I’ve heard that divorce is more common around the seven and 20-year marks. Why? I have my theories and I’ve read some other theories. In any case, my husband and I celebrated our seven year anniversary earlier this year. It was a simple yet lovely celebration at the perfect tiny restaurant a mile from our house where we’d actually never before dined. As we sipped our wine, a perfect combination of fruity and nutty deliciousness, it hit me that we had indeed experienced our seven year itch.
Rewind to November of 2013 when we vacationed for eight nights to our absolute favorite destination. After a week of sunbathing, boating, hiking, and happy-houring, (yes, happy-houring is a verb) it was time to head back home to Charlotte, the only home we’ve ever known as a couple. As we sipped our beer at the local brewery early that afternoon, we made a decision that would alter the course of our next year quite drastically.
That day, November 19th, I looked at Shaun and somewhat timidly said, “We love it here. We are so happy here. Why are we not LIVING here?” And there it was. It was out there. A totally extreme idea, and I had no idea how he would respond. We continued to sip our cold drafts and pretty soon, ordered another one. Even though it was 85 degrees in the Caribbean, it was in fact, fall, so we were having pumpkin beer with a brown sugar rim.
As we started to talk about it, we realized that we were actually on the same page with this. We started throwing out declarations like: “There is more to life than our home and jobs” and “Let’s not wake up one day and regret that we never fully experienced what life has to offer.” We made a lot of strong statements that were hard to take back. We didn’t intend to change our minds.
I’ve heard of people who get married very young changing dramatically in their 20s and not always changing together. While we certainly weren’t old when we tied the knot, we definitely were young enough where our lives could take different paths and our desire to find what constituted happiness could change. And it had.
The really great news about our seven year itch is that it happened to us both. It’s as if we were just waiting on a catalyst, something to open our eyes to the reality that there is more to life than what we are currently living. Money can’t buy happiness but, to money’s credit, it gave us the means to experience enough to know that there is a giant world out there. Money assisted us in creating a comfortable and happy life with all the amenities a young couple could possibly need. But the fact is, having things isn’t our ultimate path to happiness.
When we arrived back home, we began to take inventory of all of our things, our stuff: The dark, cherry wood, formal dining room furniture that housed fine china and crystal that we never used; a formal sitting room that we definitely never used, but I had insisted six years ago that I must have a purple couch and a custom ottoman in the room with our formal wedding album and our super formal and enormous portrait; and the two guest bedrooms that had simultaneously been in use a total of two nights. Then there was the coat closet full of garments that we wished we didn’t use. There was just so much stuff.
While we loved our house and our time there, and even more so, the friendships we’d cultivated while in the house, it was clear that the only “things” in that house that we really needed were each other and our boys. I began to ask myself ‘what are you really attached to here”? I realized there were things that made the happy. One was my beautiful Windy O’Connor abstract, the only original piece of art I’d ever purchased. I loved my mirrored side tables in the living room and my eclectic bedroom furniture. The turquoise lamps I found at a consignment store brought some element of joy too.
Sadly, I must admit that the other stuff that I was attached to came from boutiques and malls. I was very much emotionally involved with what hung in my closet. Oh well, I said it. And it truly is my major vice. Some people use drugs, some see a therapist; I shop, and I shop like it’s my job. Along with dance, it’s my therapy. Dance, shop, tan… well, I do a lot more, but these are a few of my favorite things. One thing’s for certain. My seven year itch has prompted a major life detox. Weaning myself off the mall and driving past the oversized SALE signs hanging by the doors of my favorite retail shops hasn’t been easy, but I have been telling myself that the best is yet to come!
So, tonight, as we sip our pumpkin beer in frosted mugs with brown sugar rims, we are experiencing every emotion imaginable. We are happy, we’re scared, we’re ready to move, we don’t want to go…. it’s an emotional roller coaster. And that is my I created prescription4change. I will be sharing all of the experiences along the way and the lessons we are sure to learn as we leave normal life behind and seek to find happiness on our little piece of paradise.
Ashley Cates, St. John USVI blogger.