Apparently it has to do with a film starring Marilyn Monroe, in which the couple’s relationship declines after seven years.
Some psychologists believe that it takes approximately this long for a relationship to degrade from honeymoon-like happiness to irritation and shoe throwing.
But, in truth, it really depends on the people involved, and their dynamic.
Some people can live together in harmonious bliss for decades, while others start clawing each other’s faces off after a couple of years.
Relationships take work, dedication, and nurturing in order to succeed, but a lot of people assume that if and when their initial feelings start to cool, that means the partnership is over.
This isn’t necessarily the case.
People are constantly changing, growing, evolving… and as such, the relationship has to change and evolve along with them.
If you’re concerned that you might have fallen out of love with your husband, wife, or long-term partner, here’s some advice for you.
Relationships Wax And Wane, Ebb And Flow
Joni Mitchell once said something in an interview that rings quite true when it comes to long-term relationships.
She had read a quote in Esquire magazine that said: “If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.”
This makes sense when you really think about it.
When people date, they put on a façade of their absolute best, most charming self.
They have spectacular stories to tell, little charming mannerisms and moves that entice and enchant the object of their affections…
…but after all that is past, and people create a closer bond, those tricks really aren’t relevant anymore.
Instead, a more intimate relationship has developed: one in which people’s more authentic, vulnerable aspects show, and they’re more honest about how they feel, rather than trying to put on a good show to keep the other interested.
We are not always in sync with our partners, especially when each may be going through their own personal issues or crises.
Some may just affect the individual, and some may affect the relationship, like financial hardships or serious illness.
Emotions also ebb and flow, and aren’t “on” all the time.
If one partner is struggling with emotional hardships, they may not be interested in sex for some time, which can make the other one feel neglected or rejected outright.
This is where clear, and open communication comes into play…
More often than not, a lot of difficulty can be alleviated – or even avoided outright – if people just talk to one another, openly and honestly, about what’s going on with them.
How they’re feeling, where they are in the relationship as well as in their personal lives, their work, their overall level of contentment, etc.
Many refrain from talking about their problems with their partners because they’re afraid they’ll be lessened in the other person’s eyes, especially if they’re struggling with emotional or mental hardships.
If major changes occur, but both parties want to remain in the relationship, then some renegotiation needs to occur.
Think of it as revisiting and renewing a contract: situations and people change, and the parameters of the relationship may need to change as well.
Take personal evolution, career changes, epiphanies, and preferences into account, then sit down and negotiate what would be optimal for both parties.
This could address everything from personal pursuits to child/elder care responsibilities, or might even encompass moving to a different location together.
The key is to re-establish bonds, and reassure one another that you’re there for each other, even when things are difficult.
Talking about all this stuff can be awkward, even weird, especially if you’re the type to keep your emotions to yourself, but it’s so important to open up and talk to your partner about things that really need to be addressed.
If you’re too embarrassed to discuss them face to face, write letters. Or emails.
Whatever it takes to open a dialogue and address issues that may have been festering for a long time.
Remember Why You Fell For This Person To Begin With
After you’ve been with someone for quite some time, little habits and quirks of theirs that you once found endearing can suddenly become… unbelievably annoying.
During the honeymoon phase, our hormones and emotional highs block out all kinds of irritations, but after a while, the sound of them crunching granola at breakfast may leave you wanting to bludgeon them with the toaster.
The whole “familiarity breeds contempt” adage rings true.
Thing is, chances are that your partner may be feeling the exact same way about you.
Remember that bit about communication earlier? Yes, that. When we don’t talk about the things that bother us, even seemingly insignificant stuff, resentment builds.
Until finally you come close to blurting out that you want to split up because they slurped their coffee too loudly one too many times.
This is the time to remember why you fell in love with them in the first place.
Look back over handwritten love letters, emails, messages, texts, etc. from when you first met, and remember the giddy little thrill you had as you were getting to know this person.
