The Seven Year Itch: Does It Really Exist?

In popular culture, there's an idea that there are several critical moments in the life of a relationship. However, do they really follow a set pattern? If so, is the seven year itch one of them?
The Seven Year Itch: Does It Really Exist?
Cristina Roda Rivera

Written and verified by the psychologist Cristina Roda Rivera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

In this article, we’ll address one of the popular myths concerning the evolutionary milestones in romantic relationships due to the passage of time.

Some couples break up after seven years together, while others survive this critical period or never experience it at all. Indeed, the so-called seven-year-old itch may be frequent but it’s not universal. In fact, when it occurs, it’s usually due to a shared disinterest in the relationship by both partners.

The seven-year itch

The idea of a crisis in the seventh year of a relationship is rooted in popular language. It marks a time associated with a certain stagnation in the couple. However, there’s nothing magical or horrific about the seven-year timeline, even though the number of separations at this point does offer food for thought. So why does it happen?

After seven years in a relationship, one or both partners reach a ‘review’ period of their life together. If the seven-year itch exists, it’s because they feel as if they’ve already gone as far as they can go in their relationship and are currently experiencing a sense of stagnation.

In those seven years, they’ve had time to experiment, fail, and come back. In fact, seven years is usually more than enough for them to be relatively predictable in their behavior.

At this point, many couples feel that the magic in their relationship is on the decline or has even disappeared. This feeling makes them wonder if it’s worth continuing. In fact, if there are still any worthwhile moments in their shared routine.

Back to back couple thinking about divorce
Couple conflicts create distances in the relationship.

From infatuation to boredom

Surprising as it may seem, the length of a relationship doesn’t say much about its quality. Furthermore, no one, except the members of the couple themselves know if they’re really continuing in a relationship out of love or a suffocating kind of commitment.

All couples face new challenges and stages in their relationships. However, no event, no matter how important, like getting married, having children, or signing a mortgage, for example, is more important than seeking a passionate, faithful, and reciprocal love.

Due to ‘demands from the environment’, a couple might assume take on certain roles and responsibilities, neglecting what’s truly important for their relationship. In fact, if there’s no intimacy between them, it doesn’t matter how much commitment and routine they maintain, the quality of their relationship will deteriorate.

Intimacy is the strength behind successful couples and deep friendships. If it deteriorates, the relationship is doomed to come to an end.

The seven-year itch

After a while, any initial excitement that accompanies something new inevitably settles into a routine. Therefore, after five to seven years of a relationship, people get so used to each other that it starts to feel boring.

This is often expressed through a lack of interest in sex, a feeling that they’re no longer in love with each other, or wanting to have an affair and seek a divorce. The myth that accompanies the crisis at this stage of a relationship is that happiness is found elsewhere.

How to face the situation and overcome it if the love is still there

Even though the divorce rate is high, there are many couples who seem to be resilient and manage to weather the storms that come with marriage.

So what are some of the strategies of successful marriages in maintaining the health of their relationships? Here, we detail the most important:

  • It’s important to discuss the mundane events of an average day and listen carefully to what your partner is saying. Introducing humor into the conversation is also helpful and makes talking more fun.
  • Listening to each other helps validate what you’re both saying. After all, an average day is full of monotonous events and it’s important for you to have time to talk about them with each other.
  • The importance of touch. It’s amazing how a touch can feel so comforting and warm. Hence, it’s really important not to forget to touch each other. Incidentally, we don’t just mean sexual contact, but a spontaneous way of expressing interest and warmth for your partner.
  • Plan vacations together or set up dates to go out for a romantic dinner without the kids.
  • Do unexpected things. For example, buy flowers if you rarely do, write romantic notes, and give warm kisses. It’s these little things that help build lasting marriages.
  • Forgiveness. Life can be difficult at times and you can say and do things to each other that are mean and nasty. Talking about these things and forgiving each other go a long way toward ensuring a more respectful relationship.
Woman on the back of her happy partner
Making plans, listening, and understanding each other are aspects that strengthen a couple’s relationship.

Understanding, a fundamental pillar

Couples shouldn’t fear the seventh year of being together. It’s normal for marital satisfaction and the overall quality of the relationship to decline during the first few years people are together. That’s because ‘real life’ and, in particular, children, enter the picture and take over.

The best way to combat the seven-year itch is to recognize it if it exists. From there, effective coping strategies can be implemented.

As a matter of fact, the purpose of the seven-year itch is to ultimately achieve a better understanding. In effect, it means accepting reality.

We’re all capable of experiencing, at any given moment, negative emotional states with high powers of transmission. Therefore, you must be extremely careful if you find this phenomenon occurs at a delicate moment in your relationship.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Allan Schwartz. Matrimonio y “Esa picazón de siete años”.
  • Didonato Teresa. ¿La picazón de los 7 años es un mito o una realidad?. 15 de febrero de 2020. Psychology Today.
  • Ellen M. Berman MD, William R. Miller PhD, Neville Vines PhD y Harold I. Lief MD (1977) La crisis de los 30 años y la comezón de los 7 años, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 3:3, 197-204, DOI: 10.1080/00926237708402984
  • López-Larrosa, S. (2009). El sistema familiar ante el divorcio: factores de riesgo y protección y programas de intervención. Cultura y educación21(4), 391-402.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.