Celeste and Danielle, Creators of the Somatica Method of Sex Therapy and Relationship Coaching

As you move through the honeymoon period, you start to see the person for who they really are, which is never exactly the person you hoped or imagined they would be. This is the beauty and challenge of a relationship – the differences between your fantasy partner and the person sitting in front of you create an opportunity for interpersonal and personal growth.

In the long-term love phase, you get to see your partner’s endearing and annoying day-to-day habits, as well as your own, and you also get to experience your partner’s and your own vulnerability and defenses. As you let someone in more deeply and they let you in, you begin to see and feel your strengths and challenges. Each of you starts to gain access to the other’s buttons that trigger the fears of the inner child, the fight/flight/flee response that comes in the face of these fears, as well as the accompanying defensive strategies.

We believe true and lasting love is about developing a solid, loving base supporting each other’s attachment needs and giving each other mutual care. It is also about personal growth, following your own dreams and desires, and celebrating and supporting your partner in growing and actualizing their dreams and desires as well. In our book Making Love Real we teach you all the steps to building a satisfying and fulfilling relationship that last.

Researchers, therapists, and the media generally refer to the first six to eighteen months of any relationship as the “honeymoon period.” In the beginning, you don’t know what will happen between the two of you and you don’t know much about the person with whom you are trying to connect. You look at this other person and imagine that they are everything you desire. In this phase, you and your partner are generally on your best behavior, marketing yourselves with everything you’ve got, downplaying your challenges and basking in the delight of someone seeing you as amazing and perfect.

This can set the stage for two kinds of falls. It can be exciting fodder for falling into a deeper kind of love, as we discuss in upcoming book Making Love Real. But, more often than not, the honeymoon period can set you or your partner up to plummet off of this pedestal. In order to avoid this and give yourselves a chance for lasting love it is important to understand the honeymoon period and how to move out of it.

In the honeymoon period your uncertainty about this person’s desire for you creates a constant longing for connection, which often takes the form of sexual desire. You may feel infatuated and have obsessive thoughts, as well as an inability to concentrate on your day-to-day life. Biological determinists explain this process of sex hormones spiking as an attempt to bond you together long enough for baby-making. In this period sex is generally inevitable, spontaneous, passionate, and full of uninhibited desire and arousal. You are probably filled with feelings of excitement as you imagine all of the possibilities for your future together.

Many people are so addicted to this phase that as soon as a relationship starts moving towards the stability and deeper certainty of long-term love, they would rather move on to their next one. They start a new honeymoon period, never making room for their partner’s flaws or getting comfortable with accepting and revealing their own. If you make it through the honeymoon period, you have a chance at fulfilling long-term love which we will describe in our next post.

While it is true that part of attraction is physical, much of it has a lot more to do with familiarity (and often physical attraction is also based on particular kinds of familiarity). It is no coincidence that the root word of “familiarity” is “family”: When you choose a partner you feel very attracted to and excited about, it is likely because they remind you of someone who had a strong effect on you as a child. This attraction may come from a desire for an opportunity to resolve some of the hurt that you experienced as a child, and/or to re-experience some of your positive childhood moments. This goes beyond the trope of choosing mates based on “daddy” or “mommy” issues into much more complex interrelationships that reveal inner wounds that deserve attention and care.

If one of your primary caretakers was distant, you might choose someone who is distant as a way to attempt to fulfill your child’s desire to finally succeed in drawing a distant person closer. Or, if you had a primary caretaker who was very dramatic and intrusive, you might choose someone who has familiar behaviors in an attempt to have a different, rewarding experience where your boundaries are respected by someone with a similar personality. Unfortunately, many relationships are simply a replay of these old negative patterns rather than a resolution. Your inner child’s desire for repair is earnest, but when confronted with the familiar behaviors of your chosen partner, your inner child’s protective strategies take over. Instead of growing, you find that your habits take over: you become clingy with a distant partner or coldly push an intrusive partner away.

