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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Every 7 Years

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I stood at my morning duty post when the bottom of my shirt caught my eye. I noticed that the fabric was worn thin and its once-smooth texture had been replaced with the peaks and valleys of aging fabric. I knew that this shirt, like the majority of my work clothing, had been purchased on an annual outing to the local outlet mall and so I flipped up the hem to reveal the tag beneath. The faded slip of fabric indicated that this particular shirt was from the Spring ’08 Banana Republic Factory Collection.

Once I read the tag, I immediately recalled that particular shopping trip. It was one taken with my now-ex husband where I stocked up on warm-weather work clothes and he replaced his too-small shorts with some with larger waistbands. That trip, although I could picture every detail, seems like a lifetime ago. And now that shirt, worn consistently since its purchase 7 years ago, has reached the end of its life.


There’s a common belief that our cells completely replace themselves every 7 years. Although it is true that our cells are constantly being replaced (at least with the exception of many neural cells, which generally last a lifetime), the 7 year number is a myth. At least in the scientific sense.

A span of seven years has achieved cultural significance. We speak of the 7 year itch when relationships are supposedly more likely to fail. Negative marks on credit reports are discharged after 7 years (I’ll be doing one heckofa happy dance on that day!!) There are connections to the number 7 in the major religions and in Native American storytelling. Even numerology attaches importance to 7 year cycles, speaking of a natural ebb and flow of energy.

And even though 7 may be largely an arbitrary number, it is an interesting metric with which to measure our lives. 7 years is of short enough duration that there is still a link between now and the start. Yet it is also long enough for major shifts to occur.


I’m now in the sixth year since the tsunami that washed my life as I knew it away. And I certainly feel as though all of my cells have been replaced. I like the thought that the body I have now has never been touched by him and that the guts I now possess were born of that time.


I feel a strange purgative thrill whenever I shed one more element of my former life. Although on the one hand, I am disappointed that a favored shirt is destined for the garbage, I feel a relief at letting it go. One more connection cut.

7 years may be a myth, but now that it’s within my grasp, it is starting to feel like a reality to me.

Regardless of the schedule my cells are on, I’m feeling renewed as year 7 approaches. Every day I feel the grasp of the past loosen and its impact on my present lessen.

And on a completely different note, I had my first bust ever at the outlet mall today. These current styles (big and billowy tops with loud prints and skinny pants) are not made for the short and muscular. So I guess I’m stuck wearing my worn-out tops for a while longer. At least until solids and stretch fabrics make their way back to shirts. Fashionistas – any guesses on when that will be? 🙂

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10 thoughts on “Every 7 Years

  1. Here in Australia, we need to keep business records for taxation purposes for seven years. After the seven years, the records can be destroyed without guilt or repercussions. Like you, I think that seven year mark after the ending of a relationship will probably be the real end – when we will be able to safely let go of all the hidden effects.

  2. It has been a while since I last commented here. While it has been about 4 years since my marriage went in the crapper, I’m beginning to see some positive movement. Surrounding myself with good people who value my presence certainly helps. Heck, I’m even “interested” in someone! I just wish I could drum up the courage to act on it. Still a looooong way to go.

  3. I divorced in 1986. So much has changed yet there are still occasional reminders, even after all these years.

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