The 7-year itch … here’s proof!

Here’s an interesting study excepted from Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow

Let’s start with some background … straight from Wiki:

The “seven-year itch” is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage.

The phrase was first used to describe an inclination to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage in the play The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod, and gained popularity following the 1955 film adaptation starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell.

The phrase has since expanded to indicate cycles of dissatisfaction not only in interpersonal relationships but in any situation such as working a full-time job or buying a house, where a decrease in happiness and satisfaction is often seen over long periods of time.

 

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OK, so is the 7-year itch just folklore for real?

 

The graph below shows the level of “life satisfaction” reported by people before and after they got married.

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Kahneman’s explanation:

The graph … is easy to understand.

After all, people who decide to get married do so either because they expect it will make them happier or because they hope that making a tie permanent will maintain the present state of bliss.

In the useful term introduced by Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson, the decision to get married reflects, for many people, a massive error of affective forecasting (i.e. thinking with your heart, not your brain).

On their wedding day, the bride and the groom know that the rate of divorce is high and that the incidence of marital disappointment is even higher, but they do not believe that these statistics apply to them.

The startling news of the graph is the steep decline of life satisfaction.

The graph is commonly interpreted as tracing a process of adaptation, in which the early joys of marriage quickly disappear as the experiences become routine … and its novelty wanes.

Even newlyweds who are lucky enough to enjoy a state of happy preoccupation with their love will eventually return to earth, and their experienced well-being will again depend, as it does for the rest of us, on the environment and activities of the present moment.

By “present moment”, he means such things as going to work, cleaning the house, shuttling the kids, and paying bills.

As marriage becomes less of a big deal, life’s other pressures start to dominate … and marriage will get tagged with the blame.

Kahneman says “Unless couples think happy thoughts about their marriage during much of their day, it will not directly influence their overall life happiness.”

Keep reminding yourself how lucky you are and the 7-year itch will be easily fended off.

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Kahneman, Daniel, Thinking, Fast and Slow
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