Leaving the honeymoon phase in a long-distance relationship — when everything feels perfect — can be disheartening. Distance is difficult enough by itself.
Yet exiting the “in love” stage can be a sign that your relationship is maturing. The transition might feel abrupt, but it’s part of a normal progression toward real love.
If you’re wondering what to do when you leave the honeymoon phase of your long-distance relationship, remember these three things.
1. Everyone leaves the honeymoon phase eventually
By definition, a phase shouldn’t last forever. If it does, your relationship might not be rooted in reality.
It’s kind of like graduating high school. When you’re in high school, it’s thrilling when your team wins the championship or you travel with your best friends on the choir tour. It’s good to celebrate these moments while they’re happening and look back on them fondly after you graduate.
But you can’t try to relive the glory days of high school forever. If you stay stuck in high school, you’ll miss out on the rest of your life — and all of the new, wonderful opportunities for joy.
It’s the same way with the honeymoon phase. Ecclesiastes 7:10 reminds us, “Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” While you’re in the honeymoon phase, enjoy it. But once you’ve left it, don’t mourn it for too long. There are better things ahead.
Perhaps it feels like other people manage to stay in the honeymoon phase longer than you. In this way, the honeymoon phase is different from high school because there isn’t really a “normal” amount of time that the phase lasts.
Some people don’t hit the end of the honeymoon phase until they’re married — after the actual honeymoon. But in my experience, when you’re dating for a long time and from a long distance, the honeymoon phase tends to end before you get married. And that might actually be a good thing.
2. Transitioning now might actually be good
One of the most common problems in a long-distance relationship is forming overly positive perceptions of each other. This tendency to idealize is actually one of the most well-documented findings in long-distance relationship research.
This means that leaving the honeymoon phase while you’re long-distance dating might actually be really healthy. For the first time, you’re able to get a more realistic view of each other and what life might look like together.
Of course, surviving the honeymoon phase isn’t proof that you’re “meant” to be together. You still need to evaluate the health and outlook of your relationship.
But perhaps for the first time, you might be able to discern these things with a little more clarity.
3. Real love isn’t a phase
It’s true that the honeymoon phase of a long-distance relationship is more exciting. But real love is deeper, richer, and lasting.
Here’s how 1 Corinthians 13 defines love:
- Not envious or boastful
- Not arrogant or rude
- Doesn’t insist on its own way
- Not irritable or resentful
- Doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth
- Bears, believes, hopes and endures all things
- Never ends
You’ll barely be able to even touch these attributes while you’re in the honeymoon phase. I mean, can you really say you’re always patient with your boyfriend, if he’s never tested your patience? Can you honestly say you never insist on your own way, if you’ve never had a disagreement?
But as I’m sure you know, simply having an argument doesn’t mean you’ll respond in a loving way. In fact, you’ll probably feel like you’re much further away from that definition of love than you were before.
That’s why 1 John 4:16 goes a step further in its definition: “God is love.” Only God is perfectly loving. He exceeds the 1 Corinthians 13 criteria in ways we never can. And yet because he loves us, we can learn to love like him (1 John 4:19).
Real love isn’t a result of shared interests, experiences, or emotional highs — that’s asking for the honeymoon phase to return, and it won’t, at least not forever. Real love also can’t be manufactured by trying harder to be patient, kind, and everything else — that’s asking for burnout to happen, and it will.
No, real love only happens when you ask Jesus to give you the will power and stamina to love another human. Real love takes work, but most of the work has already been done for you by Jesus’ sacrificial love and death on the cross.