Anyone who has been in a relationship knows what the honeymoon phase is. You can’t help but stare into your lover’s eyes and think, “I’d live for hundreds of years just to gaze upon those glistening eyes.”
Sounds about right, huh?
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the honeymoon phase ends.
You go from drooling over them to wanting to rip their eyeballs out when they’re staring at you for too long. They can’t decide on a meal right away? How could they be so indecisive! Not putting the toilet seat back down? Are they barbarians?!
How long does the honeymoon phase last?
According to a 2015 study, the honeymoon phase lasts about 30 months, or 2.5 years, for most couples.
Of course, this varies by couple and many factors contribute to a decrease in happiness, whether gradual or abrupt.
“Men who were depressed or aggressive, or whose fiancées were more depressed or less satisfied with the relationship were more likely to report the most extreme drop in marital happiness,” researcher Dr. Michael Lorber told Huffington Post.
“Things worked out pretty similarly for the women as well… The more depressed or aggressive women were, or the more depressed, aggressive, or dissatisfied their fiancés were, the more likely they were to have fairly high initial satisfaction that dropped sharply.”
Unfortunately, no matter how infatuated you are with your partner, those butterflies in your stomach will wear off eventually.
“Relationships — intimate, friendship and work — do change, and in predictable ways,” says relationship coach and marriage counselor Laurie Weiss. “The better you understand the pattern, the better equipped you will be to help your most valued relationships grow and develop into mature, sustaining supports for you. Relationships that do not continuously develop tend to either stagnate or die.”
Weiss explains that any relationship, whether a friendship or romantic, goes through the same motions.
No one wants their relationship to fail, and it’s certainly sad to hear the stories of romances who go sour after years of being together.
Unfortunately, there are couples who believe that their time would be better spent elsewhere rather than working on the root of their problems. This kind of behavior can be a clear indication of how your partner was treated by those closest to them.
“Developing relationships cycle through five different stages and the stages of adult relationships mirror the relationships you experienced as a child with the important adults who cared for you,” says Weiss.
If person A wants to end their relationship with person B because they don’t think the relationship is worth saving, that could mean person A had someone in their life abandon them or give up on them at a young age. This leads to person A growing up to believe that when the going gets tough, it’s best to leave.
The honeymoon phase begins in the first of five stages of a relationship.
“Stage one feels blissful. It’s so blissful that for some people it becomes addictive. It is the stage of parents gazing at their new infant with awe and adoration. It is also the stage of lovers gazing at each other the same way. It is the stage of ‘You’re my best friend!’ Weiss says.
“It is the honeymoon phase of a new job. It is the time of rose-colored glasses. We see only the best in each other. Often, we don’t really see each other at all. Instead, we see only a reflection of our own hopes and dreams,” she continues.
During this stage of your relationship, it feels like nothing can go wrong. But clinging to this feeling can be trouble once this stage of your relationship starts coming to an end.
“Expect to ‘fall out of love’ with your partner (or your new friend, or your new job),” says Weiss. “Being ‘in love’ is a temporary insanity that lasts long enough for nature to get babies (or new projects) started. A mature loving relationship is better, and takes time to develop.”
“Stage two, codependency, is the experience of being completed by another person. It is the persistent cultural myth of two people becoming one. What that really means is two whole people each believe that they must ignore important parts of themselves and act as if they are half people in order to merge into one whole person,” Weiss comments.
“They usually divide up the chores of personhood. One may take the role of the thinker, the other previously competent person rarely thinks within the relationship but feels enough feelings for both of them.”
In order to keep your relationship going through this phase, Weiss explains that you should “Keep your individuality while building your relationship. Two becoming one is an outmoded notion — it really means that each of you becomes half the person you were and is guaranteed to lead to resentment. (So does abandoning who you are in order to keep a job).”
3. Power struggle
“Stage three, the power struggle, occurs when either person in the relationship gets tired of trying to be only a half person and starts to assert herself (or himself) and protest the arrangement,” advises Weiss.
