What is the #threemonthrule and does it make sense?
We all know relationships can be complicated and take a lot of work to make them really thrive in the long term. For instance we can get lazy over time, getting a bit too comfortable meaning that the magic can fade. This is a common phenomenon but when does the lack of effort and enthusiasm become problematic?
A video posted by Nadine Hui discusses how she improved her relationships by using “relationship probation” has recently gained thousands of views and lots of attention. You can read more about this trend here. This is sometimes referred to as the “#threemonthrule”. The three month rule refers to determining whether a person should continue in a relationship based on their partner’s actions. The idea behind this rule is that a partner should still be putting effort into the relationship after 3 months, when the “honeymoon phase” may be fading. A tiktoker known as “Hi, hello its Anne” gained thousands of views when she said “anyone can say that they want to be with you but if they are still saying this, if they are still feeling this, if they are still trying after 3 months, that’s a really good sign.
The emotional rollercoaster of the start of a relationship
Starting a new relationship can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. You’re getting to know someone new, and there’s a lot to learn about each other. The first few weeks of a relationship are often referred to as the “honeymoon phase.”
During this time, everything feels new and exciting. You’re both on your best behaviour, and it can feel like you’re in a constant state of bliss. This is also the time when you’re likely to experience a lot of physical attraction and a strong desire to be close to your partner.
The draw or “need” to be with that person!
As we are feeling connected to this new and exciting person we can feel a level of anxiety when we are away from them. It can be even difficult to focus on our day-to-day activities as we feel an overwhelming need to be with them.
“What are they doing, and who are they with?”, we might ask ourselves, even to the point of distraction.
Our bodies have got some tricks up their sleeves at this stage too! It’s worth remembering what is our genes’ driver here, as they look to direct our attention and activity. Do our genes want us to be happy or do they have another goal in mind?
This is why at this stage our levels of serotonin are suppressed (serotonin being linked to calm and contentment), as we are given a helping hand in “suggesting” that it might be a good idea for us to go and reconnect with this new and exciting person!
Missing the red flags
Could it be that in this state of excitement and anxiety that we could turn a blind eye to some qualities or behaviours that we could otherwise see in a very negative light?
“Aww that’s lovely”, we say to ourselves. “What a sweet mess they’ve left in the kitchen after they finished up”. We then skip around the kitchen cleaning up after them, seeing the mess as just one of those many endearing qualities that we love SO MUCH about them!
It’s very likely that these challenges will present themselves in the first three months, though the question is more whether we are likely to recognise them as such at that point. More likely we will still be in this haze of excitement and anxiety and we may well just accept them at that point.
Until eventually we can’t ignore them anymore
As the relationship progresses, you’ll start to learn more about each other. This is the time when you’ll have deeper conversations and start to share more personal information. You’ll learn about each other’s interests, values, and goals. You may also start to notice some of your partner’s quirks or habits that you find endearing or annoying.
At some point we reach a threshold where those challenging qualities just can’t be ignored any more. Maybe the mess in the kitchen happened on a day that we were running late, and we’d already got the house cleaned up for our friends coming over later. Now we’re really in trouble and something has to give.
So we confront our partner and perhaps in the process we find ourselves dealing with a range of dirty laundry that had been stuffed away for a while… not only by ourselves but by our partner too.
“So you’re making a big deal about this… well what about THAT!”, we might say as we get caught in a tit-for-tat.
This is when we enter the phase of the relationship called the Power Struggle, where we have to reconcile the factors that we’d previously been able to put to one side.
If we have an avoidant pattern we then leave the relationship
At this stage we might find ourselves wondering whether our “perfect” partner that we had been putting on a pedestal is really “the one”. It seems that we might have been getting carried away with how perfect they seemed and now it just looks like we’ve got to accept that we picked up the wrong partner.
Of course leaving is always an option, and if we have an avoidant attachment style we will tend to move on at this point and try the field.
“Well my partner seems to be causing some stress or challenges,” we think. “And it looks on my dating app that I’ve got a whole list of fun people ready to get into some flirtatious conversation and maybe even a simple hook-up.”
So we move on and recycle ourselves back into the dating pool.
Incidentally, this is why the dating pool is so full of avoidant people. And that’s fine, it just depends on what kind of relationship we want.
Working through the “power struggle” and into “enduring love”
If we want to have a successful long term relationship it depends on us successfully navigating this phase so that we can move into the third phase which we call Enduring Love. This is when we’ve worked through the challenges and conflicts that may have led us to a dead end and questioning the viability of our relationship.
This requires us to better understand:
- Our emotional state and how we are affected by the state of our partner if things like criticism and resentment are showing up
- How we are meeting our needs, or failing to meet them and the impact on our relationship
- How we tend to get triggered and how this affects our partner
- The ‘dance’ of the relationship and how the level of attraction is playing out in the relationship
- Our communication patterns and seeing how dialogue tends to break down meaning that we fail to properly resolve things
All these are aspects that we work through with clients to help them get unstuck from the cycle that they may be in.
So what about the #threemonthrule?
It’s a great idea to stay vigilant as much as possible at the start of the relationship – especially as our bodies are playing tricks on us and noting how we can tend to miss the red flags at this stage. As the first three months of the relationship come to a close, you’ll have a better sense of whether or not you want to continue building a long-term partnership with your partner. It’s important to take things slow and not rush into anything before you’re both ready. Both partners may appear to show less enthusiasm at this point in the relationship, this is a time to discuss your most important wants and needs from a long- term partner.
By being open, honest, and respectful with your partner, you can establish trust, deepen your connection, and navigate the challenges and joys of being in a committed relationship. On the flipside, the Power Struggle phase is rarely complete within the first three months, so there is most likely further work to be done, even if we pass the three month stage apparently intact.
Taking the Aligned with Love relationship scorecard can help you determine whether your new relationship is going to be a healthy and happy one.