How Long Does The Honeymoon Phase Last In A Marriage?
By: Lindsay Hamilton
Updated March 20, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Audrey Kelly, LMFT
We've all heard of the honeymoon phase. Usually, people talk about the phase in terms of its ending. As in "oh, the honeymoon phase! Wait until it ends!" Behind this unfortunate phrasing is the idea that relationships get harder once the honeymoon phase is over. In the honeymoon phase, couples are quick to forgive or fail to notice the little ticks and annoyances their partner has. Then it ends, and all of those things come to the surface. The true test of a relationship is if they can make it past those annoyances and into a lasting relationship. So, how long does a honeymoon phase last, anyway? Why are we so fixated on that first phase of a relationship? Is there a way to plan for when it ends? Let's look at the phases of a relationship is to see where that will take us.
The Different Relationship Phases
The mindfulness experts at Headspace name these as the phases of a relationship: the first meeting, the morning after, the honeymoon phase, the post-honeymoon phase, and contentedly together. The first meeting and the morning after are all butterflies, jitters, and wondering how you feel and how your partner feels. You're nervous about the meeting, whether you'll like each other, and then nervous after the date has ended where you second guess everything that happened. That is until one or both of you confess your feelings and start a relationship. This is the honeymoon phase. It's those early days of intimacy, the heart eyes, pitter pattering of hearts, and the feeling that most love songs talk about. Your partner can do no wrong in your eyes. Your friends might even say you've got an obsession.
The post-honeymoon phase is when things start to get real. Those first moments of excitement and intimacy fade, and you're left with a person that you still don't know very well but are committed to. You start to wonder if the relationship is worth it. They do little things that annoy you, or life settles into a "normal" that seems almost boring. But if you make it past this stage, you get to contentedly together. The final stage isn't without its obstacles, but the commitment is solid. You know each other, respect each other, and are willing to stick it out until death do you part.
Why Is The Honeymoon Phase So Hyped Up?
In the honeymoon phase of a relationship, a person's feelings for their partner are at their highest in a very physical sense. Just thinking about the object of your affection gives you butterflies in your stomach, raises your heart rate, and triggers that "in-love" feeling. The honeymoon period can be tracked in the brain as well. A functional MRI shows that people in the honeymoon phase show a lot of brain activity in the caudate nucleus, which is important in learning and memory, and in the ventral tegmental area, which is important to emotional processing. Both of these areas affect the dopamine in the brain, which affects feelings of reward and motivation.
Because the brain feels rewarded during this phase, there's no need to overthink things. This is why partners can't do anything wrong during this phase. It may be obvious to the outside world, but as long as the relationship is feeding emotional and physiological needs, there is every excuse in the book to not look too closely at their partner. This could explain why people stay too long with the wrong person. It could also explain why the post-honeymoon phase is so hard. The honeymoon can't last forever. We get used to people, the longer we're around them. Our brain stops lighting up as much as it used to. Normalcy sets in, and life goes on.
How Long Can A Honeymoon Phase Last?
The truth is, the honeymoon phase will be different for every couple. The baseline is about three months, according to Monica Parikh, a relationship expert with the School of Love, NYC. Damona Hoffman - a dating coach - says that the honeymoon phase can last from one month to one year, though. And it's possible that the phase goes even beyond that one year mark, or you don't experience a honeymoon phase at all. In reality, relationships don't depend on the honeymoon phase. Long lasting courtships and marriages are maintained through trust and hard work. How long people's heads are in the clouds isn't an indicator of how long a relationship will last at all. In fact, the feelings you get during a honeymoon period can be reignited at any point in a relationship just by trying new things together as a couple. There are times when life will get mundane and even boring. Partners will eventually do something that gets on your nerves and makes you wonder what you saw in them. It's only natural. How you decide what to do next is what will show what your relationship is made of.
What To Do When The Honeymoon Phase Ends
During the honeymoon phase, most couples try to be agreeable as much as they can. You don't complain about little adjustments because you want to be on your best behavior for your partner. You shave more often, or have superhuman patience with an annoying family member, or keep a cleaner house than you normally do. But the longer you stay in the relationship, the more you start to let those things slip. You become comfortable with your partner and trust that they won't leave. You don't mind letting them see the uglier sides of you. But here's the thing, your partner didn't know what the uglier sides of you were. And you certainly didn't see their ugly sides, either. So, as they both come out in all their shining glory, adjustments have to be made.
Shifting towards normal means that you each see each other for who you are. It will be difficult at first. You haven't had to communicate through conflict before, so your first instinct may be not to be very nice. But you can learn how to talk properly. You can grow in communication together as a couple, learn when to compromise and when to fold. You'll start to understand what issues are real issues and what are things you can probably let go. This is the process of the post-honeymoon phase. If you can't figure out how to communicate properly, the relationship will end. Sometimes that's a good thing. Not all relationships will survive the post-honeymoon phase because both of your morals and values will be revealed, and sometimes they won't mesh. If that's the case, the relationship really should end.
But if you do share the same morals and values, and the conflict could be solved just by learning how to fight fair, you'll find that it is very worth it to put the work in for the long haul.
In dating and marriage, learning how to communicate is tough. Some couples can navigate it themselves, but a vast majority will need some help. Couples counseling and therapy is designed to help couples learn how to communicate better. As an impartial third party advocating for both sides, the counselor or therapist will give you different tools and activities to help you grow in your relationship and make your communication stronger.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. But due to pride and other factors, some couples can't envision themselves going to a traditional therapy session. Sitting face to face with a counselor is not for everyone. But that's why chat counseling is a great alternative. At Regain, couples can talk to a counselor or therapist online in a secure chat room. These sessions are not in real time, so it is essentially writing in for advice and receiving feedback at an appointed time. Regain is a system that allows for couples to share one secure chat room so that both partners can write in and see all sides of the conversation. The system will also sign in one partner and allow for the other to join at a later date if you are interested, but your partner is still skeptical.
To get started, answer a few questions about yourself and your needs by going to www.regain.us/start today.
No matter what phase of a relationship you are in, you deserve to have someone in your corner that can help you navigate the complexities of a relationship. The counselors and therapists at ReGain can help you when you are single, just starting a relationship, or need a refresher to keep the spark alive. There is no shame in needing help. Everything you say will be confidential and secure, so you can come as you are, whenever you need.
You, too, can get back some of those feelings you had during the honeymoon phase. You have to put in the work.