This is another search term inspired post.
One of the advantages of polyamory is that you are always open to that wonderful sensation of the early relationship. God, that honeymoon period is wonderful – everything about your new partner is blissfully wonderful, you are filled with light, and even the plainest things become magical and exciting as long as your new love is by your side.
Why do we love the honeymoon period so much?
That part about everything being blissfully wonderful? Who doesn’t like that? It’s fun. It feels fantastic. It’s exciting.
Those feelings are influenced by hormones and chemicals that flood the body when you’re forming a new relationship. I’m not saying that to sneer, please understand. They are the same chemicals (and serve a similar purpose) that flood the body when you hold your newborn baby. They keep us from seeing the impossible amount of work a new baby is. They make the very serious work and vulnerability necessary to form a new relationship feel good. That’s a good thing. Just like screaming babies can be nerve-jarringly inconvenient, so can the quirks of this stranger you’ve fallen for drive you kind of nuts. We need a mechanism to make us willing to overcome that so that forming a new bond is happy thing.
If it’s so good, why is the Honeymoon period a problem in polyamory?
In theory, when you have a monogamous relationship, you sort of expect that the intense feelings of the early relationship will go. Unless you’ve been seduced by the idea that those quivery feelings mean you’re in Real Love, you’re not going to go searching for that jolt again.
In theory, of course. I believe serial monogamy is a thing at least in part because people don’t want to lose the fun of those new relationship feelings (called NRE, or New Relationship Energy, by many poly people) and so people dump old relationships to go searching for it.
Then you discover polyamory. Wheeee! You can meet new people and get that NRE fix just about any time you want to, and it’s not going to hurt anything because we’re poly, right? It’s all good.
Keep in mind that NRE tends to be overwhelming and distracting. A lot of our cultural storytelling goes into the life-changing and heroic, all-absorbing things we’ll do when we have found True Love. These things often involve casting away our old lives, abandoning friends and family, throwing away jobs and everything to be with that True Love.
And yet, people still have the gall to act surprised when their mates are edgy when they would like to open up a relationship? Golly, I wonder why?
So, how do I do this right?
The reality is that real love is what happens when the NRE fades. It stops being driven by the base of the spinal column and starts requiring more drive from the frontal lobes. Oh yeah, it still feels great. (Yes, love does and should feel good. It’s how we’re built, after all) But you’ll have to start thinking more carefully about the human being your partner is, for realsies. You’ll need to grok where they’re strong, where they’re vulnerable. You’ll want and need to take the time to get to know that partner down into their bones.
That takes time and it takes time even when the honeymoon period is over. If, exactly at that point, you go chasing for your next NRE fix, you’re skipping out on a lot of what good relationships need.
The cure to this is to live purposefully. Make real decisions about what you want to do with your time, how much of it you want to devote to a partner. Think, really think, about what is important to you in relationships.
Oddly enough, if what you really want is to spend your time chasing NRE, even that can be done ethically. Tell your potentials that is what you want and how you want to conduct your relationships. No, you won’t be going for any long-term commitments, but that’s not a requirement if that’s not how you want to live.
Not to my personal taste, but we all have ours. The thing is to live purposefully and make conscious decisions about this stuff.
5 thoughts on “Polyamory and the Honeymoon Period”
*wonderful* post! LOVE this sentence: “The reality is that real love is what happens when the NRE fades.” because, YES.
for me, self-knowledge, living with intention, and relationship skills are at least as important as the reading, writing, and arithmetic we focus on for “education”. and thank you for being a voice of wisdom and sanity for these important life skills. happy holidays to you and your loved ones!
Happy Holidays to you, too.
Interestingly enough, my mother and I were just talking about how poorly we as a culture train our kids (and ourselves) to communicate well, especially among the ones closest to us that we love the most.
Probably has to do at least in part with the fact that’s where we’re the most tender and vulnerable.
yes! i also think we just don’t prioritize communication and relationship skills as valuable life skills. later in life, a few painful bumps might lead us to acknowledge, value, and learn those skills. we have the chance to do differently with our own kids. love your blog!
This post really rocks my world right now — thank you! 🙂
Wow. That’s flattering. Thanks.