Never in a million years did I think my marriage would experience a lull, but apparently no one is immune to relationship ebbs and flows, not even us disgustingly cute couples. Despite having a life filled with activities, projects, careers, and friends my marriage became staler than week old bread. Even with jam packed social calendars our personal interactions were boring, focusing on the mundane transactional activities necessary to run a home and care for two small dogs. Our marital problems did not stem from anger, hatred, unhappiness, or shattered illusions of marital grandeur but our becoming more like business partners and roommates than lovers. Friends dealing with crises such as abuse, neglect, adultery, and bankruptcy in their own marriages left me feeling selfish even thinking our marriage had issues let alone talking about it. After whining to a few friends, letting go of the fear they would think I was a colossal failure, I quickly realized I was not alone.
It is pretty cliché actually, but in hindsight the fun in our marriage took a nose dive about seven years after we moved in together. The honeymoon was over, the glow of young love extinguished by the realities of day to day living. The Seven Year Itch is loosely defined as the propensity to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage and honestly, things were itchy. The infidelity we used to “scratch” that itch was not dalliances with other people. We began cheating on each other in other ways; spending too much time at work, focusing our energy on the dogs, watching increasing amounts of television, replacing intimacy with food and wine. Reading and ironing fast became the top activities occurring in the bedroom. At first I thought these changes were a sign of strength and maturity in our relationship, demonstrating our ability to live independent lives, free from the co-dependence prevalent in many marriages. It didn’t take long to realize our relationship wasn’t maturing but deteriorating; our passionate romance turned into something more boring than C-Span. While we didn’t lose that loving feeling, that lusting feeling was certainly lost.
How did this happen? As a childfree couple we hit a point of stability that most couples with children don’t hit until much later in their marriages. We have established careers, a dream home, two dogs, and plenty of stamps in our passports. There is no obvious personal ladder to climb, which is odd and unusual in a culture that constantly focuses on “what’s next.” We don’t have a little human's progression and growth to focus on as a supplement to our own marital advancement. After confiding in some friends who are mothers on the lull in my marriage, the universal reaction was how they blamed their own marital lulls on raising babies. They also expressed how little time they had to even focus on issues with their mariages since they were so busy raising children; at least I had the time and energy to acknowledge and address the seven year itch.
Until recently I laid blame for the marital monotony on my husband; he stopped paying attention to me, looked right through me, put everything else in life ahead of me, ignored my “advances,” and stopped taking me out on dates. My interpretation of what was happening left me miserable and paranoid, feeling grossly unattractive. My self-confidence was shot; if my husband didn’t find me attractive, who would?
Then I had a friend turn the mirror on me and ask why I wasn’t blaming myself for the missing wow factor in my marriage. The obvious answer is I never blame myself for anything and think I am always right, but after much consideration I realized that maybe I was a little guilty. We both let increased responsibilities inside and outside the home come before our relationship, we both took each other for granted, and we were both going through the motions. I allowed monogamy to become monotony. I turned into something that I swore I would never become; a wife. I allowed myself to become a boring, nagging, unhappy, cranky, wife. If I didn’t want to be that person anymore I had to do something about it.
One friend pointed out the difficulty in balancing the desire for stability with the need for excitement in a relationship. Another friend mentioned her struggle balancing getting comfortable with letting herself go. How can two people remain romantically connected when they spend much of their day dealing with household management and high-powered careers? Is it possible to inject mystery and passion into a relationship between people who routinely witness each other plucking unwanted hairs or sitting on the toilet? When people say marriage is hard, these are some of the struggles that make it hard. How do you get wanton attention from a person who watches you floss your teeth and pick your zits?
After 7 years of marriage and 10 years together I had honestly forgotten what it took to “catch” the eye of a man in the first place. Every suggestion I got, from playing hard-to-get to picking fights to spark “make-up sex,” seemed like silly games teenagers play. Isn’t the reason to get married to stop playing games? I’m also married to a man who HATES games, who would assume hard-to-get equaled uninterested and whose reaction to a fight is to shut down, not rev up. Can this marriage be saved? Yes, but it wouldn’t be by playing games, it would be by finding the very thing I had that attracted my husband to me in the first place; sexy confidence. I forgot how to be sexy and lost part of my confidence because of that.
It is always important to have a role model, a person who personifies a goal. So who could serve as the role model for developing sexy confidence? Marilyn Monroe, the original object of attention in “The Seven Year Itch,” is one woman normal men find universally sexy. WWMD, “What Would Marilyn Do,” became a personal mantra. Marilyn would never wear sweats to bed. Marilyn would strap on stilettos rather than sneakers for a night out. Marilyn would wear thigh highs and lipstick when scrubbing the floors. Marilyn would never hide her personal assets behind frumpy clothes. Marilyn would flirt, seductively smile, light candles at dinner, drink champagne in the bathtub, and keep men guessing. She would strut her stuff and not care if anyone noticed… although she knew they did. Although Marilyn didn’t get the guy in “The Seven Year Itch” she was the object of his desire and that is a much more fun role than playing a wife, in the movies or in real life. If watching paint dry is more exciting then your marriage try asking yourself “What Would Marilyn Do” although I hope this marital plan to spice things up works so well you’ll someday be asking yourself “What Would Michelle Do?”