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The precarious post-honeymoon blues

Ryan Chartrand

At the wedding I went to over the weekend, the emcee led a contest that started with all married couples out on the dance floor. Then, he eliminated those married for less than a year, then less than five years, less than ten years, and so on.

The winning couple, married for 36 years, was asked to give the newlyweds some sage advice on what makes a successful marriage. The man said something to the effect of, “Just hand over the paycheck every two weeks. I find that works.”

I laughed along with everyone else; but I felt gypped when the real advice never came. I wanted to know the secrets of a long-lasting relationship! Couldn’t we have any pointers? Not even a hint?

I guess we’ll have to get at this one ourselves.

Warning: the subject upon which we’re about to embark isn’t a mushy one. Admittedly, I myself cringe to think about it (less of a cringe; more of a nose crinkle). It isn’t idealistic; it’s brutally realistic, and for that reason, most people in relationships – people in love – don’t want to hear about it.

But it is a stage, and a fact, in the psychological and emotional life of a relationship.We’re talking about the post-honeymoon blues, or, as it’s referred to in the psych literature, the “post-rapture period.”

After the heady, butterflies-in-your-stomach attraction stage, you enter the marvelous infatuation of romantic love. Some minor blips on the radar are normal and healthy; but for the most part, you get along fine, you’re in love and everything is right with the world.

Even if you’ve never been “in love,” you can probably relate to some feeling of infatuation. (It’s time to admit to your Leo DiCaprio phase and the poster you kissed every night for three months.) It’s consuming, exciting, and distracting.

Unfortunately, to be realistic, this stage doesn’t persist indefinitely. The intensity of this stage is estimated to last anywhere from one to two years (some optimists push it to two and a half) before the lovey-dovey feelings start to taper off.

Without the emotional high to focus on anymore, little troubles begin to look like big ones. Tiny habits you once found charming -like the way she twirls her hair around her fingers when she’s nervous, or the way he bursts into hysterical laughter at the least amusing joke – can magnify into annoyances.

Quibbles rear their ugly heads, and trifles become major disappointments. After even a short period of this, couples begin to wonder where things went wrong, and whether things can go on. It’s at this point that a relationship is especially susceptible to dissolution, and many sadly are dragged under.

Newsflash: it’s wrong to immediately mistake this rocky patch for falling out of love!

Our idealized, “true love” perception makes it hard for us to believe this is a natural stage in a relationship. When we’re in love, we feel impervious to any hardship; the invincibility complex of our adolescence now applies to our relationships: we really believe “love conquers all.”

But you need more than just love to make a relationship last. Of course, I don’t mean to say love is a little trifling component. But we’re all adults now. It’s time we learned that, though The Beatles are legends, love isn’t all you need.

When the infatuation stage ends and difficulties start to pop up, working through these troubles together can build the next important stage of lasting relationships, simply called attachment.

Attachment develops over time and lasts much longer than the chaotic exhilaration at the beginning of a relationship. If you’re willing to stick with it, there’s comfort, dependability and commitment.

The crux between infatuation and attachment is the chance to make a real relationship out of all the love and romance. By “real,” I mean one that takes patience, utilizes negotiation, and agrees on cooperation to work through the tough stuff.

Here’s another psych snippet: “A good marriage (or a good relationship) is one in which each person is compromising 60 percent of the time.” If you’re turned off by this idea, know that it doesn’t mean a passive concession to your partner. It means an honest, joint effort to come to the best possible solution for you both.

Lasting relationships aren’t all wine and roses (and paychecks). There will be some roadblocks along the way, but they can be overcome; and overcoming them together will only serve to strengthen your relationship.

Of course, no one can give you specific advice on what to expect in any relationship, so I guess I don’t blame the guy who won the dance contest with his wife. Oh well. Even though I didn’t get any tips, seeing two lives come together in a beautiful ceremony, and recognizing a marriage of 36-years-and-counting certainly refreshed my hope for lasting relationships.

Plus, the ganache wedding cake was marvelous, and I got a few slow dances out of my boyfriend.

Sarah Carbonel is an English and psychology junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.

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