Don’t let the seven-year itch sneak up on you. Relationship expert Charles J. Orlando of Seven Year Switch identifies three relationship red flags, so you can stop trouble before it starts.
You aren’t being honest
The first sign of the seven-year itch is often the nagging feeling that something just isn’t right. “You have to get real about what’s happening — for you and for your relationship,” says Orlando. “You can’t prevent or change things if you don’t look at them objectively.” If you notice you’re drifting apart, immediately begin the process of course-correction. Warning: it may be uncomfortable. The only way to head off irreparable damage, says the expert, is to “make yourself vulnerable and approach things with honesty.”
You’re too focused on your partner
If your relationship gripes all come down to what your partner is or isn’t doing, the issue at hand may be bigger than whose turn it is to do the dishes. Constant finger pointing can cause frustration, defensiveness, resentment and a communication breakdown that will drive you further apart. “The result will be two people who are defending themselves instead of listening with empathy,” Orlando explains. He suggests addressing concerns with statements that reflect you, not your partner.
“Instead of saying, ‘You don’t spend time with me anymore,’ try, ‘I don’t feel like I matter to you,’” Orlando demonstrates. “This allows them to hear your feelings and discuss why you might feel that way, including how they are potentially contributing to it.” At the same time, be willing to accept your partner’s point of view as truth, even if you see things differently. Remember that it takes two people to disconnect, just as it takes two people to reconnect.
You aren’t focused enough on your partner
A relationship is like a fire: flames that are ignored will eventually die out. If you aren’t spending quality time with your partner, you can expect your emotional and physical connection to dwindle over months or years.
Orlando confirms, “It takes action to prevent the seven-year itch.” Between work, kids and household chores, nurturing a marriage can feel like another task on your to-do list. “Things are deemed ‘necessary’ or ‘more important,’ so the relationship is looked at as the thing you’ll ‘get to later, when there’s more time,’” Orlando says. “But that time often doesn’t come until it’s too late.” You have to be willing to invest time and effort on a regular basis if you hope to celebrate a golden anniversary with your partner.