The Seven-Year Itch: The Concept & The Movie
We recently celebrated our 8 year anniversary which means we successfully staved off the alleged “seven-year itch”, but what is even is that? Is it real? Is it just an allosexual thing? Did the movies make it up? Let's talk about it!
- Is The ‘Seven-Year Itch’ Actually A Real Thing? It’s probs more common than you think
- Seven-Year Itch Isn’t About Years but the Relationship
- Seven-Year Itch-Are relationship lulls fact or fiction?
- Is the 7-Year Itch a Myth or Reality? When people talk about a 7-year itch, is it an excuse or a biological urge?
- The Seven-Year Itch: Fact or Fiction?
- THE EIGHTH YEAR- A Vital Problem Of Married Life
Courtney: Hello, everyone and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce, and together we are The Ace Couple. And very recently we were fortunate enough to celebrate our eighth year anniversary, which means we have successfully staved off the dreaded seven year itch. So let’s talk about that. What is the “seven year itch”? Is it real? And why has it become so ingrained in western pop culture? So, undoubtedly, the thing that really seared the concept of The Seven Year Itch into our modern collective psyche was the 1955 movie by the same name, starring one Ms Marilyn Monroe. And I will be truthful. Neither one of us had seen this movie until last week when we decided to watch it. Because it was the last week of our seventh year of marriage, we deemed it to be a rite of passage, a “take that” in the face of – I don’t know, what would you call the concept of The Seven Year Itch? Just take that societal expectations?
Royce: Rampant unchecked allonormativity?
Courtney: Take that rampant unchecked allonormativity! In your face! But even without having seen this movie, I fully knew of the concept. I don’t know how, no one ever taught me this concept. It’s just growing up in the United States, I was aware that this is a thing that people say exists. Did you have any preconceived notions of this before we dove into the movie?
Royce: I just knew that I had heard the term before, that’s about it.
Courtney: So I think what we’re gonna do on this episode, we’re going to talk about our impressions of the movie for just a little bit. But we want to use that to branch off into the more general concept of The Seven Year Itch and what psychologists have to say about it, and other maybe less credible relationshippy experts, who may or may not have credentials of any kind. Because whoa, opinions and beliefs on this are kind of all over the board, after I started digging in deeper. So I may have said this before, but I am just not the biggest movie person in the world. It’s not my preferred form of media. So I just don’t watch as many as the average person. Over the last, maybe 10 years I’ve finally started to watch all of the movies that everyone would be just shocked to hear that I’d never seen before, like it was impossible. But I still haven’t seen all of them and most of them I don’t love, but at least like five years ago I would have said if you asked me if I have seen any particular movie, the answer is probably no.
Courtney: And even though I did have a really big, like, old movie phase when I was in, like, Middle School, never did see anything starring Marilyn Monroe. Obviously, she’s such a pop culture icon that, you know, her face is recognizable. You are aware of who she is even if you haven’t seen any of her work firsthand. But I did not actually know that the famous photo of her white dress blowing up over a subway grate came from this movie. I did not know that. That was fascinating to find out. Maybe I’m late to the party. Maybe all the movie buffs out there are like, “Well, duh.” But that gives you maybe sort of an idea of exactly what this film meant to 20th century pop culture. Because that is in my mind, probably one of the most recognizable pop culture images that exist. I don’t know, I can’t think of a lot better, more recognizable than that.
Courtney: And it took us all of .2 seconds to find the racism in the movie. That is a major major drawback to watching old movies. Even movies just from 20 years ago very often have, let’s say, things that didn’t quite age so well. And I think I even said that, I think I turned and said, “Oh, I found the racism before the movie even started talking.” Because after all of the credits, in the beginning, the very first image was like a characterized kind of illustration artwork of Native Americans, and I would have preferred they kept it at that because then the very following scene – I’m 99% sure – was all or mostly white people painted brown and that’s not cool. But the 1950s… And what really gets me is that that scene had absolutely nothing to do with the movie at all.
Royce: They even said– the movie even said so itself.
Courtney: It did! It did say that itself. It was like, “Oh the Manhattan Indians 500 years ago, would send their wives to a cooler climate during the hot, hot summers, and this movie has nothing to do with that, except for the fact that five hundred years later, men are still doing that. Still sending their wives and children up North during the summer, and–” But that’s it. It is never mentioned again. It’s like, it’s like they made the whole movie without that scene and then someone said, “Wait, we need to add racism.” And they just tacked that right onto the beginning. It was so unnecessary, my goodness. And so yeah, we’re off to a good start.
Courtney: So basically there is this guy Richard, whose wife and son are away. They’ve gone to Maine because it’s too hot, but he stays behind to work. And right off the bat it is so weird and sexist. He starts, like, hallucinating his wife and having a pretend conversation with her. And it was also very much a scene of, like, “Can ya not…? Can 1950s men not…? Can the allosexuals not…?” Because he was just, like, bragging to this hallucination of his wife that he has been just like vigorously pursued by multiple, very attractive women, like constantly throughout their marriage. And it is so clear that this is untrue in many ways, because they were showing these as if they are flashbacks and it’s like he’s lying in a hospital bed and his nurse comes and just, like, crawls on him and starts making out with him. And none of this happened.
