updated 10 Jan 2012, 12:22
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Sun, Jan 08, 2012
The Star/Asia News Network
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From 7-year itch to 3-year glitch

ITCHING for some "bachelor" time after seven years of marriage, a man in his prime packs his family off for a holiday. Home alone, he catches a glimpse of his babelicious new neighbour ...

This is the premise of the famous Marilyn Monroe movie The Seven Year Itch that spawned in academia the term "seven-year itch" and theory that married men tend to stray after seven years of marriage.

A survey commissioned by Warner Brothers in Britain to promote their movie Hall Pass early last year, however, suggested that the "seven-year itch" has become a "three-year glitch".

The swifter decline in relationships is due to the faster-paced 21st century life, said the study.

"Longer working hours combined with money worries are taking their toll on modern relationships," said pollster Judi James, who oversaw the survey.

According to 67% of the 2,000 British adults in steady relationships (including marriage) surveyed, small irritations which were "endearing" during the first blushes of love turned into major irritations after some 36 months together. These passion killers included stray toe clippings and deafening snoring.

Couples who have been together three years and more were found to argue for an average of 2.7 hours a week, compared with 1.2 hours for those who have yet to reach that mark.

The report also said that after being together for three years, many felt lucky to get one compliment a week from their partner, compared with three a week for those still in the heady first stages of love.

Three in 10 of those surveyed that have been in a relationship for five years or more said that they never receive any compliments from their partners.

You can tick sex off the list too after three years many said they have less than a third as much sex as when they were a "new" couple, with 55% saying that they have to "schedule" time together for intimacy.

To keep their romance alive, 76% said they resorted to "individual space" to pursue their own interests, including solo holidays 58% of those who have been with their partners for longer than three years enjoy regular holidays alone.

Interestingly, in 2010, a survey from leading market research company Ipsos Mori conducted for British Channel 4's Cutting Edge documentary Newlyweds: The One-Year Itch revealed that one in five newlyweds admitted to having some regrets about getting married within the first year of their big day.

A total of 50 couples who got married in 2009 were interviewed before their first wedding anniversary after figures indicated that marriages are most likely to fail in the first couple of years.

As they shared, their first year of marriage was more difficult than expected, with 27% saying they regretted getting married as they "got married because they felt they had to", while another 27% said it was because they "married without being in love".

Men experienced this pressure more according to the poll, with more than two in five regretful husbands admitting they felt marriage was something they had to do.

These findings are nothing new though. Like the changes in the perception of sexiness there are many today who cannot understand why Monroe was considered hot then various studies have been indicating earlier danger points for marriages since her 1955 hit.

In 2007, a study by the Max Planck Institute in Germany revealed that the "honeymoon period" in a marriage lasts for less than five years, with most divorces likely to happen between five and 10 years into the marriage.

As their researchers in the United States, Russia and Scandinavia found, couples begin to grow fed up with each other after just four years and are at peak risk of divorce just before their fifth anniversary.

The study also pointed to the demands of modern life for marriage troubles specifically challenging life-course transitions that couples go through during the first decade of marriage, such as building a career and bearing children. However, if couples get through this rough patch, they reportedly will stay together indefinitely.

Biological anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher in her 1992 book Anatomy of Love suggested that it might be biological men "itch" because they want to spread their seed far and wide.

Referring to the United Nation's demographic records, she also shared the view that divorces are occurring earlier in marriage "peaking in or around the fourth year after the wedding followed by a gradual decline in divorce as more years of marriage go by ..."

Dr Fisher said that modern women give themselves a four-year human reproductive cycle meaning that they wait four years after giving birth to have another baby.

She theorised, couples stay together to raise a child for four years, after which, unless a second child is conceived, the male spouse would be tempted to have a baby with another woman, thus leading to a possible extra-marital affair or divorce. Her analyses also showed that divorce happened more among the "young".

"Eighty-one per cent of all divorces occur before age 45 among women; 74% before age 45 among men ... during the height of their reproductive and parenting years." Another pattern she highlighted is that 65% of divorces occurred with partners with one or no children.

"... it makes genetic sense. From a Darwinian perspective, couples with no children should break up; both individuals will mate again and probably go on to bear young, ensuring their genetic future," she noted.

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