What Causes Divorces after Seven-Year Itch?


American biologists explain the tendency of couples to divorce after a few years of living in marriage. According to them, this is due to our biological past. At the same time, the scientists have warned that these findings cannot justify a conscious decision to leave the family.


Helen Fisher from Rutgers University, anthropologist and author of the book Anatomy of Love: the Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery and Divorce, said that she had been studying the so-called “seven-year itch” for several years. According to statistics, most of all divorces occur within the first seven years of marriage. The biologist came to the conclusion that this tendency does exist, and that there is a biological explanation.

Fisher started with the study of global data on marriages and divorces and noticed that although the average length of marriage was seven years, most of the couples who broke up did this during the fourth year of marriage. She also found that divorce often occurred in the families who were in the right age to give birth and bring up children. That happens when men are aged 25 to 29 years, and women are from 20 to 24 years old and from 25 to 29 years old (if they are already raising one child).

Speaking of living organisms in general, it is known that only 25% of all primate species are monogamous; in mammals the number is just 5%. In birds, the figure reaches 90%, but they stay together until their chicks become independent. The thing is that a she-bird will die of hunger until the eggs hatch, if her partner does not feed the family. Some mammals are in the same situation. For example, foxes have very low-fat milk, which forces them to feed their cubs almost permanently. Male foxes bring food into the hole until the cubs are ready to leave it. After that, the couple breaks up.

An imprint of such a reproductive pattern is preserved in humans. In the societies of hunters and gatherers, women used to give birth to children with a four-year break. In this age, the child was given to the community to get educated, and the parents chose their new partners. Creating a new couple could have been a means of survival among our ancestors. According to Fisher, the children born to different partners formed the offspring with a greater genetic diversity and a wider range of skills.

Thus, the reason for divorce in modern humans after four years of marriage may be an evolutionary relic. Understanding human nature will help us anticipate the danger of the period from 4 to 7 years of marriage and avoid divorce. However, the scientists warn about the irrationality of justifying your own conscious decisions about separation using the biological past as an argument. The behavior of foxes is unlikely to be a strong argument in divorce court either.

By the way, another study was conducted in Brigham Young University in the US. According to this study, the assumption that the couples reach the peak of their unhappiness after 7 years of marriage is not quite true. They have proved that the 11th year of living in marriage is the most dangerous for the safety of the family.

Many family psychologists use an informal term “seven-year itch”, which was named after the eponymous film with Marilyn Monroe. In this film, she played the role of an attractive actress, who was desired by a married man. The film expresses the theory that the family fortune begins to evaporate quickly after seven years of living together, which increases the risk of divorce.

But the US scientists have discovered that the psychologists have been wrong all these years, and the marriage becomes most fragile after 10 years. If the spouses fail to pass the ten-year border, the chances that they will be able to live happily afterwards rise significantly. These conclusions were drawn after surveying more than two thousand women born between 1957 and 1964.

They spoke about their attitude to marriage during 35 years. The scientists used these stories to assess the level of marital happiness, marking the point where it reached its maximum and minimum. It turns out that women are the least happy in their relationship after 10 years of marriage. According to the authors, this is due to the fact that at this period the woman feels the greatest burden in the family, as she combines caring for little kids and household duties. Meanwhile, the original passion for her husband and the novelty of sex fade away by this time.