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What Are The Hardest Years in a Marriage? (With Expert Tips)

Michael Tierney
November 10, 2022

Marriage is a commitment to share the happiest and hardest times of your life with your spouse. Early into the relationship, this promise seems easy to keep as you are deeply connected with your significant other. However, while some couples can adhere to their marital vows and find that married life comes easily, others are not as fortunate.

Too many people fail to realize that commitment to a spouse requires dedication and hard work to promote a healthy and productive union. These unrealistic expectations about how easy marriage is can cause serious issues down the line when the marriage hits a rough patch. Conflict in marriage is not uncommon, but there is a factor that many people overlook.

Throughout a marriage, good and bad times test the strength of the relationship and bring the underlying issues to the surface. There are specific points in a marriage where these issues are more likely to become relevant, whereas other points are fairly calm. These periods of conflict are often cited as the hardest years of marriage since it is when certain problems reach their zenith.

Understanding when conflicts arise in a marriage and the causes behind them can make or break your relationship. This begs the question of which years in a marriage are considered the hardest.

Year 1 of Marriage

Solution While this might come as a surprise, one of the hardest years in a marriage is the very first you go through.

This might seem odd considering the honeymoon phase and how new the marital experience is for the couple, but it is actually one of the most challenging transitions in marriage. The first year of a marriage marks the beginning of the changes necessary for maintaining a healthy relationship and making the union last.

You might think that the first year of marriage cannot be that difficult since you have spent so much time with your spouse before the wedding. Unfortunately, dating and engagement do not always prepare a couple for the compromise marriage requires.

One of the biggest points of contention in the first year of marriage is finances. After marriage, it is common for couples to consolidate their finances and share bank accounts. While traditionally a sensible course of action in a relationship that has transitioned into a partnership, it costs both parties a degree of independence. No couple will always agree on how their finances should be managed or spent and will have to compromise on multiple financial decisions.

There is also the issue of unrealistic expectations of married life. People's views on marriage are often colored by what they were exposed to as children and how their parent's marriages were. Some people are also brought up believing in certain antiquated ideologies about marriage, such as expecting their spouse's undivided attention at all times or expecting sexual intimacy on demand.

These unrealistic expectations often transcend the dating period and can cause arguments in the relationship when those expectations are not being met. This adjustment period can produce otherwise avoidable conflicts.

Married Couple Struggling With Finances

Finally, there is the issue of connecting with your extended family. Fitting in with your spouse's family might be more difficult than you were hoping since you are not biologically related to them. Occasionally, conflicts with your new extended family could bleed into your relationship with your spouse. It also complicates planning family events since you must account for your family and extended family in any accommodation.

Aimee Hartstein, a therapist specializing in relationship struggles, can best explain the difficulty of the first year of marriage. According to Hartstein:

"It's simply different from cohabitation. Even though they look like the same thing, with cohabitation, there's always a relatively easy out. With marriage, you have signed a binding contract. You are in a permanent union, and the stakes just feel higher. Every fight or disappointment within the marriage may feel more significant and more loaded because this is it."

These factors can turn the 1st year of marriage into one of the hardest as you and your spouse struggle to find a balance for problem-solving. Fortunately, most couples can find their rhythm and work out a plan for addressing these issues without impugning the other. Once you get past the first year, marriage can be fairly simple if you put forth the effort expected of a partner. Unfortunately, the first year of marriage is not the only difficult year.

Year 5 of Marriage

After getting through the growing pains of that first year of marriage, you and your spouse will generally fall into a routine. While not always exciting, this routine is meant to make married life a simpler and less combative experience than you might have had in your first year. Unfortunately, peace does not always last, and the fifth year of marriage tends to expose more issues that might have gone unnoticed over the years.

Part of a routine is complacency and letting certain tasks and obligations fall through the cracks for your spouse to handle instead. Five years later, your promises to your spouse may be deferred in favor of other tasks or leisure.

Solution After several years of marriage, one of the biggest conflicts is the distribution of responsibilities and chores. A normal part of marriage is splitting up who takes out the trash or does the dishes. From time to time, it is possible for one spouse to need to defer their portion of the chores due to exhaustion or other obligations.

When this deferral becomes a routine, the marriage produces more conflict. The complacency inherent in a long-lived relationship can lead to unresolved frustration from your spouse. While reasserting the chore division is important, another major issue afflicts couples after the 5th year of marriage.

Married Couple Distributing Responsibilities

After 5 years, it is typical for couples to take the next step and advance their lives beyond marriage. This could be career advancement, having children, moving to a new state, or anything that yields a significant life change for the couple. While this is common for all couples, there can be an issue when the idea of advancement in the relationship differs between spouses. For example, if you want to have children but your spouse wants to focus on advancing their career, it can lead to a major disagreement.

