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Top Reasons Couples get the 7 Year Itch to Divorce

You've probably heard of the 7 year itch; it's that point in a relationship where people decide that their relationship is unsalvageable. So, it's the point in marriage where many people decide to divorce. The U.S. census in 2011 cites the average length of marriage is 8 years; couples seem to file for divorce around the 7 year mark, and then complete their divorce in the 8th year.

So what is it that happens at the 7 year mark? Well, it's not like people wake up after 7 years and decide they don't want to be married anymore. Typically, it seems the stress of caring for young children, financial pressures, and the accumulation of negative experiences or incidents come to a boiling point around 7 years. Andrew J. Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, says "Typically people who are unhappy with their marriages figure that out within the first few years and then take a few more years to get to the state of divorcing. Over time,people's flaws reveal themselves. The positives remain, but the negatives build up. It may be that after a while you realize your spouse won't be providing for you economically as well as you want.''

After the first few years of a relationship, habits and quirks that seemed endearing or attractive often turn into an annoyance. Tensions grow, and often there is a growing gap between who they were when the couple decided to marry, and who they are at the 7 year mark. Obviously individuals mature and grow, and oftentimes change during the course of their life. At this point, some couples decide to scrap their relationship and divorce, while others who are too afraid to take this step may have affairs, become workaholics, or engage in other behaviors that essentially distract them from the real problem of dealing with their marriage.

The challenge for couples at the 7 year mark is to change their relationship to fit the ever-changing needs of both partners. Sometimes this is easier said than done, so here are some tips:

Focus on communication. Many couples at this point find it easier to bite their tongue, or continually walk on eggshells to avoid conflict. However, continuing to do this leads to unhappiness, bitterness, and resentment. Have the hard discussions, and say what needs to be said. With respect and a good ear to what your partner has to say, of course.

Practice self-reflection. With the fast pace of everyday life, it's easy to go on auto-pilot. That makes it difficult to hear the whisper of change inside you. Periodically take time to sit down, think about your real needs and vision of the future, then share it with your partner.

Talk about the future. At the beginning of your marriage, you probably talked about where you saw yourselves as a couple in 5 years, or 10 years. As we discussed, this may have changed as you both have matured. Take time to update each other on your vision for the future and adjust your plans if needed. This will help you narrow that gap between where you are and where you would like to be, to fulfill your needs as a couple.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, couples at this stage are too frightened or overwhelmed to have the difficult discussions on their own. If you feel this way, think about getting help from a therapist, counselor, or even a minister. Even a few sessions may be enough get the important issues on the table, jumpstart your conversations, and get them headed in the right direction.

Just like other difficult times in marriage, the 7 year itch can be overcome. Success in marriage often requires hard work, good communication, and commitment.

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