The five-year itch

By Li Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-17 20:18:01

Experts suggest that people be more prudent before they decide either to get married or to get divorced to prevent marital fatigue. Photo: IC

Recently, a crazy idea has been turning itself around in the mind of 29-year-old Wang Lili (pseudonym), who's now been married for about three years - divorcing her husband.

Though she has never mentioned it to her husband, Wang says the tension has been slowly accumulating over time. These days, Wang says she's rarely in the mood to talk with her husband and often loses her temper over trifles. In response, her husband has been spending increasingly more time away from her and with his computer.

"I think we both are just losing passion and feeling tired," said Wang. "We were so head-over-heels in love at the beginning, but it didn't last long , so I am kind of disappointed in the marriage."

Wang's experience isn't unique among young Chinese couples. According to a report released on January 11 by Peking University's Institute of Social Science Survey, Chinese couples are entering a period of marital fatigue earlier than in the past, with the so-called "seven-year itch" now appearing at just five years.  Even more alarming, according to the report, marital satisfaction and couples' sense of happiness on average drop to their lowest point three-to-five years after marrying.

The report surveyed more than 80,000 couples from 31 provinces and municipalities in the Chinese mainland, as well as from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Among couples who have been married for three-to-five years, over 11 percent said they hate each other and would never have married their partner if they could choose again, and 8.9 percent said they wish they had never married.

Zhou Xiaopeng, the president of leading Chinese dating site, recently weighed in on the report, saying in a Xinhua news report last week that the shortened "seven-year itch" indicates that Chinese couples are growing more demanding and less patient when it comes to marriage.

Li Jianzhong, a Beijing-based psychologist who specializes in relationships, agrees with Zhou. "Young people are less and less prudent when choosing someone to marry, investing less time and energy in the relationship due to the pressure and fast pace of modern life," he told Metropolitan. "But they also have higher expectations of relationships, causing them to become disappointed and fatigued easily, which in turn has led to earlier relationship crises."

Both Zhou and Li said that this new phenomenon may lead to more divorces in China in the future. "The social cost of extra-marital affairs and divorce is lower now, so many people [who are dissatisfied in their marriages] just opt for a divorce or an affair rather than finding a solution," said Zhou in the report.

Wang and her husband first met in 2012 on a blind date and soon fell in love and got married in less than six months. "Everything was fresh then, but now there's nothing new, and I'm afraid there will be nothing new for the rest of our lives," said Wang. "I think that's terrible."

Li said that many of the couples he sees have made the same mistake, leading to an early crisis in their marriage. "They wrongly view the freshness and passion of a young relationship as the criteria for a successful marriage," he said. "From the start, they misunderstand the essence of marriage, which is life-long responsibility and companionship, not momentary impulse and pursuit of freshness."

He suggests that people be more prudent before they decide either to get married or to get divorced. As soon as a couple starts having problems, Li advises that they increase their communication, adding that if that doesn't work, they should seek professional help from a marriage counselor.

For Wang, it hasn't yet reached that point. She says after much thought, she's decided to try and save the relationship by attempting to recapture the passion of their early days. As such, this Spring Festival, she and her husband will take a trip to Yunnan Province, where they had their honeymoon three years ago. "I heard that once a couple toughs the seven-year itch out, their relationship is strengthened," she said, "so I'd like to give it a try."

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