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Causes of divorce: when are marriages most at risk?

The causes of divorce are often not hard to find. It's no secret that fights about money, the stresses of raising children, and sexual incompatibility are common issues for couples.

But is there such a thing as a "seven-year itch" driving couples apart? To be sure, there was a Marilyn Monroe movie by that name. And the phrase is solidly entrenched in colloquial American English. That does not necessarily mean, however, that the mere passage of seven years is a cause of divorce in Virginia or anywhere else.

Still, researchers have tried to test out the theory. One study, by a psychology professor in 1999, concluded that there is not only a seven-year-itch, but also a four-year itch. This is because most couples tend to begin marriage with a high degree of unity, only to see it decline markedly after four years - and again after seven.

Not surprisingly, the hard work of raising children only accelerates these declines. That, at least, was the finding of Dr. Larry Kurdek of Wright State University.

More recently, a 2010 study showed that a majority of divorce today are of couples who have been together for a decade or more. The study, by the accounting group Grant Thornton, found that are most at risk after about 12 years.

Clearly, even from glancing at a couple of studies like this, it's clear that there are certain times when marriages are most threatened. Of course, circumstances vary somewhat for each couple. The birth of a child, or of a subsequent child, is well known to take a toll on marital satisfaction.

Ultimately, then, it's not so much a matter of whether there's a four-year ache, seven-year ache or a 12-year ache. When there's any kind of heartache, it can take years to be resolved. And sometimes, in order to do, divorce is necessary.

Source: "The Seven-Year Itch: Fact or Fiction," Huffington Post, Jennifer Nagy, 1-28-13

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