Relationships often begin with a bang. This bang is known as the “honeymoon stage,” and this is when the fireworks go off. Individuals in this stage report feeling head over heels and even out of their minds in love. These individuals experience an intense desire to be near the object of their affection and deeply crave reciprocity of these feelings. This stage is also characterized by strong sexual attraction and infatuation with the other person. To say the least, individuals in this stage experience something bordering obsession. Like all great firework displays, there is eventually a climax after which the fireworks finally cease. According to experts, this generally happens two years into the relationship. After this, normal life sets in. The masks are off and individuals see their partner without the rose-colored glasses that characterize the honeymoon stage. Red flags that may have been ignored earlier in the relationship begin to rear their ugly heads and may induce feelings of contempt.
According to Dr. John Gottman, one way in which to ward off this contempt is to increase fondness for one’s partner. Couples cannot stay in the honeymoon phase forever, but they can work towards building appreciation and fondness for one another. One way to do this is through our words. It is not enough to simply tell our partner we like them, we must tell them why. Here are some examples:
“I love the way you ______.”
“I am proud of the way you ______.”
“I find _____ attractive about you.”
“_____ is a quality that I appreciate about you.”
“I feel close to you when you _____.”
Fill in the blanks and take some time this week to say them out loud to your partner. You may think that your partner already knows that you feel this way about them, but your partner will appreciate hearing these things all the same. Try to find diversity in your answers and avoid giving answers all in one category such as appearance. While it is important that we express our physical attraction to our partner, we also want to express our fondness for their character as well. This is all a part of continuing to build that fondness for your partner after the initial excitement of the relationship has worn off. Increasing fondness can help ward off negative feelings about your partner and can help to nurture a strong, loving relationship.
(Gottman, John Mordechai.Silver, Nan. (1999) The seven principles for making marriage work /New York : Three Rivers Press.)