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If You Want a Good Relationship, the Honeymoon Stage Must End

Hey, partner of 20 years, just because I don’t want to have sex 17 times a day anymore, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you

Ah, the honeymoon stage: the period at the beginning of a relationship when both (or all) parties are completely and utterly infatuated with one another and spend virtually all day banging. It always comes to an end eventually. Or does it? According to this extremely controversial tweet, the honeymoon phase never ends if you’re dating someone who loves you unconditionally.

Now, sure, the concept sounds sweet on the surface: Everyone dreams about being in a relationship with someone who remains forever smitten. But suggesting that love ceases when those sensual early stages of the relationship come to an end misses the whole point of the honeymoon stage, as several respondents point out.

What Happens When the Honeymoon Stage Ends?

Numerous couples therapists tell me that the honeymoon phase ending actually acts as an important catalyst for the relationship to grow even stronger. “If we just look at gravity, what goes up must inevitably come down,” couples therapist Lauren Goldstein says. “But that doesn’t mean there has to be a crash, and as the lust fades, other parts of the relationship are able to deepen and grow.”

Human behavior specialist Shelli Chosak, who has a California state license in marriage and family therapy, goes on to argue that the honeymoon phase is far from the reality of being in a long-term relationship. “For many, this dream starts in childhood with tales of happily ever after,” she says. “However, we can only fantasize for so long before reality sets in.” 

Chosak further explains that this reality might mean finding out that your partner leaves dirty dishes in the sink, despises your massive collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles memorabilia or doesn’t want to have sex as often as you do. But coming to terms with the fact that your partner isn’t actually the perfect person you thought they were during the honeymoon phase is how the relationship becomes a real, well, relationship. “When the honeymoon phase ends, you can begin living in the real world, and you can begin the process of learning to live with someone who isn’t perfect,” Chosak emphasizes. “This will ultimately lead to a more satisfying life and a more rewarding relationship. There’s no greater satisfaction to be loved because of your faults, not only in spite of them.”

Psychologist and psychotherapist Jeanette Raymond has a more scientific critique of the honeymoon stage. “The honeymoon phase happens because of the massive amounts of oxytocin that are released in both partners, which make them attached both physically and emotionally,” she explains. “It’s the bonding hormone and ensures stability by creating a phase of seeing only the good in the other — aka, idealization. You know when a friend or relative points out a flaw in your lover, and you hate them for it? We’re wired to see our lovers as our ideal fit, reinforcing the fairy-tale myth of happily ever after.”

But again, Raymond says that the honeymoon phase must end in order for the relationship to persevere. “The honeymoon phase does the job of binding, and once that’s done, it’s no longer necessary,” she says. “It’s disillusioning and can hit hard, but it’s also the crucible on which a more mature relationship is built, one where lovers accept each other as they are, not as ideal god-like figures who are always responsive and available, but as someone with whom you have to find and continually co-create a more satisfying foundation that allows for personal growth.”

Plus, as my colleague Quinn Meyers writes, a never-ending honeymoon phase would just be annoying as fuck: “Think about it: If you’re in Year Six of your relationship and your significant other is still nervously carving your name into their notebook 1,000 times, that’s not going to make you feel giddy so much as it will make you question their mental health.”

So there you have it: If the honeymoon phase of your relationship has come to an end, don’t be sad — be glad that bigger and better things are soon to come.