Sex & Relationships

8 Signs You & Your Partner Are Officially Out Of The Honeymoon Phase

Plus, why this can actually be a good thing.

How long does the honeymoon phase last?
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During the first few weeks or months of a relationship, it’s normal to be slightly skeptical of your feelings for another person. We’ve all 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. Every honeymoon phase length is unique, but eventually that feeling will fade — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It might mean that your relationship is progressing to something more serious and meaningful.

According to a 2020 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, the feelings of early love are maintained by specific dopamine- and oxytocin-rich regions of the brain — meaning we have brain functions basically built to sustain romantic love. (How cool is that?) And there’s no set amount of time before those intoxicating feelings start to shift. In a 2015 study out of New York University, researchers found that the honeymoon phase can last up to 30 months — that's two and a half years! Given that amount of time, how do you know if your relationship has 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 both to 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? When the honeymoon phase does end, these are some signs that will tell you you're out of it.

1

You Notice Your Partner's Negative Traits

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"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.

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 Problems Compromising

In the honeymoon phase, you might find that you’re willing to do anything for your partner, and compromising comes easy. However, when that fades, you might find you’re giving more thought to giving in and meeting halfway. Couples can get entangled in a 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."

Couples might find it helpful to go to couples therapy to talk through these problems and reach a compromise. As long as there are no major red flags, though, most situations about compromise can be easily solved.

5

There Are More Ups And Downs

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In the beginning of a relationship, you may feel like you have an endless amount to give to your partner. But as you spend more time with them, you may become more begrudging, which is natural. "We lose the feeling of connection ... 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. And just because the relationship dynamic may seem different on some days, that doesn’t necessarily spell doom for your relationship. You are just growing together.

6

You Spend Time Apart

Having space from a partner is actually a great thing — most say it’s essential, actually, to a strong relationship. In the early days of a romance, it’s easy to want to be around the other person basically 24/7, and often they will feel the same way about you. However, once things progress past the honeymoon phase, you’ll likely find you give each other more space.

"It’s incredibly important for both partners to maintain a sense of independence outside of their relationship," Jalesa Tucker, content coordinator at One Love, a foundation dedicated to teaching young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships, previously told Bustle. "By engaging in activities independent of each other, couples are better able to maintain their sense of self and bring diverse experiences to their relationship."

7

You Stop Worrying About Your Image

Everything is peachy in the honeymoon phase when things are going well, and you might both feel like the other could do no wrong. You put effort into the way you look, and you’re always on your best behavior. Soon, however, if your relationship progresses and things get more serious, those rose-colored glasses come off, and you see each other more clearly for who you are.

"It’s normal to want to keep up an image in the beginning and impress your partner," Bennett previously told Bustle. "But, at some point, both partners have to accept the authentic versions of each other, which includes 'flaws' and the normal aspects of life." That includes messy habits and WFH outfits.

8

You Start To Get Gross

In the infatuation period, everything is picturesque. Post-honeymoon phase, though, things get gross (and it’s actually kind of cute). When you get to know your partner for who they really are, you’ll begin to see them in their most authentic human self — grossness and all. Things like using the bathroom, burping, and getting sick will feel totally normal.

"Sickness is a fact of life, and if you’re together long enough, you and your partner will go through bouts of various illnesses, some more gross than the next," Bennett said. "Ideally, you will both be comfortable enough with the grossness to support your partner and take care of [them] during times of sickness."

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.

Studies referenced:

Acevedo, B.P., Poulin, M.J., Collins, N.L., Brown L,L, (2020). After the Honeymoon: Neural and Genetic Correlates of Romantic Love in Newlywed Marriages. Front. Psychol. 11:634. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00634

Lorber, M. F., Erlanger, A. C., Heyman, R. E., & O'Leary, K. D. (2015). The honeymoon effect: does it exist and can it be predicted?. Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research, 16(4), 550–559. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-014-0480-4

Experts:

Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and founder of Double Trust Dating

Marissa Nelson, marriage and family therapist

Jalesa Tucker, content coordinator at One Love

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