The butterflies, the adrenaline, and untainted hope, and the joy of something new. The honeymoon phase of a relationship – usually defined as anything from the first 90 days to the first year – is the utopic beginning of romance and usually the most beloved phase of a partnership.
Interestingly, as relationship expert and Certified Gottman Couples Therapist, Zack Brittle shares,“The Honeymoon Period is a real phenomenon, but it actually has a scientific name: It’s called limerence. Limerence is the early phase of love, driven primarily by novelty and chemistry. The joy of discovery and the thrill of forming a new relationship are accelerated with the help of bonding hormones like dopamine, adrenaline, and oxytocin. Limerence is the advertiser’s view of love: infatuation, strong sexual attraction, and consequence-less moonlit walks on deserted beaches. It’s the love that just sort of “happens” to you.”
Yet, without being aware of this blinding preamble to a “real relationship”, the somewhat delusional honeymoon phase could be detrimental to the core of a relationship. It’s the transition from the honeymoon phase into the relationship that is often the challenge and provides the most opportunity for collective growth.
The End of the Honeymoon Phase
Arguments and Defensiveness
The quirks that were once cute start to annoy you, and instead of overlooking things and accepting them as unique attributes of your partner’s personality, they start to wear on you. Perhaps it’s that your partner is comfortable with a messy kitchen or wants a night out alone with friends once a week, making you feel left out. These differences can trigger arguments about how you spend your time and organize your life together.
Dwindling Sex and Affection
The flirting and sweet little gestures subside and sex starts to become a chore. Affection dwindles or becomes non-existent. You aren’t excited for intimacy and it feels forced.
Communication Feels Like an Obligation
That early obsession with learning everything about your partner has subsided and you’re starting to notice the inherent differences in communication style. For example, you prefer nightly phones calls and he communicates throughout the day via text. Or, while you enjoy rehashing the day after work, he likes quiet time. These differences start to contribute to the arguments discussed above.
You Aren’t Taking Care of Yourself
As you slide into the comforts of a long-term relationship, it feels less important to maintain your fitness level. Maybe you’ve given up your favorite pastimes to spend time with your new partner. Chances are, you are also now spending less time with friends.
The Relationship Transition
After the sparkle of a new partner has worn off and the rush of falling in love has subsided, the real effort begins. While the concept of fearless loving encourages us to “rise in love” instead of fall, it takes a conscious effort to keep most relationships thriving.
In an effort to maintain a loving connection despite the passage of time, consider the following post-honeymoon relationship strategies:
Actively pursue knowledge of your partner
Continue to understand your partner’s everyday dynamics, the cast of characters in his or her life. Brittle suggests to try and learn something new about your partner everyday. In addition, it’s important to uncover how your partner receives and feels love and the ways he or she feels supported. Observe, inquire, and be intentional with the way you interact each day.
Not necessarily sex, intimacy is a deep connection that includes conversation and physical closeness. Broaden your experience of intimacy together by sharing quiet moments of meditation, conversation-based dates, or beautiful adventures that connect you with something beyond one another. Make a conscious effort to add diversity into your life together, as new experiences fuel happiness. Be honest and clear about your physical likes and dislikes when it comes to pleasure.
Pick Your Battles
Chances are that you connected with your partner because of similar interests, values, and relationship desires. Once the high of the honeymoon phase wears off, differences will emerge, which can fuel diversity in the relationship and be a positive thing, if approached that way. Sometimes it’s better to focus on peace rather than winning, and make compromise the core of your partnership. Start by getting clear on your desired outcome, and learning to position that need from a place of love.
Create Healthy Space
As mentioned above, one notable shift that happens in a new relationship is taking less time for one’s interests and passions. Unless your partner’s daily activities are closely aligned with yours, chances are you’ve given up some of the pastimes you’ve loved to make space for this new relationship. The end of the honeymoon phase is the time to schedule some me-time or better yet, introduce your partner to the activities that make you most happy. Spending some time with yourself, caring for yourself is important to feeling a sense of balance when in a relationship. Space also creates a sense of longing, which will strengthen your relationship overtime.
If you’ve had challenges transitioning beyond the honeymoon period when dating, or keeping love alive, contact me, Dr. Kristen Hick, to discuss relationship therapy options and learn how your unique needs and desires can help you feel fully happy in a partnership.
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