August 2019
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rant: I hate the idea of 'honeymoon phase' or NRE / start with reality rather than fantasy / IFE

icon: "voltaic (me, face at a sharp angle staring out of one eye with a slight smile and streaks of rainbow light on my face)"

I LOATHE the idea of a 'honeymoon phase' or 'new relationship energy' (NRE). I hate it like I hate the idea of men being less emotional than women (which, in case you didn't know, is empirically untrue). It implies a lie. It is true that some relationships are only good for the first 1-2 years. What is false is the idea that this shift is naturally occurring or inevitable. It is NOT AT ALL 'natural' to stop being excited about your lover. It's a sign that one or both of you need to develop your intimacy skills and/or personhood (or it may be a symptom of general lack of nourishment, or lack of common ground). The only thing that you have at the beginning that you can't have forever is novelty. If you crave novelty, just call it novelty. Stop acting like it is a part of every relationship or that every relationship has a 'honeymoon' and 'post-honeymoon' stage.

Reality can't dull anything that is real. I realized today that probably some people begin relationships with a fantasy of perfection. Starting out with fantasies and trying to see how much of each others' fantasy you can fulfill is not remotely appealing to me. I prefer to start out with nothing but questions and figure out what potential currently exists based on who each person is now (not who they want to be, not who the other person imagines them to one day be). Starting out with the idea of 'perfect' and working backwards to 'possible' seems inherently disappointing to me. Of course you're going to lose excitement that way -- but it's a loss of your ability to pretend, not an actual loss of something real. This is why in my relationships, I want to figure out if I have compatible values, goals, skills, and needs with a person BEFORE I invest deeply in them. Otherwise I'm likely to end up putting pressure on them to be what I want and need, and vice versa, and we're both going to end up hungry and drained.

Going back to the idea of NRE -- I don't believe in it. What people call NRE is actually IFE -- intimate focus energy. The giddy, excited, highly-nourished 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). 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 (well, everyone who isn't evil). 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.

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lusimeles ══╣╠══
I really enjoyed reading your perspective on this issue. I personally don't mind the idea of NRE, but I think I understand it differently from you insofar as I don't think the end of NRE necessarily equals the end of the period in which you are excited about your lover, just the end of the period in which that excitement still feels frenzied. To me, the idea of NRE is kind of comforting - I think a lot of people grow up with the idea that unless you're fucking each other against walls 24/7, there is something "missing" from your relationship. NRE kind of normalizes for me the idea that it's okay, and even normal/commonplace, for sex drives (and romantic frenzies) to waver, as well as (quite importantly) the idea that when you're first falling in love, your best judgment might be a little compromised by your fear (of, say, loneliness) or anxiety or whatever.

I like your theory about IFE, but I do think there is something to novelty, because (to me, at least) falling in love is like discovering a whole new world. Certainly, you're intimately focusing on it as well - but when you fall in love with someone new, you gain access to all these feelings/insights you often have never had before, and that - the feeling of discovery, or maybe even "miracle" - does create its own, unique form of energy.

That being said, I think IFE is something that often overlaps with NRE, and while you can never quite get the NRE back (by definition), the IFE rises and ebbs with the reasons, almost. In my own relationship, for example, I often feel wildly excited about my partner even after over two years (which, I realize, is not terribly long, but long enough that most people consider it past the stereotypical "honeymoon" phase). However, it's much more of a renewed appreciation for something I have already, as well as an ongoing joy over something I feel like we've built and something I feel like I can rely on/come home to. When my relationship was new, I felt like a kid walking into a candy store for the very first time and first learning what deliciousness really was - the novelty is exciting because you never realized, or never experienced, that deliciousness for yourself before. Then it does become "normalized," and the sort of precariousness giddiness you feel at first gives way to something even better: the idea that the candy will never go away :D

...also, WOW, I wrote an essay, I am sorry. Apparently I have a lot of feelings on this topic!
lorigami ══╣╠══
"the IFE rises and ebbs with the reasons"
yes, this. I've been with my partner for almost 16 years, and it definitely ebbs and flows. Sometimes we each have too much going on in our own lives to put as much focus on the relationship as we'd like, but that's an understood thing. As long as it doesn't go too far, it's an accepted part of the cycle.
I think we can't sustain that amount of focus permanently because if we did, we'd wind up ignoring our own needs.

