At last, your love has come along.
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Every day is filled with discovery and excitement as you get more and more entangled with your partner and in each other’s lives. Your heart races when you’re together and aches when they’re not around. Your whole world could flip upside down on its head and yet everything would feel alright for now if for no other reason than you are in love.
This feeling of euphoria is what many couples call the “honeymoon phase.” Typically marking the earliest days of a relationship when laughter, lust and attraction are highest, the honeymoon phase can last for weeks, months or, in some cases, years. This phase then tends to decline the more you settle into other stages of your relationship, though.
But does it ring true that all good things must come to an end eventually? Psychologist Chivonna Childs, PhD, walks us through what to expect from the honeymoon phase and how it may be possible to get those sparks back if you somehow lost them along the way.
How do you know you’re in the honeymoon phase?
You know you’re in the honeymoon phase when, well, everything just seems kind of perfect. You tend to have more good days than bad, and the good days are really good. Maybe your sexual energy runs high during this period or you find yourself struck with an intense sense of longing even when your partner is right beside you.
“You almost feel like you’re high on love,” says Dr. Childs. “It feels magical. Everybody seems perfect. We don’t see any flaws.”
When these feelings occur early on in a relationship, it’s most often associated with infatuation, the first stage of falling in love. This honeymoon phase, or stage, can also happen in various other parts of a relationship, as some couples re-experience this honeymoon phase during huge, important moments in their life, like when they get engaged or shortly after getting married.
“And there are some people that don’t experience it at all,” notes Dr. Childs. “Maybe they like each other, they have a lot of interests and things in common, but there’s not this big rush of emotion or this big rush of attraction and it just kind of falls in place.”
When you do experience the honeymoon phase, many of the physical feelings you have are because your brain is flooded with dopamine (also known as the pleasure hormone), so that every touch or look from your partner, or thought about them, comes with a flush of desire.
“There is a chemical reaction that’s going on in our brains,” says Dr. Childs. “It’s like a reward system. It’s the same feel-good hormone we get when we work out. Our body is physically responding to that person’s presence and they can really throw off our whole being because we’re excited to be around them.”
What happens after?
A crash follows after every high. It’s not necessarily something that sets on suddenly, but over time, as dopamine levels decrease and we experience an increase in oxytocin and vasopressin — the hormones associated with long-term attachment and comfort — there’s a sort of unveiling that occurs where we might notice some flaws in our partners.
Do you find that they suddenly talk too much without letting you get a word in? Do they chew their food with their mouth open? Maybe there’s a seemingly sudden lack of attention to detail.
“It’s possible they’ve always been this way, but you just didn’t notice because of all the rush and excitement,” says Dr. Childs. “Now you get to ask yourself, ‘Is this somebody I can spend time with? Is this somebody I still enjoy? Is this a person I can still laugh with?’”
Once you move through that disillusionment stage and you’ve decided to accept your partner, flaws and all, those physical and emotional symptoms that were known to run high in the honeymoon phase begin to relax.
“We start to fall into some normalcy, which is not a bad thing,” says Dr. Childs. “Our differences don’t have to mean we can’t be together. Our differences mean that we can show each other our perspectives and still enjoy each other’s space.”
Can you ever get back to the honeymoon stage?
This is the biting question many couples wonder about in long-term relationships. As life tends to get in the way, we fall into such a deep pattern of normalcy that we sometimes miss the passion and romance we had earlier in the relationship. But not all is lost. Here are three ways you can get those sparks flying again:
- Communication is No. 1. Don’t be afraid to check in with your partner about things that might be bothering or worrying you. In order to be on the same page, it’s important that you meet them where they are emotionally, and give them the opportunity to work together on what you both need. “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed,” says Dr. Childs. “We’re not mind readers. If you want something from your partner, be able to ask them for it.”
- Continue to date each other. If you’re looking for some of that excitement you had in the beginning, do what you did back then. Dress up and go to a restaurant you haven’t tried or try a new activity. It doesn’t even have to involve spending money because you can “be intentional” at home just by popping popcorn and scheduling a movie night. “If you’re married for 30 years, you should still be dating each other,” advises Dr. Childs.
- Reinvent your couplehood. There’s a whole world out there, so what do you want to do together? If you’ve come all this way so far, where else do you want to go that you wouldn’t do with anybody but your partner? This thought process could apply to everything you do, from your bedroom to your next vacation. “What’s working here is you’re trying to figure out what you’re willing to do differently and opening your minds to stepping outside of the box a bit,” explains Dr. Childs.
And while it may seem like you want to stay caught up in that honeymoon phase forever, it can be a good thing when you open yourself up to the other opportunities that come outside of that rush of emotion.
“Nobody can be in anything forever,” says Dr. Childs. “But can we revisit it? Can we recreate it? Absolutely.”