In the 1952 romantic movie The Seven Year Itch, middle-aged husband Richard Sherman (played by the dashing Tom Ewell) resists the temptation to fall for the sultry girl (played by Marilyn Monroe) living in the apartment upstairs. In his mind, he wants to get past what the television psychiatrist Dr. Brubaker calls “the seven-year itch” or the desire by couples to engage in extra-marital affairs in their seventh year of marriage.
But when he asks a psychoanalyst for advice on what to do, the reply astonishes him: “If something itches, my dear sir, the natural tendency is to scratch.”
After all, who couldn’t resist Marilyn Monroe in her billowing white dress that’s become an iconic scene preserved in cinematic history? Anyone but Richard Sherman. In the end, he didn’t “scratch” and realized he can’t let go of his wife.
But this doesn’t hold true for some couples though.
Seven years seems too long, however, to start feeling the end of their honeymoon phase and realize that some of the emotional wounds don’t have any hope for healing.
But when one undergoes an ethical and moral crisis in his or her marriage, it makes me wonder: what could be the reason why couples lose their interest in each other? And for those that stick to their commitment, do they satisfy their partner’s expectations out of feeling obligated or do they get the same satisfaction when it comes to expressing their love?
In his 1992 book, The Five Love Languages, pastor and radio show host Gary Chapman argues that each person has a primary love language that we need to learn to “speak” if we want to better express our feelings to our loved ones.
These different love languages include:
These are for people who love to receive compliments, appreciation and encouragement in many ways through text messages, surprise phone calls and late-night greetings. It makes them feel more appreciated and understood.
Some examples of Words of Affirmation are:
Is for folks who want to be with their partners most of the time and spend meaningful moments. They love being prioritized and having undivided attention.
Some examples of Quality Time are:
Is for partners who appreciate the value of receiving surprises and not necessarily about the monetary worth of the gift. They appreciate the meaning behind the gift and the emotional impact it gives to them.
Some examples of Receiving Gifts are:
Are for people who feel validated when being taken care of in small or grand ways such as having their husbands make their morning coffee or pick them up from the office on a rainy evening.
Some examples of Acts of Service are:
Is for folks who appreciate the emotional connection that physical intimacy brings in the form of cuddling, holding hands and kissing.
These categories were born out of the author's years of counseling and recognizing the same pattern among couples who could not meet halfway through.
Some examples of Physical Touch are:
Chapman recommends that we must try to find out our partner’s love language and demonstrate our love in the language that he understands. Understanding each other resonates well in the relationship.
For instance, if you’re unaware that your partner’s primary love language is quality time but you make up for your 60-hour work weeks by bringing him sweet nothings, it won’t make any difference. The love that you’re showing isn’t wrong. It’s just not fitting for the language that your loved one speaks.
On the other hand, if you don’t express your love language through acts of service, your partner may be sending you text messages day and night telling you how much you mean the world to him but could’ve channeled his efforts at making you breakfast in bed instead.
The bottom line is, never underestimate the value of communication between you and your partner. If we learn to be open about our feelings, about what we want, and what we need to feel loved, then there’s no reason to feel the “itch” in seven, eight or ten years.
When I learned about Gary Chapman’s book, I thought about how I feel the most appreciated and valued when Stefan connects with me. I love it when he lets me spend the day off so he can take care of Maya, when he cracks a joke during dinner, and when he holds my hand just because he just feels like doing it. It’s a combination of love languages really.
But what about the primary love language? To find out, I had to take a test. (You can take any love language test online too and use it to connect with your loved one.)
And my love language is… WORDS OF AFFIRMATION.
The result correctly describes my feelings: “You feel most loved when others offer words of praise, recognition, and appreciation. You feel most engaged when you are heard and positively affirmed by others - especially those whose opinion you care about the most. On the other hand, you find it most hurtful when you are not “heard” or when you’re unproductively or unfairly criticized. You value loving texts and notes (as long as they’re genuine) and like to receive them regularly. You just like to be reminded how special you are!”
And then it dawned on me. I love it when I hear Stefan blurt out countless I-love-yous out of the blue. I feel delighted when he acknowledges the little things I do for him and Maya. My day gets all better when he recognizes my efforts and says, “Thank you” before giving me a sweet kiss on my cheek.
And yes, I still blush when he does these things to me.