Courtney: But also I get it, it was the 1950s. I get that this is a cis-het-allo man. I get that this was during a time where it was kind of cool and hip to, like, hate your wife after a certain period of time. But what on Earth kind of mindset do you have to be in, where you’re having a fake conversation with your wife trying to convince her how hot other women think that you are? Astonished. And it was also because he was older, he was– I think his movie character was like late 30s, but I think the actor was in his 40s and he was like, “Oh, my wife is going to be turning 31 and she’s not going to be attractive for very long.” Also, the very sexist, like, “Now me, I’m gonna stay attractive. In fact, I might get more attractive because men just age differently than women. I mean once she turns 31 like, you know, her time to be attractive it’s going down. Women just don’t age like men.” It’s like what? So really, like, just utterly insufferable this fellow.
Royce: Do you know much about the play?
Courtney: I really don’t. I know it was a play, but I don’t know how different it was made for the adaptation.
Royce: I tried to find a little bit. The actor that played the main character in the movie also played the same character in the Broadway production.
Courtney: Oh, I did not know that.
Royce: And the reason I asked was because all of these delusions are fantasies do play out during the movie. I didn’t know if that was also something that happened in the play because there were more explicit sexual interactions between the man and the girl, Marilyn Monroe’s character does not have a name. Her name is The Girl.
Courtney: She doesn’t have a name?
Royce: Both in– This is both in the play and in the movie.
Courtney: Alright, 1950s...
Royce: There is a certain production code. The Hays code that was used for basically a meet– a series of rules to self-censor movies that was still in place during this. And adultery was off the table. Depending on how strict they were following to it. And so–
Royce: As a means of getting around that, they did all of these scenes in daydream sequences, in his imagination.
Courtney: So you’re telling me that they could not have said that that was actually happening, if they played out exactly the same things, but they told the audience it was real, that would have been a No-No but by making it a dream sequence or a hallucination, or what have you then like, oh, okay?
Royce: It kind of seems like that. It’s unclear to me at this point how strictly this was enforced, or who was enforcing it. If it was a case of maybe, maybe they would have had more time distributing it or something like that. It wasn’t clear. It seems like enforcement of this code was starting to break down at this point in time. But at least the people making the movie were like, “Hard no, you can’t stick to the play and actually show that the man and the woman in this had sex.”
Courtney: Wow, that’s so fascinating. So like, it’s okay to let them kiss as long as you tell the audience “Psych.” That’s really interesting because I am very fascinated by the progression of what has and has not been allowed on television and movies. Because obviously film has always been pushing boxes as per what is allowed, and people have always been in an uproar about it. I mean, if you think about like, I Love Lucy, like, they still had separate beds on screen. They could not be shown, like, even going to sleep in the same bed, even though they were actually a married couple in real life. And oh, I cannot think off the top of my head. I should know this. What TV show actually broke that barrier by showing two actors falling asleep in the same bed, but I think they were also a married couple.
Royce: I have the Motion Picture Production Code Wikipedia page up right now, because it was one of the things that I looked at, and one of their line items on here, deemed for special care for potential vulgarity is “man and woman in bed together.”
Courtney: So vulgar!
Royce: Apparently this was stuff that was proposed in 1927. That was slowly sort of eroded, and less and less enforced until the entire production code got dropped. And shortly thereafter, film moved to the MPAA, film rating system that we’re more familiar with now.
Courtney: So I did have to look it up. Apparently, I Love Lucy did actually in an episode have them sleeping in the same bed when they were outside of their regular bedroom for some reason, which I did not recall. But it does look like, yeah, basically throughout the 40s and 50s, the first three couples to ever share a bed together on TV were all actually married couples in real life. And a lot of speculation that that is the only reason why that was ever allowed during that period of time. But the first married couple in color to share the same bed was The Flintstones. Congratulations, The Flintstones.
Courtney: But at any rate, back to The Seven Year Itch. After he has this entire conversation with his wife who isn’t there, and they’re showing all of these sequences of him not actually being pursued and pounced on by women because that would be taboo in this period of time – it’s just a dream. He was also just like really lamenting and stewing over the fact that his wife wanted to call him that evening, because he read way too deeply into that and was like, “Oh, she’s just calling to check in on me because she doesn’t trust me.” And I think that was the whole point of having this conversation because he’s like, “I’ve been faithful. I’ve been faithful as heck. And don’t you think that I couldn’t have been sleeping with a bunch of really hot women? Because I could have. Chicks dig me.”
Royce: A lot of this movie is the central character’s struggle with his inner monologue. Because he goes back and forth between somehow showing or voicing his– him being under the seven year itch, or at least wanting to partake in that part of culture as it’s being shown, and adamantly saying that he’s a good husband and would never do anything like that.
Courtney: Yeah, because he’s also– he works at, like, a publishing company. So while he’s trying to work on this back patio, he’s trying to get himself to read this book by a psychologist, which is talking about the concept of the seven year itch and clinical observations of men who have succumbed to the seven year itch. But then Marilyn Monroe accidentally almost crushes him by dropping a pot on his head, but don’t worry, he moved out of the way. She may or may not have been naked when doing that.
Royce: I believe she was. I forget why except it was really hot up there.
