The first couple of months of our relationship were fantastic. Each and every moment was filled with sweet passion as we were taken by the thrill of learning more about each other, and experiencing those silly series of “firsts” that took place as we tested each others’ comfort zones and discovered our desires and fantasies. During that time, I truly believed we were so well-suited to each other that nothing could ever make us quarrel. It was the Honeymoon Phase, and it was wonderful.
But a cruel demon that can easily make or break any relationship is stress. The boyfriend was first to leave the Honeymoon Phase as he became preoccupied with completing his college thesis, then finding a company that he could intern for, then getting a professional job, and then even when he’d been hired he was under considerable pressure to prepare himself for his new career. This was the Instability Phase, where he was moving on from the intense romance of the Honeymoon Phase, but I was still hanging back not ready for change.
Our first big fight happened while he was still in the middle of his thesis, and I had been feeling neglected, wondering what happened to the sweet, affectionate guy I had started this relationship with. When I expressed to him my displeasure at our recent situation, he had a full list of his own grievances and viciously exposed my faults that slashed my heart open and really made me feel like everything we had built up meant nothing to him. A heartfelt sob-fest together and a renewed confession of love patched things up, but he also opened up about how much stress he really was under, and that even though he couldn’t be as affectionate and expressive as we had been before, his love for me hadn’t left him.
I struggled to understand this. I wanted to be his place of refuge-where he could come to relax, be loved, and power up again, motivated to face his responsibilities. Although I felt an aching loneliness from neglect, I also desperately wanted my love to work like a potion to restore his energy and confidence. Instead, I merely added to his stress. I was unhappy with the time we were able to spend with each other, and with his lack of affection, and was often made to feel like I was a burden to him.
For a short period, I wondered if I still loved him after all, or if I simply loved the image of him I designed based on the boy from the Honeymoon Phase. This image responded to my affection the way I wanted him to, and gave his love in the ways I craved.
During this phase, he told me multiple times he’d like to see me become preoccupied with something else while he couldn’t be around for me as much- or in simpler terms “get a hobby”. I resisted this because loving him was all I wanted to do, I had no interest or motivation for anything else. Yes, I was addicted to him.
So for nearly a year I struggled with depression and self-doubt. I can’t tell you the exact moment when the momentous shift out of this painful period took place, but finally I stepped out of the Honeymoon Phase into something that I discovered is actually far better.
I can best describe this Mature Love Phase as a period of comfort and complacency. There are no intense feelings of neediness, I’m relatively satisfied with almost every aspect of our relationship, we share affection easily and abundantly. And when I reflected more on it, I realized I no longer missed the Honeymoon Phase, not even a little bit.
These are the five things I’ve learned about the Mature Love Phase:
1) Comfort and complacency does not equal boring
So what if it’s not all fireworks and angelic choirs at the mere thought of his name. So what if we don’t have to put as much effort into impressing each other. It’s actually a relief to have absolutely no pressure to be entertaining or to think of something interesting to say. It’s simply enough to sit around and fart in each others’ presence and occasionally exchange kisses or joking insults. All that nervous, excited energy from the Honeymoon Phase was simply tiring, but our time together now is quiet, sweet and fulfilling.
2) Complacency does not mean you’ve fallen out of love
Actually, more than ever I find myself deeply in love with him. Now I look at him and think “Gee, how lucky I am to have someone who is working so hard to grow and expand himself, and to have someone who thinks the world of me and wants to make me happy, but also wants to see me growing and taking full advantage of this time and life I’ve been given.” I appreciate this guy that has stuck around through the period where I was a supreme needy bitch. I no longer think about him every second of the day to the point of seeing his face forming in my mashed potatoes, but when I do think about him, it’s with a perfect sense of warm pleasure, not the crazy neediness of yesterdays.
3)Burning infatuation < Warm mature love
Infatuation truly is like a drug- it feels great in the beginning, and you keep seeking out more hits of it to get that same high. But at some point, you no longer get the rush like you did before, you thrash around desperately looking for a replacement while you wallow in the pain of withdrawal. And then it’s over. You’re suddenly okay again, and you look at him and realize you still love him, but this gentle, calm love is something way more stable and pleasant than that crazy, addictive, damaging substance your relationship started out on. Not everyone is able to progress to a stage of mature love, but those relationships that stand strong after the chaotic Instability Phase may find that they no longer quite enjoy the taste of infatuation at all as they once did.
4) Codependency > Dependency
I don’t need him anymore. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be devastated if he were to disappear from my life one day, but my daily happiness no longer depends on him. At one time, if I didn’t get to see his face or hear his voice or get a sweet message from him at least once a day, my mood would quickly turn sour. But recently, more than whole week went by with just one short Skype session, and you know what? I survived. I more than survived, I actually enjoyed the time I had without the expectation of being available to Skype, but of course when the day came that he was free to Skype once again, I was extremely happy. But I no longer felt that desperation to have his attention that I once did. More and more we are becoming a codependent partnership, rather than a system of dependence that often led to a disappointment of expectations. It’s far less stressful, and way more satisfying.
5) Personal growth leads to growth as a super couple
Some of the most common advice given to singles consists of “Love yourself” and “Grow yourself”, but sometimes it is in the midst of a relationship that this advice becomes more imperative. When I learned to direct my attention to my own interests and hobbies, I found my relationship actually got better. When we each had our personal time to focus on our goals and priorities, we could more easily enjoy our time together without a million other things vying for our attention. And the more we grow as individuals, the more we grow as a super couple.
I no longer wish to return to the Honeymoon Phase. Instead, I look forward to seeing where this happy and stable period of our relationship will take us.
**All images feature Line’s Cony and Brown characters**