Relationship advice for when the honeymoon phase ends

Call me the “love doctor,” or maybe don’t. 

I’ve been through it all, from short term relationships that lasted for a few weeks, to long term relationships that lasted years. 

But like each snowflake, relationships are all unique for whoever is experiencing them. They all have their own shapes and forms. Different phases last longer or shorter and even come back over time, developments come at different points, and everything speeds up or slows down in different paces. Whether you figure it out the easy way or the hard way, relationships are not always for everyone, especially romantic and long term types. 

Whether it takes a few days of knowing each other or a year for a couple to have sex, or they say “I love you” just after a few weeks, it’s crucial to remember there is no right or wrong in how a relationship operates or takes it course, as long as that those who are in it together go at their own desired and communicated pace. 

Although each romantic relationship is unique, often they each experience a series of stages that either rapidly take their course, or slowly dwindle down and shift over time. 

A common beginning phase of a romantic partnership is the “cupcake phase.” The term refers to how early stages of a relationship can be  “so cute and sweet even you want to throw up.” 

Hopeless romantic or not, who doesn’t love the cupcake phase? It’s the phase where we start off so in love, that our friends, our family, and observers around us can’t bear it. It’s filled with hugs and kisses, the introduction of nicknames, the forehead smooches, the overnight cuddling, the perfect dates, random acts of kindness and everything that every romantic comedy usually ends with.  

But that is just a dictionary definition. Each relationship and participant have their own definition of the “cupcake” stage. 

Molly Brooks, a senior at Columbia CollegeChicago, has been with her boyfriend for six months, and describes the cupcake stage a little bit differently. “For me, I find that I am a very complex person and reveal myself to others in stages at my own pace,” she said. “The cupcake stage is all about presenting yourself to someone as your best self, flaws aside.” 

Perhaps this “cupcake” stage is why most couples don’t experience fights and little arguments until they are out of it. It’s during this stage of “showing your best self” that couples are getting to know each other and spending the most time together to learn how to please one another. 

Often in this stage, we’re blinded by our partner’s flaws, we don’t tend to see them because we’re so caught up in the newness and sweetness of our relationship. 

Christine Whelan, a clinical professor from the University of Wisconsin, shared more about the “cupcake” stage in a relationship and how to shift healthily once your relationship exits it. “In the early stage of relationships we often project our hopes and dreams on to the other person, ignoring the inconvenient parts of their personality that don’t fit our idealized view of them,” she said. “The healthiest way to get the most out of the honeymoon stage is to use this time to talk to your partner openly and honestly. To hear what they have to say and actually listen. To learn about them and to come to practical and emotionally safe agreements about how to move forward in your relationship.” 

Whether relationships are still in the “cupcake” stage or is shifting into a new phase, it’s when flaws and little annoyances are detected that fights and disagreements begin. 

Sarah Halpern-Meekin, an associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin furtherly explained what can arise after the “cupcake” stage. “Conflicts can arise over time for a lot of reasons: the more time we spend with one another, the more opportunities we have to disagree,” she said. “The more we reveal of ourselves to one another, the greater the chance that we won’t like some of what we see, or that we won’t feel totally accepted or understood by our partner.” 

After you’ve been with your partner for quite a while, different stages develop and love is often shown in other ways. Simple acts may fade away, but love and feelings often are displayed in a new light. 

DePaul junior Callie Hemmer explains how a relationship can shift after the “cupcake” stage has ended. “I think the feeling of love grows in a relationship but the acts seem to diminish,” she said. “When you see each other all of the time you are less likely to show them big acts of love than if you saw them a few times a year. The feelings don’t go away or get weaker but the acts might.” 

Whenever you notice your partner stop doing the little things they did in the beginning like kissing you as much, holding your hand, and cuddling while they sleep, don’t fret. It’s only normal for a relationship to change from the way it began. 

Maybe it’s not as romantic or lustful as it began, but if a relationship is strong, it can endure changes. There’s romantic love and there’s also realistic love. Partners notice more flaws in another, dates become more sporadic, bickering is more common, but it’s realistic for couples to shift their behaviors once they get to know each other more.

 When couples shift out of their initial romantic and lustful stages that encompass the “cupcake” stage or “honeymoon” phase, it can be a make or break situation for a relationship. However, often they can endure and work through the difficulties and stresses of a long term relationship. When couples endure the falling out period of a “cupcake” stage sort of love they enter into a realistic kind of love. 

“When you’re in a relationship it takes communication and work,” Brooks said.“Without effort from both sides the relationship will fail. There are good, bad, and ugly times in people’s lives but ultimately getting through those things together in an open and honest manner can allow a relationship to flourish.” 

Bickering and fighting in a relationship is normal, it’s not always what romantic comedies seem to display. If your relationship isn’t the same as it started, it doesn’t mean it is failing.

“While some partners may miss the head-over-heels, all-encompassing emotions of those first days, weeks, and months of a relationship, hopefully they can remind themselves of the benefits that come later in a relationship-that deep love, trust, acceptance, and partnership can feel like a worthwhile trade-off for losing some of those early ‘honeymoon stage’ feelings,” Halpern-Meekin said. “Rather than having big fiery passion that flares up, you can have a slower, steadier burn to carry your relationship for the long haul.” 

Often movies only show the stages of falling in love, finding lust and harmony and depicting the “cupcake stage” as if it goes on forever. 

But as the credits start rolling in and the screen goes black, there’s an unreleased sequel; one that depicts a new stage of enduring, realistic, and mature love that isn’t and won’t always be pretty but with the right amount of communication and bonding, it will thrive.