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, who particularly crave novelty, 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. You heard the story before.
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.
When the honeymoon phase wears off, Marriage and Family Therapists note that some partners confuse this new sense of calm familiarity with boredom. They think these over-the-top feelings were supposed to last forever. The mystery has faded.
You know that they love Hip-Hop (you hate Hip-Hop) or that they hate to fold their laundry, and have this irritating laugh when they’re drunk.
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 very 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
You begin to appreciate that managing differences requires cultivating a healthy appreciation for what you both need from each other, and you both are learning to provide it with a clean heart. 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 typically begin to express your individuality without fear or anxiety, expanding your world beyond the bubble of your bond.
5. You give…and take freely
One of the benefits of settling into each other when the honeymoon phase wears off is that you establish a rhythm of generosity and compromise as part of the relationship.
6. Negotiating firm boundaries becomes important
During the honeymoon phase, you tend not to think about boundaries. But when the honeymoon phase wears off, you’re going to have to negotiate a “couple space” and protect it from encroachment by attractive others.
The one thing to do that matters after the honeymoon period
New research shows that before you go running into couples therapy, do something together that you’ve never done before.
This new research studied couples who had been together for years.
The results showed that couples who took part in exciting and novel activities rated their relationship quality as higher than before.
But there was even more benefit. These couples were 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.
When the honeymoon phase wears off… 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, perhaps becoming a shared narrative for the noticeable drop in relationship satisfaction.
Recent research also suggests that when the honeymoon phase wears off, playfulness is highly attractive. Couples therapy may help when it focuses on helping the couple to more carefully define what personal expansion means and which specific activities will kick-start the personal expansion process once more.
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.