Eva: Ok, So. This one is all about what we’ve learned in seven years of marriage.
Kyle: Is this going to be a six hour conversation?
Eva: I hope not.
Kyle: We’ve learned a lot. So yeah, why don’t you start.
Eva: Ummm. Ok, well first of all, I feel like seven years of marriage feels like seventeen years of marriage (both laugh). I can’t believe it hasn’t even been a decade, it’s wild to me. Suddenly seven years feels like a lot. And, you know, I’ve written these posts throughout the years on different anniversary milestones– just about how different marriage was than what I expected it to be. Ummm..in positive and negative ways. I know I had a really unrealistic view of marriage from all angles. But I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned is that as a couple you really have to understand on a deep level, and respect, where the other person has been and how they’ve been effected and how they’ve lived their life before meeting you. I think that’s crucial to understanding that person and being able to succeed in a relationship with that person. So, what that person’s childhood was like, any triggers that they have– things that make them feel unsafe or things that comfort them– I think that those are all conversations that are really important to have with somebody before you get married.
Kyle: Mmm hmmm. And what’s important about relationships, and what makes marriage really challenging, is that two things are happening concurrently: there’s a journey in to understanding yourself and what you’ve learned through environment– what you’ve witnessed subconsciously and consciously and how they’ve effected you and molded your outlook and choices. Without having a clear understanding of how these things have effected you on a deeper level, you learn to mimic behavior in many ways, and so I think it takes a long time to figure out who you actually are as an individual, and in relationships. While you’re on THAT path, you’re also trying to understand your dynamic with somebody else– and what they need and who they are. And what’s tough is sometimes it’s like two violinists sharing the same stand, a chair apart from each other and a beat off of rhythm. It’s hard to find the rhythm and the harmony. Sometimes one person is off the beat and sometimes the other person is– and so individual reflection and the journey in to understanding yourself can effect you relationship with the other person in a marriage. And what I’ve learned is that it’s ok to be off the beat, whether individually or as a couple, but that honesty and communication are the only ways to make it through those difficult times when the music doesn’t sound good, you know?
Eva: Yeah, I mean I totally agree with that. The number one thing for marriage is probably learning how to communicate with one another: honestly, openly, effectively. And to stay communicating. Because if you can do that then you can get through anything. You know, sometimes I wonder if some of our marital stuff over the years is also due to the fact that we got married so young– not only young age wise but also young in our journeys of self discovery. I wonder if we had had better handles on where we were coming from, who we were, where we were going– that it would have been easier. I wonder if sometimes it is a little bit more…ummm… stable to get married when you’re a bit older. I don’t know.
Kyle: Yeah. I think there are two things that if you were to pinpoint when a relationship goes off track– there are two factors, in my opinion, that are issues of consequence that are very important. One is this counter intuitive behavior of being someone you don’t feel comfortable being because you think your significant other wants you to be that person…
Eva: Or needs you to be that person…
Kyle: Or needs you to be that person. And what ends up really turning that in to a toxic situation is when that’s not even what they want. So you’re being someone that you assume they want but that you don’t like to be and don’t want to be, and they don’t want it either. (laughs) And then the other one is losing yourself in a relationship. So not being able to carve out a safe and respectful space within the relationship dynamic where you’re allowed to be an individual. Without hurting someone else, or without distancing yourself from someone else.
Eva: Mmm hmmm. The hardest part with that is just in the years when you’re raising small children. There’s little to no space for that. I think a lot of people struggle with that balance between sense of self and selflessness required of parenthood.
Kyle: Oh yeah, we haven’t even gotten started on adding a third person in to the dynamic…
Eva: You mean when a couple starts having kids?
Eva: It’s been really interesting. And recently, obviously, we’ve been learning how to communicate a lot better. And we’ve had help with that. But I really don’t know where our relationship would be if we hadn’t started working on it in that way.
Kyle: Well, I think what happens in a lot of relationships is you reach this plateau– where stagnation leads to frustration. And you not seeing what you desire and what you love in the other person– but you also don’t try to emit that yourself and be that yourself…and I think what really recharges a relationship is peeling layers back to uncover vulnerability and honesty. And that can make you, or I’m speaking to myself individually, it can make you kind of fall in love again and see your significant other through a fresh pair of eyes. As if you’ve caught eyes with them across the bar for the first time. I’ve felt that jolt a few times, in moments of self discovery and vulnerability that felt dangerous. Or in moments of compassion towards you for things I know weren’t easy to recognize about our dynamic or about yourself individually. I feel like those things are just as powerful if not more powerful than seeing you succeed, or doing something that is attractive in its beauty and confidence– you know?
Eva: Right. Kind of relating to that…what do you think about this term “The Seven Year Itch”?
Kyle: I’ve never heard that term before.
Eva: You haven’t?!
Kyle: No. Should you tell me about it? (both laugh)
Eva: It’s a famous time in marriages– that’s called the seven year each– where at around seven years, people start to get sick of each other and start to be annoyed or crave change. And my feeling about that is that it has a lot to do with kids. (laughs) I think that in a lot of marriages, that’s around the time that you’re raising small children, and you’re at Capacity and exhausted. And I think that’s the time that all those things happen that we’ve been talking about– where you really lose sight of yourselves as individuals. And it can make you end up thinking about what else is out there, like what other life you could be having instead. Instead of focusing on and fixing what you do have.
Kyle: Well, A few things: one is, like any itch you have, once you scratch it the worse it feels and the worse it gets. There are so many things, whether in a relationship or not, where something pops in to your head that asks “is this as good as it gets?” It’s kind of the destruction of The Grass Is Always Greener type fallacy. And one thing I’ve heard, from my buddy who shall remain nameless– and you can sense the professional athlete in this comment– he was talking about marriage, and he’s on his second. He said “Marriage should be like our contract, you know? When you get done with the four years you should be able to come back to the table and renegotiate!” And I said you better never say that to your wife. (both laugh)
Eva: I mean. Are you telling me you want to renegotiate? (both laugh)
Kyle: I’m fine with the terms. (laughs) But I think The Seven Year Itch is like anything: it’s an “easy out”. It’s your head telling you, “this is hard,” and you can take the easy way out. And the reason I think a lot of marriages fail is because people are predisposed to want to give in to the itch or whatever it is to take the pressure off or take the challenge away so things can be easier.
Eva: Yeah. Well, I’m up for renewing our contract.
Kyle: Alright! I’ll have my lawyer call yours!
Photographs by Julia Dags.