That tingling feeling in your stomach that makes you forget to mail that important file to your boss, while you daydream about your new-found boyfriend — that, my friend, is new relationship energy (NRE)!
So, what exactly is this concept? Can it ruin your mental peace? Can bringing in a new person in your otherwise-monogamous relationship also enhance new relationship feelings and make you more romantic? Or is it NRE vs love?
This concept has always been there — the newness in a relationship that gives you that extra glow! But its association with polyamory is relatively new. In fact, it is believed the new energy that a third person brings in an existing and stable relationship, contributes to compersion, or a warm and positive feeling when you see your partner beaming with joy when they’re with another person. But can it also bring in jealousy?
In this age of fluid connections and multiple distractions, relationships and emotions are tricky. But getting to know someone in the early stages of a relationship still has its own charm. Those butterflies in your tummy now actually have a legitimate term: new relationship energy! In this article, we won’t just explore NRE, we will also find out how it can help us or harm us. So, let’s begin!
What Is New Relationship Energy?
It was relationship coach and poly/pagan author Zhahai Stewart who used the term ‘new relationship energy’, or NRE, for the first time, in the 1980s, to describe the “rush of escalating emotional connection and the hot juiciness” of new relationship feelings. It’s the novelty factor that makes us fall for someone in the ‘honeymoon phase’, without knowing much about the person.
Interestingly, Stewart was talking about new relationship energy in polyamorous relationships. He later called it the “molecular binding energy” of human relationships and likened it to an addiction. This new energy has only helped strengthen the bond that Stewart shares with his long-term partner, Cascade.
Stewart doesn’t view this energy through a moral lens but considers it as a spice that adds flavor to his already existing relationship. He believes it’s important to take control of the headiness that this energy brings with it in polyamorous relationships and then ‘land safely’ once the newness wears off, almost like jumping off with a parachute to experience the thrill of it and landing somewhere safe. He also adds, “NRE isn’t a poly thing, but a human thing.”
Related Reading: 5 Things To Consider Before Beginning A Polyamorous Relationship
Signs Of NRE
So, how would you know you’re experiencing this phenomenon? NRE has prominent signs. Are you dying to call your new date? Are you spending hours in front of the mirror to make sure you look dapper when you meet them? These are signs that this energy is taking over your life. So, to understand the term better, let’s look at a few signs of NRE:
1. You’re infatuated
So, your crush agrees to the first date, and all you can think of now is how you’ll dress up and what all you’re going to discuss. The entire feeling, this excitement is so overwhelming that you end up losing sleep, literally! Hello, insomniac, we have news! You’re not in love but are infatuated. In fact, you are experiencing new relationship energy or NRE addiction!
2. You’re often found lost in deep thoughts
Picture this: You’re in time for your presentation at work. But you zone out often, fantasizing about your new partner, and find yourself asking your coworkers to explain the presentation all over again. These are signs of new relationship energy.
Related Reading: 21 Dos And Don’ts When Starting A New Relationship
3. Your routine goes for a toss
Gosh! Did you just forget to brush in the morning? Did you end up having 4 cups of coffee at work, when you usually don’t go beyond a single cup? And all the while, you’ve been thinking what a cute smile your new partner has! Well, this is NRE!
4. You feel euphoric
From getting up in the morning to hitting the sack at night, you’re on cloud nine and full of excitement! Your new date is all that’s on your mind! Experts, such as Nan J. Wise, the author of Why Good Sex Matters, attribute this to brain chemistry, or the rise of the feel-good hormones, such as dopamine and oxytocin. This hormonal spike is what results in NRE addiction!
5. The sex is out-of-this-world
NRE is often accompanied by great sexual chemistry and passion! So, it’s just been a few weeks since you’ve met, but you two are awesome between the sheets! You even end up fantasizing about them when you’re away from them? These are clearly signs of new relationship energy!
So, now that you know how this energy manifests itself, we’ll take a look at how its signs impact both polygamous/polyamorous and monogamous relationships. We will also dish out the good and the bad and offer a holistic critique of the phenomenon. So, let’s go!
Related Reading: Polyamorous Vs Polygamy – Meaning, Differences, And Tips
What Are The Dangers Of NRE?
So, now that we know what new relationship energy is, we may have a few valid questions: Is it always positive, or can it bring negative feelings along with it? What happens to your long-term partner when you experience NRE for someone else? Does it affect the other commitments in your life or hamper an ongoing relationship? Does NRE improve both sexual and romantic relationships? To find the answers, let’s look at how NRE can be dangerous for us or our existing relationships:
1. It may lead to new relationship anxiety
Your earliest attractions may lead to excitement in the beginning but eventually make you anxious beyond your control. In fact, some sources state too much NRE leads to a rise in cortisol, a stressor. The stress of putting up your best foot forward, or the worry of losing your partner to someone else, may push all your anxiety buttons.
