How do you know when the honeymoon phase is already over? How long does it last?
We asked experts to share their insights.
Rachel Levenson, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist, Clarity Psychology
The honeymoon phase can last as long as you and your partner strive to maintain it
But the better news is that you can bring the honeymoon phase back – regularly and often – with just a little bit of work.
Modulations of neurotransmitters
Specifically dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and oxytocin – are responsible for the feelings we associate with the “honeymoon phase,” yearning, desire, obsessive thinking, and increased energy for one’s partner.
When falling in love, dopamine activates the reward and pleasure circuits in the brain, resulting in feelings of elation and high energy. When looking at our romantic partners, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies indicate that dopamine circuits light up in our brains.
During the early phase of attraction, there is reduced activity in serotonin, which causes feelings of infatuation: those preoccupying thoughts and hopes about new love.
There is also an increase in norepinephrine during the early phase of love and attraction. When norepinephrine is present in the brain, adrenaline is released in the body, which causes “butterflies in the stomach.”
Unfortunately, adrenaline is also responsible for the loss of appetite, rapid heartbeat and sweating, and lack of sleep associated with the early stages of attraction and love.
Lastly, oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” is released during physical touch such as hugging, kissing, cuddling, and other sexual behaviors. When oxytocin is active in the brain, we feel calm, secure, and happy. These feelings increase our feelings of attachment to our partners.
Enjoy and do things with your partner
But it’s not “all in the brain,” in the sense that we can do things with our partners to regularly and frequently play with our hormones and renew these feelings.
A woman recently told me she saw her partner smile across the room, and – to her surprise – she felt butterflies in her stomach. A couple came to me because their fighting was frequent and intense.
Over time they learned that if they pause to hold hands, their feelings of frustration attenuate, feelings of warmth and security resurface, and they are able to communicate more effectively. With the resolution of each argument, they feel more and more attached and attracted to one another.
As love becomes safe and long term, the initial stress and angst subside. That’s because our stress hormones return to normal. Along with the benefits of reduced stress, we may lose the constant craving for our partner, and we begin to feel that the “honeymoon phase” is over. This typically happens about one to two years into the relationship.
Couples often come to therapy feeling like they may never experience the intense desire they had at the beginning of their relationship. But with simple behavioral changes, we can bring the honeymoon phase back again and again.
Communicate with your partner
Make an effort to notice something about your partner that you were initially attracted to, and your dopamine and adrenaline will light up. Leave your partner a note on the bathroom mirror, and with a little fluctuation of serotonin, he or she will be preoccupied with thoughts of you throughout the day. Give your partner a short back rub, or ask for one yourself, and oxytocin will renew feelings of security and attachment.
Often, after learning some tools to communicate more constructively and to notice one another more habitually, couples tell me they feel even stronger desire for their partner several years into the relationship compared to how they felt at the beginning. In short, lust will fade, but love and attraction – maybe even a honeymoon – can be regularly renewed.
Speaker | Sculptor | Author, Loving Promises, The Master Class for Creating Magnificent Relationship
Rather than ask “How long does the honeymoon phase last?,” a better question is “How long can a honeymoon phase last?”
The honeymoon phase can last forever
When you place a time limit on a “phase”, you create an expectation that it has a limited period and will eventually end. As a couple learns more about each other, their love and their enjoyment of each others company can keep growing and growing.
My wife and I have been married for almost 37 years and we are even more in love than when we first met and got married.
Love Guru | Author, “Love is Crazy: Lessons in Love“
The honeymoon phase can last and last
It doesn’t have to have an expiration date. Based on The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, when you know what your mate’s love languages are and he/she knows yours, by filling up those love tanks daily or weekly, hot, juicy love doesn’t have to end.
It takes work mind you, but it’s worth it.
Personally, my husband and I appreciate time together and doing things we love together, which lately is playing music in two bands.
Granted his love language has to do with attention to a specific region and as I fill his love tank, my affection tank gets filled! And I do have to remind him to do a few things, gently yet lovingly, as my other tanks involve acts of service and spending time together.
Keeping the honeymoon going is not always easy, and one needs patience, perseverance, and fortitude.
When you’re happy solo and independently, it’s easier to keep the honeymoon going; when you find & do what you love, you can find the happiness that’s independent and sometimes separate yet also a part of your marriage.
Not everyone can play music with their spouse, yet finding things you enjoy doing together also helps immensely. We support each other in our other bands and projects and talk about what’s next.
We’ve made plans to travel to functions we both want to attend, and since the next three were solo, we made plans to also travel together as often as we can.
While the hot and heavy honeymoon phase may not stay so dripping & juicy, allowing a strong, fun, happy love to evolve and still have honeymoon moments can be just as fulfilling.
Certified Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality | Family Care Specialist, Maple Holistics
The honeymoon phase can be measured and analyzed through studies using MRI brain scans
Brain chemistry and nerve growth are huge factors in the feelings felt during the honeymoon stage. Physical interaction with a new partner and spending a lot of time in an intimate setting helps to increase these neurological factors.
These neurological effects are greatly diminished after 12 months to 24 months into a relationship. Romantic love can be a stimulating but also stressful experience.
The neurological effect of having a new partner may diminish over time due to overexposure and assimilation to the partner. The neurological effects may diminish, but that does not mean your relationship has to suffer.
Setting up healthy habits during the honeymoon stage that are sustainable and accommodating to both partners is a way of keeping the relationship going after the honeymoon phase ends.