5 Things You Should Know When Going Through the Honeymoon Phase
Around the six-month mark is when a relationship begins to exit its honeymoon phase.
Not to be confused with a couple’s actual honeymoon — a romantic vacation for two, typically taken immediately following or in the year after a wedding — the honeymoon phase is something essentially every couple goes through when beginning a relationship, long before thoughts of marriage enter the picture.
But what is it, exactly? How long does it last? How can you tell that it’s ending? And what does it mean when you transition out of it? If you’re in your first serious relationship, or you’re curious about what they’re like, keep reading. A few experts weighed in on the topic to give you a better sense of what to expect from this infamous moment in a couple’s dating history.
1. Why Is It Called the Honeymoon Phase?
Before it came to represent the earliest period of any romantic relationship, the term was exclusively applied to the beginnings of marriages at the turn of the 16th century.
It’s likely a reference to the idea that the first month after a marriage is the sweetest. Thereafter, like the changing phases of the moon, the nature of the relationship will shift into less enjoyable territory. Despite all the changes marriage and relationships have undergone in the past 200 years, we still have a similar cultural take on romantic love: It’s at its most fun and exciting point at the very beginning.
That’s not to say that relationships get worse and worse as they progress, but rather an acknowledgement that something about them does change as get to know each other better.
2. What Is the Honeymoon Phase Like?
To a degree, you can only really understand the honeymoon phase if you’ve experienced it before. The intensity and fullness of love we conjure up when we think about it — the stuff people write poems and songs about — is often associated with this period.
“The honeymoon period is the sugar rush of new love — the golden time early in a relationship when you can do no wrong in each other’s eyes,” says New York City-based dating coach Connell Barrett. “You can’t get enough of one another. Your new partner has no flaws. You just know you’re soulmates. Every day with that person seems like you’re starring in your own rom-com. It’s addictive, even euphoric.”
Though the idea of an emotional sugar high is a very apt metaphor, it’s also apt in that sugar highs involve our brains reacting to chemicals. In the case of a honeymoon phase, you’re reacting to natural hormones that you’re producing.
“The honeymoon period [is] an emotional high, fueled by endorphins, the hormones and chemicals that flood the brain when we’re enjoying closeness,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of “Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today.”
So how long does all this last? Well, it really depends on the couple, as well as the course that their relationship takes. While Barrett believes it can last anywhere from a few months to two full years, Tessina feels like it’s most often in between those extremes.
“It usually lasts about a year until you’ve been through the calendar once, and had all those new experiences as a couple,” she says. “Things can derail this, like having a baby too soon, or dealing with children from a previous relationship, or a family illness or some other problem that takes over your life.”
3. How Can You Tell That The Honeymoon Phase Is Ending?
As the relationship progresses and the newness begins to fade, that’s something you’ll see reflected in your feelings.
Seeing your partner show up at your front door will feel a little bit less thrilling. You’ll learn more about each other’s likes and dislikes, and settle into rhythms and patterns around those realities. At some point, you’ll look around and realize that the brand-new-relationship glow has faded somewhat.
But what are the signs of the end of this period? Keep an eye out for a few concrete trends that signal your relationship is no longer in its early days.
“Bickering or arguing is a telltale sign that the honeymoon is over,” notes Barrett. “You have sex less often because desire wanes. You may doubt your feelings for the other person simply because the buzz of infatuation has subsided.”
As well, certain other, more intentional aspects of an early relationship will fall away. Since you won’t be trying to wow each other any longer, things like flirtation and courtship will most likely wane, too.
“There’s […] less of a need to impress your partner,” he adds. “You go from dressing your best and putting your best foot forward to wearing sweatpants and being your real, true self. You also see your partner’s full, flawed self with clarity.”
4. What Does the End of the Honeymoon Phase Mean?
While it might feel like the relationship has taken a turn for the worse, shifting out of the honeymoon period is far from a bad sign.
“It means you’re starting to face real life, get back to taking care of things and no longer wanting to spend every minute together,” notes Tessina.
Yes, the honeymoon period might be a lot of fun, but it’s also unsustainable. You can’t go on feeling butterflies in your stomach every time you see your partner for years and years. And even if you could somehow magically sustain the intensity of your early-relationship emotions for all that time, it wouldn’t be pragmatic to fill your days with sex, dates, cuddling and nothing else.
“If the honeymoon period went well, you feel bonded to each other, and [you’re] ready to share your lives and move forward with life goals,” she adds. “You’ll begin to be less focused on only the two of you, and beginning to create a picture of the two of you dealing with life, seeing friends and working toward mutual goals.”
5. What Is a Relationship Like After the Honeymoon Phase?
So the honeymoon phase is in the rear-view mirror. You’ve now entered, well, the beginning of the rest of the relationship. What’s that like?
“After the first year […] is when the haze of romance and lust lifts, and reality begins to set in,” explains Tessina. “Instead of spending your time together doing fun things, you’re now wrestling with real life. Paying bills, working, saving for the future all emerge as issues for the first time. You are confronted with differences that seemed unimportant or non-existent when you were first together, but are now front and center.”
In addition to outside issues taking up more of your time as a couple, the dynamic between the two of you is likely to undergo some shifts, as well. Whether subtle or more pronounced, things like moving in together, in particular, can greatly accelerate these.
“When you weren’t living together, the primary question was, ‘When can I see you again?’” notes Tessina. “Now, the question is, ‘How can I get some distance from you?’ which is normal, but feels scary. It’s easy to feel romantic when you live separately and date each other because every moment spent together is special. From the moment you begin to live together, such romantic moments are no longer automatic. Instead, much of your time together is spent on more mundane things: doing laundry, washing dishes, paying bills or going to work.”
That’s the great irony of romance — the more you care about someone, the more time you want to spend with them. Take that to its logical conclusion, and it’s easy to start feeling like you’re spending too much time together. And that could, in theory, mean things are headed downhill.
“When the honeymoon phase ends, it’s either the beginning of a real, lasting relationship — or the beginning of the end,” says Barrett. “If you’re a good long-term match who have similar goals and values, the two of you can bond more deeply, if less passionately, when the honeymoon ends. But if the only thing keeping you together early on was the new-car smell of the honeymoon period, then the end of this phase likely means a breakup is coming.”
The end of the honeymoon period, then, is a test. The relationship isn’t the same as it was before. It’s a little less carefree, a little less exciting, a little less romantic. For some people, that’s the cue to bail. But if you genuinely care about each other, now’s the time to start making the relationship work long-term.
“If you look at it as a stage in the work of creating a lifelong relationship, you can enjoy this stage, too,” says Tessina. “It’s not falling out of love, it can be getting serious about love and living life together. Your task now is to create the future you want together, and it takes some work — but the payoffs of doing it well are tremendous.”
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