Young love — no matter how old you are — is a beautiful feeling. You feel something you can’t explain, and you want more of it. You don't even see the little quirks, the annoying little habits your partner has, because those feelings of new love are so strong.
At some point — whether it's been weeks, months, or years — that feeling of the honeymoon phase almost inevitably starts to diminish, and the hard work of building a real, lasting relationship starts.
What most people don't understand is that you don't have to have one or the other. The honeymoon phase isn't gone forever once real life starts to creep in. You can sustain the magic of those early days for as long as you're together. And if you want your relationship to last, it's a crucial element to work on.
My wife and I just celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. After meeting as co-workers at Burger King, we were married at 18. We lost that feeling of the honeymoon phase a year into our marriage and didn't know how to get it back. We even separated for six months before we were able to find each other again.
That process started with — and only happened through — us getting brutally honest with each other about our struggles, talking through our issues, and only then moving back in together. Today, our relationship is better than ever. We have great communication, we actively date each other, and our sex life is better than it's ever been.
Here are some of the signs that showed us our relationship was in trouble, and how we worked our way back into the honeymoon phase. Even if you and your partner have lost that feeling, I hope these strategies can help you get it back. It is always possible.
1. Your communication feels like an obligation.
I love talking to my wife now, but there was a time when it felt like something I "had" to do.
Here's how to fix it: When you create good communication habits, you learn to love talking to your partner. Start slowly and work toward creating a safe place to express your honest thoughts and feelings — compassionately — with each other.
2. You’ve let other people’s beliefs into your relationship.
For a long time, my wife and I ran to other people to take our sides when we argued. We relied on other people to validate our opinions and feelings rather than on ourselves and each other.Here's how to fix it: Getting other people involved will likely only intensify a disagreement. Your relationship and issues should be handled between the two of you. Don’t let other people project their issues onto your relationship. You need to create a sacred space where you can tell each other the truth and expect understanding in return.
3. You’ve stopped actively seducing each other.
My wife and I still date. We still flirt, and we still pursue each other in the same way we did in the beginning.
Here's how to fix it: You should never stop doing the little things that helped you woo your partner. Buy them flowers, dress up for date night, cook them dinner as a surprise. Never stop making an effort.
4. You don’t have random displays of physical affection.
A sporadic hug, an unexpected kiss make a huge difference in bolstering intimacy.
Here's how to fix it: It could be a hug or kiss in public or just holding hands. Random acts of affection really helped my wife and me reconnect on another level.
5. Your sex life is boring, repetitive, or nonexistent.
How you feel about each other is expressed in your physical interactions — or lack thereof.
Here's how to fix it: You can find your way back to a satisfying sex life by working on your connection outside of the bedroom as well as putting as much effort into seducing each other as you did when you first met. Sex shouldn’t feel like a routine you have to perform once a month. Your sex life should continue to be as good as — or even better than — when you first started dating.
6. You aren’t taking care of your health.
I was 170 pounds overweight for 12 years of our relationship. It made me lose my confidence within my marriage and in the rest of my life. It can be a vicious cycle, but it has to stop somewhere. If you're not happy with your lifestyle, do something about it.
Here's how to fix it: Your health affects every area of your life — it has to be a priority. I lost the weight, and it helped our relationship because it helped me become the best version of myself. I showed myself I was capable.
7. You’ve given up on living a better life.
For 12 years, I had no dreams. I only existed in the day-to-day. When I started to dream again, my wife wanted to dream with me. We pursued our dreams together, and now, we are living our dream life in Hawaii.
Here's how to fix it: If you aren’t living the kind of life you want to live, it’s affecting your relationship one way or another. Take the time to dream. Imagine what you could do that would make you happier, more fulfilled, more purposeful. Then do it. Drive and passion make your partner want to be a part of what you're pursuing and will inspire them to follow their own dreams.
8. You have a short fuse and are constantly defensive.
I realized my unhappiness with work was causing me to get angry and respond aggressively to disagreements or actions that were essentially unimportant. It hurt the growth of our love. I had to do the work to make myself better.
Here's how to fix it: If you often explode and for something little, it’s time to get honest with yourself. Find the true source(s) of your stress and/or discontentment. Stop projecting them onto your partner and your relationship, just because they're physically there. They might not always be.
9. You’ve already had an affair in your mind.
I fed my mind with unrealistic views of love that bled into real-life lust for other women. It weakened my connection with my wife and fed my dissatisfaction.
Here's how to fix it: Whether it's a co-worker or a woman you've never met, those thoughts will hurt your relationship. You shouldn’t entertain them. You have to shut them down with no mercy, no weakness. They have no place in a healthy relationship.
10. You spend as much time as possible away from home.
Whether you're using the excuse of having a lot to do at work, or you take up a new, engrossing hobby, take the time to recognize whether you're really using that as an excuse to stay away from home because you aren't happy.
Here's how to fix it: A little distance is okay — it can be good, sometimes — but if you actively try to avoid seeing your partner, there is definitely a problem in the relationship. The feelings you once had have turned sour. Reflect on what you're afraid of, what you're dreading, and consider potential proactive strategies to solve the problem(s).
11. You act based on the feelings of a moment, rather than on real love.
Love starts out as a feeling, but mature love is a decision you make. For a relationship to succeed, you have to put love ahead of your mercurial moods.
Here's how to fix it: Remember that you chose to love the person you committed to despite how you “feel.” It might be a hard road to accepting that just because your feelings might be different during a certain period of time, the love doesn't go away — neither does your responsibility. I had decided to love my wife, and that meant demonstrating that love through my decisions and my treatment of her.
12. You’re planning a life without the person you once considered your soul mate.
If you have a whole new life that doesn’t involve your partner, it’s a huge red flag. It’s a sign that not only have you left the honeymoon phase in the dust, but that your relationship is on the brink of collapse.
Here's how to fix it: Unless you have actively, thoughtfully decided that it's best for the both of you to part ways, stop entertaining destructive fantasies. The only way to fix the life you have already is to be fully present in it, engaged with the person you love, and willing to do the work necessary to bring the security and happiness back to your relationship.
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