Courtney: It’s really hot. She keeps her underwear in the freezer. And yeah, she– she just moved in for the summer, basically, to take care of that upstairs apartment while the regular family is out of town. And it’s Marilyn Monroe, so one of the most famous sex symbols in all of history. So how’s a man to resist when you’re already succumbing to the seven year itch, and the hottest woman alive, apparently, just moved in upstairs. Well, of course you’re going to invite her down for a drink because you’ve got air conditioning and you can’t let the poor lady suffer in this heat. And so, yeah, here’s the thing. Like, I don’t understand being in this mindset at all, where you want to sleep with someone.
Courtney: Period. But I also don’t understand the mentality of being inclined to cheat on a partner or break your spouse’s trust, or do something you know that might hurt your family. But the thing that I just could not get past was that it seemed like – from that point of view and what was being presented to me, having never experienced this myself – it seemed, like, the man was just torturing himself. Because he brings her into his home, serves her alcohol, and then he’s like trying to give himself pep talks. Like, “You’re not actually gonna cheat on your wife. It’s perfectly acceptable to just invite a neighbor over for a drink, and we’re just– we’re just going to have one drink and she’s gonna go back home and that’s it. And that’s okay.” And it’s like, if you are needing to do this much heavy lifting to convince yourself that you’re not going to be unfaithful to your wife, why put yourself in this situation in the first place?
Royce: Well, because he was flipping between wanting to and not wanting to. When he made her that drink it was a Martini, but it was like 99% gin. It was a very, very tall glass of gin.
Courtney: A big tall one. Said it needed more sugar. Yeah. It’s I, I don’t get it. I do not understand. And now, wait a minute now, as I’m thinking through this in my head because she– it turns out she is on TV and she is a model. And she did this like, slightly risky bikini photo shoot. And I think they did actually have one canon, non-dream sequence example of him making a move on her, didn’t they? Because he was lamenting to the psychologist later that he– what was the word he used… Like, “I– I terrorized that woman”?
Royce: Terrorize. It was after they were playing chopsticks on the piano.
Courtney: Yeah, he goes over the piano and just starts playing chopsticks. And yeah, yeah, he just moved over to kiss her and they, like, fell off the bench. She ended up totally pulling away from him when he tried to kiss her, and that ended in them falling on the floor off of the piano bench. And once he realized what he had just done, he was like, “Oh, I’m so sorry that never happens to me.” And she’s like, “Really, it happens to me all the time.” And I was like, “Ow… too real.” In fact, throughout this whole thing I was very much like, I want to be able to watch Marilyn Monroe’s character through an asexual lens so badly. Because there were moments where, when she found out he was married, like saw his wedding ring, she was like, “Oh, thank goodness. You’re married.” Like, “I much prefer to talk to married men because I know nothing’s going to happen.” And I was like, “Yes, asexual Marilyn Monroe!”
Courtney: Although you know, there’s actually I was not intending to go here. So I did not do all my full research, so we’re only going to spend a hot second on this. But there actually is “Was Marilyn Monroe asexual?” discourse. And this is a discourse that isn’t new, because I read about this probably on an AVEN forum like years ago. But it’s become a hot topic now, because someone made a Tik Tok about it, and now Twitter’s talking about it. But Marilyn Monroe did actually, like, write in journals about how she’s unable to enjoy sex. And when you do read the quotes, some of them are like that is very clearly a possibility.
Courtney: So this excerpt for example, “Sex is a baffling thing when it doesn’t happen. I used to wake up in the morning when I was married and wonder if the whole world was crazy whooping about sex all the time. It was like hearing all the time that stove polish was the greatest invention on Earth. Then it dawned on me that people, other women, were different than me. They could feel things I couldn’t. And when I started reading books I ran into the words frigid, rejected, and lesbian. I wondered if I was all three of those things. A man who had kissed me once had said it was very possible I was a lesbian because I apparently had no response to males, meaning him. I didn’t contradict him because I didn’t know what I was. There were times even when I didn’t feel human and times when all I could think of was dying. There was also the sinister fact that a well-made woman had always thrilled me to look at.”
Courtney: So there are people who read that and say, Marilyn Monroe was lesbian. There are people who read that and say, Marilyn Monroe is asexual. Maybe she’s both. Because that is fully allowed. But other excerpts that are just about like not being able to enjoy sex. There’s– there’s a really, really stark overcorrection of people who do not think she could possibly be asexual because she had, I believe, endometriosis was what they were saying. And for some people endometriosis can result in sexual pain, sexual issues. So of course, there are people that are like, “She can’t be asexual because she had this. She had a medical condition.” And boy, we’ve been down that line of thought. You can 100% be both. But when she’s writing an excerpt like she wasn’t into kissing a guy that’s– that’s probably not endometriosis related.
Courtney: There’s something to that, but yeah. I truly did really, really like how potentially readable as asexual this character was. And the thing is, I fully wanted to hate everything about this movie, because it started with racism, it started with sexism, it started with this asshole guy that I will never be able to understand even an ounce of his psyche. But I kind of get Marilyn Monroe now. Like, obviously she’s super famous. She was the biggest star of her time. But I didn’t expect her to actually be like, really brilliant. So, that was a pleasant surprise. In fact, I mean here, here I said we weren’t going to go into this too far. But now I’m– now I’m curious. So I’m googling.
