New relationship energy
New relationship energy (often abbreviated as NRE) is a state of mind experienced at the beginning of most significant sexual and romantic relationships, typically involving heightened emotional and sexual receptivity and excitement. It begins with the earliest attractions, grows into full force when mutuality is established, and slowly fades over months to years. It carries an implication of contrast with the feelings involved with "old" or an ongoing relationship.
Scope of usage
While the dynamics described by NRE are common to almost all relationships, the term is particularly prevalent in the polyamorous community, in large part because polyamorous people often experience new relationship energy alongside ongoing but older relationships which they also wish to maintain. Adjusting to and compensating for the contrast in effect and excitement between the new and old relationships is considered an important factor in successfully balancing those relationships. The term originated in the writings of Zhahai Stewart in the 1980s. The use of the formal term to describe the process in a positive way can help old partners deal with the feelings of jealousy towards the new partner, as well as helping the person with a new partner be more understanding and conscious of maintaining their existing relationships.
Other books discussing NRE:
- The Ethical Slut by Easton and Liszt, Greenery Press 1997
- More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve_Rickert, Thorntree Press 2014
New relationship energy is generally considered desirable, perhaps nearly indispensable in forming deep emotional bonds, but it can also temporarily distort perceptions and judgements and this must be taken into account. These distortions of perception do not automatically imply that the attraction is unreal or will not last (indeed most lasting romantic bonds do begin with NRE, although it is important to note that this does not mean that most relationships that begin with NRE would lead to lasting romantic bonds), only that the magnitude of these positive feelings is greater than it is likely to be later, and some potential interpersonal problems may seem smaller than they will later become. Caution rather than avoidance or suppression is usually suggested in dealing with NRE.
Puppy love carries a connotation of immaturity, transience, and superficiality. Infatuation has negative or disparaging associations with a focus on unreality and obsession. The honeymoon phase has similar connotations to NRE but is perceived as occurring subsequent to marriage or similar full commitment, while many people experience new relationship energy well before marriage, or totally outside the context of marriage. There are no other common terms in English which carry the connotation of explicit contrast with the tone and feeling of older or established relationships.[original research?] One uncommon term is New Relationship Chemistry, which is essentially the same thing as NRE only the emphasis is on the brain chemistry involved in creating the euphoric feelings, rather than the more nebulous & less scientifically accurate "energy".
Another related term is limerence, a state of intense romantic desire and anxiety which can vary from longing to intense joy or despair, and conveys the sense of infatuation and unreason, described by Dorothy Tennov in her book Love and Limerence. While NRE is described in published accounts as mostly positive and enjoyable feelings which people are reluctant to see fade, limerence is described by Tennov in her book as a generally unpleasant oscillation of misery and intoxication whose sufferers wish to be rid of. NRE is often functional in establishing intimacy and emotional bonds, while limerence is seen as dysfunctional and without value. NRE almost always occurs to a significant degree in sexual or romantic relationships, while significant limerence is experienced in only a minority of relationships. Perhaps the most striking contrast is that Tennov describes limerence as an essentially unilateral feeling fueled by secrecy and uncertainty and which in all but a few pathological cases dissipates as soon as mutuality of feelings or lack thereof is established. By contrast, NRE is usually mutual and thrives on reciprocation. Limerence also carries no implication of contrast to longer established relationships.
One way to integrate the concepts of limerence and NRE is to observe that in some cases the earliest stages of NRE, before mutuality of feelings is established, can exhibit a more transient and unstable limerence phase.
- Loving More Magazine, issue #26, 2001: "What's all this NRE Stuff Anyway"
- New Relationship Energy
- Steven Alexander (4 April 2005), Free love gets a fit of the wibbles, The Guardian
- Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love By Helen Fisher, PhD; Henry Holt: February 2004; ISBN 0-8050-6913-5
- Fox, R. Affirmative Psychotherapy With Bisexual Women And Bisexual Men. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 2006
- The InnKeeper's Poly Terms Page
- Tennov, Dorothy (1999). Love and limerence: the experience of being in love. Scarborough House. ISBN 978-0-8128-6286-7. Retrieved 12 March 2011.