Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Can You Prolong The Honeymoon?

How do we make love stay?

The great frustration for couples is how to keep the newness and excitement in their marriage or cohabitation.  But according to UC Riverside Professor of Psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky, passion peaks in a marriage after two years and then diminishes. Her research found that after the two year summit  things are never the same.

Relationship experts like Susie and Otto Collins view this phenomenon of the two year Honeymoon fade as the cause of relationship problems. But in fact sexual passion can be masking the serious relationship problems that commonly exist in heterosexual unions established on the specious values of physical attraction, charm and approval seeking. Best selling author John Gray observed that resentment is temporarily washed away for men when they enjoy regular sexual relations in a committed heterosexual union. As the passion of a new marriage or cohabitation fades, the fact that the man and woman might be just a teensy bit of a mismatch starts to become more significant.

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In reality, the honeymoon is a mirage.

Engaged couples in the 1800s practiced candor in their courtship and were socially active with both men and women, maintaining balance in their lives. In fact, the original honeymoon was a bridal trip that included friends and relatives. The bride in the 1800s knew what the groom and his friends were really like.

Consider how radically things have changed in the last century. In today's honeymoon, the partners isolate from family and friends. They love idealized images of each other. Those idealized images last a while but after two years it is normal and natural for the illusion to fade away. Not even Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts could keep up such an illusion that long.

Despite well intentioned groups and therapists, the problems of two mismatched people bound together by such an illusion cannot be solved with a self help article or a weekend Marriage Encounters seminar. Reality will not let the couple retreat into yesterday's romantic dream. The man's Prince Charming routine that swept his mate off her feet will begin to slip. Living with someone of few common interests, differing world views and clashing temperaments will become more irritating after two years. Physical intimacy will lose its pain-killing potency as the relational differences creep out from beyond the shadows into the light of day. No one can cheat this hangman. Soon irritation and pain become bigger than the prize and the union will be headed to crisis if the couple doesn't deal with the inevitable conflicts that arise.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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