New staff writer Dallas Fitzgerald shares a personal experience story about “the honeymoon period” of relationships. Come check him out on his regular days on Wednesdays!
About six months before my wife and I got married, we had a relationship crisis. We had been having some problems in the bedroom. I had trouble achieving and sustaining an erection, and as a result, our sex life was virtually non-existent. She would spend the nights crying herself to sleep and I walked around like nothing was wrong.
The issue came to a head one Monday night when we were out on our weekly date. We were eating dinner at one of those family restaurants where they bring you a big basket full of bread and various types of crackers before your meal, and neither of us was talking. We sat there in silence like it was our first date and I could feel an uncomfortable tension building between us.
Finally, I said the four words that no one in a serious relationship ever wants to hear.
“We have to talk.”
She looked up from her plate of food, and I could see the fear and uncertainty in her big brown eyes.
“About what?” she asked.
Then, I said something foolish.
“I don’t think I’m attracted to you anymore.”
Her face turned sullen, and I was afraid she might either burst into torrential tears or slap me across the face in the middle of a restaurant full of people, so I wisely asked the waitress for the check and quickly paid for the meal.
In the car, the floodgates opened, and she started sobbing uncontrollably. I attempted to backtrack by saying things like, “That’s not what I meant,” and “Sweetheart, I didn’t mean it like that,” but it was too late. The words could not be un-said, and by allowing them to pass through my lips and into her ears, I had created a situation that could have very easily ended our relationship that night.
By the time we got home, she had stopped crying, which, I correctly noted at the time, was very bad. It’s like when your mother says, “I’m not mad at you. I’m disappointed.” Her tears dried up and quickly turned to anger, and she immediately started packing her bags and threatening to stay at her sister’s house for the night.
While all this was going on, I felt absolutely terrible. My entire body ached with regret, and when I saw her throwing clothes into her suitcase, I started crying. I really hadn’t meant it like that. I was trying to express something about the way I felt, but it came out all wrong.
Before she finished packing, I attempted to dissuade her from leaving because I knew if she walked out the door of our apartment that night, our relationship would be over. After about a half hour in which we each took turns screaming and sobbing, then trying to pull it together, then screaming and sobbing some more, cooler heads finally prevailed, and we ended up sitting together on the couch discussing, in a civil manner, how our relationship could be saved.
We decided to see a professional, and we quickly found a sex therapist in Milwaukee named Lynn Vice. We called her office and made an appointment for the following week. In the days leading up to our appointment, we settled back into our normal routine. We co-existed amicably, but there was still an emotional gap between us that neither of us tried to bridge for fear of causing another eruption that might obliterate our relationship entirely.
When the day of the appointment finally came, neither of us knew what to expect. It could be that our mutual apprehension of the event brought us closer together because that day we engaged in some playful flirting for the first time since that night at the restaurant.
We arrived at Dr. Vice’s office fifteen minutes early, and we had to wait. In the waiting room, there was a book called 14000 Things to Be Happy About, and I sat in the stiff wooden chair reading it in silence. My fiancé didn’t pick up any of the books or magazines; she just sat next to me staring at the wall. We were both nervous.
When Lynn came out of her office, we stood up, and we each extended our hand to greet her. She led us into her therapy room. There were a couple of plants off in one corner, and there was a couch on one wall and a singled armed chair on the other wall where Dr. Vice sat. Behind her, there was a bay window that ran across the length of the room and looked out over Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful summer day, and I could see all the people scattered across the beach below us.
Dr. Vice asked each of us about ourselves. We told her where we were from, where we went to school, what we majored in, and how we met. Dr. Vice did this strange snorting thing that sounded almost like she was clearing the back of her throat every time she talked. That noise would later become a running joke between my wife and I, as would the entire experience, but at the time, we were both very serious about the whole thing.
Finally, Dr. Vice moved on to the more pertinent questions.
“How do you *snort* pleasure each other?” she asked. We both looked at each other and giggled like 6th graders in their first sex ed class.
With flushed cheeks, we explained the different positions, the different techniques, and the varying results that we had achieved throughout the course of our relationship. Dr. Vice nodded and wrote things down as we spoke.
After we finished talking, Dr. Vice looked up from her notes and a knowing smile spread across her face.
“Are you familiar with the ‘honeymoon period?’” she asked. We both nodded.
“Well, the first eighteen months of a relationship are typically characterized by heightened emotions. You might experience a giddy feeling when you are around each other and your sexual activity tends to increase during this period. The male might achieve an erection simply by looking at his partner, and the female might become wet after a prolonged kiss. How long have you two been in this relationship?”
“About a year and a half,” I said.
“Ah, you have reached the end of your honeymoon period, and your experience of each other is changing. This is a very common problem. I have some exercises that I want you to try before our next meeting.”
Dr. Vice handed us each a sheet of paper.
“You should try to do these exercises at least three times before our next visit. If you have busy schedules, as I’m sure you both do, then you should pick three days and set aside an hour during which you focus solely on your partner. On our next visit, we will discuss the results of these exercises. It’s been nice to meet both of your, and I hope you enjoy the exercises.”
With that, we left her therapy room. We gave our insurance information to the receptionist at the front desk, and we went on our way.
When we got in the car, the tension that had been palpable the previous week had dissipated. We hadn’t tried the exercises yet, but we both knew our relationship was going to be all right. We had come to a new understanding of the inevitable changes that were occurring in our relationship, and we had confronted them in Dr. Vice’s therapy room together. Our sexual relationship was never the same as it had been during our “honeymoon period,” but we came out of the experience with a better knowledge and understanding of each other. We got married this past January, and while we still fight and have all the other normal problems other couples do, we know what to expect of each other, and our experience allowed us to foster a healthy sexual relationship that focuses, not on the quantity of the sex that we do have, but the quality of the time we spend exploring each other’s sexuality. Our relationship has never been healthier.