How to Overcome the Seven-Year Itch

How to move through this common relationship lull with success

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The seven-year itch or 7-year itch refers to the notion that divorce rates reach their height around the seven-year mark of commitment. While this concept has been widely disputed, it is a concern that plagues many if they start experiencing marital issues seven years into their relationship.

The seven-year itch doesn't necessarily refer to a desire to divorce—it can refer to major relationship issues such as conflict, cheating, or irreparable differences. Issues like these may become illuminated during the seven-year itch.

While relationship challenges can be tough to navigate, it is possible to get through the seven-year itch. 

Where Did the Concept of Seven-Year Itch Come From?

While the seven-year itch is a popular term, there is some uncertainty regarding its validity. While most relationships involve overcoming challenges, it's uncertain if they always occur seven years into a relationship.

Let's look at how and when this concept appeared in popular culture.

Anecdotal Experiences Popularized the Seven-Year Itch

Research has documented a pattern of divorce rates being low at the beginning of a relationship, rising over time until it reaches a climax, and then falling back down again.

Formative psychological theories and anecdotal public experiences have led many to believe that seven years is the breaking point where most married couples get divorced. This theory has become highly popularized.

'The Seven Year Itch' Starring Marilyn Monroe

In 1955, a film titled after the phenomenon starring Marilyn Monroe, was released. A key plot point involves a man lusting after women he is not married to. His desires are validated by a manuscript written by a male psychiatrist who hypothesized all men cheat on their wives in the seventh year of marriage.

While the first significant reference to the seven-year itch in media presents the idea of men being affected by the seven-year itch, no research states that this concept only applies to one gender identity.

Additionally, no evidence states the seven-year itch specifically applies to infidelity.

Is the Seven-Year Itch Real?

The answer is: it's hard to know for sure. There isn’t any conclusive evidence that shows the seven-year itch is real. But there also isn’t evidence that states it isn’t.

First, let’s explore what leaves researchers stumped in determining if the seven-year itch is real. 

Many People View Divorce Differently

A study published in the Demographyjournal displayed some skepticism, noting that there may be flaws in studies conducted that showed a spike in divorce around year seven. Additionally, it raised the question of what information is being left out of research endorsing the seven-year itch.

For example, many people view divorce differently. Some people are against divorce, and others don't find divorce to be as big of a moral issue. So for someone who doesn’t find divorce highly stigmatizing or someone who is highly ambitious to the point that their relationships suffer, divorce might be more likely for them anyway.

Another example raised in a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Familyconsidered that young women who have yet to have children in their marriage may also be more prone to divorce, with the logic being they may want to seek out a new relationship to have children elsewhere.

So, Is It Real?

So, with all of these variables, how real is the seven-year itch? Well, research showed that divorce peaked around the fifth year of marriage. But, Whether it is the fifth or seventh, it is agreed upon that divorce rates peak at some point in a relationship.

Does the Seven-Year Itch Only Apply to Marriage?

Yes, the seven-year itch is most commonly applied to marriages, and there isn’t much research on long-term relationships ending around the seven-year mark.

How Might the Seven-Year Itch Apply to Unmarried Couples?

When the idea of the seven-year itch was initially popularized, like in the 1950s when the Monroe-starring film was released, it was uncommon for couples to live together before marriage. Therefore, this concept originated when couples began cohabitating right when they began their marriage.

But now, premarital cohabitation is much more common. So, while there isn’t a wealth of research noting what happens to relationships with couples who aren’t married around the seven-year mark, one can reasonably suspect that people who live together may experience similar relationship issues at the seven-year mark.

How to Overcome the Seven-Year Itch in Your Relationship

Some couples can find themselves concerned if their arguments spike or their chemistry fizzles around the seven-year mark. However, with a proactive approach, there are ways to safeguard your relationship against any issues you may find yourself up against. 

Try Individual and/or Couple's Therapy

Therapy, both together and individually, can be helpful. If either one of you has major life stressors or unresolved trauma, it is a good idea to seek out some support. This can ensure that neither of you is dumping your stressors onto the other.

If you have clashing values, tense communication, or even sexual dissatisfaction, a couples therapist could be a great fit. You can find one specializing in intercultural marriages, communication issues, or sex therapy.

A healthy relationship is a shared responsibility; all parties should work together to seek support. Otherwise, resentment could build, only adding to a soured relationship dynamic. 

Maintain Open and Respectful Communication

Be sure to maintain open communication with one another and prioritize respect for each other. Let the other person know, non-confrontationally, what you need.

Moreover, speak about your partner respectfully when they aren’t around. Not only does this follow the golden rule of treating others how you’d like to be treated, but it also can minimize any risks of drama spreading throughout your immediate circle.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kulu H. Marriage duration and divorce: the seven-year itch or a lifelong itch? Demography. 2014;51(3):881-893. doi: 10.1007/s13524-013-0278-1.

  2. Lavner JA, Bradbury TN. Patterns of change in marital satisfaction over the newlywed years. J Marriage Fam. 2010;72(5):1171-1187. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00757.x

By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.