Related Reading: What Is New Relationship Anxiety? 8 Signs And 5 Ways To Deal With It
2. You may lose yourself
In the urge to be perfect for a new/potential partner and always putting their needs first, you may end up neglecting yourself. Daydreaming about your romantic interest can lead to:
- Unprofessionalism at work: You may skip deadlines or mess up at work
- Losing track of your interests: So, you’re finding out what your new partner’s favorite ice cream flavor is, but you’ve started spending less time on your guitar practice! This shows you’re not paying attention to your interests
- Health issues: You’re staying up late to chat with your partner but you’re ignoring your doctor’s advice to get more sleep. This can be dangerous in the long run
- Being too clingy: Over-doing your bit may also make you look extremely clingy in the relationship
3. It may change your existing relationships
Your fixation with a new partner may harm your other relationships in the following ways:
- Losing real connections, such as friends and coworkers: The calls and meet-ups vanish, and the texts become one-word replies
- Ignoring the needs of your family: You may be spending time with them but not as much as before. Or you may not be contributing to family expenses
- Inducing negativity in established relationship energy: This is for those who experience new relationship energy in polyamorous relationships. Investing too much energy in a new partner could bring in jealousy in your existing relationship. It may even destroy long-term relationships/romantic bonds or cause clashes with other partners
4. It may give you a false image of your partner
Obsessing over new connections is fine, as long as you don’t lose sight of reality. You won’t go beyond their positive traits until the newness of a relationship wears off. It may make you imagine a future with someone who’s not a great fit in the long run. Here are a few examples:
- Your new boyfriend is a great photographer and you both love traveling. But that makes you ignore the fact that he is not financially stable
- Your new girlfriend quotes Shakespeare and looks like Margot Robbie. But you have no clue that your political views differ and may cause clashes in future
Related Reading: Leftist Swipe Right: Politics-Based Hatred On Dating Apps
Does NRE Have Any Benefits?
So, NRE has its damaging traits. But can it be beneficial to you? Yes, if experienced in moderation and within boundaries, it can be one of the best things in the world. We’ll take a look at how this new energy can affect both poly and mono relationships positively. Here are a few of its benefits:
1. It brings in positive feelings
The momentary excitement and happiness of a new connection can have a spillover effect. Your positivity may not just make your day better but can also rub off on your friends, coworkers, and family.
In polygamous or polyamorous connections, such positive feelings affect your stable relationship too. The extra spark that a new person brings in may make you and your old partner come closer and forget about the mundane aspects of your relationship.
2. It boosts confidence
A new bond means someone is ready to spend time with you or share a bit of their lives with you. This can boost your self-confidence, especially if you’re tired of feelings of loneliness.
In poly relationships too, this new energy can make you feel over the top for being able to be with someone new in spite of being in a committed or stable relationship. It gives you a ‘high’ that improves your existing connection.
Related Reading: 5 Polyamorous Relationship Rules For Harmony and Happiness
3. You can explore your sexuality
NRE can be beneficial sexually to both monogamous and polygamous folks. For people in potentially monogamous relationships, exploring sexuality with someone new can be exciting.
And, needless to say, there are endless possibilities of enhancing physical pleasure when a couple in an established relationship energy decides to include a third person for a ménage à trois. In fact, the mild jealousy it creates in your long-term partner’s mind may make your bond stronger.
4. It may improve your personality
One of the benefits of NRE is that while it can make you addicted to your new partner, it may also help you improve yourself. Thus, you may:
- Start going to the gym to be fitter
- Invest in good clothes and hygiene products to look and feel better
- Take up a new course, learn a new language, or indulge in community service or a new hobby to impress your crush
How To Deal With NRE To Maintain Balance?
So, now that we know NRE can be both toxic and beneficial to you and your relationship/s, how can you strike a balance to make sure you enjoy its effects without ruining yourself or your loved ones? As one Reddit user, emeraldead, puts it: one needs to choose “actions” over feelings.
When You Are Experiencing NRE
So, you’re enjoying the newness that’s created an aura of joy around you. But how can you balance this headiness? How to deal with your existing connections when you’re experiencing this new energy? Here are some key points to remember when you’re trying to balance NRE:
1. Your happiness matters
Be it in mono or poly relationships, NRE can only be enjoyed if you’re happy with it. Understand what you want: a romantic bond or a ‘no strings attached’ sexual connection or both? If any aspect of the new connection hurts your ideals, sentiments, or values, feel free to communicate.
This is tricky in a poly relationship. So, staying happy in it isn’t as easy as it sounds, as you need to weigh in the emotions and expectations of your stable partner and the new person too. There has to be a mutual agreement regarding what is allowed, even if the ultimate end is your happiness.
