Before I got married I knew that there were two stages of love. I just wasn’t sure how it worked. I knew there was a difference between the “over the moon” swooning and butterflies honeymoon phase of a relationship, and the deep, sustaining quality of love that lasts through the decades. I had witnessed both kinds of love. I just wasn’t sure how to transition from one stage into the other.
The first stage of romantic love is easy. When we fall in love with someone new we’d do anything to be with him(her). We go out of our way to make her (him) happy. Being together is effortless. It doesn’t matter what is happening as long as we are together. We feel “in love” and that is reason enough.
Wow, this is hard.
And then one day all the little habits and mannerisms, the quirks and styles of our spouse seem less cute. These differences that we fully embraced when we were “in love” pile up and topple over. It’s not effortless anymore. Sometimes it isn’t even fun. We don’t understand why our spouse isn’t getting it and our spouse can see why we don’t get it. A stuck sort of feeling emerges. “Wow, this is hard,” we catch ourselves thinking. “Is it supposed to be this hard if I’m with the right person? What happened to the person I married?”
These are very common questions. Too often, people walk away from marriage when they get to this phase, and that is tragic. There is great love waiting in the wings if we can do the work in this second phase of love.
There is great love waiting in the wings if we can do the work.
When I got married I honestly expected these questions to come. As much as conflict tears at my heart, I try to see it as an opportunity to hammer things out until my husband and I reach a deeper understanding of who we are, both individually and as a couple. So far it’s been great! Once the conflict is resolved that is.
The languages of love
Dr. Gary Chapman’s classic book The Five Love Languages should be required reading for every couple. In the book he outlines five different ways people receive love – words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. We all speak different love languages. How I show love might not be how my husband likes to receive (‘hear’) love. When there’s a disconnect in the our love languages it can leave us feeling under appreciated or not well loved, even if the other person is showing their love the best they can.
Discovering a spouse’s love language and learning to speak it is really important. Speaking each other’s love language will inject those “in love” feelings into your marriage long after the honeymoon phase is over. For my husband and I, some of the conflict we’ve had stemmed from our differences in love language. Speaking each other’s love language takes a lot of practice because it doesn’t usually come naturally. but I promise that it’s worth the effort.
I read somewhere that the honeymoon period for anything (i.e. relationships, new job, new house, new city) lasts about two and a half years. That’s EXACTLY where my husband and I are counting from the start of our dating relationship until our first anniversary. We’re already transitioning from phase one to phase two! The first phase of love is easier but it doesn’t last. When you put the work into learning to speak your partner’s love language, the second phase of love can last a lifetime.