Courtney: So, come listeners, come down the rabbit hole with me in her autobiography, which was co-written, so pseudo autobiography. There was a quote, which says, “Why I was a siren I hadn’t the faintest idea. There were no thoughts of sex in my head. I didn’t want to be kissed and I didn’t dream of being seduced by a duke or a movie star. The truth was that with all my lipstick and mascara and precarious curves, I was unsensual as a fossil. But it seemed to affect people quite otherwise.” I mean, if that’s not the acest thing I’ve ever heard… And I can relate to that on a tremendously deep level. When I talked in our episode about how I almost became a lingerie model, I had measurements very similar to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic measurements. With like, 24-inch waist, but like, 36 or 38-inch bust and hips. And I never felt comfortable in that. Like why I was a siren, I haven’t the faintest idea! I had no thoughts of sex that could come right out of my brain from that period of my life. So really, really, really interesting. I don’t know. I don’t know how deep this goes. I don’t know if Marilyn Monroe should get her own episode, but that’s probably all there is to say on the matter right now.
Courtney: But this guy who is, like, absolutely having a horrible time because he just attempted to make a move on a woman who outright pulled away and rejected him, who was really hoping that – because of the fact he was married – he wasn’t going to be making a move on her, because that would be simpler and easier, nicer, and well, “If you’re just married we can just have a conversation. That’s perfect. Good for me.” He ends up meeting the actual psychologist who’s writing this book about The Seven Year Itch, and all the men he’s witnessed having this particular thing. And they kind of just do like an impromptu therapy session in his office. But then later that night, he invites her back down and also offers to let her stay in the apartment because of the air conditioning, which she does not have access to upstairs. And the whole time wasn’t he also like, really concerned that his wife was cheating on him? Despite having no evidence that that was the case.
Royce: Yeah. He had a couple of daydreams about that as well.
Courtney: And this maintenance guy who kept coming to try to, you know, demoth the rugs and haul up this pot that fell upstairs, and do all these things. Like, he was also very openly cheating on his wife and assumed this guy was cheating on his wife, but it was very much a, like, “good for you.” And this like, like wingman sort of dynamic, like, “I’m gonna help you out here because I see what’s going on.” And just sort of the impression that all men cheat on their wives when their wives are out of town for the summer. Horrible. And I mean honestly, like there’s really not much more to the plot than that. It ends with him actually, like, leaving to go see his wife and being like, “I’m taken off work and I’m going up there with them.” And like that’s pretty much it.
Courtney: There was one moment where Marilyn Monroe’s character did kiss him, right before leaving, and that was the one moment where I was like, “Ah, you ruined it.” Like I so badly wanted her to just be like naively hanging out with this guy who she thinks is a new friend, does not think there is anything romantic or sexual at all whatsoever. While clearly, this guy is suffering. Suffering the seven year itch and very attracted to her. I just wanted that naivete to go on forever and some people don’t like the, you know, ditzy blond trope. But from an ace lens, I get it. I have had so many friendships with men where they thought there was something where there absolutely was not. And without that conversation, I am not going to be picking up on your subtle hints. But yeah, that’s pretty much it. There isn’t much more plot-wise. The iconic subway grate scene happened because they went to see a movie together and when they walked out of the movie, she stepped onto a subway grate. They didn’t even show her whole body in the movie though. Like that picture was very much more than was shown in the film itself.
Royce: Yeah, when that scene came on. I was waiting to see the image, but apparently that was a highly publicized event. There were so many people in New York when they filmed that they had to reshoot it in Hollywood. And it actually seems to have been the final straw in Marilyn Monroe’s current, at that time, marriage to Joe DiMaggio.
Courtney: Joe DiMaggio, where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Royce: So apparently that guy sucked.
Courtney: As did most guys in the 1950s,
Royce: Just a quick look showed a history of drinking problems, anger issues, violence. That sort of thing. He was in the crowd, during this highly publicized grate scene being shot and apparently got really angry and jealous. They had a fight immediately afterwards. And then as soon as Marilyn Monroe flew back from New York filed the divorce papers.
Courtney: Wow, good for her. Girl, get out of there. Her life was really tragic and the way, like, her estate has been exploited after her death, really tragic. Like having prior to last week not been familiar with any of her first-hand work, I knew how really devastating her life actually was. And now Kim Kardashian is wearing her dress for all of five minutes to the Met Gala, even though she starved herself to try to fit into it, and still could not. I’ve also been reading a lot of weird stuff about Marilyn Monroe’s hair. I haven’t told you about this yet, but I might do something about Marilyn Monroe’s hair in my other line of work. Mine non– my actual professional life, where I do hair stuff. Because they apparently presented Kim Kardashian with a lock of Marilyn Monroe’s hair, but it was from Ripley’s, believe it or not. And some people are skeptical as to whether or not it’s actually a lock of her real hair or not. But also why they just give it to Kim Kardashian, I– the only reason is because they want the publicity of the headline saying that they have it and are giving it. Ripley’s has a history of doing these big publicized events for like, guess whose hair we have here. And I’ve seen some of Ripley’s hair collection and I’ve researched some of Ripley’s hair collection and I fully believe that they have some legitimate pieces of famous historical hair, and probably some which are far less legitimate. This’s as much as I will say on the matter right now,
Royce: Speaking of publicity stunts, this movie being such a big pop-culture icon and being big when it was released, it’s really interesting to read random facts about it now. Do you remember the potato chip and champagne scene?
