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Working Through the Three Year Glitch


A new study of 2,000 British adults found couples are increasingly shaving four years off of the traditional seven year itch. For many, marriage education is making a difference.

Hall Pass

by Lauren DelGandio

A study of 2,000 British adults in steady relationships found couples are increasingly shaving four years off of the traditional seven year itch.

Warner Brothers commissioned the study to promote Hall Pass, the newest Farrelly Brothers comedy staring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate.

The study found that for many couples, a “three-year glitch” has now replaced the “seven-year itch.” It seems that modern-day relationships suffer a swifter satisfaction decline. Weight gain, snoring and other habits that might have been endearing during the early stages of a relationship take their toll within 36 months, the study found.

The poll compared couples in relationships lasting three years or less with those who were married or in longer lasting partnerships. Sixty seven percent reported that small, early annoyances became increasingly irritating around the 36 month mark.

Marriage education classes help couples learn to navigate the four typical stages of love relationships: Illusion, Disillusion, Confusion and Conclusion.

The illusion stage is a time when lovers are looking for everything right in their partner. It could be the smallest thing, “She smiled at me,” or “He called just when he said he would.” In the Illusion stage, It’s easy to believe we found our perfect mate with whom all our dreams will come true because that’s what we’re looking for. When we look for what’s right in another person — almost any person — we can find it.

Disillusion often begins with a disappointment. Maybe it’s because of something that happened that we didn’t expect or  perhaps something we did expect did not happen. Other factors may be at work, too. Changes in circumstances such as the birth of a child, financial challenges, job loss, illness, etc. can move us from one stage to another. “Disillusion” is marked by looking for what’s wrong in the other person or relationship, and finding it. Knowing that all human beings are “works in progress,” it’s not difficult to find what’s wrong with another person. In this stage, we look for it, find it, and can become discouraged or disillusioned, which leads to …

Confusion, meaning we tend to do whatever we know to try to get back on track. It can be tempting to think everything will be fine again if we can just get our partner to change, not realizing that so much of  what we’re experiencing is influenced by our own perspective, assumptions, fears, and history. “If we can just get our partner to change,” we may secretly imagine, “everything will be good again.” In this stage, people choose from the options they know. If we learned to stonewall, ignore, blame, play the victim or psychoanalyze, then those are the choices that are available.

One reason marriage education can be so effective is that it expands the range of options – offering choices we may never have seen otherwise. The result is often stronger feelings of love, pleasure, happiness and a greater chance for shared dreams to come true.

The fourth and final stage, “Conclusion,” often leads to ending the relationship, or equally tragic, the end of real intimacy. For people who spend their lives going through these stages over and over again, either with the same or different partner, it may be difficult to see our most cherished dreams come true for ourselves, careers, families, and children.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Research-validated marriage education programs are a powerful alternative to relationship breakdown and disappointment. Learning practical skills to confide, connect, and appreciate each other may make a longer lasting contribution to relationship satisfaction than giving each other a “Hall Pass.”


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