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Thursday, July 1, 2010

NRE in Polyamorous Relationships

I'm contemplating New Relationship Energy (NRE) as it particularly applies to polyamorous relationships. NRE is like a drug that induces an alternated state of consciousness with a heightened sense of sexual and emotional attraction for a new partner.  I forget the source but I read somewhere, that NRE makes heroin look like baby formula. NRE helps a couple form deep bonds of attachment when they are still virtually strangers to one another on many significant levels. Swimming in NRE is often experienced as intense waves of bliss and well being mingled with bouts of anxiety that lessen as the mutuality of the attraction is more securely established.
In monogamous or serial monogamous relationships, NRE energy often plays out significantly different than in polyamorous relationships where the person (s) experiencing NRE is concurrently establishing a relationship/falling in love with a new partner while at the same time maintaining an ongoing relationship with an old love/spouse/primary partner.
Unless a "monogamous" partner is cheating on a current and ongoing partner, they are pretty much free to jump feet first, into the supreme joy and emotionally bonding pleasures of NRE. Although a monogamous person may have other commitments such a career, children etc., there is no "significant other" to interfere or distract them, no other lover that loyalty insists they must mindfully consider. They are pretty much free to dive into their new relationship, fully immersing them self in the waters of love, allowing the rest of the world to disappear while the full focus of their attention is directed to the supreme loving of this new other.
NRE is a valuable and exhilarating gift that new love offers. Some say it is indispensable to the bonding process of new sexual loving relationships. It's the glue that sticks new lovers together. Others are leery of NRE, even labeling it as a "false love" because of the common distortions in judgment and perceptions that one is susceptible to making in regards to this new person who is the object of their desire. These people would rather deny or suppress NRE than risk being swept away on a wave of irrational and exaggerated positive feelings, where the new lover's attributes are magnified and their deficits are barely noticed. These people prefer a slower, more pragmatic approach to the process of creating new relationships and falling in love. I suppose that some new relationships, with otherwise potential for compatibility, actually drift apart when NRE isn't given it's due. That's not to say that love in some relationships doesn't grow slowly and surely with measured steps and careful calculations as one allows their heart to open with very little manifestation of NRE. Who can say how love will present itself? The possibilities are endless.
But for those romantic and polyamorous people who want nothing more than to dive deep into NRE, experiencing it in all it's wet and wondrous glory, rarely poking their heads above the surface for a breath of air, well theirs is perhaps a different story when they have another significant other relationship to maintain. As much as they might desire to take the plunge, they have commitments and responsibilities in sustaining their other, older, perhaps momentarily less exciting, but nevertheless tried and true, long term, love relationship (s).
This can prove to be a huge challenge and is often seen as the cornerstone of being a worthy polyamorous partner. What a balancing act! If you are of the school that NRE is a good thing, where do you start? I suggest starting with strong intention. Intend to keep your heart open to both partners. Intend to maintain your primary and already established relationship with devotion to mindfulness. Intend to ride NRE with both wild abandon, and cautious, graceful integrity. How does one do that? Well, all relationships have different needs, but I do know that with intention all things are possible. Intention sets us on the path and the steps we need to take are often revealed on an as needed basis. There will be holes that trip us up and boulders that seem to block our way. When we are intent on maintaining an ongoing long term relationship while establishing a new one, we may need to put the wild abandon of NRE on a long but tethered leash. Depending on our situation, we may need to put it on a short leash. Maybe it needs to be practiced in a timed released sort of fashion--in small doses that don't rock the stability of the boat of our other relationships. Perhaps setting an alarm clock to wake us up from our NRE dream at scheduled intervals. There are no hard and fast rules that will work for everyone. We are the architects and I suggest using freedom as the foundation that we build our love relationships on. Again, how to do that? Intention provides the answers. We gotta make up our rules as we go along, caring as gently as we can for each others hearts. And yet there are open relationship pioneers who have already blazed some trails into this wilderness and I think it prudent to follow their lead, at least listen their suggestions and try some of their ideas when we are first starting out. Reading lots of books on polyamory is a good idea. Finding and connecting with others who live this lifestyle is invaluable.
Good communication with both partners--your long term relationship partner, as well as your new love, is imperative. All three partners (or four, or however many partners there are) getting together and discussing the dynamics of NRE and how each person is being impacted by it is helpful.
I repeatedly advise couples I work with to keep their hearts and minds open to everyone involved.  To be a good friend first and foremost, and to love your lover's other partner (s) which I know can be most difficult at times (definitely not always) but that's when it's probably most important. I think it's a good idea for the established, long term partner to be as generous and understanding as they can possibly muster in allowing for their partner's experience of NRE with their new lover and the dimished focus they will perhaps receive for awhile. This takes a lot of trust and emotional maturity, no doubt. At the same time and equality important is for the partner who is caught up in NRE with their new love, to simultaneously keep their long term partner's needs and vulnerabilities close to their heart at all times. They must be diligent in following through on the commitments to their older relationship (s). I would suggest it's a red flag, the partner who is willing to be lax with his attention and focus on his already established relationships. If he was willing to forsake his old love the new, I'd suspect that the new love's heart would be next in line to be trampled on when when they are no longer so fresh and new. At the same time, a new love is also worthy of attention and focus and need their opening heart to be protected and cared for too. We have to be willing to talk about our needs and be creative at finding innovative strategies for making sure everyone's are being met.
So the point of this post is the contrast of dealing with polyamorous NRE as opposed to dealing with "monogamous" NRE. Polyamorous NRE is, or at least certainly has, the potential of being much more of a challenge. I've found it to be one of the biggest complications/challenges for many who are starting up a new polyamorous relationship. That and the simple fact that there may be unlimited love but there is not unlimited time and energy. There are only so many hours in a day.
This is one of the reasons that I appreciate a family centered model of polyamory, where time and energy can be used more efficiently. It affords one to feed two birds with one seed and offers a relationship the freedom to have all of your lovers with you most of the time. This doesn't mean that everyone will necessarily be together most of the time, but rather that there is the freedom to choose to be together as much as is practical and possible for each particular person. It means that building a comfort level is paramount, one of knowing that you are welcomed, wanted, and loved. It doesn't mean that everyone lives together in the same house or that everyone spends an equal amount of time together. But it does suggest more fluid boundaries while extending the opportunities of more actual time that is available to be together. Kind of a mi casa su casa sort of mentality. I don't think it's a good plan when people end up feeling excluded and left out, disconnected and as if they don't really belong. If lovers can flow more organically into and out of the days and hours of each other's lives so that they spend time on their own, with other friends and activites, as well as in dyads, triads, quads, so on and so forth with various loves and their various loves, meandering into and out of each other's arms and space as fierce (and happy) individuals who are choosing to live interdependently in a close knit family of friends sort of way...well, this is my dream for polyamorous relationships.

