This is a New York Post article from today, which I was honored by the lovely Jane Ridley to participate.
In the new romantic comedy “I Do … Until I Don’t,” three struggling couples are trailed by a cynical documentary filmmaker who believes lifelong marriage is bunk. Instead, she thinks couples should sign “commitment contracts” that are good for just seven years — with an option to renew.
This modern riff on the seven-year itch, a notion that became pop-culture legend with the 1955 Marilyn Monroe movie of the same name, is the latest silver-screen suggestion that relationships tend to crack a few years before hitting the decade mark.
But according to research — and to New Yorkers who dished to The Post — that itch to escape a suffocating long-term commitment isn’t just Hollywood fiction.
Steve, a Manhattan resident who works in IT and asked that his last name not be used for personal and professional reasons, says his marriage hit the skids just as his seventh anniversary approached.
“It had become a little stale, and boredom had set in,” the 32-year-old says of his partnership with his wife. “We’d come home exhausted after nine or 10 hours in demanding jobs. The spark had fizzled. We definitely got the itch.”
Surveys tell a similar story: The most recent figures from the US Census reveal that seven years is the median length of a marriage before couples decide to call it quits.
There’s nothing mystical about seven years, related studies have found. It’s simply the point at which many couples find themselves struggling with diminished intimacy due to interference factors such as kids and careers.
Taking each other for granted doesn’t help, either.
“After seven years, some people might as well be furniture,” says Manhattan-based relationship coach Gilda Carle, Ph.D. “I always say that a spouse should be treated like a guest in your home, not someone who just sits there gathering cobwebs like an old cabinet.”
Photographer: Zandy Mangold
Ingrid Levin, a model and lifestyle blogger, knows all too well the importance of treating romantic partners kindly. She broke up with two men after spending seven years with each, when the guys became controlling.
Her first relationship, which lasted 1993 to 2000, turned rocky when Levin and her live-in partner began to quarrel over trivial matters, such as Levin dripping water on the bathroom floor.
“He tried to control everything about me, but really it was a way of masking our bigger issues,” says the 45-year-old Financial District resident. “After seven years together, it felt like the natural time to evaluate our situation.”
The other cohabitation in her 30s, from 2000 to 2007, also ended badly. Levin’s partner ultimately proposed — but included a clause in their pre-nup that called for her to birth a child within five years of their wedding.
“It was crazy,” says Levin, now engaged to her partner of 18 months. “After seven years, we called it a day.”
Milestone moments seem to be a common trigger for the seven-year itch.
‘After seven years together, it felt like the natural time to evaluate
Alyssa Jeffers, a 26-year-old Hoboken, NJ, resident, ended things with her boyfriend Ryan in May, one month shy of their seventh anniversary.
She says she got cold feet as the couple started saving for a home and choosing engagement rings.
“I woke up one day in a complete panic and thought, ‘I’m not ready for this. I don’t know who I really am as a person without him,’ ” says Jeffers, who had been dating Ryan since her freshman year at the University of Rhode Island. “It was sad, but it would have been unfair of me to allow things to continue.”
Nevertheless, some couples manage to survive the stretch.
Steve and his wife worked past it with help from an NYC life coach, who helped the couple understand that spontaneity and fun were central to saving their marriage.
Specific recommendations included taking short vacations regularly. Now Steve and his wife try to plan a weeklong trip every few months -— sometimes on their own, sometimes with friends and relatives.
Shaking up their daily routine was important for reigniting the spark, as well. Steve and his wife signed up for salsa lessons and a weekly cooking class.
Thanks to these concerted efforts to shore up their partnership, Steve says the couple’s sex life has regained its honeymoon heat, and that the two have re-connected with each other and their larger circle of friends.
Still, Carle says seven-year commitment contracts might not be such a bad idea.
“If people recognize that there’s a beginning and an end, maybe they won’t gain those extra pounds, maybe they will be more responsive in the bedroom, maybe they won’t put their children before their spouse,” she says. “Right now, it’s a free-for-all. People do what they please in a relationship and then turn around and say, ‘What happened?’