Courtney: Yeah, because I turned to you and I said, “Next time we have champagne we have to get potato chips. I can try that.” It sounds just elegant.
Royce: Apparently a local, small potato chip brand was trying to get wider recognition and would just send boxes of chips to production studios.
Courtney: Product placement!
Royce: And they ended up eating them during the filming of this movie. And the chain got famous because of it.
Courtney: The American dream. Get Marilyn Monroe to eat one of your potato chips on a movie, be set for life.
Royce: Well, they later went out of business.
Royce: Be set for a while.
Courtney: You win some ,you lose some. So you decide to take your research down the actual movie production, and what was and wasn’t allowed on screen during that period of time. I very much went down the rabbit hole of like why is this a thing that society thinks is real and do psychologists actually agree? Is this real or not?
Royce: Oh, I did that a little bit, too.
Courtney: You did what? What did your research conclude?
Royce: That no, most experts don’t agree. And that a lot of it– a lot of it seems to be like people taking a concept that they want to believe in and trying to attach some sort of reason to it. Because the term seven year itch predates this phenomenon. It’s actually an alternate term for the condition scabies.
Courtney: Yeah. I did see that too.
Royce: Yes. The skin condition caused by mites. And there is a book called The Eighth Year.
Courtney: Ha ha ha.
Royce: That predates The Seven Year Itch. That also–
Courtney: I’m so glad you brought that up. What a book that is. I started reading that book actually. And I am so in love with it. This book written in 1913. Full title: “The Eighth Year, a vital problem of married life.” And let me tell you, books from the 1910s are hilarious and I love them. So I actually did start reading this and I want to read the whole thing. And I want us to do a future podcast episode sometime this year, while we are in our 8th year of marriage. I want to do an episode dedicated just to the sheer ridiculousness of this book, because it’s good.
Royce: How ridiculous are we talking here? Is this “Is Sex Necessary” ridiculous?
Courtney: It is not that level. My friends, the listeners at home, my favorite book in the entire history of the world is a little thing called Is Sex Necessary? And it was riotously funny. Just I had way too much fun reading this book. We’re going to do an episode on that book.
Royce: Not intentionally funny.
Courtney: Maybe intentionally funny. I don’t know. I don’t know what the intended tone of this book was for the time period. But I know how it hit me when I read it a few years ago. It is so, so, so good. So please subscribe to us on whatever platform you’re listening, and be on the lookout for that episode because trust me, it’ll be worth it. But onto The Eighth Year and how this ties into the concept of The Seven Year Itch. It was apparently a fellow who was once President of the Divorce Court. What a title that is. Sir Francis Jeune, later known as Lord St. Helier? What a name. What a guy. What a guy. What a guy this was. He first called attention to the strange significance of the eighth year of married life. The eighth year, by the way, in this book is capitalized. Like capital eight, capital year. Every single time.
Royce: It’s a thing.
Courtney: It’s a Thing. It is a capital-T thing. The Eighth Year TM. It just makes it like a little more ominous. Where Sir Francis or Lord St. Helier, the President of the Divorce Court, says, “The eighth year is the most dangerous year in the adventure of marriage.” And yeah, so I’ve read like a solid six chapters of this at this point and I am obsessed. But it really boils down to the fact that the President of the Divorce Court just observed that a lot of people getting divorced were in their eighth year of marriage. This was by no means scientific, but someone took him very seriously, and decided to write an entire book about this concept in the year 1913. But yeah, it’s– this– the tone of this book just read so melodramatic at this point in time.
Courtney: Because just one little excerpt from like three paragraphs in: “But why the Eighth Year? – capitalized – Why not the 12th, 14th, or 18th year?” Not capitalized because those aren’t things. “The answer is not to be found in any old superstition. There’s nothing uncanny about the number 8. The problem is not to be shrugged off by people who despise the foolish old tradition which clings to 13, and imagine this to be the same class of folly by the law of averages and by undeniable statistics. It has been proved that it brings many broken hearted men and women to the Divorce Court.” Divorce court is also capitalized. I don’t know why I like that so much. But he also refers to it as the “inevitably with the unswerving relentless fatality of Greek tragedy to the eight year.” It’s like, okay, calm down.
Courtney: But he starts to go through, like chapter-by-chapter. Like, well, in the first year, this is what marriage is like. By the third and fourth year, this is what marriage is like. And, you know, by the fifth year, marriage is like this. And then in the seventh year… Seventh year things start unraveling. And I don’t know, I guess the 8th year you’re fucked. I just got to the chapter of the eighth year and that’s when I decided, I just have to read this whole book. And that this is absolutely worthy of a future episode. I’m sorry, Royce. I think I cut you off entirely to go on that tangent. You’re just like, “Oh, there’s this book.” And I was like, “I know. Let me tell you all about this book. I love this book.”