What was it that made you fall for them? Was it their smile? Their laugh? Their kindness?
Were you blown away by their knowledge of a particular subject?
Did they do something so unbelievably romantic that they just swept you off your feet?
These are the memories that slip through the cracks when we’re kept awake by our partner’s snoring, or when we’re folding their underwear while they’re dealing with screaming kids.
Sure, there may be several things about your partner that irritate you at times, but what about all the amazing things they do?
Grab your journal (or scrap paper, something to write on) and make a list of all the things that you appreciate about this person.
Do they make you your tea or coffee the way you like it in the morning without being asked to do so?
Do they have a tendency to pick up interesting surprises when they go out shopping?
Do they parent diligently, with gentle compassion and sincere care?
How are they with your animal companions?
As you do this, you may discover a ton of things that you’ve been taking for granted, and realize some pretty amazing things about the person you chose to spend your life with.
Now that you’ve made a fabulous list of all the wonderful things you love about your partner, let them know what it is you appreciate about them.
Not all in one go, as that would probably make them really uncomfortable, but when the time is right to do so.
Like when they give you your morning coffee: take their hand or give them a hug, and let them know just how much you appreciate that little gesture, and that you never take it for granted.
Then watch them shine.
Let Go Of Expectations And Resentment
Whenever two people interact, there’s bound to be some kind of friction once in a while.
There may be little things that cause irritation on a long-term basis – like a chronic inability to pick their dirty socks up off the floor – or there might be more serious issues, like an affair, or temporary abandonment because of personal issues.
Again, it’s important to talk about these things, and to focus on forgiveness.
To err is human, and we are all guilty of having hurt, disappointed, and angered others because we were focused on our own crap instead of really taking into account how our actions would affect them.
So many of us have expectations about how our partners “should” be, what a relationship “should” look like… but when has reality ever truly mirrored our expectations?
People change and grow so much that they can be totally different people from one day to the next.
The person you’re with now isn’t the same one they were when you met, and thank the heavens for that, else they would have stagnated.
Similarly, your partnership is likely to go through many changes while you’re together.
You may need to redefine relationship parameters in order to move forward in a way that makes everyone feel content.
A monogamous relationship may become polyamorous, or vice versa. Hormonal changes (either natural or through gender transition) can affect intimacy within the relationship, so that’s territory that needs to be negotiated as well.
If you don’t have expectations, you can’t be disappointed.
Just keep communicating about each other’s needs, and support one another’s individual soul journeys to the best of your ability, and you might be pleasantly amazed at how great your relationship can be.
Set Mutual Goals To Strive For Together
One major complaint that a lot of long-term couples have is that they’re not working together towards a common goal.
Some work hard to buy a house, or to raise children, but that’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea.
There’s a huge difference between spending time together, working toward something awesome, and just sitting on the couch together, watching TV and not speaking or interacting with one another.
Find a way to re-engage with a goal or project that you’re both interested in.
What do you two have in common?
What’s a goal or project that you can dedicate time to together?
Have you two always dreamt of cultivating an amazing garden? Are you avid cosplayers? Do you love to travel?
Sit down and talk about some of the things that you both love to do, and then find something to strive towards.
Make sure it’s fun, rather than being a project that will cause you a lot of tension and frustration, and then determine the steps needed to make it a reality.
Having a project like this will allow you both to re-engage with one another. You’ll have new energy to turn toward it, and will inevitably shift some of that new light into your personal relationship.
Any long-term partnership can fall into a rut, with partners ending up feeling like siblings or housemates now and then. Sometimes for long periods of time.
Ultimately, the key really is to keep in mind that your partner is an amazing human being, and you enjoy spending time with them for a reason.
This is a person who knows you inside and out. They’ve stood by you through difficult times, shared in your joy as well as your grief, and accept you as you are.
If you both make a conscious effort to show up for one another, and try to see each other as unique, wonderful individuals, you may not just remember why you fell in love to begin with: you may find new things that make you fall in love all over again.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.