Regardless of whether they are young or old, if you ask partners about their honeymoon, you hear and see a spark of that romantic excitement that makes time together magical when you have found that special someone to love. The mutuality of sexual desire and wish to please make the honeymoon resistant to lost airline tickets, family pressures, and even hurricane conditions.
What is Post-Romantic Stress Disorder?
Post-Romantic Stress Disorder is a term coined by John Bradshaw in his book, Post-Romantic Stress Disorder: What To Do When the Honeymoon is Over. According to Bradshaw, Post-Romantic Stress Disorder is the despair, rejection, or hidden resentment experienced when one or both of the partners feel that they are no longer loved and desired the way they once were.
Often feelings of Post-Romantic Stress result from a real or perceived breach in a couple’s romantic sexual connection—be it a newlywed’s first real fight, a partner’s disinterest in sex, the birth of a baby, work demands, jealousy, or nuclear family problems.
Assuming the worst and recognizing the complications of marital unhappiness, the couple may experience a downward spiral that ends in an emotionally strained arrangement, less and less intimacy, betrayals, and too often – divorce.
Reducing Post-Romantic Stress Disorder
Bradshaw’s observation that too many perfectly good marriages end in divorce is consistent with my years of working with couples.
It is traumatic when one or both of the partners feels that the love and desire they once felt is no longer there; but it is not necessarily true, irreversible, or the end of a loving relationship.
Two Ways to Avoid or Reduce Post-Romantic Stress:
- Don’t assume the worst. Try to understand the reason for changes in your relationship before you begin reacting with stress, blame, or rejection. The reaction to presumed feelings are often more destructive than the underlying reason.
- Risk joining with your partner to renew and expand the intimate bond between you. Over many years with many couples, I concur with John Bradshaw that if partners have the courage to change what is or isn’t happening between them– there is nothing that stops them from reigniting that “loving feeling.”
One Unexpected Reason for Post-Romantic Stress
A major contribution of John Bradshaw’s book is his reminder that the shift that most couples fear and feel from the romantic sexual intoxication of the honeymoon phase to day-to-day married life is neurochemical and actually no one’s fault. We are wired to meet, mate, and attach.
Drawing upon researchers including anthropologist Helen Fisher, Bradshaw reports that the neurochemistry of romantic love saturates us with Phenylethylamine (PFA) which raises blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and testosterone, making people feel energetic, sexual, and obsessed with their partner.
It really was true that he would do anything to please you.
She was more sexually adventurous the first year.
You both were more overtly affectionate, spent hours on the phone instead of sleeping, and were constantly thinking of the other.
Dr. Marianne Legato, author of Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget, confirms that at no other time in a couple’s relationship is a man and woman’s testosterone level so similar as in the first throes of love. The intense neurochemistry of falling in love, however, can not be sustained indefinitely. As Dr. Legato says – “ We would probably die of exhaustion.”
Does that mean we must accept that romantic love in a marriage will end?
- Absolutely Not—it means that it should be expanded and deepened by the way he holds the baby, the way she understands his work schedule, the way he encourages her return to school, the pride they take in the business they build, the way they recover from an argument.
- It means that instead assuming or resenting that the honeymoon is over and the marriage is doomed, a couple’s belief in each other will allow them to adjust to changes in a way that will allow for new and different passionate sparks and much more.
- How? Having worked with hundreds of couples, John Bradshaw maintains, and I agree in Healing Together, that if partners have the courage to believe in their relationship and don’t let emotional baggage get in the way – their romance will last.
- “Act Into the Feeling”– One of the many examples that Bradshaw offers to set this in motion comes from the research of Jeffrey Schwartz. Essentially, it is the finding that “acting into the feeling,” i.e. exerting a willful effort, generates a physical force that has the power to change how the brain works. Essentially — Grab her hand, greet him with a kiss, tweet each other an unexpected compliment — Do it and you will feel it.
- Don’t wait to talk it all out; don’t wait for the other to read your mind; don’t wait for the perfect apology or explanation– Begin to act in a loving and passionate way, show some affection, make the overture, do the unexpected, appreciate the road you have traveled together – go back to those beach chairs in the sand.
- Don’t get trapped in Post-Romantic Stress. Don’t forget…Love is a Many Splendid Thing. Listen to a podcast of M. Gary Neuman on Psych Up Live “Saving The Marriage After The Affair .”