Royce: So what I was getting at was that the people who position themselves as experts disagree in many ways about this. And I kind of got the feeling that some of them were trying to find proof of a phenomenon that they wanted to exist. And that’s why I brought up the term ‘seven year itch’ which existed before this. And how if a phrase is already known, people are going to be more likely to take that phrase and try to apply it to other things.
Courtney: Mmm. It’s brandable.
Royce: The statistics that I saw– the judge you mentioned was British – but there are historical US statistics for marriage and divorce that go back quite a ways. And if you take the median length of a marriage at different points in times, there are times when that hits around six to eight years. Now, that changes all the time because culture and society changes, and I believe that nowadays it’s actually longer than 7, like 10 to 12 years was a more recent study. But that’s something that’s always going to fluctuate, just like marriage and divorce fluctuate, and how the manner in which people are engaging in relationships is going to change.
Courtney: Yeah. The really wild thing when I was actually trying to find studies on this was how all over the board the studies were. And people using the brand ability of The Seven Year Itch, to write articles and make headlines, and try to tie that into whatever broader discussion they’re having, really seem to just pick and choose whatever study suited their narrative. Because, oh man, I’m seeing studies everywhere, they very clearly are influenced by the year the study took place.
Royce: I found the same thing for people who are trying to draw biological conclusions to say that this was not something so sure or behavioral, that this is just how humanity is wired. And they would also try to find or manufacture an example of ancient society behaving in a certain way. But there seem to be a lot of hoops to jump through, and resources not cited, or properly researched.
Courtney: Yeah. I absolutely saw people try to explain by very loose science why the seven year itch is a thing. And I saw a couple of different ones. The one I have right in front of me, is the theory that suggests that our bodies and minds change every seven years. And of course, there is sort of a saying like every seven years, like, every cell of your body has changed. So you are physically not the same person you were seven years ago. So we hear that. But there was an Austrian philosopher, named Rudolf Steiner, who created the theory of human development based on seven-year cycles that were associated with astrology.
Royce: Astrology is always a great place to start your science.
Courtney: Look, I am queer af, but I am not quite gay enough to be into astrology. I’m sorry, was that mean? Every really, really gay person I know is into astrology. Every time I get hit on by a woman at the gay bars, that’s like either the first or the second question that they ask me. Is what my sign is. But yes, based on his theory of astrology, it’s just– lives change every seven years. That’s just how that is. But then I saw other people try to make it like an evolutionary thing, not in astrological evolving changing kind of a thing. Because a theory was that over the course of human evolution, women who changed their partners every so often may have an adaptive advantage by engaging in serial pair bonding, because that could vary the genetic makeup of their offspring. So it’s like mate with someone long enough to co-parent through the infancy and toddler years and then go find another man.
Royce: Yeah, which like I said, sounds like a lot of guesswork or a lot of manufactured evidence. Do they explicitly know that early human societies tens or hundreds of thousands years ago just weren’t openly communal? Where are they getting the explicit coupling from? And how is it clear that genes were diversified in this way? It feels to me like a manufactured reason to fit a preconceived notion.
Courtney: Yeah, definitely. Which– I totally understand that we are animals, we are mammals. There are things that are just to some extent ingrained in most animals of the same species, with normal variation in all corners. But sometimes when we get into, like, the, “There’s an evolutionary reason for this.” I think something so modern and specific as, like, 21st century marriage and coupling, and monogamy, in this world that we’re in with technology and the internet and decades of movies that have left Impressions upon us... That– Like really? You– you think some of these things are just always gonna happen? Because I also in all of these, like, marriage studies to whether they’re proving or disproving The Seven Year Itch or they’re saying, “Actually this is a thing but it’s a different year. It’s not seven. That’s the wrong number, but there is a number.” Which I saw a lot of also. I really want to know, like, what was the actual, like, diversity in the couple’s you were studying. Because I refuse to believe that any evidence is conclusive across the board. When you take in queer marriages, when you take in people who get married at different ages at different stages of their lives, couples who do have kids versus couples who don’t. Like relationships themselves can be so tremendously diverse that when you just say married couple it’s like, “Okay, but what married couples?”
Royce: Yeah, I think all those studies actually show is: given the population that was studied, this is a data point about this population at this point in time. And that’s it. And that any attempt to take that and say this is a general rule that all of humanity abides by is just incorrect.
Courtney: It’s also sort of interesting. Because when you just talked about, when you try to define what the seven year itch is, you kind of get two different definitions. Which I don’t think are quite the same thing. So I think that’s also an issue that we’re starting from which– Like what? What does this actually mean? Because a lot of people are saying that that is purely, like, infidelity based. Like infidelities happen in the 7th year. Which seems to me like that might be the more pop culture warped version of it, after said movie. Because other people just define it as like, this is the year you start getting bored of your relationship, or you start having issues and want out of your relationship. And that’s just talking about generally, that’s not even talking about all these people who are trying to do studies of, like, do marriages actually end in the seventh year.
Royce: I thought I also came across some examples of the term being used for non-relationship things like being in a job for too long or living in the same area for too long, and just needing change of some kind.