While you are attracted to what is familiar in your partner, unfortunately, that person also responds to you in the painful, and familiar ways you experienced in your childhood. This reputation propels you both into what we call a “negative relationship vortex” a reactionary space that offers limited tools for repair. The negative relationship vortex is the way that your and your partner’s wounds and protective strategies interact. We go deeply into the vortex and how to repair it in our upcoming book, Making Love Real. We’ve found that if you and your partner are willing to learn self-awareness and change old habits, you can find more satisfying and sustainable ways of relating that you may never have experienced as a child. These new ways of relating will offer you the joy, fulfillment, and longevity that you have been trying to create in your relationships. While your inner child may help you choose your partner, remember that you have many tools you can use to help them move beyond the vortex into a fulfilling relationship.

It feels so good to say and to hear the words “I love you,” but what do they really mean? In order to talk about what makes a relationship successful, it is crucial to have a working definition of love. This is something you can remind yourself, and each other, of during the inevitable ebb and flow of any long term relationship. Defining love is not an easy task. Poets, philosophers, neuroscientists, therapists and just about everyone else have tirelessly tried to answer this question. Our working definition of love comes from what we have seen work for the couples in our practice as sex and intimacy therapists.

Of all of the couples we see in our practice, the couples who have the most successful relationships know, or learn, that intimacy grows and is sustained not just in moments of connection, but in moments of tension. Moments of connection, such as touching, looking at one another, having an enjoyable shared experience, talking or having sex are all part of the glue that keeps relationships together. Likewise, moments of tension including differing desires, disagreements, misunderstandings, hurt feelings and anger, if done well, can also be part of the glue that holds your relationship together. When you come to conflict with the intention of sharing difficult feelings and deepening empathy and understanding of one another, and you learn to repair breaks in connection, you begin to build a sense of trust for one another that you can make it through challenges. Since every relationship has tension, knowing that you can make it through challenging moments is also part of the glue that holds relationships together. Doing both connection and tension well are essential to sustainable love.

Most relationships start out with a feeling of attraction and then move into two somewhat distinct phases. The first is the experience of falling in love (the “honeymoon period”), and the second is the experience of long-term loving. Not every relationship moves from the first phase into the second, and the ones that do so successfully are able to experience a love that is not narrowly defined. In our upcoming book Making Love Real we explore what love means. Articulating what we mean by love helps us to understand why we choose the people we choose to love (even when it does not feel like a choice). In this blog series we will explore why we love who we love and how to sustain it. Stay tuned and subscribe to this blog to get email notifications!

Last week we discussed the damaging myth “If your partner really loved you, you would never have to ask for what you want“. One of the reasons that many people still operate under this damaging assumption is that they believe that if they have to ask, it doesn’t count. We want to take a moment to examine the expectations this sets up in relationships and how harmful they can be to creating fulfilling connections that have the flexibility to change over time.

Expecting your partner to know what you want without ever asking is tantamount to thinking they are a master detective who can deduce all of your wants and needs by tracking subtle clues. While you may feel your clues are far from subtle, you may be surprised how differently each person processes information. If you pass a flower shop and quietly mutter “tulips are my favorite flower” you may be shocked that your partner did not rush to said flower shop as soon as they could in order to fill your house with your favorite stems. You may feel that you beat them over the head with your obvious expectation for flowers on date night, but all you actually stated was a preference for a certain flower.

In the bedroom, this detective works gets even more complicated and unrealistic. You may try and give subtle physical cues to nudge your lover towards a certain action, but without actually communicating your sexual desires and dislikes they may constantly disappoint. This goes both ways, of course. Even if you think you are the most intuitive lover in the world, you will be surprised how much you can learn by putting your ego aside and simply asking. Our clients are often extremely scared to give and receive feedback, but once they give and receive what they want sexually, it matters less and less how they got there.

