Relationship column: You and your PhD
The honeymoon period is wearing off
Dear Auntie, I need your advice. Lately, I’ve been feeling kind of down about my relationship with my partner. It’s not that we don’t get along anymore, but somehow the excitement has gone. Our first months together were great, but now we seem to be getting stuck in some kind of routine and everything seems to be more work than it used to be. At first I was really keen to find out everything about them. Now I sometimes find myself thinking about other things I could be doing with my life. It's been difficult at times as they can be quite demanding of my time and I cannot ignore them for long without feeling guilty. I don’t know if this ok. Are we on the wrong path? Should I be feeling differently? Maybe you have some advice for me. Your Lilly
Dear Lilly, that sounds like a typical case of the honeymoon period wearing off. I’m sure you’ve heard of the honeymoon period: everything is exciting, everything is new and your partner seems like the ideal match. In psychology, this is called the idealisation period because you idealise your partner to be the perfect match. The more you get to know each other, the more you realise the other one isn’t perfect. You might be glad to hear that this is absolutely normal, and sooner or later this phase stops for every couple. That in itself is not a problem if you approach the relationship in a healthy way and are aware of this process. You can still love and appreciate your partner, despite or even because of their faults. This is where a long-lasting bond will start. It can be hard work, but so rewarding.
You write that you still get along and it sounds like you still like each other. This is important and my first piece of advice would be to remind yourself why you liked your partner in the first place and why you embarked on your adventure together. This can be as easy as just taking 5 minutes to recall these things in your head, or write them down. If you want to remind yourself regularly, why don’t you send yourself a scheduled email a few times throughout the year? It will remind you of all the great things that you love about your relationship and why you got into it in the first place.
A second piece of advice relates to how you spend your time together as a couple and apart from each other. When routine hits and everyday life seems to be taking over it’s important to make an effort and make your time together quality time. Really focus on each other and turn off distractions. No Facebook, no WhatsApp, no games – be in the moment and make your time together count. Similarly, don’t spend every waking minute with each other. You probably have spent a lot of time together during your honeymoon period which is perfectly fine and important. Sometimes during those first few months we neglect our hobbies and friends a wee bit. Again, that’s not unusual, but now it’s time to make an effort to also give each other room and allow yourselves to miss each other. Go out with friends, enjoy pursuing your hobbies, or just have a relaxing day at home all by yourself. And don’t feel guilty! If you’re devoting an appropriate amount of quality time to them, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about not spending every waking minute together.
Another helpful tip would be to go out and talk to other couples or friends who have gone through something similar. Go for walks or pursue an activity (how about gardening, for example? together where you can chat and exchange experiences. Maybe you have a good friend who has been helping you with your relationship anyway and who might be able to give you more specific advice? It can be a relief to talk to others and realise that lots of people might go or have gone through a similar phase and hear how they have coped with it.
Lilly, I hope this helps you a bit and can support you in going through what you’re going through. Please be in touch and let us know how you get on.
PS: Also, don’t forget to get involved in our love letter competition! Writing a love letter to your partner can also help remind yourself why you’re in this relationship. And you can win great prices!