“I still hear your voice when you sleep next to me.
I still feel your touch in my dream.
Forgive me my weakness, but I don’t know why,
Without you, it’s hard to survive.”–Cascada, “Every Time We Touch”
Hey, my kinky polyam peeps! I just flew in from Florida and BOY ARE MY ARMS TIRED!!! Seriously though, I touched down in Baltimore Sunday night and went from sunny with a high of seventy to twenty degrees outside and three inches of snow on the ground. It took Panda and I two and a half hours to drive home from the airport (normally a ninety-minute drive) because NONE of the highways were plowed. We were doing 25 mph down I-695 in Maryland, just watching all the cars that were stuck IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING HIGHWAY!!! Props to those dedicated people at Sheetz who came to work that night. At least I had a good dinner after a nightmare of a commute.
Today I want to talk about New Relationship Energy, or “NRE” for short. I want to point out that, while this is a poly blog, today’s post applies to those in monogamous relationships as well, although, those in polyamorous relationships face unique challenges that we will cover shortly. To put it simply, NRE is that feeling you get (or not, as not everyone goes through it) that you’re walking on sunshine at the prospect of a new romantic interest. Think of it as “Falling in love”. Remember when you were young, maybe a teenager, and you met that first real big crush? How, for a brief period of time nothing in the world mattered other than that one person? That’s NRE. It sounds magical, however, as we will discuss, it can be quite the shitshow if not handled properly.
Before we go any further, I do want to give a quick shoutout to Psychology Today for this fantastic article that I’ll be pulling some information from. Along with Vice.com and Teen Vogue, if you believe that, it’s been one of my go-to sites for helpful information, so I would recommend checking them out when you have some free time.
While not everyone experiences NRE, I would believe it’s fair to say that more people do than not. Please note that this is a completely unscientific statement that has no basis other than my own personal experience and conversations I’ve had with both friends and family. Including Panda, I’ve gone through NRE three times between the six partners I’ve had during my poly journey. Because I had a pre-existing friendship with Penguin, Foxy, and Bunny before we started dating, there wasn’t this sense of newness or excitement that I had to grapple with. We started out relatively familiar with each other and agreed to let it grow into something more.
Panda, Vixen, and my ex, on the otherhand… well, when I first met them, to one degree or another, it was basically fireworks from the start. With my ex, from the first time I shook her hand, I knew this was someone I needed to know everything about. I don’t believe in love at first sight, however, I do believe in attraction at first sight, and that’s absolutely what it was. With Panda and Vixen, it took a couple of meetings, but within the first couple of weeks, I knew I had to ask them out on a date. I believe it’s this novelty and sense of “newness” that feeds into the excitement of NRE.
So what makes NRE so problematic and why do we need to discuss it? For those who are regular readers of my blog, you’ve heard me discuss the euphoria of subspace, that mental state in which your brain is flooded with endorphins and you feel like all is right with the world, if only for a little while. NRE is essentially this, but on a much larger scale. When we get excited about a new relationship, our brain gets flooded with a massive dose of these “happy drugs”, and common sense goes out the window.
While this sounds like an amazing experience (and in a way, it kinda is), it’s the side effects of NRE (withdrawal, inattention, impulsivity), specifically how it affects those around us, that we must always be concious of.
For those readers who are monogamous, or have been at one time, I want you to think back to a time when your best friend started a new relationship? Do you remember the excitement that person felt? Do you recall how they would go on and on about this new person when they were in your presence? How chats over coffee, despite your desire to talk about literally anything else, would always turn to conversation about this new relationship? Remember how annoying that was and how much you simply just wanted to punch your friend in the face?
When we are engrossed in NRE, it can be very tiring on those who are watching the relationship unfold from the outside. While those who are close to us want to feel compersion, it can easily turn to annoyance, or even anger as you continue to monopolize time together with talk about yourself. Even as a neurodivergent person who uses “info dumping” as a method to express empathy, I have to be very careful to not monopolize the conversation more than I already do when I start to feel those NRE vibes kick in.
