When you first met your partner, you likely thought he or she could do no wrong. Everything from the way they cock their head to the side upon learning something new to the little snort they make when they’re in a fit of laughter is downright adorable. If you’re still in this relationship phase, enjoy every little moment of it, because chances are, it won’t last.
That’s not to sound pessimistic in any way, it’s just that the stuff of real relationships is not what you see in the movies. In other words, there will be ups and downs and there won’t always be happy endings at every turn. But don’t worry—this is a good thing! Quality relationships cannot sustain themselves on butterflies and sweet-nothings alone.
“Many very successful couples have never had ‘just like the movies’ love affairs, and this can leave them wondering if they got married for the right reasons when the later stages of the marriage arise,” explains Kathy McMahon, Psy.D. clinical psychologist and President of Couples Therapy Inc. “So if you are in this stage, enjoy it, but if not, worry not: Your friendship can still create a lasting and close bond.”
All long-term relationships go through phases that need work or time to get through. Finding yourself in a funk? Totally normal. This too shall pass, as they say.
Here, couples counselors share the stages you can expect your relationship to weave in and out of—and how you can ride the tides towards marital bliss.
Stage One: The Honeymoon
This is the phase we first mentioned—the one where your partner couldn’t get any cooler, or more attractive, or smarter...and the list goes on. For some couples, this phase may last six months and for others it may stretch as long as two to three years. “That first rush of romance, also called limerence, when the other person seems utterly attractive in every way, and any small complaints you might later have (he twirls straw wrappers, she feeds your dog too many treats when you’re not looking, he leaves dirty dishes next to the bed, etc.) temporarily fade into the background and seem totally unimportant,” says Julienne Derichs, licensed clinical social worker in Chicago.
You might experience this phase twice—when you first meet and again after the wedding. “When you’re just getting used to saying ‘my husband’ and it sounds super weird and cool at the same time, you’ve landed back in the honeymoon phase,” says certified life and relationship coach, Sophia V. Antoine. “There really isn’t must to ‘get through’ in this phase. It’s pretty amazing.”