What is New Relationship Energy in Polyamory?
The flood of emotions at the beginning of a new polyam relationship makes up NRE, or new relationship energy. This compares with old relationship energy.
NRE also refers to the so-called "honeymoon phase," where infatuation reigns over other emotions. NRE's intensity compromises judgement, which if not accounted for can lead to problems – such as overlooking red flags, or neglecting responsibilities with existing relationships.
This isn't limited to polyamorous relationships of course, but with how much polyam folk talk about the acronym it has become lodged in the community's collective dictionary. It's a shared experience worth learning about.
What Are New Relationship Energy and Old Relationship Energy (NRE and ORE)?
New Relationship Energy doesn't strike everyone, nor does it come every time they meet someone new. When it does hit though, the brain chemistry it entails often comes with all the grace of a sledgehammer.
Hence the honeymoon phase. NRE gets your brain addicted to a person, making everything they do shining and alluring. It's pleasant to be around them, and NRE makes you want more time with them.
It can grow to be all-consuming, where your idle thoughts all revolve around your new relationship.
NRE can also last for months, sometimes up to a year, but in general it wears off and fades. Reality sets in when you learn more of the truths of your partner's flaws and idiosyncrasies. The chemical cocktail of infatuation adjusts as you become inured to it.
With enough time, you may pass unto the realm of Old Relationship Energy (ORE).
ORE contains companionable comforts and constancy. That is to say, you grow to know someone so well that you're comfortable with them. They are a reassuring constant presence in your life.
It's not a lull in the action, so to speak. Old Relationship Energy may not be fiery and thrilling, but it is healthy. It is not an all-consuming conflagration like NRE can be, but instead a significant portion of your balanced life.
Page over at Poly.land has (of course!) an article about what ORE feels like:
Basically, ORE is an aspect of companionate love. It's established, with doses of commitment, passion, and intimacy.
Don't Rush Into Red Flags With NRE
Back to NRE though: that chemical cocktail that sets you aflame is a liability. Infatuation can make you overlook obvious red flags with your rose-tinted glasses.
It's common wisdom that when you're in the throes of NRE, you need to force yourself to take it slow. Don't commit to any entanglements until months or years have passed. This can range from children to cohabitation to commitments like marriage or combined finances.
That's because if the relationship is untenable, either due to incompatibility or abuse, you want to be able to exit swiftly and cleanly. You don't want to have lingering logistics entangling you after a breakup.
However, NRE can make you move fast and feel like everything is just perfect – especially when it's not.
Your partner has little to no life stability, and constantly needs to crash at your place? That's not a red flag with NRE flowing, that's just a way for you to grow closer together!
They lack self-control and are impulsive? NRE transmutes that red flag into the endearing quality of spontaneity instead!
Do you disagree on fundamental, deal-breaking practises like sexual safety? Don't worry, NRE will make you think that love will eventually conquer all incompatibility. They might change their mind in the future, after all.
With NRE pushing you to overlook red flags, that's why it's so important to take things slow. It also helps to have outside perspectives you trust to identify actual problems – such as your established partners, and close friends.
Don't Neglect Established Responsibilities
Another mistake to make when gripped by NRE is to neglect existing partners and responsibilities.
If it's your job to ensure the dishes are done every day, don't blow them off for texting your latest flame.
If you're not sure if your partner is feeling neglected, check in with them and possibly spend some quality time with them.
Meeting relationship needs are everyone's responsibility, but if you're not careful demanding attention from someone infatuated with NRE can lead to friction:
In the above article, Page advocates for patience and grace when dealing with someone high on new love. Otherwise trying to force the issue may lead to a death spiral for established relationships.
Common New Relationship Energy Mistakes
Cohabitation is one mistake you can make early on. Not every partner will make for a good roommate. Juggling two dynamics at once – a fragile new relationship and being roommates – is a recipe for friction and damaged dynamics.
You may also lodge yourself into the awkward situation of finding out that your relationship is incompatible, and then you need to go through the upheaval of moving someone out.
This applies to any sort of entanglement, like joint finances. You also have more extreme cases like having children together.
For a more detailed list of common NRE mistakes, I call to your attention this article:
In brief there are many mistakes ranging from: making it all about sex; early commitments; agreements you cannot keep; falling prey to jealousy; ending relationships; coming out; thinking NRE will last; and resisting NRE.
New Relationship Energy has its upsides, of course. It's intense and exciting and compelling. Many people love to chase new relationships just to gain access to the chemical high it provides.
It helps kick start relationships, push you outside your comfort zone, and form new memories with someone.
That said, I'm not much of one for NRE. I'm not particularly emotional as a person, preferring my deep reserved nature. Furthermore, I deeply enjoy Old Relationship Energy, where I can rely on my dearheart to be my anchor.
Likewise my partners know that with time, they can rely on me to support them.