During the first weeks and months of a new relationship, the overwhelming, heart-stopping, breathtaking (literally, sometimes you forget how to breathe around your new person) bubble of intense happiness can feel like it will last forever. And no matter how many times we’ve been in love – whether it’s the first time or the fifth – when we’re in the middle of that blissful beginning time, we halfway convince ourselves that we will never feel a diminished level of adoration for this person.
But inevitably, things calm down. The butterflies subside, you no longer feel impossibly charmed by every innocuous move they make, and you find yourself looking around and remembering that other parts of your life do – despite how it’s felt recently – still exist. Too often, people take this downturn in intensity to be a sign that the love is dying, or at least dimming when the truth is, most of the time, you are simply settling in.
If you’re the kind of person who truly is only interested in powerfully emotional experiences (no judgment – that’s a totally valid thing to want, as long as you aren’t promising more than that in order to engage in those experiences), you really might start to lose interest once the all-consuming chemistry of a new relationship starts to subside. But if you and the person you’re dating are both sincerely interested in a real future together, the end of the honeymoon phase isn’t when the good stuff ends – it’s actually when it starts.
You’re less anxious
When you first start dating someone, you’re a little nervous. No matter who they are, and no matter who you are, nerves come into play to some extent. Once you realize you might be hanging out with someone you could actually fall for, or even have a real future with, the nerves can get out of control — what if something goes wrong? What if you get emotionally invested and then things fall apart and your heart breaks forever and you are incapable of love and die alone and aren’t discovered for weeks until your neighbors smell something coming from your studio apartment? There is nothing more anxiety-inducing than being at the starting line of a relationship with true potential, and holding tightly to each other’s hands, hoping to navigate the development and growth of your love without letting it get hurt or wasted.
Once you’re a few months in, the love feels a little more full-grown, more stable, more solid. You can put your feet up on it, rest your head on, rest and relax a bit after all the tedious (beautiful and wonderful, but exhausting) nurturing you’ve been doing to make sure it survives. Relationships will always require upkeep to stay healthy, but certainly it takes a bit less to maintain them than it does to get them going.
You aren’t trying to impress each other
It’s never a great idea to be fake with someone you just met — so what, you lie to make yourself look better and, best case scenario, they love you and then you’re stuck either keeping up a lie forever or telling them you were full of shit at some point? No thanks — but let’s be honest: We all try to make ourselves look as together, intelligent, and charming as possible in the beginning. Which is great; ideally, a relationship for another person makes you feel comfortable and happy being who you are while also lovingly encouraging you to always be the best you can be. Hopefully, your desire to evolve in positive ways for both your benefit and to be a better partner to your beloved will extend well beyond the honeymoon days. But damn, it really is nice to get to the point where you can be around them in a ponytail, no makeup, sweat pants, eating food while watching bad tv. No, you don’t always do that. But you do sometimes — and that’s the beauty of post-honeymoon love: being comfortable to show them every side of you, even the gross ones, and knowing they’ll love you anyway.
Sex gets seriously better
Clearly, the frantic, can’t-get-each-other-naked-fast-enough, chemically overloaded sex of brand new couples is amazing. It’s, like, almost too good to feel like you not only adore someone as a person, but you cannot get enough of them physically. That kind of feverish desire is what makes the world turn. But the truth is, thank god we have all that hormonal craving for each other in the beginning because without it, the sex might not be that great. Sure, some people are naturally gifted sexual unicorns who are technically fantastic as soon as they have sex with anyone, but for the majority of average humans, it takes a little time to figure out how another person’s body works. So after a few months, maybe the “literally cannot keep our hands off each other” phase has chilled out a bit, but with that enters a new, altogether much hotter part of the relationship where you start knowing exactly how to drive each other crazy.
Mistakes matter less
You know that feeling when you’re first dating someone you really like and you say something and it comes out all wrong or sounds stupid or you made a joke and no one laughed, and you pretty much want to crawl under the table and eat your own hair until you choke on it and die from shame? We’re so much harder on ourselves when dating someone new because we know that, when you don’t know someone all that well, your opinion of them can be permanently changed by the tiniest thing. Fortunately, that goes away after you’ve been together for a while. Little mistakes and flaws carry much less consequence the further you get into a relationship. Yes, you will still feel like an asshole sometimes, but in terms of how it could potentially affect your relationship? Nah. You guys love each other. You’re solid. No little moment of imperfection is going to change that.
You have a little history
The only thing more romantic than the period of time when every experience is brand new and every moment together is a precious memory of seemingly profound importance is what comes next: doing things together and realizing that you’ve shared enough already that new things remind of you of old things. You have inside jokes and private stories and a language that no one else understands. You have such an awareness of each other’s lives apart from the relationship, and the parts you share become bigger, more dynamic, and more layered with history and depth — all of this makes your connection feel more indescribably strong. The only thing sweeter than being surprised and awed by the stunning newness of falling in love is being warmed and thankful for the unexpected strength of what comes next.