being right than one major big problem,” she says. “Maybe seven years is the threshold for our psyche to deal with lots of those little irritations before we finally get fed up.”
It does make sense. If you’re going to make it to seven years, there probably hasn’t been any major red flags. But the little things do add up. As licensed psychotherapist and IMAGO Relationship specialist, Josh Magro, LMHC, things like blame, criticism, contempt, a lack of boundaries, stonewalling, or attempting to change your partner are some of the worst pitfalls he sees. “While any one or two of these would not immediately spell ‘death’ for a relationship, they erode the foundation of the relationship and can worsen over time,” he says.
So here are some signs that your relationship might not make it past seven years, according to experts, and what to do about it.
1. You Take Each Other For Granted
It’s always great to be in a relationship where you’re completely at ease and comfortable with your partner. But if you’re two or three years in and you find that you’re both so familiar to the point that you’ve taken each other for granted, couples therapist, Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, that’s not a good sign. “It can mean one or both partners have stopped caring,” she says.
In order to help turn it around, Powell suggests to keep doing thoughtful things for each other. A 2015 study published in the journal Personal Relationships found that showing gratitude is the secret to a happy marriage. So be thoughtful and show gratitude to your partner as much as you can. That way, nobody feels like they’re being taken for granted.