Relationship Connection: When does the ‘honeymoon phase’ of marriage end?

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Question

My wife and I have been married for 18 months, and we still love each other. We don’t fight or even argue often. We do have different opinions. We have definitely learned to compromise and had adjustments to make and still continue to make adjustments.

Learning how each other communicates things that are important is something that we are currently working on. We give each other the benefit of the doubt and trust and love each other. I get along with her family well and she with mine.

It seems great, but in talking to other people with more seasoned marriages, they make marriage seem very difficult. I am wondering if we are still in the honeymoon phase or if people are allowed to be happily married?

We have both strived for our whole lives to find someone with whom we could be happy and strived to become that person. We have both hoped to have a relationship where we love each other and live in a culture that promotes that, yet we are surrounded by people who seem to think we are just delusional and that we will one day wake up. 

Answer

You’re right that lots of folks are pessimistic about marriage. With about half of marriages ending in divorce these days, you’re going to hear plenty of negative talk disguised as a reality check for you. However, other people’s realities don’t have to be your reality.

The honeymoon stage is certainly a real thing for most couples. For some couples, that stage ends on the actual honeymoon, while for others it can last for years.

Researchers have found that the average honeymoon phase of marriage lasts around 30 months. This means that the intensity of marital bliss has leveled out and couples report a different type of marital satisfaction. For some, it’s decreasing as they become divided and overwhelmed with their relationship. For others, it simply transforms into a more stable and mature love.  

The honeymoon phase for first marriages is an important part of new love. There is more community support for the new couple, partners idealize each other, there is the neurochemical high of novelty and generally, life is less complex. There shouldn’t be a rush to move through this phase.

It’s wonderful, important and completely healthy to bask in the uplifting joy of a new marriage. I’m thrilled that you are both having such a beautiful experience.

Even though you are both committed to working through things together, life will still happen. There will be surprises and events out of your control, especially if you decide to have children. It will require more sacrifice, patience, flexibility and humility than you can now imagine. However, this isn’t something you should fret over. Continue building the foundation of your relationship so you have something solid to support you when these challenges come.

There is nothing wrong with the honeymoon phase wearing off and settling into a different type of love. In my experience, this is something that is transcendent and difficult to measure. As couples serve each other, sacrifice, pass through trials together and continue to deepen their commitment to each other and their family, the type of love they experience is more profound than anything they could have experienced in the honeymoon phase.

I thought I knew what love was when I married my wife 20 years ago. I’m certain I will say the same thing 20 years from now when we look back on 40 years of marriage. Just because we talk about “working” on a marriage doesn’t mean it’s a grueling and thankless effort. Most of us aren’t afraid of working hard on something that is important to us. It’s difficult at times, but the joy we experience from those sacrifices far exceeds what we’ve sacrificed.  

Good marriages require time, effort and cultivating conditions that will produce years of connection. Working on my marriage has been the most soul-stretching, humbling and difficult thing I’ve experienced. Marriage will expose our smallness and our selfish sides and require us to change into someone more generous and loving.

Here are seven suggestions you can use to actively work on your marriage:

  1. Reading about and discussing healthy marriages with your spouse.
  2. Sacrificing for your partner’s happiness and comfort.
  3. Listening carefully and paying attention to your partner’s needs and concerns.
  4. Spending quality and quantity time together without distractions.
  5. Identifying and repairing personal character weaknesses and committing to ongoing personal and spiritual growth.
  6. Forgiving each other when mistakes are made.
  7. Practicing vulnerability and asking for things you need from each other.

Allow the stages of your marriage to develop, and hold on to each other tightly as you work on your new marriage and walk through the uncertainty of the future together.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer    

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • CaliGirl October 19, 2016 at 9:45 am

    The book Hedges by Jerry Jensen is a great read for all married couples. We’re at 34-yrs. Not always easy but definately worth it.

  • Hataalii October 19, 2016 at 10:38 am

    I agree with everything Geoff has said here. But I’m going to add one thing. One very simple thing.
    To cut to the chase here, keeping a happy marriage is really very simple. Remember that your spouse is, or at least should be, your best friend. (My apologies to the poor dog who just thought he was man’s best friend.)

  • Bob October 19, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    they did a good job with the stock photo–look at all that white clothing, lol

    • .... October 19, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      I would like to see Bob’s rate of commenting trimmed way back

  • ladybugavenger October 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Who cares what other people think about your marriage. There will always be people that think your delusional, like theone, for example. If you know in your heart it’s right then that’s all that matters.

    Don’t worry about pleasing others.

    Go get some cake and cheetos and have a picnic in the rain, if you choose. It’s your marriage and don’t compromise too much…you’ll lose your soul. Just know each others differences. I can’t say I compromise in my marriage. It’s black and white. Or maybe it’s brown and white lol

    • ladybugavenger October 19, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Oh snap! It’s coke and cheetos….not cake, you don’t need cake lol

  • .... October 19, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    hey ! you gave me an idea. Cheeto cake with Coke frosting

    • ladybugavenger October 19, 2016 at 7:42 pm

      Haha! That’s just nasty right there…the texture is all wrong

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