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The Dating Honeymoon Phase is Just the Beginning of Romance

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Jan 23, 2024

The Dating Honeymoon Phase is Just the Beginning of Romance

It’s easy to look back at the blissful beginning of a relationship and wish you could freeze time. 

In the dating timeline, the honeymoon phase comes first. This is the addicting, overwhelming opportunity to get to know someone; it’s the endless possibilities and anxieties; it’s falling in love

But even when the infatuation phase ends, which all things must, the romance doesn’t have to disappear with it. By building a strong foundation during the honeymoon stage and maintaining excitement afterward, you can keep the love alive well past the beginning. 

What is the honeymoon phase in relationships?

The honeymoon phase is the first stage of a relationship when you’re just absolutely crazy about this new person. 

First, there’s that feeling, the part we know and love. It’s your heart fluttering when you see their message on your phone. It’s the giddiness and giggles during those first dates.  It’s the miracle of finding another person your heart reaches for, and they’re reaching back. That feeling is magical. And while the feeling may change, that doesn’t make it not real. 

Then, there’s the chemistry behind the honeymoon phase. When we’re falling in love, our brain shows us dopamine and norepinephrine, two of the feel-good neurotransmitters associated with short-term reward. Interestingly, research has also demonstrated that people who are in the infatuation stages of a relationship release the stress hormone cortisol. The honeymoon phase is energizing but also overwhelming. 

From a sociological standpoint, the honeymoon stage and the other relationship stages are also a psychological theory. While it is ubiquitous enough to infiltrate our culture and how we describe our own relationships, the honeymoon stage is a construct to frame how humans connect. And even though the stages of a relationship describe five distinct, linear categories, as you start, they might overlap and move in different directions. 

How long does the honeymoon phase last?

Now this is the big question — how long does the magic last?

There’s no set amount of time when the infatuation starts to shift. Maybe you’d think of 6 months as enough time for a relationship to feel less new, but research out of New York University suggests that some of the physiological effects of early love can last up to 30 months — almost two and a half years!

According to Gery Karantzas, associate professor in social psychology at Deakin University, there are common trends among relationships, but each phase is unique to each couple. 

“[The stages] aren’t these perfectly timed periods in the first five years — what we know is that there is more variability in couples than people think,” Karazntzas says.  

The honeymoon phase isn’t a fairytale where the clock strikes midnight, and your carriage turns into a pumpkin. First of all, where we set this line is completely arbitrary. As queer people know best, your relationship can take any form that you imagine. Your relationship timeline is up to you and your partner(s). 

What does the honeymoon phase look like for LGBTQIA+ couples? 

Queer women have another concept that often comes up in the beginning of our relationships — we call it…the U-Haul. 

In the context of queer dating, U-Hauling symbolizes how lesbians move notoriously fast in relationships, i.e. renting a U-Haul and moving in together on the first date. It’s the honeymoon stage on steroids. 

There is a kernel of truth in this joke/stereotype. We don’t need to prescribe to any heteronormative dating timeline. We can honor ourselves as emotional creatures who deserve love and connection and fall as hard and fast as we want. Queer people also fae different barriers like financial hardship and unsupportive living environments that may make a case for moving in together quickly. 

Still, it applies to U-hauling and the honeymoon stage. It’s important to fall in love with the person, not the fantasy. You have plenty of time to savor the beginning of the relationship. 

Building a strong foundation for a lasting relationship

The honeymoon stage is the beginning of a relationship, which means it’s also the foundation. So in the middle of all those swirling chemicals, it’s still an important time to plant your feet, take a deep breath, and be intentional about the habits you set early on for communication, balance, trust, and more. 

That might sound like a daunting task — we’ve just been talking about how encompassing and chaotic the honeymoon phase can be — but there are lots of ways to start out that might be easier than you think. You don’t have to wait for the romance and excitement to wear off before you start getting to know your new partner. 

Learn about each other

During the honeymoon stage, you probably don’t only spend 6 months staring into each others’ eyes and blushing. This is the period where you are opening up and learning about a new person. It’s part of what makes the beginning of the relationship so exciting. We are curious, connecting creatures.

So talk to each other, ask lots of questions, fall in love with their answers. To move into a lasting love, if that’s what you want, you need to untangle all those hopes, anxieties, and fears to find out if you can sustain a relationship together. 

