Early on in our relationship, my now-husband said something alarming. "Just wait until we've been together two years," he ventured, "and the excitement is gone." Naturally a lively discussion followed. But six years in—with 18 months of marriage under our belt—I have to admit he had a point. While his words felt harsh at the time, there is truth to the statement: Our relationship is very different now than it was then. I certainly don't get nervous in the hours before our dates, and while I'll still turn up my style game, there's no getting around the fact that he sees both the before and after.
Sure, it can be a little sad to think we'll never get back that falling-in-love thrill, but my husband says that this stage was always the end game for him. As he sees it, the early days are fun, but it's far more exciting to realize you've found your partner. There's something to be said for knowing you've got a teammate who will help you deal with losing jobs, friends, and family members. (Or help you polish off that bottle of champs when you finally score that promotion.)
I will never again discover that he takes it really hard when his favorite team loses or that he approaches the holiday season with a childlike glee. But there are still other, arguably bigger, things to learn in our relationship. I can't wait to see what he's like as a father or enjoy the 'round-the-world adventures we'll take after we both retire. While I won't re-experience the magic of our first kiss, I much prefer the peaceful joy of peering over at him on the other end of the couch.
To hear Los Angeles-based bride Lindsay tell it, that was all part of the honeymoon stage. "To me, the honeymoon stage is that blissful time when you and your partner have come together, are close enough to be in a settled relationship, and are able to look towards the future with hope and excitement," Lindsay says, noting that it wore off for her and her husband about seven months ago, when she realized she was done with wedding planning. Like me, she agrees there's something to be said for being comfortable with your person—"It's refreshing not to have to worry about looking 'just so' all the time,"—and she's not concerned about their romance growing stale.
"I'm not breaking new ground by stating that a marriage takes effort, and I think it's important to make sure that no matter what, saying things like 'I love you' and 'thank you' never stop," she explains. For her, maintaining that passion requires a two-pronged approach. She and her husband make it a point not to cross paths without a hug and a kiss and they're not shy about doling out compliments. "Finding ways to appreciate your partner is what keeps that spark alive for us."
Of course, it's tough recreating the thrills that come with celebrating an engagement. In the lead up to her 2016 vows, recalls North Hollywood resident Rachel says, "People were genuinely so excited for us to get married, it was such a fun time. Then after the wedding, it felt like everyone just stopped caring about us because we were all married now. All the special attention wore off."
Thankfully she had prepared herself for the drop. While it was tough letting go of her bride title, she had been warned to expect a "let down phase" after the big day. To combat the post-bridal blues, she filled their weekends with road trips and unique dates. "I think it's so important to keep having fun together," she says. "If you get off the couch and go do things, you'll never get bored."
After nine years together and one child in, Leah agrees. While being parents makes it tougher to squeeze in passion-filled nights out, she and her husband try to appreciate all of the exhilarating firsts they enjoy with their daughter instead. "Trying to take time together for adult conversation is crucial to our marriage," admits the Michigan-based wife, "but we balance this with a new layer of fun experiences we have as a family." And rather than worry that the newness of their union is over, "I like to think of layers of love being added on."
There's plenty to appreciate about being past the butterflies-in-the-stomach, will-he-ever-call phase. "I live somewhere where dating is incredibly hard," Rachel says of life in L.A., "and it's a relief to be done with that portion of our lives." Plus now, even the lowest moments of their relationship have an upside. When she and her husband argue, "There is a sense of security in knowing that we will fix the problem, whereas when you're dating, a fight could mean the end," she notes. "Neither of us have plans to go anywhere, so if we make the other person mad, there's that sense of security that this anger will subside and we'll return back to normal."
That status quo may not be the same rush you get after a really great first date, but it can still feel like a high. Knowing if they choose not to have kids, it'll be just the two of them forever, "is crazy to think about," admits Rachel. "But it doesn't scare me or worry me at all. It makes me excited to know I'd be okay with it just being us." And that's the kind of excitement that's unlikely to ever fade away.