The Three Month Rule – Making It Past the Honeymoon Phase

What is the 3-month rule for dating? Keep reading to find out what it is and if you should implement it in your own dating life.

Knowing if and when a relationship should be taken to the next level can be daunting, but there are some guidelines that can assist you along the way. Enter, the 3-month rule, a handy guidepost that can help you navigate the honeymoon phase and beyond. 

Keep reading to find out more about the 3-month rule in dating and how to move successfully past these first butterfly-inducing months to a more grounded relationship.

What Is the 3-Month Rule in Relationships?

The 3-month rule in dating refers to the time period some say is needed to understand if the other person is right for you and that after the 3 months are up, you’ll be able to know if the relationship is worth pursuing further. You can think of the 3-month rule as a sort of trial period, where you’re trying them on for size before making a decision.

Some relationship experts note that the 3-month rule, or trial period, is helpful for accommodating what is known as the honeymoon phase, which typically occurs in the first 3 or so months of dating. During the honeymoon phase, you might be head over heels for the other person, feel a spark every time you see them, and hang on their every word. The honeymoon stage just feels happy and exciting! 

But this phase eventually transitions to “real life,” not necessarily less happy or exciting, but rather more real, where you’re both seeing each other’s true colors shine and navigating the ups and downs of daily life. And oftentimes, this transition happens around 2 or 3 months after you’ve started dating, which is how the 3-month rule got its name.

What Is the 3-6-9 Rule in Relationships?

Piggybacking off of the 3-month rule is the 3-6-9 rule in relationships, which some people use as a guideline for what to expect during the different stages of a relationship. Here’s a breakdown of what the monthly markers might look like:

  • 3 months: You’ve both experienced the honeymoon stage, started getting to know each other better, and are probably beginning to see if you’re initially a good match.
  • 6 months: You have experienced more of daily life together, including conflicts, arguments, and competing work schedules. You also have a better idea of how your communication styles, goals, and lifestyles align. With this knowledge and experience, you decide whether to move the relationship deeper—or move on.
  • 9 months: By now you’ve both had time to determine if you’re compatible, potentially making the decision to move forward with a long-term commitment (like moving in together or getting married) or part ways.

The 3-6-9 rule in relationships isn’t as much a rule as it is a road map, and it includes the 3-month rule. 

Should Couples Implement the 3-Month Rule in Dating?

The word “rule” can be stressful for people looking for love (just check out these dating statistics for proof!). So rather than deciding if you should or shouldn’t implement the 3-month rule, try to think of the concept more as a guideline or, even more simply, something to be aware of as you begin dating someone. 

For one, the only rules you need to follow in your own romantic journey are the ones that prioritize respect, safety, and boundaries—for yourself and the people you date. Beyond that, navigating relationships is all about how you both feel, life’s circumstances, and aligning on goals and values. There is no set timeline you must follow, which is why the 3-month rule should be thought of as a helpful benchmark for the initial months of getting to know someone. The timing of every relationship is different, so transitioning from what feels like a honeymoon phase to a decision-making phase might happen sooner or later than 3 months.

That being said, having a 3-month trial period before deciding if a person is a good match to move forward with can help you date with intention, giving the other person enough time to show who they really are and motivating you to not make any quick decisions based on first glimpses. The more time you allow yourself to get to know someone beyond the initial first dates, the  more informed decision you’ll be able to make.

Tips for Transitioning from the Honeymoon Phase

Regardless of if you employ the 3-month rule or not, chances are that you’ll still encounter a honeymoon phase first, followed by a transition to what feels like the real deal. Moving from a period of “everything is shiny and new” to navigating daily life together can be tricky, but there are a few pieces of advice that can help you decide if you want to move forward and how to do so with a strong foundation. 

Prioritize Your Relationship Goals and Values

First, refresh yourself on what you ultimately want out of a relationship and your own personal goals. When someone sweeps you off your feet—or you’ve tiptoed into romance territory—it can be easy to forget your long-term relationship goals and values. Give yourself space to consider what you want from a relationship as well as your non-negotiables, as these are your guiding lights.

Then, come together with the other person to talk about if your individual goals and values align (if so, that’s a relationship green flag!). These make up the foundation of mutual understanding, respect, and eventually relationship success.

Define the Relationship

Transitioning beyond the honeymoon phase requires clarity. What are you two calling this relationship? Are you exclusive? Where do you see it going? These are all important questions to consider yourself and ask of the other person to ensure that you’re on the same page. After all, one way to know if a guy is serious about you is if they talk about the future.

Make Note of Red Flags

There is often a decision to be made after the honeymoon phase: whether to keep dating each other or move on. One reason why this decision happens around 3 or so months is because by that point, you’ve noticed some positive and potentially negative things about the other person. Be aware of any relationship red flags, like controlling tendencies, a lack of trust, or even traits or beliefs that are deal-breakers for you. If something doesn’t feel right, it might be best to move on.

Continue Getting to Know Each Other

Successfully moving from the honeymoon phase to “real life” means continuing to learn how the other person ticks. Be open to understanding how they communicate, their quirks, and their lifestyle preferences, and open up more of yourself to them, too. Ask about their childhood, their passions, their family, and so on. Try new activities together, and make an effort to try each other’s favorite hobbies. 

The more you get to know each other, the more meaningful your budding relationship will be.

Reflect on the Relationship Thus Far

3-month rule or not, it’s always good to reflect on your relationship. Once the excitement of the honeymoon phase wears off, it’s usually easier to see the differences between love vs. infatuation, understand if this person makes you feel respected and secure, and process how you feel in general. Grounding yourself and looking at the dating relationship with a clear perspective can help you decide if your partner is a keeper.

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up (and Listen)

Communication is the key to a successful relationship, and it is one of the ways to get to know someone faster. When you communicate your needs, you’re giving the other person an opportunity to respond, change their behavior (if necessary), or explain their side of things. 

As you move from the honeymoon stage to the realness of routines, make sure you’re expressing yourself and listening to your partner. For example, maybe you feel like things are moving too fast and you want to implement slow dating, perhaps they said something that bothered you, or maybe they went above and beyond and you want to tell them how much you appreciated it. Express your thoughts, feelings, and desires to prevent bitterness or resentment from creeping in—and always strive to be a good listener.

Using the 3-Month Rule Your Own Way

What’s the takeaway with the 3-month rule? Give yourself enough time to get to know someone and lay the foundation for a potential relationship, but don’t forget your non-negotiables. The journey to find your person is unique to you!

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