According to Census Bureau data, the average length of first marriages for divorcing couples is 8.2 years, shortly after the seven-year mark.
This raises the question: why seven years rather than ten or fifteen? To answer this question, consider the theory of adult development, which evolves in cycles of about seven years.
Researchers such as Levinson, Vaillant and Sheehy have indeed highlighted the fact that our adult life is punctuated by six to ten years of stability, followed by two to three years of transition and turmoil before entering a new stage.
These transition periods may be marked by professional developments, changes in long-term plans, or changes in intimate relationships.
At the beginning
When you first fall in love, it fulfills a psychological need you may have in your life, such as the need to get away from your parents, to have stability, a baby, or simply to feel loved and important.
Even if it is not always expressed openly, the other person brings you something you are looking for. In this way, you unconsciously make an implicit agreement: I give you what you want and you give me what I want.
Construction of the life of couple
During the first two years of your relationship, you build a life together with rules and routines.
This gives you stability and means you don't have to reinvent your life every day. You establish habits, responsibilities, and expectations: who takes out the trash?
How often do we see each other's families?
Some couples don't make it through this stage, argue about lifestyle and expectations, and end up divorcing. But most of us do.
But after five, six, seven or eight years of living together, the partners begin to feel restless. The life they have built together, with its rules and routines, no longer works or suits them.
Why? Because your partner was able to meet your initial needs, such as the need to leave home, to have stability or a child, to feel useful, but your needs have now changed.
However, you are stuck in this life you have created together and cannot get out of, and what you liked most about the other person before may now be driving you crazy: the solid, stable, grounded person now seems rigid and controlling; the spontaneous, fun person is now a bit too dramatic.
Leave or avoid
Around 7 years of living together, couples begin to argue or drift apart. Someone may even have an affair. The implied message is that the relationship is not working and one partner wants to leave. This may result in a divorce, and two or three years later they may remarry and start the cycle again.
Other couples, instead of arguing, do their best to avoid negative emotions. They focus on their children by attending their soccer games and ballet classes, thus turning from a couple to parents. Or they focus on their careers by working 80 hours a week to get a promotion, or they distract themselves with other activities.
If you choose the distraction route, like those who divorce, you can last another eight years or so, until the kids become teenagers and your parenting ends, until you get that promotion and get bored or burned out by your job, or until you get to the midlife crisis.
The challenge of married life is not to give in to divorce or distraction, but rather to recognize the signs of emotional turmoil and use them as valuable information to help you assess your current needs. You don't have to start over or suffer in silence.
Instead, it is important to discuss together what changes are needed, such as less burden and more teamwork, less rejection and more listening, a more peaceful lifestyle and more intimate time.
However, if you are having trouble determining your needs or having difficulty communicating with your partner, it is wise to seek the help of a trained therapist or trusted friend. These resources can guide you in thinking about your feelings and needs, and help you navigate the challenges of married life successfully.
I am a student and I am part of the editorial staff of thesilverink.com. I have the chance to enjoy writing, however, I also like to discuss all subjects and especially anything related to Science.