Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Relationship Energy

A reader asked me to discuss the concept of New Relationship Energy.

New Relationship Energy (NRE) is the term for that exciting, euphoric feeling that comes with the start of a new relationship. It is sometimes referred to as infatuation as well. If you have been in a relationship, you have probably experienced it. You feel like this is the greatest person ever and nothing could ever go wrong. The sun shines brighter, the birds sing prettier, even the car horns in traffic sound more musical. Most love poetry and love songs are written about this phenomenon.

NRE has different and important implications in a monogamous or polyamorous context. In a monogamous context, the greatest challenge that NRE poses is the transition from the beginning of the relationship to the long haul. For polyamorous situations, NRE can cause issues for the previously existing relationships.

When a relationship first starts, everything seems perfect and like it will never change. This is a beautiful emotional state to be in, but a terrible state to make decisions in.

I love her so much, we'll be together forever, so why shouldn't I move across the country to be with her?

Ever heard something like that? NRE makes people do dumb things: committing to long term decisions based on short term emotional states. Like any other altered state of consciousness, it is important to consider when making decisions at the start of a relationship whether these decisions are based on good sound reason or ephemeral emotions?

The greatest test of many relationships is the transition out of the NRE phase. Since too many people mistake NRE for love, this leads many relationships to break up because they "fall out of love." The challenge for a relationship as it leaves the NRE phase and goes into the long term relationship phase is to move from a hot, boiling romance based on passion and emotion into a slow simmering, comfortable partnership based on shared life goals and common values. It's not as exciting as the endless possibilities of NRE, but it is the kind of stable, long term relationship that holds everything together.

Of course, the desire for that exciting, roaring passion often remains after the NRE fades. The temptation of this often leads many a monogamous partner to stray when things get "stale".

This would suggest that polyamory would solve this problem, giving the roaming partner an outlet for their desires. However, NRE in polyamory brings in a whole new array of concerns. The greatest danger when someone with existing relationships enters into a new relationship is the NRE. Suddenly, the existing, comfortable relationship with a person who is known, good parts and bad, is being compared to the beautiful example of perfection found in the eye of the smitten.

Those who are more experienced with polyamory and NRE understand that this is an altered state of consciousness, enjoy it but recognize it for what it is. Even if the person experiencing the NRE recognizes this, there is also the issue that the existing partner may worry that they are in danger of being replaced, especially if there are existing insecurities. After all, it is natural for one to want to spend a great deal of time with a new partner and to overlook their flaws. When dealing with a partner enjoying NRE, it is important to realize that it is a temporary condition and to be happy for them in their happiness. Trying to compete with the new partner will only force the comparison of old and new, which will never go well.

NRE is a wonderful and exciting emotion, but it is just that, an emotion. No more, no less. It's not a life changing event. It's not the beginning of eternal joy. Enjoy it but don't be carried away with it.

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