During the first few weeks or months of a relationship, I'm always skeptical of my feelings for the other person. After all, I've been warned that these early feelings can be chalked up to the honeymoon phase, when you're infatuated with the thrill of a new relationship and just excited that your partner wants to date you. But according to research, the honeymoon phase lasts from 12 to 24 months. That's up to two years! I've never even been in a relationship for more than two years, so how do I know if my relationships have been based on genuine love or just early infatuation?
The honeymoon phase is over when "romantic partners lose some of their 'newness' and the excitement fades — and, for many people, the unhappy reality sinks in," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett, founder of Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Although it sounds negative, the ending of the honeymoon phase can be positive. It allows you to both see each other openly and honestly and decide if the relationship is worth continuing. In addition, you can prolong the passion and happiness; it just takes more work. If you’re dating a great person, [they] should be more than willing to put in that effort!"
How do you know if you and your partner have withstood the test of time and survived the honeymoon phase? Here are some signs you're out of it, according to experts.
1. You Notice Your Partner's Negative Traits
"During the honeymoon phase, brain chemicals create such attraction that leads to what is often called the 'halo effect,' Bennett says. "You’re so in love that you are blind to your partner’s faults. However, as the honeymoon phase ends, you begin to more clearly see your partner, warts and all. For example, the little things that used to be 'cute' might quickly become annoying." At that point, you have to decide if these flaws are dealbreakers or if they're forgivable.
2. Your Passion Has Faded
"In the beginning of a relationship, you want to see the other person all the time and a lot of it involves intimacy," says Bennett. "However, as the honeymoon phase draws to a close, you feel less excitement about your partner, and this includes between the sheets." This doesn't mean you can't still have a great physical relationship, though — you may just need to make the effort to add variety to it.
3. You've Become Reactive To Conflict
As you begin to get on each other's nerves, you might find yourself becoming reactive — that is, behaving without thinking — during times of conflict. "Couples many times work on autopilot," marriage and family therapist Marissa Nelson tells Bustle. "We are reacting to our partner from all of our life patterns, previous failures, and past hurts, and people don't understand why their partner is not showing compassion or empathy, always thinking it's the other person's fault and never taking responsibility for the things we do that fuel the conflict and disconnection." During these moments, it's important to try to see things from your partner's perspective, and then they may be more open to your perspective, too.
4. You've Had Power Struggles
"Couples get entangled in a tug of war, or power struggle, when one person resents what they have to give emotionally," says Nelson. "Some people don't want to give in and compromise because they want what they want from their partner first. Many will mask their fears of abandonment, but sometimes that means that 'I have to put you down, or I have to be right' to feel a sense of power or have control in this relationship." Couples might find it helpful to go to couples' therapy to talk through these problems and reach a compromise.
5. You're Keeping Score
In the beginning of a relationship, you may feel like you have an endless amount to give to your partner. But as you take them for granted, you may become more begrudging. "We lose the feeling of connection because when we get angry or someone lets us down," says Nelson. "We use our energy to protect ourselves, start pulling away and putting up walls, or try to change our partner. When we feel like we are under attack, we start to keep score, hold on to negative feelings, and guard our hearts." While it's important to give as much as you get in a relationship, it's also important to have a generous mentality.
These signs may not all sound pleasant, but they do mean that if you're still together, your relationship is the real deal. All that's left to do is to put in the work to maintain it.