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  • Rachael Lindberg

“Our relationship used to be so passionate. What happened?”

Rachael Lindberg, LPC, SXI, CCTP

Afterglow Counseling & Coaching, PLLC

Oh, the honeymoon phase of a relationship. There isn’t anything like it. The beginning of a new relationship can be exciting, scary, and full of passionate energy. This new relationship phase can be really fun and sometimes nerve-wracking as we establish trust and try to learn more about our new partner(s). The new experiences, planned dates, and novelty of the relationship really add to the experience of passion and romance, which can be deeply missed once a relationship has become comfortable or even complacent. This is scary for some relationships as it brings up the question of compatibility, long-term sustainability, and what it means to be “in love.”

a couple stands in the kitchen

The honeymoon phase is also known as the Limerence Phase and it is the period of the first six months to two years of a relationship. The term Limerence Phase was first coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in 1979. It is characterized by the physiological reactions to falling in love (heart palpitations, shaky hands, stomach butterflies, feeling flushed) as well as the emotional components such as intrusive thinking (curiosity about what the other person is doing, if they’re thinking of you, etc.), emotional and sexual excitement, fantasy (thinking about the future, sexual fantasy), and the fear of rejection from the other person. This phase is often driven by hormonal reactions including oxytocin (the “bonding” hormone), phenylethylamine (PEA; a naturally occurring amphetamine), and pheromones (to promote sensuality). Limerence is also often associated with feelings of infatuation or having a crush on someone.

Because the feelings of Limerence can be so intense, they do not last throughout the entirety of a long-term relationship. Our bodies and brains cannot function in that state over the long term, so we begin to phase out of the feelings of Limerence over time. The relationship neutralizes or experiences a power struggle as roles and responsibilities are defined. As we learn more about our partner(s), the rose-colored glasses begin to fade and we learn our partner(s) are human, just like we are. Relationships don’t always survive the transition out of the Limerence Phase. Some relationships end due to difficulties after failure to resolve the power struggle or get worried that without the feelings of intense passion, the relationship is doomed due to incompatibility. Other relationships are more successful in the establishment of their roles and find comfort in the stability, focusing on strengthening trust, sharing life dreams, and understanding that passion or romance is only a portion of the overall components of a healthy relationship. 

It is perfectly normal for relationships to feel different from when they first started and change over time as they adapt to the rollercoaster of life. A positive effect of the end of the Limerence Phase is that allows for more energy and focus to be put into stability, trust, respect, and sharing deep life experiences with one another without the distortion of infatuation. This does not mean that passion and romance have to be, or should be, completely absent from a long-term relationship. Fondness for each other and sharing the intimacy that comes from romance is still a really healthy part of a committed relationship. 

Here are some ways to improve romance and passion within a long-term, committed, comfortable relationship:

  1. Improve your communication and conflict management

  2. Find a new sexual style that adds passion and romance to the relationship

  3. Express appreciation, compliments, loving words, and positive sentiments to one another

  4. Find a way to incorporate dates into your weekly or monthly routine, even if it sharing coffee or lunch without distractions during your workday

  5. Learn how to speak your partner’s love language and incorporate it in small ways in your daily/weekly communication with each other

  6. Try new things together- novelty has been found to increase excitement and passion in a relationship so try a new restaurant, travel to a new place, try a new sex position, or do something you haven’t done in a while for a date to maintain variety (when was the last time you went bowling?!)

  7. Attend couples counseling sessions to learn more about improving your communication, conflict management, and physical/emotional intimacy

Interested in individual or couples counseling? Submit a Contact Form to schedule a free 15-minute initial phone consultation!



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