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By Wesley Gallagher
The holidays are officially upon us, and while they can be cause for excitement and cheer, they can also put pressure on relationships, particularly with spouses and significant others. There’s just something about the holidays that shines a spotlight on relationship issues that may have been hiding under the surface.
All long-term relationships have issues; it just comes with the territory. Even a relationship that seemed charmed from the beginning will eventually run into bumps; the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever, no matter how great it is.
You’ve likely heard the term “7-year itch,” whether jokingly, or as an actual statistic about long-term relationships. The idea is that after seven years of being in a relationship, people start feeling restless or discontent. If you can make it through the itch, you’re on track to have a good, long relationship.
But is there truth to this notion?
Maybe. According to data from the US Census Bureau, the median length of first marriages that end in divorce is around eight years, with the time of separation at roughly seven years. But that’s just the median, which doesn’t mean all, or even most of those relationships ended at that time. So, in that regard, there’s nothing special about the seventh year, and no research has shown anything unique about that particular year in long-term relationships.
What research has shown, however, is that there is a slight bell curve in divorce risk. In a study published by Duke University Press, risk of divorce in a sample population steadily increased from year one until about year five. After that, it gradually and steadily decreased over time. But there are a lot of factors that could lead to this trend that have little to do with the actual amount of time a couple has been together.
A study found that increased social media usage was linked to an increase in arguing among couples. Another study show that people who overshare on social media tend to be less satisfied in their relationships.
As it has with many things in our world, social media has also altered the nature of our relationships, including romantic ones. There have been positive changes, like the ability for people to meet potential new partners online that they wouldn’t have met otherwise. But there have been negative impacts as well, such as the temptation for those in a committed relationship to reconnect with old flames or reach out to the wrong people for emotional support.
MindBodyGreen.com shares some other ways social media contributes to the “itch” people start to feel in their long-term relationships:
While social media posts are curated to show only the best of people’s lives, it’s still easy to gather unhealthy expectations, whether it’s from a relationship guru or your picture-perfect neighbor and her seemingly doting spouse.
Social media is the perfect way to spy on your significant other, but unfortunately, spending time monitoring his or her media usage can lead to increased jealousy and decreased trust.
A study found that increased social media usage was linked to an increase in arguing among couples. Another study showed that people who overshare on social media tend to be less satisfied in their relationships.
It’s no shock that scrolling through your friends’ vacation pictures while sitting on your couch surrounded by dirty laundry can lead to envy. Social media can take you away from the small moments that you might appreciate more if you weren’t comparing them to the Instagram-worthy moments your peers are choosing to share.
Phones are addictive, and they take us away from where we are, which is often with our significant other. Too much technology can take a toll on your intimacy.
Multiple studies have shown that social media usage is linked to loneliness, lower self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and body image issues, which can put a strain on relationships.
Then, there’s the pandemic: How has it impacted marriages? Well, that’s a complicated answer, too. At the beginning of the pandemic, the New York Post shared data showing that divorce rates were spiking and might continue to rise. But surprisingly, a more recent Bloomberg article showed COVID divorce rates lower than normal since that initial spike.
This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that people are happier in their marriages. It may simply mean that people are staying in unhappy relationships due to the inability to get divorced. Whether due to financial strain, health issues, or job uncertainty, couples may simply be waiting until a better time to file the papers to seal the deal.
Whether it’s the so-called 7-year itch, social media, or a global pandemic, relationship issues are sure to come your way. So, what can you do to strengthen your bond with your partner so you can weather the inevitable storms ahead? VerywellMind.com offers several suggestions:
It’s obvious that spending time with your significant other can improve your relationship, but spending time apart can be helpful as well. We all need independence and space to breathe, and too much togetherness can cause unnecessary friction.
Research shows that couples who go to bed at the same time have more conversation, more sex, and less conflict.
Being vulnerable with yourself, and then sharing that vulnerability with your partner, can lead to breakthroughs in your relationship that create deeper intimacy.
Routine is good, but everyone needs a little refresher from time to time. Take a break from the norm, and do something spontaneous and fun every once in a while to keep things fresh.
Sweet little surprises can go a long way in reminding your significant other that you love them and are thinking of them. Find cute and creative ways to express your love to one another.
As in, learn to be more constructive in the way you and your partner deal with conflict. Be mindful of your tone, be careful with your words, and find ways to diffuse arguments that get too heated.
Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your relationship, be intentional about focusing on the positives. This can go a long way toward happiness and contentment.
If your relationship is struggling because there are bigger issues involved, our Gentle Path team may be able to help. If your relationship needs a reset, our Couples Repair & Reset workshop at Rio Retreat Center can help examine and improve existing intimate relationships. Reach out to learn more today so you can take steps toward not only having a healthier relationship but a healthier you.
December 13th, 2021
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