I have often heard psychologists refer to the seven-year itch in a relationship as a period that can be especially difficult. My husband and I have passed this milestone, and have been through major moves, joblessness and plenty of arguments about money and lifestyle. We've had in-law challenges on my side and disagreements on where to live and why. My parents had a volatile, short-lived relationship and separated when I was very young. I even had a brief, turbulent first marriage in my very early twenties.
What happens around this seven year period? Whether or not this "itch" is real, I can share with you what I have observed works for us and our friends and siblings who are together after sharing several years of ups and downs:
Nothing, nothing, nothing replaces a good old sense of humor. This applies to daily trivialities as well as more serious stuff
2. Get to know your love language.
The 5 Love Languages book by Dr. Gary Chapman is perhaps the single best written book on relationships. Once I understood mine (quality time) and my husband's (words of affirmation), we communicated very differently. Every married couple could benefit from this book.
3. Give each other space.
One of my favorite books of all time is The Prophet by Kahil Gibran. He says about marriage, "The oak tree and the cyrus grow not in each other's shadow."
4. Have the difficult talks.
We speak openly and freely about money. This is a hugely contentious issue for a lot of couples I know. There seems to be a culture of avoidance in discussing things that are important such as whether or not to combine bank accounts, decisions surrounding your financial future, boundaries surrounding relatives and their involvement in your relationship, and the decision of whether or not to have children. It is also crucial to discuss how you are both willing to support each other's aging parents — financially and physically.
5. Make an effort.
Relationships are not effortless. Anyone is a long-term partnership knows it takes some compromise, some giving, some sacrifice. After seven years, I have learned to do this more happily than I used to. It's important and unavoidable and the closest couples I observe seems to make compromises with more ease.
6. Be the right person.
There is a saying I have heard at a few weddings — that marriage is not about finding the right person but about being the right person. It took me years and an early divorce to understand this. One of my mantras is, "Peace and love begin with me."
7. Recall happy memories often.
After seven years together, we have a library of private memories. I love to relive the happy, funny times over dinners, just chilling on the couch and walks together. This way you enjoy them twice, or several times. And you are inspired to create more!
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