The honeymoon stage is arguably one of the most fun parts of a relationship. It's when everything feels so new and fresh, you can't keep your hands off each other, and everyone around you is nauseated by how smitten you two are. Which is why we all obsess over preserving this phase for as long as possible. We're so afraid to let that fire burn out because once it does, it's all uphill from there, right? Wrong! Just because we're no longer walking around with heart eyes all day doesn't mean that the love is dead. In fact, according to relationship coach Tara Caffelle, the end of the honeymoon stage can actually be a good thing; it marks the beginning of something much more meaningful.
All couples inevitably reach a new level of comfort and that's not necessarily bad. "I call this sweatpants stage, where we suddenly feel OK to have our hair in a messy bun and be seen wearing sweatpants on a Friday night while watching movies and hanging out at home," Tara said. "And that's the new layer of intimacy because we're not dressing up anymore, so we're kind of comfortable and feeling safe with each other. And I think that's something that needs to be embraced."
That urge to rip one another's clothes off day in and day out may eventually fade, but that's also when your feelings for each other become more authentic and real. Without all the need to impress, the relationship strips down to what really matters, and that's the love between partners. Tara explained this process as layers of an onion that get more intense as you go.
"When the sex does sort of fall off — and it will, it happens to everybody — we slip into 'Oh, wow, we are actually intimate. I see you, you see me, I trust you more than anyone else, I love being with you, I like you,' right?" she said. "When we have couples who've been together for a long time, their intimacy has a deeper, sweeter flavor. It's almost onions that are raw versus caramelized onions that have had some time under the heat, and they got sweet and kinda deep-flavored and really delicious together. So, I think we can embrace that it's going to get deeper and more amazing, and we can also strive to keep things fresh."
A relationship should never become stagnant; in order to last, it requires effort from both sides. It's impossible for things to maintain a steady pace without any work put in. Tara also compared a relationship to a baby in the way that you need to constantly monitor and tend to both. If you realize that it's hungry for something, you feed it, or you nurture it when it's sick. In being aware of the state of your partnership and giving it what it needs, you prevent it from reaching a point of no return. When couples have no idea how they've become strangers over the years, it's because they lived in their relationship passively without checking in every once in a while.
"It's not going to be all sex all the time, that's not sustainable, but we can definitely keep it interesting," Tara said.
"Keep yourself turned on — that's never our partner's responsibility."
"Keep yourself turned on — that's never our partner's responsibility. Stay engaged, keep interested in your partner, do things that you know turn you on and that make you want to be with them; create moments where these things can happen."
Tara used one couple in particular as an example of a simple way you can create these kinds of moments. The parents of four shower every morning together. It may not seem groundbreaking, but it gives them a "built-in container," as Tara called it, that allows them to start off the day together. Sometimes, it's relaxing or really hot and exciting with some shower sex, and other days, they use the opportunity to talk about schedules and who's dropping off who. Because of this simple daily ritual, they're on the same page and have a foundation of communication and intimacy.
"It doesn't have to go by the wayside, we don't have to have either/or," Tara said. "We can actually have a little bit of both and fold in that sweetness that we found in our deepening relationship."