The itch — what is it?
Ah, the ‘new-ness’ of a relationship — you know what it feels like.
Fiery passion. Butterflies. Lust. Love, even.
You just cannot get enough.
But then eventually the passion starts to wane, the novelty wears off and things just aren’t so…effortless anymore.
Feelings of undying love might fade a little. You might start to get antsy or take your partner for granted. Your partner’s questionable hygiene habits may become completely intolerable and it seems to be a lot more difficult to accept each other’s more irritating points. Compliments become few and far between.
Things might be OK — but they’re not wonderful.
It’s incredibly common for couples to experience a decline in the quality of their relationship, or reach a critical sink or swim, “where do we go from here?” turning point.
And it seems it’s especially common to reach this brink about three years in.
It’s called the three-year itch — a phenomenon where tensions rise and couples are forced to either part ways, or adapt. Make it or break it. Take stock of their partnership and decide whether it’s what they want — or not.
Basically, the honeymoon period is over and it’s time to really decide if you’re going to be in it for the long haul, warts ‘n all.
Why three years?
“So by the third year, you are beginning to face a powerful breaking point when the wild infatuation has worn off,” Dr Fisher says.
“Research shows that initial, intense passion lasts one to three years. When that starts to wear off, there may be a strong emotional attachment — but there may not. I found through research across the world that if you are going to divorce, you tend to divorce around the fourth year of marriage.”
So, what is it that happens at the three-year point to create such havoc?
Here’s a couple of theories:
- After a few years, couples have probably spent enough time together that the unfavorable habits and traits that were oh-so-easy to forgive (or at least, tolerate) in the honeymoon period, eventually become a little, let’s say, overbearing. Let’s call them, ‘passion-killers’.
- Predictability and monotony might rear their ugly heads, forcing romance to take a back seat against the logistics of life. Work. Kids. Study. Stress. Responsibilities. Must-dos. We take for granted the fact that our partner is right there by our side, through it all.
You see it’s not necessarily about falling out of love. It’s just that the passion, spontaneity and mindfulness that was once on autopilot, falls by the wayside and your relationship becomes…routine.
How to avoid it?
Although there’s plenty of research out there that tends to show the three-year itch really does exist, it’s by no means inevitable.
Every relationship isn’t destined for a reckoning on its three-year anniversary, so don’t expect it to happen to you. Especially if you do the work to make sure it doesn’t.
Of course, the first step in avoiding the three-year itch is choosing wisely.
Just because your biological clock is ticking and your friends are all loved up, doesn’t mean you need to open your life up to someone simply for the sake of being ‘in a relationship.’
Relationship 101: be with someone for all the right reasons.
Look for characteristics that will see you through the long term — aligned values, shared interests and hobbies. A deep connection.
The truth is, no relationship is perfect. No partner is perfect. We all have our own little idiosyncrasies that have the potential to irk our other halves. There are simply things we just cannot change about ourselves, or others.
And often, we don’t need to change. We simply need to implement and be mindful of some important rituals and practices — as a pair — to ensure our relationship grows from strength to strength. It’s undeniable that the couples who prioritise their relationship and put in the extra effort every day — no matter how long they’ve been together — have a better chance at thriving.
Ask yourself, “What have I done for my relationship lately to stoke the fire?” put in the extra effort every single day and see how your relationship responds.
As a couple, you could consider implementing some of the four following to help avoid experiencing the three-year-itch:
First, love yourself
We get so caught up in trying to make others happy, or relying on them for happiness, that we forget about the one person we need to love first — ourselves. Unless you love yourself, you cannot love someone else, fully.
So prioritize self-love. Be kind to yourself. Create time to yourself to connect to the essence of who you are as an individual and your own ever-changing wants, needs, and desires. Implement practices and rituals that make you feel good and confident in your body and who you are.
By maintaining your own sense of self and a life of your own throughout your relationship with your partner, you retain your individuality.
It’s in all the relationship self-help books and seems like an obvious one, but communication really is the key to understanding each other.
Any long-term relationship is bound for bumps in the road and while it’s not possible to avoid them at all costs, it’s crucial to navigating them in loving and effective ways. This is why you need to talk.
Address your problems and be honest — voice the things you like and dislike about your relationship. Staying silent breeds resentment, which continues to bubble away before eventually sparking bigger upheaval when you’re facing the strains of life.
As soon as you recognize you’re going through a rough patch, sit down and hash it out. Identify the tension points and together, decide how you can improve them.
If you can convey to your lover what you’re feeling, there shouldn’t be any confusion.
On the same note, you need to keep talking even when things are going great — don’t wait for things to go awry. Tell your partner what’s making you happy right now.
Celebrate the good stuff
Your partner will never be flawless, and let’s face it, neither will you. Which is why sometimes you need to simply surrender to the imperfect (but harmless) traits and habits and focus on the good things.
Remind yourself why you were attracted to each other in the first place and then tell them.
Compliment each other, daily.
Show appreciation for all the big and small things.
Tell them what you love about them, every single day.
Honouring the good things about your relationship will remind them — and you — of the abundance they bring to your life and help you to manifest even more of it.
Keep it exciting
Novelty and spontaneity keep our attention, but it doesn’t mean we need someone new every few years to experience that. It just takes a little creativity and a commitment to maintain an ongoing sense of newness.
What activity, experience or conversation might help you unlock something new about your partner or relationship that you’ve never seen before?
Carve out quality time and embrace the opportunity to create endless beautiful experiences and memories together.
Go on a ‘first’ date. Take a nostalgia trip to somewhere you travelled to together in the early days. Discover a new, shared interest or hobby. Take time away from the hum-drum, free of distraction, and be fully present together — if only for a night.