First of all, congratulations on achieving six years of happy marriage: you already seem to be doing better than the average couple! Consider the findings from a 1999 study at Wright State University in Ohio, US, that involved hundreds of newlyweds completing annual psychological tests over the first 10 years of their marriage. The couples’ marital satisfaction tended to drop off sharply over the first four years, then to stabilise for a while, and finally to begin another descent after seven years – that last result apparently supporting the folk notion of a ‘seven-year itch’. Of course, these are averaged figures and they mask a significant degree of variability.
You can take heart from another US study from 2012 which found that – as you might expect – different married couples have different trajectories of happiness, and at least some manage to maintain their marital bliss for years. Generally, much of it comes down to what you and your partner bring to the marital equation – if you’re both emotionally resilient, you problem-solve together and you’re attuned to each other’s needs, you’re more likely to find lasting happiness (if you have kids, how well you adapt to parenting also seems to be a major factor).
To help things along, you could consider seeking out new things to do with your spouse – a body of research suggests that continuing to share in ‘self-expanding’ activities, such as new hobbies or trips to unfamiliar places, can reignite the passion you enjoyed earlier in your marriage.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.