New Relationship Energy: What It Is & How to Deal With It

How to sustain long-term relationships when you have a new crush.

Posted Oct 17, 2019

Polyamorists have a penchant for making up terms to describe their experiences, in part because common-use languages often lack words sufficient to encompass the range of interactions and emotions present in poly relationships. One of the terms English-speaking poly folks have coined is New Relationship Energy, which they usually abbreviate to NRE.

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Image: Two people looking lovingly at each other
Source: Flickr

What is NRE?

Polyamorous people describe the glowing, exciting, bubbly feeling of being enraptured with a new partner as new relationship energy. Monogamists can experience this effervescent glee as well, usually when they have just begun to date someone about whom they are quite excited. Closely akin to the feeling of falling in love, NRE happens when people are fascinated with each other but not yet aware of the negative aspects of their new crush. In the grips of NRE, everything the new hottie says is captivating—but it is not yet clear, say, that they have terrible politics or leave their dirty clothes all over the living room.

Dangers of NRE

For polyamorists and others in consensually non-monogamous relationships, NRE can be dangerous for their long-term relationships. While they may have been just as enraptured with their long-term partner(s) when they first met, it is likely that the fascination with that person's grocery-shopping strategy or stance on local school board elections has long since lost its luster if they have been together for many years. It does not mean that the new relationship is any better or that the recent sweetie is any more interesting; just that the longer-term partner is a known quantity and the new person still has the shiny glow of novelty that makes them seem both more interesting and less flawed. While NRE can be a fun, endorphin-saturated experience, it can be difficult for longer-term partners who feel ignored or overlooked in favor of the exciting new toy. In other words, NRE can contribute to jealousy or compersion, depending on how the people involved handle themselves. 

Dealing with NRE

Experienced polyamorists come to anticipate and compensate for NRE. While they might be tempted to stay up all night talking about the comparative merits of kale versus mustard greens with the new partner, polys in long-term relationships come to recognize that NRE can give any new relationship the impossible glow of perfection. Rather than believing it to be The Truth about the new partner, practiced polys tend to allow themselves to enjoy the ride without taking it too seriously. Community wisdom holds that making major decisions about life when in the grips of NRE is a bad idea, and having a child, quitting a job, or moving to a different state to be with a new beloved is generally not advised within the first year of a any kind of relationship, poly or otherwise.

Further, people who have repeatedly experienced NRE know both to take it with a grain of salt and to make sure to pay attention to their longer-term partners as well. Ignoring a beloved of 20 years in favor of a new flame of two weeks has created difficulties for so many poly relationships that community wisdom dictates overcompensating with the longer-term partner to avoid even the appearance of taking that person for granted.

To retain the closeness of long-term relationships, poly folks tend to make an extra effort to do special things for their partners of many years. This generally includes scheduling date nights, bringing flowers and other small gifts, paying attention, giving compliments, initiating sex in new and exciting ways, and generally proving in every possible way that they still highly value their long-term relationships. One of the respondents in my 25-year study of polyamorous families said it was like archery: When shooting at a target in a stiff wind, archers actually aim off to the side of the target and allow the wind to blow the arrow to the bullseye. For people who are new to polyamory or other forms of CNM, it is very important to be aware of NRE and take pains to keep it from interfering with long-term loves.