Typically, conflicts over the relationship's future are among the country's biggest contributors to divorce rates. If you and your spouse have different ideas about the future of your relationship, it is understandable to feel a little betrayed, especially since plans for the future are among the first things discussed in a relationship.

By the 5th year of marriage, if goals are not advancing for either spouse, it can cause the marriage to stagnate. Neither couple will be satisfied in that scenario, and the resulting arguments could destroy your marriage unless you open up to communication and find a compromise. Sarah Epstein, a licensed marriage therapist, went so far as to say:

"Communication is what keeps couples on the same page and feeling like they are solving problems together rather than against one another."

After 5 years of marriage, you and your spouse should have developed an effective and healthy rapport. Without communication, you and your spouse might never get on the same page or find an effective compromise about your differing life goals.

Year 7 of Marriage

Overcoming the possible issues in the 5th year of marriage generally allows for another respite from the larger marriage issues. This is not to say that your marriage is immune to conflict and will not have arguments or even break up, but that the odds are lessened if you commit to adjustments for previous issues.

Unfortunately, the hardest year is yet to come as it is the 7th year of marriage that challenges the integrity of a marriage. The old idiom "familiarity breeds contempt" is a terrifyingly accurate statement affecting the marriages of Americans across the country. Over time, relationships become mundane, and routine begins to feel like a rut for certain people.

As the marriage continues, people can become bored with their spouses and lose interest in spending time with them. This becomes an even more severe issue as some people attempt to escape the feeling of boredom by seeking an extramarital affair. Identifying infidelity in a spouse can be extremely challenging, depending on how good they are at covering their tracks. There are some typical signs you can use to determine if your spouse is having an affair, but a common issue is that some people are unwilling to believe the facts pointing to infidelity.

The issues that can arise after the 7-year mark in a marriage have spawned a term around which an entire phenomenon is founded.

Solution The alleged "seven-year itch" is a phenomenon in which a marriage or long-term relationship experiences a decline after 7 years. Statistics back the concept of the 7-year itch and indicate that it might be a viable phenomenon.

The phrase has even spawned a film in its honor, though this is less relevant to the facts surrounding the 7-year mark in marriages.

Couple Experiencing Seven Year Itch

The statistics of the 7-year itch show that couples experience an increased risk of divorce followed by a decrease. These fluctuations are further enhanced when your spouse is engaged in an extramarital affair. The "itch" part of the expression relates to the itch that one or both spouses might have to end the relationship, but the phenomenon is not guaranteed to affect your relationship.

According to Gary Brown, a licensed therapist focusing on couples, a major contributor to the 7-year itch is the misconception of some couples that the relationship has to be perfect. Per Brown:

"If you find that you need everything in your life to be perfect ― or at least to appear perfect ― you're in trouble. The very best of marriages are never perfect. Fairy tales are nice, but they are just that; they're fairy tales, and they bear very little resemblance to real life. If you want to avoid the pitfall of any 'itch,' then you have to learn to let go of your need for your partner (or yourself) to be in a perfect marriage. That puts way too much stress on your relationship and actually increases the chances that you will divorce."

The 7th year of marriage is among the most difficult stages of the relationship you will experience. Putting the 1st and 5th years behind you might not be possible for some couples, but those who make it to the 7th should prepare for one of the most contentious steps of the marriage. Unfortunately, there is more to learn about marriage and divorce than which stages are the most difficult. Fortunately, finding this information is simpler than you might think.

Learn the Law

Marriage is not as simple as you might hope, and you must put a great deal of effort into the relationship if it is going to succeed. As time passes, the issues in a relationship become more prevalent and more difficult to resolve unless you consciously try to confront the problems as the relationship continues.

While there is no set period where all the issues in a relationship affect your marriage, the 1st, 5th, and 7th years are more prone to these issues than any other. Divorce can become a possibility for those unable to resolve the conflicts in the relationship. While divorce is not guaranteed, you should understand the possibility if you cannot find a compromise with your spouse.

Divorce Law

Divorce is very complicated and unpleasant, with most couples striving to avoid it at all costs. While it is possible to prevent a divorce with time and effort, learning more about the process can help you prevent an even more difficult experience. While the information on divorce was once very difficult for the average person to access, it is easier than ever to learn about the particulars of divorce.

Accessing this information can help you avoid underhanded divorce tactics or even prevent divorce entirely, depending on the circumstances. We realize this is a difficult time for you, and we hope the information provided here has been of some help.

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Written By:
Michael Tierney

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