How To Manage New Relationship Energy In A Polyamorous Relationship
Don't let the honeymoon phase negatively impact your existing partners.
Infatuation, puppy love, the honeymoon period — all of these terms describe that intense attraction and fixation you feel when you enter into a new relationship. In the polyamorous community, this is normally referred to as new relationship energy or NRE. If you’ve ever found yourself getting distracted at work by flashbacks of your most recent date night or staring at your phone waiting for a text from your S.O., you’re probably in the thick of NRE.
Even though it can definitely happen in monogamous relationships, the concept of NRE was created by the polyamorous community to put a name to the strong emotions that occur when a new connection is made. While it’s most common in romantic or sexual relationships, NRE can occur within friendships too, according to polyamory mentor and content creator Chad Spangler. “It's simply happy excitement about the possibility that you're in the beginning of an amazing relationship,” he tells Bustle.
Of course, feeling that sort of connection with someone can give you the warm and fuzzies — but there are some important elements to consider about NRE in terms of how it can impact a polycule, or group of people connected by various poly relationships. Below, experts explain how NRE can affect polyamorous relationships as well as how you can navigate it without negatively affecting others in the relationship.
How NRE Can Negatively Impact Polyamorous Relationships
If you are polyamorous and meet someone new and exciting, allowing yourself to fall head-first into NRE can potentially impair your ability to fulfill the obligations you have to your current partners. “If they’re not careful, NRE can cause people to neglect their existing partnerships because they want to do everything with their new partner, so they forget about their existing partners’ needs,” says polyamory educator and founder of Poly Philia Leanne Yau. This can look like double-booking or even forgetting dates with your other partners, texting with your new partner and not staying present while spending time with an existing partner, or giving less time and affection to any existing relationships in favor of your new one.
Despite the thrill of experiencing NRE with a new partner you really like, it might leave a sour taste in the mouths of the other people in your life — romantic partners or otherwise — once they recognize that you’re putting the NRE before your other commitments. “Part of the connotation with NRE is that there can be a sort of tunnel vision, where a person starts focusing more of their sexual/romantic energy toward a new partner,” says polyamory educator and content creator Michelle Hy. “This is often not out of any malicious intent. The high dose of feel-good chemicals can temporarily shift a person's priorities.” Allowing NRE to overtake your attention or to last too long can start to cause hurt and emotional rifts within your polycule or relationships.
How NRE Can Help Polyamorous Relationships
Aside from the risks associated with NRE in polyamorous relationships, there can definitely be some perks. Beyond the feelings of affection and appreciation for your new partner, it’s also possible that these strong emotions can positively impact your other relationships, also. “When balanced well, NRE can really foster a deep, healthy connection,” Hy says. “Something many people experience is feeling like they have more love and energy to give back to other partners.” So that rejuvenated sense of love can help foster a healthy environment for all of your connections to thrive in, and for everyone to feel equitably appreciated.
Feeling NRE can also help you appreciate the duality of polyamory, says Yau. “NRE is one of the perks of polyamorous relationships — you can experience the comfort and stability of a long-term relationship while also experiencing novelty, passion, and desire in a new one.” As long as you’re able to carefully juggle the needs and expectations of each of your partners, NRE can be a really beneficial way to feel gratitude and fulfillment within the lifestyle.
Spangler also notes that NRE is sometimes contagious in that it can inspire renewed feelings of passion and appreciation in your other partners. “Just as you might experience negative emotions from seeing your partner excited about another person, you can also feel positive emotions for your partner's happiness,” he says, referring to the poly concept of “compersion” — the idea of feeling happy that your partner is happy.
How To Manage NRE In A Polyamorous Relationship
To ensure you’re not hurting your current partners, it’s important to understand how NRE shows up and to learn how to manage the feelings that come along with it. When you’re in the throes of new relationship energy, sometimes your awareness of how it affects those around you can get foggy, so Yau says not to let it blind you. “Don’t rush into decisions and start doubting your existing relationships just because you don’t feel the same level of passion and novelty,” she says. “The point is that you can enjoy these at the same time.” As she previously mentioned, one of the benefits of a polyamorous lifestyle is that you can continue to find excitement and newness in other connections while staying anchored in and deepening the relationships you already have.
When you are the one experiencing NRE, it’s key to keep your other partners’ feelings in mind. “Check in with your established partners to see how they're feeling,” Spangler suggests. “Listening when they come to you with concerns or not-so-pleasant feelings is important, but being proactive gives your partner reassurance that you are committed to keeping your relationship healthy and happy.” Have regular moments of honesty and communication to stay accountable and intentional about not letting NRE damage the balance between your partnerships.
If someone else in your polycule is feeling NRE, Yau recommends communicating clearly and setting boundaries where necessary — and also remembering the importance of compersion (read: comparison won’t help your relationship). “There will come a time when you’re experiencing the high of NRE, and it will be your partner’s turn to feel jealous or worried or supportive,” she says. “As always, it’s important to extend grace and patience when it comes to polyamory, have compassion for their experience, and understand that you should give them the freedom that you yourself would want.”
Chad Spangler, polyamory mentor and content creator
Leanne Yau, polyamory educator and content creator
Michelle Hy, polyamory educator and content creator