Some call it the end of the "honeymoon phase." Others might scratch their heads over how, suddenly, shit in their relationship is starting to hit the fan. But regardless of how you label this turning point with your partner, there comes a moment where things start to get real. And for a lot of couples, that tends to happen around the six-month mark.
But why is six months the seemingly magic amount of time in which things go from hunky-dory to a little more tricky? "In the first three months or so, people typically are on their best behavior," says Rachel Russo, a dating and relationship coach in NYC. "But after you spend some time together, that perfect mask might start to slip, and you start seeing the real person." And this can happen at any time, says Kristin Zeising, PsyD, a sex therapist in San Diego. "Six months just seems to be the average amount of time it takes for these big conversations and moments to come up," she says.
Now there are ways to mitigate the potential cluster of emotions that can come up around the half-year mark in your relationship — but it starts all the way back when you and your partner coupled up. "Communication is key," Russo says. "If you start communicating about how you feel from the beginning [of your relationship], you'll likely already be talking about things that could become issues six months in. If you never talk about your feelings, and then you and your partner are already very involved, it's more difficult to discuss big topics if they're coming out of nowhere."
If you haven't already, Russo says that this is a good time to see your partner in different contexts. "It's insightful to see them with their friends or with their family, if you feel like that's appropriate on your timeline," she says. "That way, you can see different facets of their personality, and figure out who they are outside of the relationship." Figuring out what you want out of the relationship is crucial, too, and something Dr. Zeising agrees you should take the time to address.
"It's smart to take a personal inventory of your values and figure out what's most important to you."
"It's smart to take a personal inventory of your values and figure out what's most important to you," Dr. Zeising says. "Not superficial things, like, 'They have to have blue eyes.' But more substantial things, like, 'They have to want children.'" She adds that it's important to have these conversations now, especially if you want this relationship to move forward in a more serious way. "Being able to be vulnerable and to have some of those conversations after you [and your partner] have built some history is important," Dr. Zeising says.
Nevertheless, laying your cards on the table can scary — especially when you consider the topics that should be hashed out around this time. Dr. Zeising says to take things slow. "You don't necessarily have to say 'Do you see yourself marrying me in the future?'" she says. "Instead, you could ask 'Do you see yourself getting married?' Or you could ask 'Where do you see us in six more months?' That's a much more manageable amount of time than forever.'"
It's also important to remember that the end of all of this, you both may just deicide you're happy to keep things light and casual — and that's normal, too. "Regardless of the outcome, you just need some clarity on where you both stand in the relationship," Russo says. If you're both on the same page, it's a lot easier to move forward in a happy way — or end the relationship amicably. So sure, the honeymoon phase may be over. But there can still be plenty of sweetness to come.