What is NRE?
New Relationship Energy or NRE is an issue in all relationship types, but is much more frequently discussed in polyamorous relationships. In polyamory the excitement of a new partner is often coupled with concurrent relationships in a different phase. Juggling these feelings leads to struggles specific to polyamory. Therefore NRE is an issue more discussed within the polyamory community.
NRE looks different in everyone, but this video from 500 Days of Summer is a perfect example of what it looks like or feels like in a lot of us:
With NRE your new partner keeps running through your mind, you feel sparks and butterflies, and there is a shiny glow around everything in your life. NRE can be amazing and even help relationships outside of the people experiencing NRE. However, NRE can also be hurtful to current relationships or even unhealthy and dangerous.
NRE can be short or long lasting. The infatuation lasts from a few weeks to a few years. NRE can be both seen and measured in a biological sense as well. Normally when beginning a new relationship humans experience “intense euphoria and experience the release of dopamine, oxytocin, and elevated levels of testosterone and estrogen at the beginning of a relationship, these hormone levels eventually return to normal after six to twenty-four months.”
NRE and love are absolutely not the same thing. NRE is akin to infatuation rather than to love. Both love and NRE can exist concurrently or independently of each other.
New Relationship Energy does a lot to initially bond people together. Without the fun and butterflies a lot of us would not go through the effort to start and develop new relationships. NRE serves as a tool to drive us to get to know each other and form lasting bonds that will last once the NRE wears off. Some purpose that NRE is “necessary to the formation of love, serving as the short-term glue that keeps couples together long enough to see if there’s something more to the relationship than the rush of initial attraction.”
Not everyone experiences NRE or NRE in the same way. Some psychologists insist that everyone experiences NRE, but it looks so different in some people it is hard to say. I have seen couples without apparent NRE who had loving healthy relationships as well as couples with NRE to spare who were destructive, dysfunctional, and unhealthy.
NRE is exciting and can be all-encompassing. It is common for NRE-experiencers to focus more energy on their new relationships due to the pull of NRE, while neglecting old relationships. According to Psychology Today “long-standing relationships can seem boring or simply get overshadowed by the brilliance of the NRE.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-polyamorists-next-door/201312/jealousy-and-compersion-multiple-partners-1 These established relationships are usually still important to the NRE experiencer but sometimes it is hard to focus on or develop relationships without NRE.
NRE can also lead to some poor decisions. Often NRE can lead us to see our new partners in a false light. NRE’s rose colored glasses can lead to us to trust terrible people, marry near strangers, or miss out on some blaring red flags. Awareness that this sometimes occurs during NRE is helpful for keeping it from taking over in negative ways.
NRE can lead to intense but short-lasting feelings. Sometimes extreme NRE can quickly be replaced with boredom. Couples are so obsessed with each other they fail to take the time to get to know each other and develop any loyalty to each other.
NRE has benefits and downfalls, but love addiction or limerence takes these benign downfalls further. Limerence and love addiction are complicated and controversial but there is no denying that some people take NRE to unhealthy limits. So when is it a problem? See the full list here.
- Mistaking intense sexual experiences and new romantic excitement for love
- Inability to maintain an intimate relationship once the newness and excitement have worn off
- Finding it unbearable or emotionally difficult to be alone
- Choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable and/or verbally or physically abusive
- Participating in activities that don’t interest you or go against your personal values in order to keep or please a partner
- Giving up important interests, beliefs, or friendships to maximize time in the relationship or to please a romantic partner
- Missing out on important family, career, or social experiences to search for a romantic or sexual relationship
New relationship is a shared common experience for anyone who has started a new relationship. In polyamory NRE is a bigger deal because new relationships often overlap. NRE can be wonderful, even beautiful. It can also be too encompassing leading to some terrible actions and decisions. The more you know about NRE and yourself in new relationships, the better you can manage NRE and have it be a more positive experience.