You’re in a happy triad. You and your partners do date from time to time, but for the most part, you have a stable, well-run home. Your routine is down pat. You all know your roles in the home and relationship, calendars get updated properly and everything is moving along as smoothly as a bullet train. Each of you has some time, and as it would happen, you all wind up dating someone new.
And all of you are now utterly ga-ga for your new partners!
New Relationship Energy is distracting
For all that I like the expression New Relationship Energy (NRE) rather than using an expression that has a lot of cultural baggage like “falling in love”, some of that cultural baggage has a point. When you’re wrapped up in the ga-ga emotions of being in a new relationship, it’s distracting. This column has talked about some of this stuff before, but I’d like to offer some guidelines for how to deal with NRE not only for yourself (and how not to be a jerk in the face of it), but also in terms of how a group can handle it.
You can be responsible in the throes of NRE
You have a brain. It still works. If you read this, it’s probably even a good one. Use it.
When everyone is hit with NRE, it’s important that everyone does use their brains. Yes, I know, each person in the relationship exponentially increases the chance that someone is going to be an idiot. Let someone else be the idiot, if they must. Don’t let it be you. Making sure that NRE doesn’t mess up the old relationships will definitely involve each person committing first to being self-responsible.
Keep doing that thing
You have jobs you do around the house, responsibilities you’ve taken on. It might be that they’re so second nature that you don’t think about them. That’s nifty and all, but think about them now. NRE is one of the most guaranteed interrupts for behaviors that we’d originally had on autopilot that I can think of.
So think about what you do and what you take care of. Make lists if you have to!1 Do what it takes to make sure you’re following through. If you need a household checklist to make sure the cat has been fed, you need it. The important part is the cat getting fed, not how you got prompted to do that!
Now, conflict might come in when there’s a misunderstanding about responsibilities. You know the old mantra, “Communicate, communicate, communicate,” yes? Holey moley, is it important here! Have a sit-down with your partners. Check in and make sure everything is being taken care of properly.
Old Relationships need maintenance, too
All of you do need to remember that polyamory is about love, right? You love your old partners as well as the new ones, right? RIGHT???
Pay attention. Do what it takes to remind you to maintain old relationships as well as getting a little absorbed in new ones.
Some people find, and I think this is pretty cool, that NRE is a great way to rekindle some of the spark with old relationships. Does your partner like little romantic gestures? Do that. Hold hands, kiss, snuggle – all of those things that make the relationship such fun. It’s not just for NRE, even if new relationships usually don’t have to deal with the cat throwing up on the carpet or the transmission falling out of the old clunker you were nursing along.
Calendars are your friend
Because things might get busy, scheduling can be a real boon – even to the point of scheduling that sit-down. There are lots of shared calendar programs out there these days. (Google is most popular right now, but these things can change). Shoot, my family, which is not a poly family at the moment, shares its calendars with each other. I have no idea with whom other family members share theirs, but I do share mine with another partner. It helps. It helps a lot. You can schedule time for uninterrupted talk. You can make sure that you and your partners are getting the time you need together in addition to the fun of NRE.
The Prince likes to do at least a monthly check-in with everyone in the house, and this is really a good system even though we’re not currently blessed with any NRE problems.
Communicate with the NewLoves
Make sure your new loves know the score. Ask them what their lives and responsibilities look like, and tell them about yours. Egging each other on to make sure that all parts of your lives are well-taken-care of is a great thing. Lots of poly people do it. Friend of mine online had his new partner prompt him to make sure he and his old partner scheduled something wonderful on their anniversary. She was experienced at poly and knew one of the advantages of NRE is that everything is fun in that rosy glow. Run with that. Yes, play, have fun and enjoy, but make it a game to make sure each other is not only loving each other, but all of one’s partners. It can turn NRE from a distraction to a focusing strength for all of one’s relationships.
1 I have to even when not in the throes of NRE. You don’t think these things get written spontaneously, do you?