Do you remember what it feels like embark on a new romantic and/or sexual relationship? That wonderfully blissful high where your new partner can do no wrong, you just can’t wait to see them again, and you really don’t think you could be any happier? Your heart overflows with joy and it’s almost impossible to talk about anything other than your new relationship. Although anyone who’s every been in a relationship can relate to this, it’s poly folk who have put a name to it because, well, we have to face the consequences more directly.
When you’re in a relationship and you begin another, the excitement you feel when you’re at the new shiny phase has an effect on more than just your friends. Partners, domestic partners, metamours, lovers and friends will all want to discuss your ‘new shiny’ with you and so it’s very useful to have words or phrases that help you describe the situation. Words and phrases like lust, infatuation and new relationship energy (NRE). Sadie Smythe wrote a fantastic article on NRE and its relationship to emotional intelligence for examiner.com saying, amongst other things:
There is a school of thought that insists that NRE is essential in relationship forming, and therefore should not be so easily dismissed as just chemically induced lust. And it is believed that the word lust carries with it a definition of negativity as well as religious implications, and is therefore generally regarded as self-indulgent and totally controllable. Zhahai Stewart coined the term New Relationship Energy in the mid 1980’s to use as a descriptor within the polyamorous community. […] NRE is something to be heralded and embraced instead of tamped down and labeled as sinful. NRE is the fun part of new relationships.
The popular phrase “love is blind” is technically inaccurate because, in actual fact, it’s NRE which makes us blind to everything else. Jobs suddenly seem stress free, homes feels cosier, and new partners have no flaws whatsoever. NRE can make sad people happy, stressed people relaxed, and will often leave you positively glowing. Some folk become, quite understandably, addicted to NRE as the feeling it gives is a glorious drug-like high. But this means that relationships can lose their meaning as soon as the NRE wears off and (like with all drugs) there are side effects.
As you may know from your own experience, teenagers can be pretty bad at managing this strong emotional phase – often losing friends they’ve inadvertently ignored because of their new boy/girlfriend – but we all like to think we get a bit better at it with age. Even though most of us probably don’t! It’s all too easy to say “next time, I’ll think about how my actions are affecting my partners, metamours and friends”, but the pull of NRE makes it so hard to remember those well laid plans.
If you are aware of the intensity of this relationship stage and the potential pitfalls – making a point of speaking to a level headed and honest friend whenever you can – it makes it a little easier to stop yourself accidentally hurting others. But it’s not just about hurting others. Another potential pitfall is that, when we start out in a new relationship, we’re both on our best behaviour which makes it tricky to see the real person you are dating. When things become more relaxed and more details are revealed about your new love, will you still be attracted to the person they are underneath all the gloss?
Being a little more wary at the start of a new relationship needn’t spoil your NRE buzz, as long as you remember the thrill that can be had with a spot of anticipation. But, as for the addicts? Well, the first step to recovery always begins with admitting that you have a problem.
Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month six bloggers – ALBJ, An Open Book, Delightfully Queer, More Than Nuclear, Rarely Wears Lipstick, and The Boy With The Inked Skin – will write about their views on one of them.