Guess what? The “seven year itch” isn’t just a myth! Renowned authors and TV personalities, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen say there is a biological component to love! In summary, when we fall in love, our emotions trigger hormones like dopamine and oxytocin. For the first four years of a love relationship, we get a dosage of hormones that helps keep us close and bonding. However, somewhere between five to seven years, these chemical levels drop off. After that, couples really need to work to keep the love and sex fresh. Check out the Roizen-Oz video The Biology of Attraction to learn more practical tips to keep the love light glowing.
Another terrific resource, Dr. John Gottman, researcher, author and Ph.D. psychologist known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis, wrote a book called The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work that suggest how to keep the marriage going during the tough times. Although I admit I haven’t read the book, I summarized a terrific list from his website:
- Seek help early. The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems (and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years). This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long.
- Edit yourself. Couples who avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.
- Soften your “start-up.” Bring up problems gently and without blame. Arguments first “start-up” because a spouse sometimes escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone.
- Accept influence. Because research shows women are already well-practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do so as well. A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial.
- Have high standards. The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another. Happy couples have high standards for each other. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.
- Learn to repair and exit the argument. Successful couples know how to exit an argument. Successful repair and exit include: changing the topic to something completely unrelated; using humor; stroking your partner with a caring remark (“I understand that this is hard for you”); making it clear you’re on common ground (“This is our problem”); backing down; and, in general, offering signs of appreciation for your partner and his or her feelings along the way (“I really appreciate and want to thank you for.…”). If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.
- Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones. A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity.
Last but not least, Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, psychotherapist, social scientist, and educator in Westport CT posted a blog entry called Ten Elements of Effective Relationships. His post is worth a look, and for me, his conclusion says it all:
”Spend time together, speak your truths, respect each other, take care of each other, laugh with — and at — one another…”
Love to hear what has worked for you!
P.S. In honor of full disclosure, I wrote this post about a year ago, but it seemed worth repeating!