When the Honeymoon Stage Ends
Immature vs. Mature Love
Most couples experience a honeymoon stage in the beginning of their relationship. When you first get together with your partner, everything is new and exciting. You are both curious about each other, you make time to be together, and you look forward to when you will see them next. After a few years, though, the newness is bound to fade. So, what happens when the honeymoon stage ends?
After the honeymoon feelings wane, most couples move into an immature love stage. Disappointed that the “honeymoon” is over, they become disillusioned with the relationship they thought they had or who they thought their partner was. Their expectations aren’t being met, and they feel a shift. A lot of couples come to me during this time, and their stories are all very similar - so don’t feel alone in your situation! Some things I often hear are:
My partner doesn’t do things the way I like
I wish my partner talked to me more
I want my partner to do XYZ with me
I wish my partner was more like me about ABC
If you look closely, all of these desires are one person wanting the other to be more like them, or the person they want them to be. They aren’t seeing the other person for who they really are. It’s this need to fuse together, rather than stay separate, that stops the relationship from growing. If you let go or surrender, then you feel that you have given in or in some way lost control of the relationship. This threatening state triggers you to either shut down or fight - neither of which allows you to get your needs met.
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When you close down or fight with your partner about things like this, you send the message that they aren’t enough - and yes, they are going to feel it! This may not be your intention, or maybe you are so sick and tired of the status quo that you don’t care how your partner feels as long as they change. Either way, be prepared to experience your partner’s protective or defensive reaction to you. If they feel like they aren’t enough no matter what they do, then they are sure to put their protective armor on. In return, your natural reaction will be to put on your own armor. And there it is: a cycle where you both feel like you are getting nowhere, and instead feel more hurt and disconnected each time you go around. All of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein you believe that you need to continue to protect yourself.
Moving Into a Mature Love
This behavior pattern is deeply ingrained in our fight or flight response, and has been perpetuated by practices we’ve learned along the way. These practices have been passed down, learned from socialization and patriarchal or other cultural “norms”. Neither you or your partner were taught to relate any differently, but you can learn. And if you want to experience a deeper, closer, love, you need to decide to make a change.
At any moment you can decide that you no longer want to participate in this cycle and surrender your weapons. The shift from immature to mature love begins by surrendering and staying open to love in that moment. This means seeing the situation as it is, noticing what is happening right now, and asking yourself, “What am I being asked to do in response that’s in alignment with the person I want to be and the relationship that I want to have?”
It requires a certain amount of vulnerability to keep yourself open and not in a defensive state; but noticing an opportunity to stretch yourself beyond what you typically do is a sign of maturing. It is an evolution of yourself and the relationship.
Practicing something different, like not reacting in your predictable fashion, can feel scary. When you don’t know what is going to happen next, it can make you uneasy. I want you to consider the consequences of not doing anything new. If you keep doing the same thing with your partner yet expecting different results, then you are resting in that immature love.
Instead, practice staying open and surrendering your weapons. This takes confidence to trust yourself to handle whatever comes next, and it will get easier with practice. When you learn to speak your truth and stay firm in your boundaries, you will get closer to the mature love that you desire.
Change What Your Love Looks Like
You have the power to decide what your love looks like when the honeymoon stage ends. When you increase your awareness of what’s happening between the two of you and what your part is, you get more options on how you want to respond. You are in control of your part, and thus you can change the whole dynamic between the two of you. This is so empowering! You aren’t stuck, after all. Learn to accept your differences, appreciate the moment, and look for opportunities to grow. This is mature love.