Courtney: Which is interesting because there might be some level of merit to that. Just I think a lot of people get bored with certain things at a certain period of time. And like, especially something that you dislike. Like if you disliked your job and you’re there for seven years, or if you’re very neutral to your job and you’re there for seven years, like, things will start to get old. I’m not saying a marriage is the same thing. I hope you like your marriage, but the actual lulls, I’m seeing several things that are saying they’re actually two major lulls, and that there’s a decrease in marriage satisfaction after four years and then it stabilizes for a bit and then there’s another decline at eight years. That’s according to a psychologist at the University of Dayton, Ohio, Wright State University. And this article was written on WebMD in the year 2000. But they cite a very very specific, short study done by the National Center for Health Statistics, where they say that the median duration of marriage was seven point two years for couples who got divorced in 1989 and 1990. So they’re like, “A-ha! Statistics support the idea of the seven year itch!”
Royce: Okay. I saw that 7.2 year data point, but I believe that for things that we’ve looked up about marriage, both for this and for other episodes, there was a pretty major shift in marriage statistics within say the last 15-20 years. To the point where I’m seeing a 2012 study, that says divorce rates actually peaked around 10 to 12. And so that foreign eight-year dissatisfaction cycles may be shifted.
Courtney: I like this article that I found because without even reading the text, if you just scroll through like the individual broken off sections, they’re entitled “Four and seven year itch?” Question mark. Followed by “Twelve year inch?” Followed by “Three year itch?” And each one of these are citing studies and like the four and seven is a 1999 study, the twelve year itch there’s a 2010 study, and the three year itch there’s a 2012 study. So they’re just– they’re all over the board. And it purely seems based on year. And I mean, maybe demographic. Because I haven’t dug in to actually see what the demographics are for these married couples.
Royce: I was going to say, I’m sure that this changes over time, but I didn’t try to dig into the actual raw data either. I would suspect differences in sample sizes and location, and whatnot. I also saw that there was a difference between first marriages and remarriages.
Courtney: Mmm, with – I would suspect – remarriages lasting longer? Or not. I don’t know. I’ve only been married once
Royce: Actually the remarriages were slightly shorter.
Courtney: Ah, well then I stand corrected. As I said, I am currently in my one and only marriage. There’s also just like– some of these articles have such a weird mixture of citing studies, and personal opinion along with – quote – “expert advice.” And some of these just seem so weird to me. We have, for instance, clinical psychologist William. J Doherty who is Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota, who when asked about the Seven Year Itch says, “There is nothing magical about seven years of marriage except that half of the people who are going to get divorced do so by the seventh year of marriage.” Citing a work of his own in 2001: “But bear in mind that the highest level of divorce is at three years of marriage, saying that by three years the magic is gone, illusion squelched, tedium setting in. Many post-infatuation unions usually end after three years, because they go into free fall, these couples married for the wrong reasons.” It’s that infatuation part. Because to me that– I guess, it doesn’t need to be explicitly sexual, but I often equated as such, having like an infatuation with someone that’s just going to like die down and be done. Does not make sense to me, personally. In the same article from– this is LA Times, by the way, “If marriage is like a road trip, then the first seven years are probably some of the most treacherous.” Has our first seven years been all treacherous? That seems– It’s a big word.
Royce: It is but if a relationship is going to make its way past seven years, I think in those first seven years you have to have the majority of your, like, behavioral living space sort of talks and actually get through things. And maybe that’s more difficult for some couples than others…?
Courtney: I just feel like you would figure those things out before seven.
Royce: Well, that’s the thing. Those last two studies didn’t say that the seventh year– It’s not like you hit the 7th year and suddenly a bomb goes off. It’s that, that’s where the data said half or a little more than half had ended by this point. That could mean a ton of them ended immediately or very early on, at the third year one study says.
Courtney: Oh I’m sure there are some, but does that mean that there are people who like, see major, major issues by, like, the second or third year, but just kind of stick through it for a few more years?
Royce: Absolutely. Particularly if they had a kid.
Courtney: Well, funny you should say that, because this article actually cites children as a reason why a lot of marriages fail. They’re saying that by the seventh year most married couples start having children, and quote: “marital satisfaction goes down dramatically with the birth of each child.” Wow.
Royce: Children are a lot of work and require a lot of cooperation.
Courtney: Well, yeah, but surely some married couples still love each other equally after having kids. I have to believe that.
Royce: Think about how many people get, like, visibly angry when they’re hungry. The same thing, I’m sure, applies with lack of sleep.
Courtney: Just cranky, cranky couple all the time. That’s unfortunate. We also have an expert here who is saying that, “Although there are no reliable research studies on infidelity rates, from his professional opinion in 40 years of clinical experience, the birth of a baby often coincides with an affair. Obviously, we’re talking about the father here.” Wow, what a thing for an expert to say. Because the same guy – and this is the guy where I was reading it and I was like, “Hmm… Are you sure you’re an expert?” Because he also is talking about, you know, it’s okay, because marriages have to go through stages of incompatibility. And that they will go through stages of incompatibility with things like children starting school, child’s adolescence, career peaks and lows, children leaving home, the death of a parent, feeling old and hitting retirement age. All of those things. And he’s like, “Yeah, marriages just naturally go through stages of incompatibility, and bickering is the work of marriage. Couples should fight every day, but not to win. The point of marital conflict is to understand each other better.” Does that have to be bickering to accomplish that? Because bickering seems like not the best way to accomplish that. Like, what are you saying, man? Absolutely not.
