Some couples live in the honeymoon stage for a month, while others make it last for years. But regardless of how long it lasts, the honeymoon stage *will* end. And feelings of depression after the honeymoon stage can be brutal.
So, what’s next? And can the honeymoon phase’s end cause lasting depression?
We chatted with relationship experts to learn more about how to deal with the post-honeymoon stage blues.
Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, describes the honeymoon phase (technical name: limerence) as the intense period in a relationship when you feel consumed with each other.
“You long to be together all the time, feel high excitement, and have changes in neurochemistry consistent with all that intensity, newness, excitement, and passion,” Saltz says.
Dr. Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert in Santa Rosa, California, says honeymoon phases can happen in early dating and the time just before or after a wedding.
First things first: Not every relationship has a honeymoon phase, according to Saltz. But for those that do, what comes next?
“A more realistic view of your partner and the relationship set in,” says Saltz. “This is the time when couples should work on increased and better communication. Creating this foundation will help you deal with issues that you now notice pop up. This next period is filled with more compromise, negotiation, deeper knowledge of the other, more communication, and a different type of intimacy.”
Manly describes the post-honeymoon season as when partners must decide whether they’re comfortable with the *reality* of their partner and relationship. You’ve basically got 3 options:
- Deepen the relationship: Partners who are a good fit and love each other start to actively embrace the positive aspects of their relationship and work on communication and compromise.
- Part ways: Partners who prefer the idealized version of their connection might break up after the honeymoon phase has ended.
- Stay together despite disappointment: Some couples stay the course despite feeling disappointed and unhappy. “This choice can certainly lead to relationship-related depression,” Manly says.
Depression after the honeymoon stage can be summed up in a word: Disillusionment.
“When the illusions of what ‘could be’ or what was hoped for and envisioned fall away, depression can set in,” says Manly.
“You thought you had Superman, Brad Pitt, and Albert Einstein all rolled into one, but now you realize you have a mortal man,” agrees Saltz. “This realization can make you feel low.”
Of course, feeling bummed about your partner’s faults is not the same thing as clinical depression. Saltz says the post-honeymoon blues simply *feel* like depression compared to your recent euphoria.
Watching the sun set on your honeymoon stage sucks. But if your *relationship* doesn’t suck, you can enter this less lust-filled, more love-centered season with grace and excitement. Deepening your relationship is rewarding, after all.
Here’s how you can address feelings of depression and keep your relationship strong as it shifts.
Reflect and reach out
In many cases, post-honeymoon phase depression can be addressed through psychotherapy and deep personal reflection.
“Coming to terms with reality and finding the next *best*step is something that can be difficult to do, so reaching out for support is important and often essential,” says Manly.
This is especially true if you’re experiencing clinical depression. Bonafide depression is a big deal, and it requires treatment. Consider therapy first — and remember that there are mental health resources to help if you don’t have access to therapy.
Invest in the relationship
“Stop comparing before to now, and work on making now better for yourself,” suggests Saltz.
Some suggestions for deepening the relationship in this new season:
- schedule date nights
- have regular and creative sex (unless you’re asexual or graysexual!)
- make a point to talk about your feelings
- be willing to compromise and negotiate (this goes both ways!)
- tell your partner what you love about them
Address issues head-on
Regardless of the stage of your relationship, it’s important to address whatever’s causing feelings of depression, says Manly.
She says it’s common for one or both partners to experience a lack of emotional connection in the post-honeymoon phase. “Again, couples can move forward, but only by addressing the causes that are leading to the sense of disconnection,” she explains.
Sensing the end of a relationship’s honeymoon stage can make you sad as hell. No one wants to feel red-hot passion turn into a slow simmer.
You’re not alone if you feel the post-honeymoon stage blues.
If your relationship is generally rewarding and worth pursuing, you can keep it healthy with a little effort, open communication, and mutual compromise.
You can also address feelings of depression with therapy and outside support. And if symptoms of depression have affected daily life for 2 weeks or more, talk with your doctor or mental health professional.