By Guest Blogger Myisha Battle
When you ask someone who’s in a long-term relationship to describe what it was like for them when they met their partner, 9 times out of 10 they will likely use words like “exciting,” “hot,” “passionate,” and “easy.” They may respond with anecdotes about how they felt so connected to and understood by the other person and how they lived in anticipation of the next time they got to see them. These are the qualities and experiences that best summarize the beginning stages of most relationships and what has become known as New Relationship Energy, or NRE.
When we think about burgeoning relationships and the excitement they bring, we tend to think about the sexual experiences and encounters that often accompany this period of the relationship as well. This aspect of NRE is what well-established couples tend to look back on and think “what happened to all that passion, all that spark we had in the beginning?” In some cases, this relative lack of that passion and excitement is what brings couples to work with me as their sex coach.
That is why I am here to tell you that NRE is but one phase of intimacy that develops over time, that there are ways to keep excitement in the foreground of your relationship, and that acceptance of the ebb and flow of excitement is crucial to building and maintaining a healthy partnership.
Why is it important to understand NRE even before you get into a relationship?
Many people believe that if they achieve that special connection with someone right away, that it means that they have found the undying love for which they have been searching. In some cases that is true and NRE definitely makes us all feel like we are experiencing an unparalleled joy that will never end. The thing to keep in mind is that relationships are just that, relational. They do change over time, sometimes deepening and strengthening and sometimes revealing that even though NRE was strong, the match may not necessarily be made to last. Knowing the effects of NRE can help you be more objective as you experience the highs of being with a new person.
Why do we experience NRE?
We need new relationship energy to draw us in and keep us interested in potential partners, in order to start building solid bonds. In fact, according to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, it is in this stage of the relationship that we release the most dopamine and adrenaline, which are responsible for those intense feelings of intrigue and euphoria. It is a beautiful process that allows us to focus in on another person and, in a way, get consumed by them. It is also 100% natural to experience those initial feelings change as you learn more about the other person and grow into the relationship together.
NRE doesn’t last forever
The pull of NRE is so attractive that many people seek it out exclusively, believing that there will be someone with whom they can sustain that dynamic and passionate NRE excitement indefinitely. When that flame starts to cool, usually within a few months to a year, it is easy to take it as a sign that the relationship was not meant to be. In actuality, the end of NRE is an amazing time for deepening attachment, revealing our true selves and learning about what life might be like with this person on a day-to-day basis. This can sometimes be quite scary, especially for those with limited long-term dating experience. But rather than back away from relationships after NRE fades, it’s sometimes more beneficial to see what comes next.
Maintaining the excitement of NRE
Over time, relationships begin to stabilize which provides amazing opportunities to build feelings of trust, safety, and commitment. As bonds deepen and comfort increases, the initial excitement may begin to fade a little. Again, this is a completely natural part of building a relationship that lasts.
Relationships cannot sustain themselves on NRE forever, but many experts agree that two factors can help sustain excitement in long-term relationships. The first is novelty. Why are we drawn in so strongly by our attraction for another person? Well, they are new to us and that is exciting! There is so much to learn about and with them. Humans are notorious novelty-seekers, but in long-term relationships often routine and comfort become the norm. You can bring excitement into your relationship by introducing more novel experiences regularly. That means, skip your go-to delivery place and explore a new restaurant that just opened in your neighborhood, take a walk in a different part of town or go away together for the weekend. Newness breeds excitement.
The second factor that can help sustain excitement is distance. We become accustomed to people who are in our lives every day. We think we know them inside and out (even when that’s not exactly true). But when they go away, their absence is felt and as the saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Regular separation allows you to have separate experiences which are novel and new to the both of you. You can then return to the relationship with fresh eyes and experiences to share.
When looking for a long-term partner and a relationship that will last, it’s easy to get caught up in what happened at the beginning of the relationship and be disillusioned if it starts to feel like that part of your relationship is gone forever. That is why it’s good to know what role NRE plays and that it is a necessary piece of building the much larger structure of the relationship. So, do not despair when you start to see NRE fade! The best is yet to come.