Starting a new relationship can be exciting and leave us feeling like we are walking on water. Nothing can get in the way of the natural high we experience with a new partner and we tend to accentuate the affirming characteristics of this person even amidst some warning signs of concern. We find ourselves spending the majority of our time daydreaming about what we hope this new relationship will turn into and may find it difficult to focus on other tasks. We strive to spend every waking moment with our new partner and seek out signs that the feeling is mutual.
This “puppy love” or more commonly referred to as the ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship is an actual phenomenon called limerence. Limerence occurs at the onset of a new relationship in which falling for an intimate partner is easy and instinctive and lasts up to two years on average. Limerence can be experienced in the following ways:
• Strong sexual attraction
• Obsessive thinking or infatuation
• Emotional dependency
• Yearning for reciprocation
• Emphasis on positive characteristics which may be unrealistic or irrational
• High degree of hope for future of relationship
Generally limerence is a normal, pleasurable, and thrilling phase for most of us however as you learned in the above characteristics, it can also be unhealthy or pathological because of the involuntary and intense emotions that may promote our judgment to be impaired. Another challenge of limerence is that it ends at some point. The end of the honeymoon phase means that couples must maintain their relationship by focusing on other aspects besides the initial attraction that drew partners together. This is when reality can hit and many relationships do not survive as a result.
There are some strategies that new couples can implement in order to bolster the honeymoon phase as well as promote a smooth transition into the next relationship phase. These include:
• Recognize that no relationship or person is perfect
• Make efforts to be open and realistic to challenges or negative traits associated with your partner
• Express appreciation
• Find healthy alternatives for meeting emotional needs outside of the relationship
• Focus on establishing a strong friendship