If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you have probably experienced that magical time in the beginning of it when your partner is seemingly perfect and nothing else feels as important or exciting—otherwise known as the honeymoon phase. If you’re still reading, you’re also likely familiar with those feelings of uncertainty that tend to creep in when the honeymoon phase begins to phase out. When the total bliss and non-stop PDA ends, it can be easy to question the future of the relationship.
We took a deep dive into the honeymoon phase, and asked experts everything from why we have it to begin with, to what to do when it inevitably ends.
What is “the honeymoon phase?”
The honeymoon phase is the early stages of a relationship, when your excitement is heightened and nothing else seems to matter as much as the time you spend with your partner. Lindsey Mestelaar, host of hit millennial dating podcast We Met at Acme, defines the honeymoon phase as “a time when the other person can do no wrong and the relationship feels untouchable, as though nothing and no one can get in the way.”
“It’s as if you’re both in a magic bubble, and the rest of the world doesn’t intrude because you feel so connected,” explained Dr. Neil Wilkie, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, to Healthline. During this period, you begin to fantasize about your future together, and your stomach is likely filled with those early-in-the-game butterflies.
How long does it last?
Every couple and circumstance differs too much to define a “normal” length of time, but the honeymoon phase could last anywhere from the first couple of months to the first couple of years. It also depends on the amount of time you spent with your significant other. For example, it’s more likely for the newness to fade sooner if you immediately spend every day together, than for a long-distance couple who only see each other every so often. It doesn’t mean that the love is any less, it’s just about the time it takes for the newness to fade.
In some relationships, the honeymoon phase could end in a moment you’re able to pinpoint, such as a big argument that makes you realize some red flags or flaws you didn’t see before, but it’s typically a gradual shift that occurs over time. You may start to pick up on little things about your partner that bug you that you hadn’t noticed before, or realize you’re putting in less effort to get ready for dates. You’ll likely disagree more than you had in the beginning of the relationship, but you’ll also learn to communicate with your partner.
Can you extend it?
So if the length of the honeymoon phase varies, how do we make sure our relationships are on the longer side?
“One of the many factors that affect the length [of the honeymoon phase] is how emotionally and mentally healthy each partner is,” explained Dr. Kristie Overstreet, a psychotherapist and host of the Fix Yourself First podcast. “If you are focusing on what you can do to be your healthiest self and working on your ability to communicate effectively with your partner, this phase can last longer.”
In case you needed another excuse to squeeze in some self-care, sometimes the length of the honeymoon phase has more to do with how you feel about yourself than about your partner. In other words, the healthier your relationship is with yourself, the healthier your relationship will be with your partner. Prioritize your own friendships, hobbies, and self-care, and work on effective communication to let your partner know your needs and work through disagreements without letting them become full-blown fights.
However, the end of the honeymoon phase is not something to dread, and it does not mean that your relationship is no longer exciting. In fact, it might just be something to celebrate. Think about it: You’ve made it through the phase driven by butterflies and physical attraction, and now you’re in the phase where you can truly build a strong friendship and partnership–butterflies aside. Read on for tips to help keep your relationship healthy and happy after the honeymoon phase has simmered down.
What to do when the honeymoon phase ends
Identify what your relationship will truly be like
When the honeymoon phase ends, the reality of the relationship sets in, and that’s when you can truly get a sense of what the rest of your life would be like with this person. Your significant other was likely on their best behavior at the beginning, and now’s the time when you start to see who they really are. How do they treat you when they’re not trying to impress you? Do you enjoy your time with them when you’re sitting at home on a Tuesday night just as much as a whirlwind date night? When the butterflies, initial physical attraction, and newness has died down, you’ll get a better sense of who this person truly is and what your life together would be like.
Accept your partner’s flaws
This is the point where you realize the other person is not perfect, and more importantly, you stop thinking you need perfect. But they’ll also start noticing your flaws and you’ll stop trying to hide them (read: shaving your legs every few days instead of before every date).
But there’s something even more romantic about showing your flaws and being loved because of them, rather than the expectation that you’re perfect (hint: no one is). Ilana Dunn, host of Seeing Other People, is a firm believer that you should embrace the end of the honeymoon phase. “While it’s fun to get swept up in the fantasy and excitement, the ability to accept your partner for who they are, flaws and all, is extremely important in building a lasting relationship,” she said.
Be OK with changes in your sex life
The most common indicator couples tend to point out to identify the end of the honeymoon phase is when the sex becomes less frequent. This is another very normal occurrence in a long-term relationship, and one that all couples experience at one point or another. While the honeymoon phase can absolutely make a reappearance after big relationship milestones (such as moving in together, getting engaged, or going on your actual honeymoon), it is a phase that is meant to end (I mean, nobody has time for that much sex for the rest of their lives!). To keep sex feeling spicy when the newness ends, click here.
Celebrate the new phase of your relationship
The biggest takeaway: Enjoy the honeymoon phase while you’re in it, and try not to stress about when it will end. The end of your honeymoon phase does not mean it’s the end of your relationship, unless you realize that you were only into this person because of the physical attraction and butterflies.
In healthy relationships with mutual care and respect, the end of the honeymoon phase is only the beginning of the relationship. When you truly get to know each other, go through ups and downs together, and build more memories, your relationship will be stronger than any sexual attraction or butterflies in your stomach could ever be. As Dunn said, “It needs to end so the next phase of your relationship can begin.”