Is the 7 year itch real? That’s a question that has been tackled by social scientist and psychologist for years without yielding a definitive answer. It is certainly not one that I am going to attempt to answer here given my particular knowledge deficiency on the subject. Instead, this post represents a jumping off point for discussion on understanding a phenomenon which affects our middle-aged demographic. Man up dudes. It’s time to scratch that itch and put some fire back into your relationships.
So you’ve been married or in a committed relationship for a long time and that “new relationship-smell” has long worn off. You don’t talk to each other when you’re alone. Habits you once found cute are super annoying now. You feel less appreciated and less desired and if you could snap your fingers a-la Samantha Stephens in “Bewitched” and be gone, you would. Sound familiar? If you answered “yes”, there are measures that you can take to help navigate these troubling waters (buying a sports car is not one of them). If you answered “no”, don’t worry young buck because you’ll be there soon enough.
Reference to the number 7 was popularized by the success of the 1955 Marilyn Monroe film The Seven Year Itch but it is also based on US Census data indicating when a divorce is likely to happen. Other data indicate that the number is closer to 4 years. Whether it’s 4 or 7 or some other number, most experts agree that there is a period in the multiple stages of a relationship where couples are susceptible to pulling the plug.
As promised during the start of Man Up, this is a personal journey of discovery of the post-40 year life stage including its issues and challenges. I am not here to misrepresent myself as an expert on any topic. Rather, I hope that you and I will take a closer look under the hood and examine the engines that drive us. I don’t doubt than many of you are in healthy, happy relationships while others are negotiating the day-to-day difficulties of relationship management and still others are divorced or separated. I do doubt that many of us give time or thought daily, weekly or monthly to what it takes to exist in healthy relationships and apply what we learn to our own situations.
Where Am I on the Continuum?
Key to understanding what’s going on in your relationship is to understand what phase of the relationship you are in. For most of us, relationships go through various stages according to Dr Marty Tashman:
From Challenge to Rebirth
When the cost of being in a relationship outweigh the benefits for one of the partners, this person may be tempted to call it quits. So work toward getting back to a mutually beneficial bond. Here’s what I think works for me:
1) Encourage one another. It doesn’t matter what you provide encouragement for so long as you show your support. “Good luck on the meeting today babe. I know you’ll do well.” “I love the way that you interact with our children. You are a fantastic mother.”
2) Have open and respectful communication. Disconnects and ill-informed internal dialogues resulting from poor communication can breakdown trust and wreak havoc on stability.
3) Keep your dreams on the table. We are all working toward something right? Whether it’s an exciting retirement plan, entrepreneurship or completing a bucket list together, talking about it periodically reminds you that you have purpose as a couple and share the same dreams and visions. It also affords you an opportunity to discuss when those dreams and visions cease to align. I said goodbye to my dream of owning a horse farm after my wife said she was having none of that foolishness. Hello compromise!
4) Respect and honor your partner’s contributions to your relationship and to your lives. Regardless of how roles are defined in your relationship, partnerships are successful when each partner feels that they have equal footing in the deal. Antediluvian caveman attitudes and behaviors don’t work for most modern women.
5) Keep it sexy and keep it hot! Think about what attracted you two to each other in the first place. You were attractive, probably took pride in your appearance, you smelled good, had muscle tone, energy, vigor, and the sex was hot right? There is no reason that you can’t get one or two of those back. The bottom line is everyone wants to be desired and wanted and, while to some, love is unconditional (I would argue that it is not), desire and attraction have some conditions. Give her a reason to get her eyes off of Idris Elba and back on to you no matter how daunting a task that might seem.
6) Drink plenty of wine and laugh.