Relationship Tips

6 Ways Your Relationship Changes After the Honeymoon Phase

Photo: Getty Images / Skaman306
The initial stages of a romantic relationship—aptly nicknamed the honeymoon phase—are fueled by lust, laughter, and carefree bliss. (Just picture yourself as the literal heart-eyes emoji.) During this time, the brain releases neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which make you feel like you’re on cloud nine with your new partner by your side. This short-and-sweet blip is among the most memorable and exciting times in your relationship as the romantic spark continues to ignite along with the sexual chemistry.

Sadly, though, nothing lasts forever—not even the early bliss of a new relationship. According to San Francisco-based psychotherapist and Deeper Well Therapy founder Annalise Oatman, LCSW, “the honeymoon phase can last anywhere from three months to one year, with six-ish months as a pretty typical standard.”

Fortunately, there’s so much more to discover about yourself—and your partner—after you’ve moved past the beginning stages of your relationship. Just take it from Erica Alter, LMSW, a psychotherapist at Cobb Psychotherapy in New York City: “While the honeymoon phase is full of excitement, what comes next can be full of lasting and gratifying commitment and trust.”

With all of this in mind, keep reading to learn more about what comes after the honeymoon phase in a relationship, according to therapists.

1. Your sex life might become less exciting

You may notice a dip in your sexual frequency post-honeymoon phase, says Chicago-based relationship and sex therapist Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST, founder of The Center for Modern Relationships. Alas, there’s no need to fret. “This is totally expected as the early moments of passion—i.e., ‘I can't get my hands off you’—settles down,” Herzog says. Instead of sulking or reminiscing, Herzog views this as a chance to be “more intentional with your sex life,” which can include “exploring more sensual or erotic play, getting more intimate with your sexual communication, or leaning into more affectionate forms of intimacy.” In short, just have fun and enjoy the ride.

2. You start noticing flaws

After spending more time with your partner, "you are more likely to see them at their worst rather than only at their best,” Alter says. As you reach the end of the honeymoon phase of the relationship, you start noticing and paying attention to your partner’s patterns—both good and bad ones. While these instances can help you get to know your SO better by building a deeper emotional connection, Alter explains that they can also “offset our own triggers.” When this happens, she says the “most important thing to ask yourself is why it is annoying you.” From there, you can figure out if it’s really about your partner’s behavior or the way you’re interpreting it.

3. You might start arguing more

“We tend to be on our best behavior early in our relationships,” says Herzog. However, after the initial honeymoon phase has ended, she says that you “may feel more compelled to speak up about something, which can lead to arguments.” While this can be uncomfortable at first, think of it as an opportunity to hone in on your preferred communication styles so that you can “fight effectively.”

4. You may see each other less

At the onset of a new relationship, you’ll likely find yourself attached to your partner's hip. But once the honeymoon phase is over, reality begins to set in—and your friends and family members may miss you. While seeing your SO less frequently may sound scary, Herzog encourages you to embrace that healthy separation, which is crucial to the success of your relationship. “This means each of you [has] your own lives outside of the relationship, helping each of you grow as individuals,” she explains.

5. There’s less pressure to be perfect

Newsflash: Falling in love is nerve-wracking. With this in mind, you may have felt on edge or uptight during the honeymoon phase in an attempt to always act on your best behavior or follow certain “rules” to impress your partner. That's normal—but it's not something you have to (or should!) keep doing as your relationship progresses.

“The more time we spend with our new partner, the more our nervous systems are getting to know each other and getting to know if co-regulating together is going to work well or not,” says Oatman. If all goes well, the end of the honeymoon phase will feel more relaxed and more like yourself, and that’s something to celebrate.

6. You feel secure

“While the honeymoon phase is fun and flirty, what comes next can offer you the opportunity to really feel safe being you with your new partner,” says Alter. She explains that when we find someone we click with and feel comfortable around—be it a friend or romantic partner—we feel safe and secure since our needs are being met. So, instead of dressy dinner dates, you may be more comfortable with a takeout-fueled, at-home movie night in PJs. (TBH, who wouldn't want this?)

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