Some polyamorous people keep their different love relationships quite separated from one another and while this might work just fine for them, I think it more often adds to the potential of people not getting enough time and attention from their lovers and also possibly feeling excluded from the warmth of companionship. Again, there is only so much time in a day and while every relationship deserves some one on one privacy, if you throw in some family style dinners, play time and parties where everyone is invited, a willingness to share in another's chores and errands etc., everyone can get more time to share in the juicy love that's available in unlimited abundance.

5 comments:

  1. This is a good post. I think it makes a lot of sense for all affected by the new, additional relationships to get together and share about how they're being affected. I've seen how not doing this makes everything a lot more difficult. Suggestions on how to get together with others supportive of the poly lifestyle?

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  2. It seems to me that your advice should be followed by anyone experiencing NRE, whether you have multiple partners or not.

    I also work with polyamorous clients, and find that their expectations, as well as their attachment styles and histories, have a greater effect on one's experience of NRE than the "drug-like" effects.

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  3. Balancing between partners while in the midst of NRE is a serious challenge. Working extra hard to keep connected with the longer term relationship is vital.

    I've found that you are correct that things go much easier when other loves are included in your life at home, through social functions, parties, dinners together, movie night, etc. It means that everyone knows and can begin to care for the other partners, which helps them act from a place of love and not fear.

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  5. As the mnno ex-spouse of newly discovered (in our 21st and last year of marriage), I can honestly say NRE and lost intimacy killed our marriage. I was not into sloppy second passion (what y'all call spillover passion) and I wasn't about to beg my husband for love and attention. When he blew off my dr's appt where I got my thyroid cancer diagnosis because his girlfriend had a fender bender, I'd had enough. So yeah, enjoy your NRE, but don't forget the partner who loved you for all those years.

    ps
    They broke up 3 months after our divorce was final. They blamed me.




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