Guest Columnist Kevin Patterson debates whether NRE is essential to polyamory!
How do I navigate the resentment I feel toward my primary partner for not being able to enjoy new relationship energy (NRE) with our new lover?
This is the third in a new series of advice columns written by professionals in the field of alternative relationships here at “I Am Poly(amorous) & So Can You!” . I hope you enjoy these fresh, intersectional perspectives on evolving non-monogamous relationships!
Hey writer! I’m Kevin Patterson and I’m here to help. You asked a question. Presumably, you want answers. Well, I’m sorry about that. Christmas is almost here,and my Santa Claus bag is mostly full of just more questions. Let me start by saying I was slightly confused by your question in that I couldn’t figure out whether it was you or your partner who was unable to enjoy NRE with your new lover. With no way to ask you directly, I decide to address both.
Why would either one of you be required to feel NRE towards this lover? The effects of NRE can fall anywhere between charming and chaotic depending on the person and the dynamic. For me, it means lots of random smiling and singing with no one around to hear. For one of my partners, it means breaking plans and double booking in order to spend time with the new shiny.
I’ve never heard of NRE being compulsory in order to maintain a relationship, though. Once the novelty wears off, a lot of us find ourselves in that place where we’ve grown comfortable with our partners. We can adore them without putting them on a pedestal. The two of you construct a natural rhythm where you can read each other accurately without really trying. Established Relationship Energy (ERE) can be just as fulfilling and far more relaxed. It’s not a bad alternative, really. Or is the energy just not there at all?
Writer, you refer to your partner as “primary”. Is that the issue? Is the lack of NRE a dealbreaker for the *non-primary* relationship? Why is that?
The awesome thing about polyamory is that it allows us to craft and customize our relationships in ways that are as unique as we are. A problem that we frequently run across is that we try to craft these relationships before they’re fully stocked with humans. We give ourselves these ideal structures that don’t necessarily fit the people that we ultimately find ourselves in love with.
It sounds as if you and your partner found yourselves in a relationship with the same person but you don’t quite feel the same way about them. This is a common issue...but it doesn’t need to be. As people, we’re often scared of the unknown. In polyamory, we’re often the beaten path. We don’t have a ton of role models to shape our relationships around. So, instead we try to pre-plan a relationship that will make us feel safe. That sounds like a great idea until you have to factor in an actual person who didn’t have a hand in writing that plan.
What I’d recommend, dear writer, is that you let it go. Whether you’re resentment is based on your partner’s lack of NRE or your own, you can’t build a relationship out of expectations. Neither people nor emotions work that way. One of you is digging on this new love and should be allowed to continue unimpeded. The one of you who isn’t should cheer on their partner as they explore a brand new dynamic. In the meantime, you should read up on “emotional literacy” and figure out how to express your resentment in a clear and productive way. A way that doesn’t infringe on your partner’s in order autonomy to reach a resolution.
Something I say a lot is that polyamory can be a lot easier than we make it. Turn off the expectation and wade into the unknown. Good luck!
Kevin Patterson is the curator of the Poly Role Models and the author of Love’s Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities and the queer, polyamorous superhero novel For Hire: Operator.