When the Honeymoon Phase Wears Off…How You’ll Know…and What to Do

How Do You Know When the Honeymoon Phase Wears Off?

When the honeymoon phase wears off in your relationship…how will you know?

when the honeymoon phase wears offResearch 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 6 to 9 months.

The early phase of a new relationship can be intoxicating. It 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.

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, 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.

7 Ways You Can Tell the Honeymoon Phase is Over

You Had Your First Fight

when the honeymoon phase wears offFlaws 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, the fact that 69% of your differences are fundamentally unsolvable.

There are times you’re on the same page, and sometimes when you’re on entirely different planets. You’re going to have to manage this relationship. And sometimes, it won’t be easy.

You Learn to Rely On Each Other

You begin to appreciate that managing differences require 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.

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.

Other Things and Other People Matter Once More

when the honeymoon phase wears offYou typically begin to express your individuality without fear or anxiety, expanding your world beyond the bubble of your bond.

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.

You Make Each Other Want To Be…

Fill in the blank. When the honeymoon phase wears off, we are better able to share of triumphs and disappointments. It’s a time when we ask ourselves who we want to be, and how does our new intimate bond support our aspiration to be our best self?

When the honeymoon phase wears off, we show our vulnerabilities, quirks, and contradictions more readily, becoming more secure in the belief that we are loved despite them. We no longer feel that our partner is perfect. And that’s OK… because we’re not either.

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. You discover the little delights and disappointments, you freely give and take, hopefully making daily deposits in each other’s emotional bank accounts. You accept each other foibles and folly and find that it’s all good.

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 When the Honeymoon Phase Wears Off

when the honeymoon phase wears offNew research shows that when the honeymoon phase wears off…do something together that you’ve never done before.

This new research studied couples who had been together for years.

It doesn’t have to be an elaborate activity. Trying new things together, even if only briefly, can improve your intimate bond.

New activities help to fight the natural tendency toward boredom that sets in after a relationship when the honeymoon phase wears off.

Researchers believe that there is a process of personal “expansion” which occurs when an established couple does something new together. Novelty is key.

The study asked couples who had been together for many years tried a novel and straightforward activity together.

One activity was quite silly. The couple was velcroed together at the wrist and ankle; then they were instructed to carry pillows across a barrier without using their hands, arms or teeth. 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 to 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 frequent, intense conversations with considerable risk-taking and self-disclosure, they are “expanding their selves” at a rapid rate.

[…]When this rapid expansion occurs, there is hypothesized to be a high degree of positive affect, and when it is very rapid, even physiological arousal.”

Later on, after the honeymoon phase is over, the relationship becomes more routine:

“…for further rapid expansion of all these sorts would seem inevitably to decrease.

When the Honeymoon Phase Wears Off… Expand into Playful Novelty

The researchers claim that when personal “expansion” slows to a crawl or disappears entirely, the excitement fades, boredom sets in, and the “fun deficit” may be blamed on the relationship, perhaps becoming a shared narrative for the drop in relationship satisfaction. Recent Research also suggests that playfulness is highly attractive.

But fun novel and exciting activities can, according to the research, kick-start the self-expanding  process once more:

“If, however, the couple engages in shared self-expanding activities (activities now other than getting to know each other), rapid self-expansion should remain associated with the relationship. Such activities would be ones that are novel (new and thus expanding to self) or arousing (and thus associated with past rapid expansion experiences).”

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

Proyer, René T. A new structural model for the study of adult playfulness: Assessment and exploration of an understudied individual differences variable. Personality and Individual Differences 108 (2017) DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.12.011

About the Author Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.

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