When the honeymoon phase wears off…how will you know and what can you do about it? Research tells us that the honeymoon period is quite real. It tends to last anywhere between 12 to 30 months. Some spouses particularly crave novelty. These couples report that their honeymoon phase petered out after as little as 6 to 9 months. When you first start dating, it can be intoxicating. The relationship feels exciting and vibrant, and you’re still unraveling the mystery of each other. However, eventually, you settle into a gradually more predictable routine. After falling in love, the relationship settles down. The person you used to find so exciting slowly becomes a steady and predictable presence in your life.

Marriage and Family Therapists note that some partners confuse this new sense of calm familiarity with boredom. They believe that these over-the-top feelings were meant to last forever. Couples start feeling that the mystery has faded.

You know that they love this music you can’t stand or that they hate to fold their laundry, and have this irritating laugh when they’re drunk. It’s hard to keep an open mind without becoming judgmental.

Welcome to the end of the honeymoon.

6 ways you can tell the honeymoon phase is over

1. You had your first fight

Flaws and imperfections become apparent. That may be a shock. “Wow…some of the things that make her happy bore me to tears.” You may squabble over differences.

You suddenly realize…this is an entirely separate person, and they are remarkably different from me. Discovering firsthand, as Dr. Gottman told us, from a long term perspective, 69% of your differences are fundamentally unsolvable.

Here are some things you will notice:

2. You learn to rely on each other

Managing differences involves understanding each other’s needs and sincerely trying to fulfill them. Trust is built. Routines are established. The punch list of what it takes to be a partner with this person has been provided.

3. You build trust and commitment

Every day after the honeymoon phase wears off, you make both deposits and withdrawals in your emotional bank accounts. The frantic limerence has calmed down. You’ve acquired the ability to disappoint as well as delight each other. In other words, your relationship is getting real in every sense.

4. Other things and other people matter once more

You start showing who you are without worry, growing your world beyond your close connection.

You learn to accommodate the conflicting demands of friends and family and strive to integrate them as coherently as possible. Perhaps a healthy differentiation emerges.

5. You give…and take freely

When you settle into each other, you create a pattern of giving and compromising in the relationship.

6. Negotiating firm boundaries becomes important

During the honeymoon phase, you tend not to think about boundaries. You must negotiate a “couple space” and protect it from encroachment by attractive others.

What to do

This shift doesn’t mean the end of romance or connection. Rather, it signals an opportunity for growth and deeper bonding. Here are strategies to navigate this phase transition positively:

1. Embrace Reality with Open Communication:

Acknowledge the shift in dynamics openly and without fear. Share your feelings about the change in the relationship’s tone. Encourage your partner to do the same. Honest conversations can foster understanding and help both parties align their expectations.

2. Cultivate New Shared Experiences:

Inject novelty and excitement into your relationship by exploring new hobbies, taking classes together, or planning adventures. Shared experiences can reignite the spark and create fresh connections between partners.

New study suggests trying something new together before seeking couples therapy. This new research studied couples who had been together for years.

The results showed that couples who did new and exciting activities rated their relationship quality as higher than before. These couples were also less hostile toward each other and showed more mutual support and acceptance.

The researchers describe the predictable pattern of an intimate relationship:

“…when two people first enter a relationship, typically engaging in intense conversations with considerable risk-taking and self-disclosure, they are “expanding their selves” at a rapid rate.”

3. Prioritize Emotional Intimacy:

Shift the focus from the initial infatuation to building emotional intimacy. Engage in deeper conversations, actively listen, and support each other’s personal growth. Vulnerability and emotional connection can deepen your bond.

4. Rediscover Romance and Appreciation:

Make a conscious effort to express appreciation and affection regularly. Simple gestures like leaving love notes or planning surprising dates can reignite the romantic spark and reinforce your connection.

5. Establish Healthy Boundaries:

Understand each other’s needs for personal space and time. Establishing boundaries fosters individual growth and prevents feelings of suffocation or dependency.

6. Seek Professional Guidance if Needed:

Consider couples’ therapy or counseling if you find it challenging to navigate this phase on your own. A neutral third party can provide insights and tools to improve communication and address underlying issues.

7. Focus on Self-Care and Personal Growth:

Invest time in self-care and personal development. When both partners prioritize their well-being and growth, it positively impacts the relationship dynamic.

8. Revisit Shared Goals and Dreams:

Reconnect with your shared vision for the future. Discuss and align your goals, aspirations, and dreams. Planning together can rekindle the sense of partnership and unity.

9. Celebrate Milestones and Memories:

Cherish the journey you’ve had together by celebrating milestones and reminiscing about cherished memories. This practice reinforces the emotional bond and reminds you of your journey as a couple.

10. Practice Gratitude and Positivity:

Cultivate a habit of gratitude in your relationship. Focus on the positive aspects of your partner and the relationship. Gratitude fosters appreciation and helps navigate challenges with a more positive mindset.

Expand into playful novelty

One of the fascinating aspects of this research is the notion of personal expansion. When we fall in love, our sense of self expands.

The researchers claim that when personal “expansion” inevitably slows to a crawl or disappears entirely, the excitement fades.

Once boredom sets in, the “fun deficit” may be blamed on the relationship.

Recent research also suggests that as the relationship matures, playfulness remains highly attractive. Couples therapy may help when it focuses on helping the couple to more carefully define what personal expansion means. It also helps the couple explore which specific activities will kick-start the personal expansion process once more.

The honeymoon phase ending doesn’t mean love or passion end; it means a deeper, more mature connection begins. Viewing this phase as an opportunity for growth and evolution can strengthen the foundation of your relationship. It can also lead to a fulfilling journey together.

Do you want to kick start your marriage?


This study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Aron et al., 2000).

Originally published August 14, 2018.