The end of the honeymoon period in a relationship is a stage that most of us have been in at one point in our lives.
The initial magic starts to fade, and the general rush you got every time you saw your partner slowly disappears. Eventually, everything just seems less exciting, and more predictable.
And then the unthinkable happens. You get bored.
What happens after the honeymoon phase is not something that most people think of when they’re caught up in a brand new relationship. Because it takes people by surprise, many mistake the end of the honeymoon period for the end of their relationship.
Like every other relationship, the romantic relationship has different stages. Once you get past the awkwardness of the first dates, you naturally enter the phase that tends to be the most exciting.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the common life cycle of a romantic relationship.
The Honeymoon Phase
The initial stage is the most memorable. You’re “falling in love” and find it hard to think about anything else.
During this phase you spend lots of time with your partner, and you may end up isolating yourselves from friends and family. You engage in many activities together, and there is high intimate activity within the relationship.
There is also the tendency to not really notice or pay attention to the differences between you. The emphasis is instead on the similarities, like what you may have in common. Conflict is generally avoided, and you try to only show “good” qualities to each other.
By enjoying the similarities you have and going through this stage fully, you can naturally progress to the next stage. You will have learned how to communicate with each other, how to enjoy each other, and how to support each other. This will set you up for the next stages in your relationship.
Living Together and Getting Married
Typically after you’ve been together for a while, you’ll notice that things have fallen into a slightly different dynamic. You’ll find you both have more attention for the world around you again, rather than solely for each other.
You’ll start spending more time with friends again, and developing mutual friendships, or doing things like going out with other couples.
There will be a decrease in the strong feelings of lust, and perhaps also the feeling you think of as “love.” There will be more awareness of and knowledge about the differences between you, and probably more conflict, as well.
This is all perfectly normal. We learn from movies, books and magazines that “love” is supposed to be a non-stop honeymoon phase, with strong feelings of love, lust and happiness and little conflict, forever. But this is unrealistic, and the end result is that when those initial feelings begin to decrease, many people think that this means something is wrong – maybe this isn’t “the one” after all.
However if you follow this track, you will go through an endless cycle of ending and beginning relationships. The fact is that those initial strong feelings are largely a chemical reaction in your brain – one that simply cannot last forever.
It is important to keep in mind that conflict is inevitable, and that love is not a feeling, but a behaviour. Truly loving someone can be seen as putting their needs before your own, regardless of how you feel at the time.
So this stage is the time to learn to express your differences respectfully and assertively.
Money is often the first safe issue of difference. We often learn how to handle money from our family of origin, which means that we all have different styles. This means you will need to explore what works for you both.
The choice whether or not to have children is often a focus of this stage, and those willing to travel that road will end up at the next.
Starting a Family Together
You’ve decided to have children, and you now need to fit parenting as well as partnering into the same amount of time and space. As such it is normal to feel tired and even drained. This stage also involves a decrease in mutual activities and an increase in care and task divisions.
Often it is here that your individual differences become more evident and there is greater potential for conflict. This is understandable since this is the most fatiguing phase. Add to this a strong decrease of intimate activity and we’re officially in the danger zone.
Extreme high romantic expectations can be an issue. Again, keep in mind that love is a behaviour – feelings can be temporary, but behaviour doesn’t have to be.
As with previous stages, everything begins with your families of origin, as this is where you learnt your parenting style, how tasks should be divided, how conflict is resolved, etc. There may be a clash of two styles from two families of origin coming together. This may come with communication issues – suddenly finding you can’t communicate any more.
Remember that you have (usually) come through two stages to get to this point, so you have already overcome a lot, made choices and solved problems. How did you do this then? This is the foundation you can fall back on now.
If you are more tired now, instead of thinking and utilising skills and strategies, you may find yourself falling back on coping strategies, such as complaining and nagging. Nagging rarely works, so it’s best to try and problem solve instead.
Communicate with each other openly, non-judgmentally and honestly to find out what will work. What do you need from each other? How can you support and encourage each other?
While not every couple will go through every stage, and some couples will come together at different times of life, this lifespan of a relationship model provides a kind of road map, charting a pretty likely path of any long-term relationship. Hopefully this road-map can enable us to travel towards a fulfilling, long term, committed relationship.
Of course there is no such thing as a “normal” relationship or a “normal” couple – we’re all different. However at different stages of relationships we do find that often there are similarities in the experiences we have, and also the problems.
Regardless of the phase you’re in, sometimes it can be helpful to be able to talk through your experiences with a third party, a friend or even a counsellor.
Counselling@Voxen specialises in couple’s and relationship counselling, so book an appointment with us today.