THE ITCH IS BACK

For some New York cou­ples, Hol­ly­wood’s lat­est riff on the 7-year itch hits un­com­fort­ably close to home

New York Post - - BODY & SOUL - By JANE RI­D­LEY

I N the new ro­man­tic com­edy “I Do . . . Un­til I Don’t,” three strug­gling cou­ples are trailed by a cyn­i­cal doc­u­men­tary film­maker who be­lieves life­long mar­riage is bunk. In­stead, she thinks cou­ples should sign “com­mit­ment con­tracts” that are good for just seven years — with an op­tion to re­new.

This mod­ern riff on the seven-year itch, a no­tion that be­came pop-cul­ture leg­end with the 1955 Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe movie of the same name, is the lat­est silver-screen sug­ges­tion that re­la­tion­ships tend to crack a few years be­fore hit­ting the decade mark.

But ac­cord­ing to re­search — and to New York­ers who dished to The Post — that itch to es­cape a suf­fo­cat­ing long-term com­mit­ment isn’t just Hol­ly­wood fic­tion.

Steve, a Man­hat­tan res­i­dent who works in in­for­ma­tion technology and asked that his last name not be used for per­sonal and pro­fes­sional rea­sons, says his mar­riage hit the skids just as his sev­enth an­niver­sary ap­proached.

“It had be­come a lit­tle stale, and bore­dom had set in,” the 32-year-old says of his part­ner­ship with his wife. “We’d come home ex­hausted af­ter nine or 10 hours in de­mand­ing jobs. The spark had fiz­zled. We def­i­nitely got the itch.”

Sur­veys tell a sim­i­lar story: The most re­cent fig­ures from the US Cen­sus re­veal that seven years is the me­dian length of time be­fore mar­ried cou­ples call it quits.

There’s noth­ing mys­ti­cal about seven years, re­lated stud­ies have found. It’s sim­ply the point at which many cou­ples find them­selves strug­gling with di­min­ished in­ti­macy due to in­ter­fer­ence fac­tors such as kids and ca­reers. Tak­ing each other for granted doesn’t help, either. “Af­ter seven years, some peo­ple might as well be fur­ni­ture,” says Man­hat­tan-based re­la­tion­ship coach Gilda Carle, Ph.D. “I al­ways say that a spouse should be treated like a guest in your home, not some­one who just sits there gath­er­ing cob­webs like an old cab­i­net.”

In­grid Levin, a model and life­style blog­ger, knows all too well

the im­por­tance of treat­ing ro­man­tic part­ners kindly. She broke up with two men af­ter spend­ing seven years with each, when the guys be­came con­trol­ling.

Her first re­la­tion­ship, which lasted from 1993 to 2000, turned rocky when Levin and her live-in part­ner be­gan to quar­rel over triv­ial mat­ters, such as Levin drip­ping wa­ter on the bath­room floor.

“He tried to con­trol ev­ery­thing about me, but re­ally it was a way of mask­ing our big­ger is­sues,” says the 45-year-old Fi­nan­cial Dis­trict res­i­dent. “Af­ter seven years to­gether, it felt like the nat­u­ral time to eval­u­ate our sit­u­a­tion.”

The other co­hab­i­ta­tion, dur­ing her 30s, from 2000 to 2007, also ended badly. Levin’s part­ner ul­ti­mately pro­posed — but in­cluded a clause in their prenup that called for her to birth a child within five years of their wed­ding.

“It was crazy,” says Levin, now en­gaged to her part­ner of 18 months. “Af­ter seven years, we called it a day.”

Mile­stone mo­ments seem to be a com­mon trig­ger for the seven-year itch.

Alyssa Jef­fers, a 26-year-old Hobo­ken, NJ, res­i­dent, ended things with her boyfriend Ryan in May, one month af­ter their sev­enth an­niver­sary.

She says she got cold feet as the cou­ple started sav­ing for a home and choos­ing en­gage­ment rings.

“I woke up one day in a com­plete panic and thought, ‘I’m not ready for this. I don’t know who I re­ally am as a per­son with­out him,’ ” says Jef­fers, who had been dat­ing Ryan since her fresh­man year at the Univer­sity of Rhode Is­land. “It was sad, but it would have been un­fair of me to al­low things to con­tinue.”

Nev­er­the­less, some cou­ples man­age to sur­vive the stretch.

Steve and his wife worked past it with help from an NYC life coach, who helped the cou­ple un­der­stand that spon­tane­ity and fun were cen­tral to sav­ing their mar­riage.

Spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded tak­ing short va­ca­tions reg­u­larly. Now Steve and his wife try to plan a week­long trip ev­ery few months — some­times on their own, some­times with friends and rel­a­tives.

Shak­ing up their daily rou­tine was im­por­tant for reignit­ing the spark, as well. Steve and his wife signed up for salsa les­sons and a weekly cook­ing class.

Thanks to th­ese con­certed ef­forts to shore up their part­ner­ship, Steve says the cou­ple’s sex life has re­gained its hon­ey­moon heat, and that the two have re-con­nected with each other and their larger cir­cle of friends.

Still, Carle says seven-year com­mit­ment con­tracts might not be such a bad idea.

“If peo­ple rec­og­nize that there’s a be­gin­ning and an end, maybe they won’t gain those ex­tra pounds, maybe they will be more re­spon­sive in the bed­room, maybe they won’t put their chil­dren be­fore their spouse,” she says. “Right now, it’s a free-for-all. Peo­ple do what they please in a re­la­tion­ship and then turn around and say, ‘What hap­pened?’ ”

In­grid Levin, 45, says two of her ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships cur­dled at the sev­enyear mark, when the men be­came con­trol­ling.

In “I Do ... Un­til I Don’t,” a cou­ple gets the itch when baby­mak­ing goes awry.

Mar­riage talk made Alyssa Jef­fers flee her seven-year re­la­tion­ship.

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