Practice communication 

Effective communication is the bedrock of emotional connection and long-lasting love. Whether you’ve been with someone for two weeks or 20 years, you have to learn how to express your needs in a relationship.

Learn how your new partner communicates — Are they comfortable with silence? Do they process out loud or alone? Are there things they say often that comfort you?  What about things that they say that trigger you? Do they like to text or call? How often do they want to spend time together? One-on-one? In groups? How often do they want to be in contact when you aren’t together?

 Even before you start to deal with conflict as a couple, you can start to build the foundation of healthy communication by asking about their preferences and past experiences with friends, family, or past relationships. 

Don’t ghost your friends 

The excitement of a new relationship can feel like it’s taking over your brain. And if you’re a queer person prone to U-hauling, you might feel the urge to pack a bag and move into your partner’s apartment for the first three weeks of your dating. 

But please, don’t abandon your life in the infatuation period. And please, for the love of gay gods, DON’T GHOST YOUR FRIENDS!  If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this, you know having a loved one disappear into a new-relationship wormhole can feel pretty horrible. You may be experiencing new love, but don’t let go of the essential connections in your life outside of romance. And if your new partner discourages seeing your friends, that’s a big red flag. 

Instead of going on do-not-disturb for a month, you might take the opportunity to reach out to your friends for dating advice or just a moment to come up for air outside of the love bubble. 

Trust yourself 

The honeymoon phase isn’t a bad thing. You don’t have to turn on yourself and your feelings because you’re falling for someone new.  It’s a natural and beautiful part of building a connection. The end of the honeymoon stage is just as normal. 

So if you’re asking yourself if you can “trust” these feelings, give yourself some credit. You’re falling in love, but you’re still the same wonderful person with good instincts and a warm heart. Remind yourself that you know who you are, and you know what matters to you.  That’s what the other person is falling for, after all. 

Tips for maintaining excitement in a relationship beyond the honeymoon phase

Like all good things, the honeymoon stage must come to an end, but if you and your partner(s) decide you want to make it work, this is only the beginning of your relationship, which is beautiful and magical in its own way. 

As your relationship takes a new form, there are many ways to stay connected and transition to the comfort and stability of a long-term relationship if you so desire. 

Learn how you and your partner are different

After the honeymoon stage, you start to notice the ways you and your partner might not be perfect for each other — this is the difference and negotiation stage. This is where you decide whether these are things you can work with or if those differences are incompatible. 

Noticing these things, naming them, and talking about them are essential to a successful transition out of the honeymoon stage. 

Talk about sex 

After the high of the honeymoon stage, sex might look and feel different than it did when you were new to each other. It’s important to discuss these changes openly. How often do you want to be intimate? Are there other things you want to try? Do you have fantasies you want to share with your partner. 

Sex therapist Dr. Kristie Overstreet says it’s important to come to this conversation with an open mind and remember that everyone is different. Asking for what you want is what leads to better sex. 

Embrace the change 

Each stage of a relationship is beautiful and unique. Instead of craving the high of the honeymoon stage, look around at the wonderful newness in the life you are now building with your partner. 

There are still ways that you find the high of being together by trying new things or being intimate in deeper ways. Instead of pumping your system with stress hormones, your brain is now relaxed with oxycontin when you see them.  You know and love this person, and they know and love you.

We cause ourselves so much pain by clinging to things that will always change, including our relationships. The honeymoon stage is always going to end, and that’s a good thing. Then you can usher in a new era for your relationship where you get to see and be seen by the person you love. 

The honeymoon stage of a relationship is that breathtaking feeling of falling in love. As exciting as it is, it’s also stressful, and it takes some work to set an intentional foundation in the middle of the intense beginning. But when it ends, the high doesn’t have to go away. There are endless ways to maintain and reinvent the connection and love for as long as you’re willing. The end of the honeymoon stage is just the beginning of your love story.

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Catherine Henderson is a journalist based in Chicago. She has worked at a wide variety of newsrooms, including The Denver Post, Chalkbeat, Business Insider and In These Times, covering education, career development and culture. Catherine holds a master’s and bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, exploring Chicago, reading LGBTQ lit, and analyzing internet trends.

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