According to her, “It can get especially ugly when the other person tries to maintain the status quo. The power struggle can be about almost anything — how to do a job, whether to keep time agreements, who is in charge of what, what is the right way to do things, or how something really happened. It is really about asserting (re-asserting) individuality.”
This is the stage where your relationship could start falling apart at the seams if you’re not careful.
Weiss suggests, “Change the behavior in yourself that you don’t like in your partner. It is all too easy to ignore things you don’t like about yourself, and instead, pay attention to how annoyed you are that your partner does those very same things. This is called projection.”
“Stage four, independence, comes when you both realize that neither of you is going to change the other. In primary relationships and friendships, you give up trying to make someone else do things your way and start to create your own life. At work, you are given the responsibility and authority you need to do your own job and get on with doing it,” she says.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want or need each other. Rather, you remember that you are two separate people living a life together.
“Do whatever makes you feel vibrant and alive, even if you need to do it alone,” Weiss recommends. “When you feel vibrant and alive, you are attractive to your partner and to others.”
“Stage five, interdependence, is a mature, synergistic relationship. You are two independent people who, together, are more than the sum of your individual selves. You create magic together,” she says.
“Interdependent relationships are not limited to life partners. They can happen on work teams, in working partnerships, and in friendships. You each have outside interests that contribute to the larger community and enhance your relationship with each other.”
Unfortunately, many couples don’t reach the fifth stage of relationships. But if you can work together through the preceding stages, it’s the most blissful.
“Spend time working on your relationship as well as living in the relationship. Good relationships don’t just happen — they need to be cultivated, watered, and weeded, just like a garden,” Weiss suggests.
How To Know When The Honeymoon Phase Is Over
Once you hit the 2.5-year mark with your partner, it’s not an instant descent away from the honeymoon phase. However, you’ll know your relationship’s honeymoon phase is over or dwindling when behaviors begin to change, and you see one another’s flaws without putting on any sort of front.
Whether that means there is more arguing in your relationship, you realize that your partner chews strangely, or there’s less sex, these are all indications that you’re coming out of the honeymoon phase.
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Disagreements may become the norm, what was once an exciting date night could feel overdone, or you could also begin to set your own boundaries. Whatever it may be, the end of the honeymoon phase isn’t always a bad thing.
In fact, when your relationship changes this way, it allows you both to be more honest and open with one another. It’s a sign that your relationship is growing, you’re building a life together, and you’re uncovering what parts of your relationship may need work.
The end of a honeymoon phase can also end up pointing out red flags you may have avoided in the beginning of the relationship. And when those issues come to light, it could be the end of the relationship altogether if one or both partners don’t see a future together.
How To Keep Your Relationship Alive Past The Honeymoon Phase
Start by leaving your partner cute post-it notes around the house. Writing things like, “I hope you have an amazing day” or even “I can’t wait to come home to your beautiful/handsome face” will certainly make your partner feel those first-time butterflies.
Another simple yet effective thing to do would be sending flowers or chocolate-covered fruits to their job. It’s a cliché, yes, but who wouldn’t be happy to see their partner making these small gestures to ensure their happiness and love?
One other thing you can do for your partner is set up a surprise date night. Bonus if you guys have kids and leave them home with a babysitter or family member. Surprise them with a wine-tasting event followed by candlelit dinner at a five-star restaurant.
As I said, these ideas can sound a bit cliché or unoriginal, but you can expect that your partner will appreciate you for making the effort!
Relationships require tedious care and time. You can’t expect to have an amazing relationship without the ups and downs of life outside of the bond.
There will always be moments of turmoil and times where you want to just call it quits. Stay strong, keep your lover feeling loved, and work through it!
Destiny Duprey is a writer who covers love and relationships, self-care, lifestyle and spirituality topics. Visit her Linktree for more of her work.