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What Happens When the Honeymoon Phase Ends?


honeymoon phase

POV: You’re in a new relationship and everything is going so well! You match up perfectly and everything just seems to fit. Then after some time, something starts to feel different. Perhaps you start to notice the not so small things that you didn’t make note of before. Maybe you start having more ups and downs than usual, or you even spot some yellow or red flags. You may even start to wonder, is something wrong with my relationship?


Spoiler alert —this is normal for many relationships and it could mean that you and your partner are exiting the honeymoon stage.


Why the Honeymoon Phase Feels Exciting


The honeymoon phase typically refers to the early period where you are creating an intense romantic connection with someone new. This stage is also called New Relationship Energy because it brings an injection of energy that can spill out into all areas of your life.


During this time, everything feels exciting and you just can’t get enough of each other! These feelings literally release a chemical cocktail in your brain including but not limited to the following hormones:


  • Dopamine: gives feelings of pleasure and satisfaction
  • Oxytocin: creates bonding — also called “love drug” & the “cuddle hormone”
  • Norepinephrine: plays a key role in arousal, attention, and stress regulation


As the bond builds, new love can feel exhilarating and even intoxicating. The duration of the honeymoon effect is different for all couples, but usually lasts anywhere from 6 months to up to 2 years. In fact, A 2015 research study by New York University found the honeymoon phase can last up to 30 months.


Over time, the intense infatuation begins to decrease. It feels like romantic partners lose some of their “newness” and reality starts to sink in. This can sound negative, but in fact this grounding is needed for partners to see each other more clearly. It allows for authenticity to enter the equation, so that you can intentionally decide if the relationship is worth committing to.  

The Typical Stages of a Relationship


There are 3 stages of a relationship. Think of these in the same frame as you would think of the process of grief: nonlinear. It’s less a step-by-step process, not a 1-2-3 that once completed will reach equilibrium. More cyclical than that, it’s a journey that will ebb and flow and will require several iterations of partnership that will sometimes feel like a re-exploration and a re-commitment. Let’s break down the various stages:


The Honeymoon Stage


The first stage of a relationship tends to be the Honeymoon Stage, which speaks to the first season of falling in love. The initial excitement of realizing you have so much in common and conversations flow naturally. You can’t wait to spend time together; you feel butterflies in your stomach when you see them and the spark between you is undeniable. This stage brings novelty and a chemically induced love boost; therefore, passion will feel spontaneous meaning the physical and emotional connection will feel accessible and easy.


The Adjustment Stage


After a timeframe that could range from 6 months to 2 years, comes the Adjustment Stage. The connection will likely feel less intense, and you and your partner(s) will start becoming more of your authentic day-to-day selves, which could mean there is less quality of presence or less effort. During this stage, you may also start noticing each other’s flaws and quirks.


This is a natural progression that will lead to a more authentic relationship in the future, however it’s normal to feel sad over the loss of that initial illusion. Give yourself permission to feel the grief if it emerges, and allow it to just be. Bonus points if you share these feelings with each other, creating openness that could permit vulnerable conversations as you move forward.


This adjustment stage means the rose-colored glasses come off and you are faced with the reality of your partnership. Conflict and differences might seem like incompatibilities, as they are deeper-seated and harder to navigate. As you merge two worlds together, the gaps will become apparent in the form of cultural and societal differences, family styles, religious beliefs, and core values. This is a time for exploration and negotiation, to see if long term partnership is possible and desired.


The Commitment Stage


Finally, you arrive at the Commitment Stage. Getting through obstacles and deciding to commit to one another brings a whole new level of security and trust. While this stage still requires innovation and personal growth, there is also a deeper level of acceptance and safety felt once you know you have a teammate by your side.

What Do You Do When the Honeymoon Stage Ends?


As the initial boost starts to fade, your relationship might be more vulnerable to stress, boredom, and life demands. It’s important to inject effort and intentionality to nurture the quality of your bond. Here are some ways to do that:


Keep Dating


Find shared activities that feel exciting, try new experiences, prioritize intimacy, plan date nights, and continue giving each other the quality of presence that you gave at the beginning. It’s okay if it is quality over quantity — make the moments count.


Have the Tough Conversations


Keep an open line of communication to make space for your true feelings and desires, having open dialogues to understand each other’s needs. Don’t let hard topics bubble under the surface.


Manage Conflict


It takes facing conflict to learn each other’s fighting styles, understand triggers as well as to make sense of how to protect the relationship. Ensure that you are navigating conflict in a healthy way and look for expert support on how to be a united front so that it feels like it’s “you and me versus the problem” and not “you versus me”.


Nurture your Individual Energy


Make time for the activities and people that make you feel excited and alive, outside of your romantic relationship.


Prioritize the Relationship


Often folks give so much of their effort to work or to children, they bring the leftovers of their energy home to their partner. This sets you up for disconnection and most times, it’s also a point of incongruence. The most important pillars of your life should be getting the most of your energy, right?


Rediscover Each Other


For a relationship to be long lasting it must continue evolving over time, to make space for the way that individuals grow over time. Make sure that you are staying curious about each other, asking open questions, and sharing openly, almost as if you were getting to know each other all over again.


The honeymoon stage is an exciting and beautiful time. But for a relationship to thrive, use it less of a comparison point and more of an initial boost! In fact, after it wanes is when true partnership will start to build, with intentionally and authenticity.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Gaby Balsells is a Clinical Psychologist, Licensed in Guatemala, and a Relationship and Intimacy Coach with almost a decade of experience guiding couples to understand each other and become a true team. Gaby is currently accepting coaching clients worldwide, and therapy clients from Guatemala.



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