For polyamorus people, NRE can be especially dangerous as the time and space that you’re intruding on isn’t just that of friends and family, but your partners. Even when keeping a structured calendar with regular date nights with your partners, it can be difficult to maintain boundaries and keep the new relationship from bleeding into the existing one. You may feel yourself being inattentive to your existing partner. You may start forgetting things, or even worse, blowing off plans with an established partner to spend time with the new one. Basically, NRE can make you start acting like a real asshole if you let it.
It’s not just those around you who are put in harm’s way from the effects of NRE. As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, endorphins are a drug, and while they are in no way as dangerous or powerful as heroin or methamphetamines, like those hard drugs, they do affect brain chemistry, and hence decision-making. I feel like almost everyone has a story of something they’ve done that was really stupid in order to impress a signficant other. As a cishet man, I’m sure I’ve done more than most, such as spending $100 on the Atlantic City boardwalk trying to win a cheesy stuffed tiger for Panda that the vendor probably bought on sale at K-Mart for twenty bucks (this was 2004 dollars, so it’s actually more like $150 today).
Just like I’ve discussed how you should never renegotiate mid-scene while you’re under the influence of subspace, you should try to avoid making major life decisions while under the influence of NRE. Because NRE can last anywhere from a few months to as long as a year, this is easier said than done. Of course we need to live our lives and address the day to day matters that arise, however, we must be extra careful to examine each high-impact decision and seek feedback from friends and family to ensure our judgment isn’t compromised. Otherwise you’ll wind up like my father who proposed to my mother six weeks after meeting her, or me, who proposed to Panda three months after we started dating (for the record, the answers to both questions were “no” because my mother and my wife are far less impulsive than my father and I when it comes to matters of the heart).
So how do we counteract the effects of something that can be so intoxicating? I will tell you from first-hand experince that it’s not easy, but here’s four simple things to keep in mind that may help you weather the storm:
- Make your partners aware – NRE is not an excuse to be inattentive to your current partner’s needs. It is, however, an explanation. You’ll find that if you explain your situation to your partners, they will be much more flexible and sympathetic with you than they otherwise would be without direct communication.
- Embrace the calendar – Any veteran poly person will tell you that time management is a crucial skill that needs to be developed in order to sucessfully juggle multiple relationships. Work your new partner into your calendar, not OVER your calendar. By that, I mean, carve out time for your new partner while protecting time for your existing partners.
- Slow your roll – This has been the hardest part of NRE for me personally. When Vixen and I started dating, if I wasn’t at home with Panda or having date night Penguin, I wanted to spend all my free-time with her. I had almost lost my identity because I was wrapped up in this new relationship and I knew it was taking a toll on Panda since I was out of the house seeing Vixen three or more nights a week. While you and your new partner will need to negotiate how much time spent togehter is appropriate, keep in mind that you’ll probably overestimate that amount early in the relationship.
- Take time for yourself – This last point may not work for everyone, but particularly for the introverts like me out there, it’s a Godsend. Sometimes we just need time alone to recenter and find ourselves. When Panda and I first started dating, we were seeing each other so frequently that I had to establish a “No Contact Monday” rule. Although we were living 50 miles apart, we were spending the night at each other’s place six nights a week. I told her that I needed 24 hours, every Monday, where I could just turn off my phone relax with my Playstation, and enjoy my own presence.
NRE is a beautiful thing. It signals the birth of a new relationship and the personal growth of those involved. Like a predatory feline, such as a tiger or a leopard, it’s also incredibly dangerous and must be treated with both care and respect. There’s nothing wrong with having a party. Get out there and have some fun. Just make sure you’re concious of what you’re doing so you don’t suffer a relationship hangover when the lights come on and it’s time to clean up.
Until next time, as always, stay kinky, my friends…
–The Bratty Cat
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