The idea of the seven-year-itch is well known. It essentially just means that most couples feel some dissatisfaction around year seven of the marriage. They’re far enough along in the relationship that the newness of it has worn off. They may become unhappy or decide to get divorced and start a new relationship.
But calling it the seven-year-itch may actually be misleading. In one study, researchers found that the most “conflict behaviors” happened in the first year, the third year, the seventh year and then the 16th year.
The early conflict behaviors could mean that the couple wasn’t ready for marriage. If they’re already having serious conflicts in the first 12 months, they may not have been as compatible as they once thought.
Those who struggle with these behaviors — which include things like insulting one another, acting contemptuous, and the like — in the third year of marriage could be couples who weren’t all that happy early on but who pushed through the first two years to see if things got better. When they did not, the level of the conflict between them began to rise. By the seven-year mark, couples may have tried and failed to mend their conflicts.
The conflict behaviors seen in year 16 could mark a change in the individuals’ lives. Maybe the children are growing up and require far less care than they used to. Maybe some of those children have left for college or are nearing the age at which they can move out of the house. The relationship is being redefined, and some couples cannot adjust back to just being a couple.
No matter why or when these conflicts happen, those involved must understand their legal options.