Despite best chances hovering right around the 50/50 mark that it will last, surveys say nearly 90 percent of Americans under 30 still believe their marriage is a forever kind of love.
So, what exactly happens to our staying power (on average, about eight years in) between “I do” and “Well, we tried”?
Psychologists have been working on that question for decades, and emerging evidence points to more than a heads-or-tails toss. One overarching – and completely normal – issue is habituation. It leads to boredom, experts say, usually by the seventh year.
Take heart, though. Quelling that seven-year itch might not be as difficult as you think.
Habituation – Exactly What It Sounds Like
One of the most basic human responses to stimuli, habituation is the decrease in natural reaction to something after repeated presentation. In other words, the more we’re around something, the less we’re impacted by it.
At best, this human response allows you to tune out the non-essentials in your life, and focus on the more important (or demanding) ones.
At worst, you can end up ignoring even important things that don’t blatantly demand your attention – like each other.
This is why, seven years down the line, many people feel like they’ve grown apart from their partners and are bored with the routine they worked so hard to establish.
Our relationship advice? Break out of your bubble. Do new things. Add a little spice.
New “Spice” Rekindles Old Flames
Novelty, Variation, Surprise. University of California Social Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky says that opening yourselves to new opportunities can rekindle old flames – and we agree. Interestingly, this is something that the vast majority of us already apply to nearly every other aspect of our lives.
You take continuing ed courses to reach new career heights. Creative inspiration comes from taking a local workshop. Need a general life break? Nothing stops you from booking a spa day.
Research shows that couples who put themselves into new circumstances with each other can thwart habituation, too. Yet somehow, trying new things doesn’t come quite as naturally in our life-long marital commitments.
You have to actively work at it.
How to Do Something Different
Book a day-date of horseback riding, for instance. Unless you’re an equestrian, it’s probably not a regular activity for you, and will probably require your full attention. Brace yourself for a fun – and certainly unpredictable – experience.
Your biological response will mimic overcoming a (positive) challenge together, releasing all sorts of feel-good hormones. Suddenly you notice – and are impressed by – the handling skills you never knew your partner had. Before you know it, you’re reminded of that strong and spirited person you fell in love with in the first place.
Plus, you’ll have a new experience to reminisce about over the coming weeks!
Horseback riding not exactly your thing? Need to brainstorm? Contact relationship counselors Tim Higdon and Norene Gonsiewski for help with this and all kinds of other relationship advice.