Royce: Yeah, you mentioned earlier, do couples really just trudge through red flags? And I just thought of the ever-present saying that marriage is work. And maybe sometimes it isn’t clear what things you’re supposed to work through and what things are actually unresolvable.
Courtney: Yeah, I do not in any way, personally, relate to “marriage is hard work”, which is something that I feel like I hear so much more often from straight couples, than I hear from queer couples. And I don’t know if that’s just cultural differences. I am not sure but I feel like– “marriage is such hard work and it’s very hard work, but it’s rewarding and it’s worth it. But don’t get me wrong, everyone’s gonna have troubles, and you’re gonna fight a lot, and you’re going to be miserable at times.” And it’s like every time I hear people talking about that I’m like, “What? Really?” So I don’t know. I guess I’m no expert, like these lovely chaps being cited in all of these articles, so I can’t exactly tell you the secret sauce that we have concocted. But I just don’t think that our marriage is hard. I think it is easy and natural, and great. And I haven’t really felt these, like, boredom lulls either, that people are talking about. Like, “Yeah, you’re just going to get bored of this person.”
Royce: Maybe fewer married couples would divorce in seven years if they just started a podcast.
Courtney: Maybe! Maybe this podcast was the only thing that has kept us from The Seven Year Itch.
Royce: But actually having hobbies or projects, or things to do together helps. And it doesn’t need to be productive, like playing games and things. Just literally anything you can do together that isn’t just sleeping, and having sex, and eating dinner.
Courtney: Yes, this. Well, according to Women’s Health magazine, sex is multiple of the things that you can do to stave off the seven year itch. So they say, “Here are some tips that will keep your itch from developing into a full-on rash.”
Courtney: Yes. Yes, Ivermectin will kill the seven year itch. But no, according to Women’s Health magazine in fact, number one, “Get a second opinion, consult a therapist or a close friend, about your situation to talk through those me– messy feelings, before you articulate it to your partner. You can also journal, write it out. And also you can communicate your needs.” Which kind of seems like a fundamental part of marriage rather than “Try this to save your marriage!” “Consider a couples counseling or sex therapy.” Then, “Try an open relationship.” Then “Explore with toys or kink.” Then, “Try role-playing.” And then, “Schedule sex.” This is a list of nine things, and five of those are sex-related.
Royce: Clearly if you’re having marital problems, that must be the problem.
Courtney: Clearly, you just need more and better sex! You need different sex! Gosh, I don’t understand one bit. Although that, “try role-playing” though. There’s something to that because my friends, we have been playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons together and that has been a wonderful seventh year of marriage activity for us.
Royce: We got around the horror that is tabletop scheduling by just playing two player D&D.
Courtney: It’s true. Yes. I’m running a campaign for Royce, who is playing three different characters. And Royce is running a campaign for me, where I am playing three different characters. So we are absolutely solo DMing for each other going back and forth. And it’s honestly kind of the best. 10/10 I do recommend. But I mean honestly, I think that just being able to play with your partner, being able to continue having fun, is just incredibly vital. But I think too many allosexual couples sort of only get their play through sex. And sex can be a type of play for some couples, and can be a very healthy and fulfilling type of play. But I don’t know, I kind of feel like that’s probably not enough, even if sex is a really important part of your relationship. I think being able to find other ways to just play, whether that’s board games or video games, doing outdoor activities, other, you know, physically involved things together that aren’t necessarily sexual in nature.
Courtney: I think all of these are perfectly good and valid things, but also for couples who are asexual, on the asexual spectrum, perhaps it’s an inter-orientation marriage where one of the people involved is aspec, or maybe they are actually on the allo side of things and they just have a lower than average sex drive… This full emphasis on, like, “Sex will save your marriage. Sex will save your marriage.” Like I just I can’t get behind it because even if we say that it is true for some certain percentage of couples, it surely is not the end all be all. It absolutely– I refuse to believe that it is. It does not compute. And I think that de-emphasizing the importance of having a sexual relationship is something that I want to see more of. I want more evidence of happy, fulfilled, healthy couples where sex is not an important part of their relationship. More– more like us! More asexual couples staving off the seven year itch. I say ‘staving off’ as if it’s like we felt it encroaching and did something about it, but–
Royce: Fought it off, threw things at it, ran away…
Courtney: Have you tried throwing things at your seven year itch? When you see the seven year itch encroaching, perhaps run in the opposite direction. We could be relationship experts.
Royce: Is this– Is this going to be the plot for another horror movie, similar to It Follows? Where a couple is just in their house, and this creature starts appearing in the shadows of their rooms.
Courtney: And they run the other way.
Royce: Divorce is looming in the corners.
Courtney: Oh no! What are you gonna do about it! But we can’t trust, like, an allosexual writer and director with that. Because if divorce is looming in the corners, we know that most people’s answer is more sex. So I don’t want this physical manifestation of divorce to be looming over this couple and just have them–
Royce: The creature gets really weirded out by PDA. So that’s how you keep it away from you.
Courtney: The creature is asexual and sex repulsed.
Courtney: Well, I can’t think of a better place to end it than that. So do the things you gotta do, do those likes, do those follows, subscribes, ratings, reviews, what have you. And here’s to the 8th year!