2. Be realistic
Remember, NRE is not permanent. New relationships may cloud your judgment about your new partner and may mask their flaws. So, it’s important to:
- Not depend too much on a new date/relationship, be it romantic or sexual
- Spend time to get to know the real person you’re dating
- Not expect ‘forever’
Related Reading: Why Do We Expect Love Will Last Forever And Will Remain Intense
3. Don’t ignore your present relationships or hurt established partners
Don’t forget your old friends, your family, or your coworkers for a new connection. If you’re in a polygamous relationship, don’t ruin long-term relationships because of your new feelings. Don’t make it a ‘new relationship energy vs old relationship energy’ situation.
Moreover, in poly relationships, it’s important to check on your existing partner from time to time. Be sure that you aren’t getting to a place of no-return with your stable partner while building a connection with your new partner. Don’t make it a competition between your partners. Both should know where they stand.
4. Spend time with yourself
Go, take that solo trip, make new friends at a hobby class, focus on that next promotion, watch an interesting Netflix series, or read new books! Don’t neglect yourself in the NRE wave. Remember, a new relationship can only be a part of your life. Don’t let it take over or take up the time meant for other enriching activities.
When Your Partner Is Experiencing NRE
How can you handle a situation where your partner is experiencing this phenomenon? Well, as this energy works in different ways for polygamous and monogamous connections, we’ll look at a few things you can do to address it, keeping in mind both scenarios. So, here’s how you can balance the NRE your partner is experiencing:
1. Be mindful of both your and your partner’s boundaries
If you’re in a monogamous relationship, don’t let your new partner take up all your time. If they’re texting all the time, respond at the end of the day or after long gaps. If they’re calling all the time, miss a call or two and let them know you have a life. Let them get a life too!
If you’re in a polygamous/open relationship, talk about your expectations and insecurities. Set boundaries about what’s allowed, instead of making it a ‘new relationship energy vs old relationship energy’ situation. Whether existing partners should know about a new encounter should be decided right away.
2. Handle negativity
Make room for negative feelings, such as fear and jealousy in your polyamorous relationship, if your partner is in a new bond. You can manage your negative thoughts by:
- Telling your partner about how their NRE is affecting you
- Considering taking a break from the relationship
- Considering asking your partner to take a break from the new relationship
- Talking to a counselor
Related Reading: How To Not Be Jealous In A Relationship – 15 Expert Tips
3. Be honest
Be it polygamy or monogamy, honesty is the best policy while dealing with NRE. Don’t exaggerate when you tell your partner about your job or your family. Be real about your feelings. Discuss your future plans, political views, and financial status. Most importantly, be frank about what you expect from them in future — commitment, a fling, or a platonic relationship. Remember, it’s never NRE vs love, it’s what you choose!
This is especially important when you’re in a poly relationship, as any future connection is never a ‘given’ in such cases. One needs to make things clear at the beginning of the relationship, both with a new romantic interest and the stable partner. If your partner and you are in a poly relationship, set a path for the future, considering multiple options: What happens when they decide to give the new partner more importance? Does your partner view this new energy as a passing phase or something more? Does your partner think of you long-term?
How Long Does New Relationship Energy Last?
It’s believed, such intense feelings of a new relationship can last from a couple of weeks to a few years. In fact, a Reddit user, babytomato, reveals that their therapist believes the ‘spark’ of a new relationship should last a year or two. Stewart, who introduced the term, thus compares this energy to a JATO (jet-assisted take-off) unit that propels a plane with great speed but offers short-lived propulsion, until the engine takes over. How long it lasts depends on how well the couple manages the initial hiccups. However, it’s important to note that:
- The end of this new energy in a relationship doesn’t hint at the end of a healthy connection or sexual/dating chemistry
- With the reality taking over, the end of new energy in a relationship actually spells the beginning of a deeper connection, built on trust, faith, and shared interests and goals
- New relationship energy or NRE is the overwhelming sensation you experience when you just start to get to know a person/date and can last from a few weeks to a couple of years
- It can exist in both monogamous and polygamous relationships, though the term was coined with reference to a poly relationship
- While NRE can bring in feelings such as happiness and euphoria, it can also make you too clingy in your relationship, focus less on yourself, and neglect your other commitments and relationships
- It’s important to balance such feelings that you or your new partner may be experiencing, whether you’re in a monogamous or polygamous/open relationship
So, now that you know NRE isn’t necessarily a bad thing, go ahead and cherish it while it lasts. Don’t let it control you. You take over the reins instead. But remember, it is short-lived. As celebrated English author G. K. Chesterton rightly said, “The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.”
NRE is temporary. In fact, your partner’s holistic personality is revealed the moment the newness of a relationship wears off. You also get to decide if you want the relationship to last.
Technically, yes. You can take a temporary break from the relationship. Once you get back again, start going on dates, travel together, or explore new things between the sheets to get NRE back.