Also, I see the honeymoon phase a little differently. Not only are you getting to know someone new, with all that comes with that, but you're getting to know yourself through someone else's eyes, which can be equally exciting.
kiwi ══╣╠══
Also, I see the honeymoon phase a little differently. Not only are you getting to know someone new, with all that comes with that, but you're getting to know yourself through someone else's eyes, which can be equally exciting.

I really like this statement. I know I've had different partners bring out different sides of my personality and it was just as interesting learning about these new sides of me as it was learning about the new sides of them as things started out.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
we can't sustain that amount of focus permanently because if we did, we'd wind up ignoring our own needs

definitely! I don't think it is healthy to have IFE all the time because then you would not be investing enough in the rest of your life. And it's also not possible to have it all the time because it takes way too much work!

For me, getting to know myself through someone else's eyes is HUGELY exciting but happens just as much with people I know very well as it does with new people. For me, the only time it is lacking is when one or both of us get in a rut where we are not learning and growing (which could happen at any point in the relationship).
lusimeles ══╣╠══
Congrats on 16 years! I definitely think it is healthy to be able to take time away from your partner. My mental health would definitely suffer if I spent all my time focusing on my boyfriend, because he really can't be everything to me - it seems unreasonable to expect one person to solve your everything, you know?

Not only are you getting to know someone new, with all that comes with that, but you're getting to know yourself through someone else's eyes, which can be equally exciting.

Ooh, very true! Actually, that was always one of my favourite parts about seeing somebody new.
belenen ══╣powerful╠══
I get what you mean and I think normalizing intensity fluctuation is important -- but I don't feel like NRE normalizes fluctuation because the way I see it referenced, it's as a phase that only happens once per relationship. That's what I hate, the idea that this is some kind of phenomenon beyond human creation. I would much rather people understand that they can create intimacy anytime with anyone and that it fluctuates based on their own actions and situations and not some magical time period.

I understand that some people do like novelty... it's just not connected to love, for me. Those feelings and insights, I tend to have more often by deliberately creating them with people I already know extremely well. And I feel certain that I am not the only one, and that people are cutting themselves off from having these by thinking that they can't make them happen but have to just stumble into them.

I think part of my problem is that I just don't have much of a fondness for novelty, or rather, I don't find it exciting. So for me, the 345466th time I had the candy is as good as the first time, as long as I am being fully present.
lusimeles ══╣╠══
I agree with that! I think I may just view NRE more benignly, probably because I haven't heard as many people apply the phrase in that way? (Or, who knows, maybe I'm a little oblivious. I've been known to be.) The idea that the relationship inevitably becomes less exciting overall after the NRE has worn off is definitely wrong to me too.

Personally, I do like the novelty, but I think the quality of novelty actually differs between relationships that are short-lived and relationships that ultimately go the distance, if that makes any sense. The difference isn't always immediately appreciable, which is why people do get confused. I wasn't a particularly romantic/giddy person before I met my boyfriend, so when that happened, I guess I felt sort of a personal awakening? So, it wasn't just that I was sleeping with this sexy new guy, even though I was - it was more that I'd finally met somebody who gave me feelings I'd never previously had access to. For that reason, I appreciate the "novelty," although I suspect what I'm really talking about is something deeper. Anyway, now, I still have access to those feelings, and they've only grown since those first months - so the IFE is still very much there, and, as you said, something that requires active input from both parties to make happen.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
if I remember correctly you are monogamous, right? I think NRE is more of a constant topic in polyamorous circles, so I may be more critical of it because it's more often in my mindspace.

mm, I think I understand the difference you're talking about. There's having a new experience, and then there is discovering a new facet to life. They're both novel, but the second one has far more profound effect.
lusimeles ══╣╠══
That is true! I usually hear NRE being discussed as something you *shouldn't* end up mistaking for "the real thing" if you want to make a relationship last, even if you should try to enjoy it while it "lasts." However, I think most successful monogamous couples say the NRE gives way to something *like* IFE (not in those words, obviously) - so there is definitely awareness the ~fun~ can (and should!) last, even if wavers temporarily.
belenen ══╣vivacious╠══
oh, and nnta (no need to apologize) ever for a long comment! I love long thoughtful comments like this!!!
lusimeles ══╣╠══
awesome! i always look forward to them in my journal, too :)
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.