Everyone knows about the honeymoon phase in relationships. It is the emotional and sexual intensity that happens right after meeting someone new – and the loss of it after the early thrall of passion subsides.
Much rarer is a good discussion around what happens to intimacy as couples move from short-term connection to longer-term relating. Why does the honeymoon phase always eventually fade, and what can you do to get it back and make it a sustained part of your relationship?
What is The Intimacy Honeymoon Phase?
You know when you first get together with someone and you feel like you are both crazy about each other? You think you are so perfect for each other. You want to know everything about them, and tell them everything about you.
It is a tremendously exciting time because you each keep raising the stakes of intimacy higher and higher. You tell them about your dreams and life goals. You share how you feel about each other, risking all sorts of vulnerability and potential rejection. You feel alive, brave, seen, and understood. Each new revelation feels like a rush.
This is the intimacy honeymoon phase – and it is wonderfully intoxicating. Especially when it is mixed up with all the juicy arousal of the sexual honeymoon.
Why Does the Honeymoon Phase Fade Away?
As you continue to spend more time together and go deeper into intimacy, you begin to experience the differences between you. Some of them are attractive and charming, some are neutral, and some give you varying degrees of discomfort.
The charming and neutral ones don’t damage the honeymoon feeling, but those uncomfortable ones sure suck. You might, for example, realize that your partner has a very different pace from you. So one of you feels stuck waiting, while the other feels pressured and hurried. You might realize that your partner has a very different tolerance for risk than you. One of you ends up scared, and the other stifled. You might have different political or social beliefs – which make you feel distant and alienated from each other when these topics arise.
How Do You Usually Deal with the Discomfort?
It is a sad truth that people are given very few tools to deal with the inevitable discomfort that arises as you stay connected to someone over the long term. You fear being disappointing or disappointed. You judge the differences and snipe at each other about them. You struggle to be honest about the underlying fears they touch on.
Your habitual protective mechanisms begin to kick in. You start to feel more hesitant about sharing all of yourself. You begin to try and change the other person. You hide parts of who you are or avoid the discomfort.
As a result, the joy of that deep intimacy of the honeymoon phase begins to fade. In the worst-case scenario, you become two tightly-wound balls of protective mechanisms. You are living side-by-side, with nothing to talk about except the daily logistics of life. Or you just drift apart, letting love and intimacy fade into a distant memory.
Can We Get The Feeling Back?
The good news is that it is possible to maintain intimacy in your relationship. And even to regain it when it has started to fade (or been fading for some time).
Note that it’s essential not to wait too long. If those protective mechanisms are the only ones doing the relating, it will start to feel pretty yucky and you might actually detach. Once you detach, it is extremely hard to get the yummy feeling of intimacy back.
How Do We Get it Back?
The truth is, in long-term relationships, we don’t get something back – we get something new. And, in order to create this new, deeper form of intimacy, it is important to be aware that no two people are perfect for each other. It is the discomforting differences between you that allow you to see yourselves. This illuminates both your wounds and your habitual protective responses.
If you can become aware of these dynamics and be honest with yourself and your partner, it is possible to reach and experience a wholly new intimacy level. This deeper intimacy comes from being seen for all of who you are – even when it’s not always perfectly comfortable.
What Tools Do You Need to Recapture the Honeymoon Phase?
This new level of intimacy requires a different kind of vulnerability and bravery than the initial revelation of yourself. It requires you to acknowledge the differences and make space for the whole of each of you. And not just the easy, comfortable parts. It requires you to empathize across differences – not resort to judgement. You must be willing to fully repair whenever your protective mechanisms arise and you snipe, withdraw, shut down, acquiesce, etc.
We have seen the profound healing, joy, and connection that comes from real intimacy. Frankly, we are greedy for everyone to experience it. Regardless of whether you are single or in a relationship, if you want help gaining the tools of real intimacy – the good, deep, soul-filling kind – we are here to help.