People frequently assume their partners actually know what they want and simply refuses to give it to them which leads to long term resentment that lasts much longer than any awkwardness or ego bruising from an honest conversation. Instead of thinking that asking for what you want somehow makes it less special or not count, consider that it actually counts twice—once because your partner listened and once because they cared enough to try to give you what you wanted. In our practice we often hear people say, “Well, I did ask, and they didn’t do it” or “I asked, and they did it for a week and then stopped.” Learning new habits takes time. This often means that not only do you have to ask for what you want many times, but you also have to allow your partner to practice, give gentle and loving feedback, and try again. In our upcoming book “Making Love Real-The Intelligent Couple’s Guide to Lasting Intimacy and Passion” we offer many tools for moving beyond damaging myths and towards passionate connection.

Even if you are dating a professional psychic, they will not be able to predict all of your sexual and emotional needs, especially as they shift and change over time. The idea that “If they loved me, they would know what I want” is one of the most harmful romantic myths actively circulating. It is fed by the unfounded belief that, if you have truly found “the one,” they will know exactly what you want all the time without your having to tell them is one of the most toxic ideas we hold on to.

While we discussed this damaging myth in an earlier post on teaching people how to love you, we believe it bears repeating here. As we said, your needs are different than your partners and they change throughout your life. You might think it is a good idea to show your sweetheart you love them by offering what to you feels like love instead of by asking what they want. You might also wait around patiently, then impatiently, then angrily and resentfully, wishing your partner would give you what you want without your having to ask.

No in-depth dating profile or matching algorithm can take the place of actually telling your partner what turns you on and makes you feel loved. At the beginning of a relationship many people are actively looking for the good in their partner which helps them feel like all of the pieces are miraculously falling into place, and their desires are being met, with ease and minimal processing. Even if you feel you have found your soulmate, they do not possess a crystal (or Magic 8) ball that can give them all of the answers.

To receive the kind of love you want and to give your partner the kind of love they want, you must kindly teach your partner how to love you and learn how to love them. While there are many wonderful people out there with whom you can have a great relationship, not one of them will know what you need all the time, or even enough of the time, without you having to communicate. Our clients are often surprised that these conversations can end up being sexy and exciting and can quickly transition to mind-blowing erotic experiences. We are not saying it is easy to rid yourself of these myths, but we can not stress enough the importance of showing up to your relationship ready to teach and learn.

In our upcoming book Making Love Real: The Intelligent Couple’s Guide to Lasting Intimacy and Passion we discuss, at length, all of the damaging myths that tend to get in the way of our ability to create and sustain the relationships we want. In this series we are giving away many of our methods for combating these myths and finding ways to create the lasting, hot, and fulfilling relationships many of us desire.

Unless you live under a rock (with no cave drawings in sight), chances are you are constantly bombarded with images of perfect sex. Weather you watch romantic movies, porn, music videos or all of the above, your head is full of unrealistic, fantasy-fueled depictions of sex. Romantic movies show two incredibly hot people wordlessly falling into sex and then flash forward to the same couple out of breath and happily fulfilled. In more graphic depictions, we see intercourse begin after a few passionate seconds and ends with the magical simultaneous orgasm. In mainstream porn you mostly see contrived scenarios where the men have enormous cocks, the women are infinitely horny, and it’s all sucking and fucking all the time. It’s hard to know where to begin with the fantasy land of music videos, but we are pretty sure Miley Cyrus’s tongue is not actually that long in person.

Watching erotic content can be good, fun, stimulating entertainment. But, when it is coupled with a dearth of depictions of what realistic sexual experience might look like, it sets up an unattainable and damaging expectation of what perfect sex should be. It also gives a very warped vision of the steps it takes to attain your ideal sexual encounter.

You hardly ever see those inevitable awkward sexual moments—when someone gets poked with an elbow or their body makes a funny (and inexplicably loud) sound. You almost never see people teaching their partners what kinds of touch, kisses, or words they prefer, even though these scenarios can be extremely hot and erotic. In reality, sex has moments where things cinematically flow and moments where you just miss each other. Almost every sexual relationship has some moments of satisfaction and moments of frustration, awkwardness or pause. Sex won’t always be easy and usually isn’t perfect. Especially not from an outside perspective. But from within the experience, it can feel pretty perfect. The lead up to perfect-for-you sexual moments may have included some embarrassing conversations, uncontrollable giggles, and awkwardly placed limbs, but none of that actually matters.