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“When you lose a bit of that joy, how do you keep going?”

I got this text from a friend as he found himself drifting out of the honeymoon stage of his first real relationship. It’s hard, and confusing, to suddenly start noticing the little annoying quirks in a person who had just seemed perfect for you in every way. After the initial rush dies, the rose-coloured glasses come off and reality hits. Reality means that you’re not going to be happy spending every minute with each other anymore. It means that their faults are suddenly more clear than ever, and their qualities not as groundbreaking as you initially thought. Many relationships end at this point because suddenly, it’s not just about perfect compatibility anymore. It’s about effort, time, and lots of trial and error. And well… That’s not always fun.

The main difference in transitioning between the honeymoon stage and the comfortable stage is accepting that priorities change and the nature of the relationship changes. It becomes more a matter of overall happiness and/or comfort as opposed to a constant rush, which means that you absolutely do not have to be in love with every single trait of your partner (no one is perfect). That’s not to say that you don’t have to care about them or that the relationship will no longer be enjoyable, but it won’t always be fun and games anymore. There will be more annoyances to put up with, less time spent together, and less bursts of that “new love” feeling that made everything so magical at the start. But in my opinion, “love at first sight” is a lot less magical than a love that lasts. Personally, I prefer the comfortable stage because although your partner is no longer a shiny new toy, they become something even better. They become home. They become an ultimate source of comfort and safety and happiness at the end of every day. Home isn’t exciting, and it can often be dull and routine (although there are always ways to spice things up), but in the end, it’s always there as a constant, steady warmth. That’s what to aim for once the relationship reaches the end of the honeymoon. That’s what you get to look forward to. It’s also referred to by some as “the real stage” because that’s when the barriers fall down. There’s no more struggle to impress; everything is relaxed and comfortable and you find happiness in that new sense. Although there will definitely still be moments of that honeymoon-esque feeling, what matters in the end is the overarching feeling of happiness, not just the burst of oxytocins found in new love. We ruin things by trying to make them last forever; it’s not about holding on to the initial rush, but about growing with the progression.

Of course, to successfully make the transition requires effort. Once compatibility is present between two people, it all comes down to effort. That’s when the couple has to decide what’s worth working through and how to balance things so that complacency doesn’t set in. There will be slow and difficult points and there will be honeymoon rushes at other points; but with love and patience, everything can be worked through.