03/15/2011 09:26 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Bye, Bye, 7-Year Itch: The New Hardest Relationship Year

Sorry to burst your bright pink, heart-shaped bubble, but by now, you should know -- especially with the rate of divorce being what it is -- that a relationship isn't always going to be sunny, blue skies, sexy text messages, and romantic surprises. At some point, it's going to get a little more... challenging.

There was a time when I didn't completely understand that. You see, when my boyfriend and I hadn't been together even six months, we were hanging out with a couple who had been together about four years. They looked at us as we casually held hands, and I leaned my head on his shoulder, and they said, "Aw, look -- they're still in the honeymoon phase!"

At the time, I grimaced a little and thought, "Huh? What does that mean? I plan to be holding his hand like this and feeling 100 percent warm and fuzzy about him for years to come! Humph!"

But oh, did they have a point! While in Marilyn Monroe's day there was "The Seven Year Itch," these days, a survey of 2,000 adults in long-term relationships reveals that the warm and fuzzy begins to fall flat after three years.

Thanks to modern, stressful life, the rate at which romance declines is more rapid now, these love gurus say. Post-three years, couples begin to take each other for granted more, they fight 2.7 hours a week vs. 1.2 for those who are still in the first stages of love, and sadly, for most couples (at least in this study), it seems the bedroom becomes less and less a priority. Three-plus'ers have less than a third of the sex that newer couples have, and 55 percent admit they are so busy that they have to "schedule" time together for romance. (Schedule schmedule! As long as they're doing it, who cares, right?)

67 percent of couples say that habits of their partner that they once considered endearing or harmless become major turn-offs by the three-year mark. Those habits include snoring, stray nail clippings (ew!), and "overexposure to in-laws." Okay, fair enough on the first two; however, neither of those could have possibly been considered endearing/harmless in the first place. And the third, well, is that usually your partner's fault, or the in-laws' fault? I would lean toward the latter.

Even though the results of this survey are a bit questionable, as it was "commissioned to mark the release of new movie, 'Hall Pass,'" I can definitely attest to the validity of some of these findings.

After having been with my boyfriend for four years now, I have to say that the past year has definitely been our roughest. It's the level of comfort we have now that has changed things, for better or worse. Instead of biting my tongue like I would have in the past, I'll address what's bothering me. Sometimes that escalates into what I guess you could call a fight, but we rarely raise our voices with one another.

Living together obviously factors in, too. When you're apart, and you only see one another on the weekend, of course you're going to jump each other every chance you get. But when you spend seven days and seven nights with someone, you both work full-time and you have dirty dishes in the sink that pile up over and over and over again, then, sorry, then things just aren't as glossy-sexy. I'm not saying they can't be. They should be!

But to make it happen, my boyfriend and I have had to try harder: prioritizing time together, reminding ourselves not just to flop down in front of the couch every evening and zone out. We have to remember to communicate, connect and check-in with one another. It's not constant psychoanalysis, but it's remembering to say, "Thank you," "I love you," and "How are you?" This seems so simple, but when we're so distracted with the hustle-bustle of every day, it can quickly fade away. However, it's exactly what I think a long-term relationship -- at least ours -- needs to function.

What do you think about the three-year glitch?


Written by Maressa Brown for CafeMom's blog, The Stir.

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