When you first fall in love, you can’t help but be smitten. The way your significant other smiles, laughs, talks, and even moves fills you with delight. This early stage of the relationship, known as the honeymoon phase, makes you feel so good, it’s almost like having an addiction, according to Michelle Archard, scientist and creator of How to Be Romantic. “You can’t get enough of your partner. You can think of nothing else but them, and you can’t imagine life without them,” Archard told The Cheat Sheet.
Depending on the situation, this state of euphoria can last a few months and wanes over two to four years. Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a relationship therapist and founder of The Marriage Restoration Project says this is the time during which couples feel most connected. “You may feel a sense of oneness or completion. Most couples in this stage are convinced that it will last forever,” he said. “Although they know of couples who have struggled after marriage, they are certain they won’t face the same fate. They think they’ll defy the odds.”
Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase, as wonderful as it may be, doesn’t last forever. Once the infatuation fades, the feeling your partner can do no wrong is replaced by more realistic thoughts. Here are some signs the honeymoon phase is over.
1. You’re fighting more
During the infancy of a relationship, there are few, if any, arguments. However, as your relationship matures and you and your partner become more comfortable with each other, there are often more disagreements. They could become more intense, too.
2. You get bored
Things are usually exciting during your first few months of dating. Over time, this excitement starts to fade and the real work of being in a relationship begins. You may even get bored from time to time, said Sameera Sullivan, relationship expert, psychologist, and CEO of matchmaking service Lasting Connections. “That over-the-top excitement for your partner starts to wear off. You start kissing less and the constant, cute lovey-dovey text messages turn into a once-in-a-while thing,” Sullivan said. “Overall, you start to question your feelings for the other person because that feeling of complete euphoria is no longer there.”
3. You have sex less often
When you first met you were tearing at each other’s clothes. All it took was one look, and it was on. Nowadays, you’re just too tired. When you take off your clothes, you just fall asleep. Archard said sex may soon become less frequent. “The phase after the honeymoon phase is sometimes referred to as the attachment phase. It’s designed to keep a couple together at least long enough to raise children and ensure the continuation of the human species,” Archard said.
4. Your butterflies get a bit sluggish
You know that nervous feeling you get every time you see your special someone? That won’t last as your relationship progresses. You’ll still feel happy and excited to see your love, but relationship consultant Chris Seiter says it’s not quite the same. “You don’t get that ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling every time you see your partner,” said Seiter, founder of Ex Boyfriend Recovery and Ex Girlfriend Recovery.
5. You’re more comfortable around each other
Before, you used to be on your best behavior, wear your trendiest clothes, and were always ready to impress. Now, you feel less of an urgency to wow your partner. You can relax in each other’s presence and watch movies at home in your sweat pants. “You feel more comfortable with your partner and feel safe, relaxed, and satisfied, as opposed to excited, when you’re together,” said Dr. Jess O’Reilly, resident sexologist for Astroglide. “The second phase of love (companionate love) is marked by the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. These chemicals are associated with attachment and, in animal studies, the suppression of these hormones interferes in parent-child bonding.”
How to feel like you’re still on the honeymoon
Although you won’t have that love high forever, you can still do things to make each other feel special and loved. Just because you have been together for a while doesn’t mean you should relax and stop paying attention to each other. Dating and Relationship Coach Rosalind Sedacca says couples can keep the love alive by continuing to respect each other and making an effort to stay physically and emotionally connected. “Over time, couples take one another for granted and this leads to the end of the honeymoon phase. Paying mindful attention to each other will help maintain that special connection and early feeling of togetherness,” Sedacca told The Cheat Sheet.
Psychotherapist Dee Wagner, co-author of Naked Online: A DoZen Ways to Grow from Internet Dating, said it’s also important to nurture your relationship by remaining aware of your emotions. During an argument, it’s easy to be critical and blame your partner for any negative feelings that may arise, but you’ll benefit from learning to step back and take ownership of how you’re feeling at any given moment. This will help prevent resentment from festering. Wagner’s advice:
In our efforts to share our feelings with our partner, which is good self-care, we often give them all the power for those feelings, which is bad self-care. We say things like, “You made me feel…” It is our job to manage our own feelings.
We need to be able to connect with our lovers without letting our lovers control the whole dance. When we give our lovers all the power for how we feel, we go into nervous system responses that are designed for life-threatening danger. If our relationships tend to send us into fight-or-flight or cause us to shut down, that is a sign that we need to repair the relationship dances that we learned in early childhood.
The good news
The honeymoon doesn’t last forever, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The good news is, if your relationship makes it past this stage, you have a chance at developing true love, says Audrey Hope, a relationship expert and addictions specialist at Seasons in Malibu. “The way to solve this need for ‘honeymoon’ love is to be educated about the way real love works,” Hope explained. “Love in stages two and three is better, but you have to do the work to get there. You have to dare to see the truth about the one you love, and you have to dare to let them see you. Real love is worth it. And when the honeymoon stage ends, better love is upon you.”
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