Belenen (belenen) wrote,

on excitement and nourishment in romantic relationships -- NRE versus IFE

NRE (new relationship energy) is this thing you hear about a lot in poly circles -- it's accepted as fact that when you start a new relationship, you get more energy out of it. You get excited and giddy and have the ability to sink tons of energy into the new relationship without feeling drained because there's so much NRE coming in. And then it fades, and there is nothing you can do about it.

I think that's total bullshit. I don't believe in NRE. What people call NRE is actually IFE -- intimate focus energy. The giddiness, excitement, high-nourishment state is not caused by novelty, and does not have to dissipate with time. It gets associated with newness because in the beginning of a relationship there is a lot of fear and anxiety -- fear of losing this person, anxiety about making mistakes, etc -- and that gets channeled into focusing intensely on the other person (Abby coined the term "fear-spark" to describe this :D). You watch their every move because you're trying to figure out how to interact with them in a safely intimate way, and BECAUSE you're watching their every move, you're enchanted by them. Everyone is amazing if you look closely enough. Then, when you know them well enough to feel safely intimate, you stop looking so closely, and you stop noticing their amazingness. You take them for granted, because you can. And you call that the end of NRE and assume it is a natural phase of relationships. It's common, but it is NOT inevitable and it is NOT biological (and I would really like to destroy the idea that those two things are synonymous).

People tend to feel very intimate and safe with me quickly. I like that in and of itself but I don't like the fact that it usually has the effect of intimate focus ending on the part of the other person. I remember near the beginning of my relationship with Arizona, ze told me that ze felt very comfortable with me and I was very disappointed to hear that, expecting it to end the giddy excitement between us. It didn't, I think because Arizona already saw IFE as a process to engage in, not a fickle self-creation.

It wasn't until the past few weeks that I finally found the words to explain this -- previously I'd frustratedly concentrated on the symptoms, saying that I need intimate focused time in order to be romantic with someone. I finally realized that it's not just about lacking that intimate focus time, it's about the attitude that people have about whether romantic giddy high-nourishment can be created or whether it "just happens." If they don't think it can be created then they won't see the lack of it as a symptom that there is not enough intimate focus in the relationship. I cannot be in a romantic relationship without IFE, not because I'm "just in it for the excitement", but because I value that intimate focus, and I know it can be created any amount of time into the relationship.

I know a few ways of creating IFE, and I hope to learn more. Here are the ones I know so far: Keeping the other person in my thoughts -- considering their desires and needs when deciding what to do, talking to them often, trying to make plans for intimate time with them often. Practicing intimate time -- time with lots of eye contact and focus on each other and on the connection between us (not just on external issues, though sharing external struggles can also build intimacy). Practicing conscious touch -- touching/kissing with total focus on the other person and attention to their responses/desires (yes, even after you can predict what they will like! that focus serves more than one purpose!). But I think it all boils down to practicing sustained awareness of the other person.
Tags: intimacy, intimacy practice, polyamory / relationship anarchy, relationships

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