The Seven-Year Itch

They call it the “seven-year itch.”

The idea that after seven years of marriage the happiness of the relationship begins to decline.

This is an interesting concept, but obviously there is not a timer that starts when you get married or start dating someone.

So what is it? What causes people to lose the spark that they once had?

Simple, as humans we analyze and process what is in front of us. Most of the time when we see other couples, we are seeing them with their best couple hats on. They are friendly to each other, maybe even affectionate. They sit next to each other. They hold hands. They hug. They kiss. They laugh. They love. What we are seeing is happiness and harmony.

This is our framing of other couples. The information that the brain is processing on other relationships is largely positive.

This is where we have to be careful.

It is a shame that we aren’t given an instruction manual on how to use the thing that rattles around in our skull, because it would sure be helpful.

We need to remind our brains, periodically, that what we are seeing of other couples is about 5% of the real story. That is not to say that we should assume that when other couples are on their own that they are unhappy, rather, we need to simply remind our brain that we are not getting all of the information.

They fight. They hurt. They cry.

It is the same reason that movies can be so effective. We see perfect couples and happy endings on the big screen and it is no wonder that our brains are searching for that exact thing, because we know it will bring us pleasure and happiness. We can all have that thing, we just need to understand that nobody’s relationship is happy at all times.

We are constantly processing the sensory information that is put before us and when we are all exposed to everybody’s best, we start to try to figure out why we fight and argue so much in our own relationship. Or, why our significant other made us sad or hurt and, suddenly, we are thinking that our relationship is inferior and that we need to move on find that the perfect thing we see everywhere else in the world. And since we have spent so much time with our partner, we must need a new one.

It is the same reason that slot machines are profitable. Our brains are always subconsciously trying to solve problems in front of us.

The problem?

Well, as we know, slot machines are random but when we win our brain makes the association that we have done something to achieve the reward and wants to duplicate it. First step? Insert another coin.

What does this have to do with relationships?

Your brain is going to seek out the perfect relationship that you see everywhere else. But, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship, at least in a universal sense. What you need to remind your brain of, is that you are searching for your own perfect. Your perfect is not the same as anybody else’s perfect, which, makes it more perfect.

It’s an original perfect. It is beautiful and you should embrace your perfect. And, you will only know when you know it. Do not let anyone tell you what your perfect should look and feel like. Tell your brain that you are going to design your own perfect and let other people have their perfect.

This weekend, my wife and I celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. I adore everything about her. But, despite what you may see when we are in public…

We fight. We cry. We hurt. We laugh. We love.

All by ourselves, with nobody else to see.

And as I look back over the 7 years of our marriage I realize something great…

We have found our perfect. And it is just… well… perfect.

Cheers.

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