The Three-Year Glitch

Warner Brothers just conducted a study that focused on relationships and what may cause them to start to break apart, and when. They surveyed 2000 British couples, at various stages of their relationships, and found that almost across the board, at around 36 months, there was a noteworthy shift. This shift either caused people to break up or figure out how to stay together, often by taking more time to themselves. This study is similar to another one that was conducted in 2007 that yielded very similar results.

The honeymoon phase is generally ending three years into the relationship, and now the “real” work begins. All of the small annoyances become more noticeable and, potentially, more annoying. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in all of the negative and forget to find the time to really notice your partner and the positive things. Life also just gets in the way. We get busy; we focus on other things and our relationships suffer. Although it is a shame to say, it is often necessary to be sure to schedule in some romance, as intimacy is often pushed to the back burner by the doldrums of our everyday life. Making sure to put romantic time in a schedule, ensures that it happens. It is known from other studies that intimacy helps you feel connected to your partner and will be a protective factor to keep a relationship moving forward in a positive way.
Simultaneous to finding time to connect, it is good to find and engage in your own personal activities. It’s always important to maintain some of your own identity in a relationship, as it will allow you to bring that back to your partner, giving you things to share. Of course, if you find that you are more focused on your solo time, there may be something to worry about.

Interestingly, many of the things listed as the “annoyances” are just that: annoyances. When they become big enough problems to impact your relationships in a negative way, take a second and think about what is really occurring. Generally, those annoyances are just the tip of the iceberg. The underlying glacier needs to be examined and the problems that are there addressed.

It is so easy to take your partner for granted, and important to think of ways to avoid doing it! Below are some ideas that might help:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. As difficult as this is, these things are just not that important in the long run. If you notice yourself getting caught up in it, take a step back and evaluate what the bigger problem may be.
  2. Find time to appreciate one another: Building in solo time is okay, but be sure to build in couple’s time too.
  3. Remember the love: Remind yourself why you fell in love with your partner. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the negative that we forget that there is a lot of positive as well. Try to tap into that as often as possible.
  4. Share the positive: Be sure to share the fact that you appreciate one another and LIKE one another. This is another thing that gets lost and reduces over time. Try to avoid that trap.

I spoke this morning with Erica Hill about this topic. Here’s the clip from The Early Show: