Saturday, November 29, 2008

This Is My Dream

I'm contemplating New Relationship Energy (NRE) as it particularly applies to polyamorous relationships. NRE is like a drug that induces an alternated state of consciousness with a heightened sense of sexual and emotional attraction for a new partner. NRE helps a couple form deep bonds of attachment when they are still virtually strangers to one another on many significant levels. Swimming in NRE is often experienced as intense waves of bliss and well being mingled with bouts of anxiety that lessen as the mutuality of the attraction is more securely established.

In monogamous or serial monogamous relationships, NRE energy often plays out significantly different than in polyamorous relationships where the person (s) experiencing NRE is concurrently establishing a relationship/falling in love with a new partner while at the same time maintaining an ongoing relationship with an old love/spouse/primary partner.

Unless a "monogamous" partner is cheating on a current and ongoing partner, they are pretty much free to jump feet first, into the supreme joy and emotionally bonding pleasures of NRE. Although a monogamous person may have other commitments such a career, children etc., there is no "significant other" to interfere or distract them, no other lover that loyalty insists they must mindfully consider. They are pretty much free to dive into their new relationship, fully immersing them self in the waters of love, allowing the rest of the world to disappear while the full focus of their attention is directed to the supreme loving of this new other.

NRE is a valuable and exhilarating gift that new love offers. Some say it is indispensable to the bonding process of new sexual loving relationships. It's the glue that sticks new lovers together. Others are leery of NRE, even labeling it as a "false love" because of the common distortions in judgement and perceptions that one is susceptible to making in regards to this new person who is the object of their desire. These people would rather deny or suppress NRE than risk being swept away on a wave of irrational and exaggerated positive feelings where the new lover's attributes are magnified and their deficits are barely noticed. These people prefer a slower, more pragmatic approach to the process of creating new relationships and falling in love. I suppose that some new relationships, with otherwise potential for compatibility, actually drift apart when NRE isn't given it's due. That's not to say that love in some relationships doesn't grow slowly and surely with measured steps and careful calculations as one allows their heart to open with very little manifestation of NRE. Who can say how love will present itself? The possibilities are endless.

But for those romantic and polyamorous people who want nothing more than to dive deep into NRE, experiencing it in all it's wet and wondrous glory, rarely poking their heads above the surface for a breath of air, well theirs is perhaps a different story when they have another significant other relationship to maintain. As much as they might desire to take the plunge, they have commitments and responsibilities in sustaining their other, older, perhaps momentarily less exciting, but nevertheless tried and true, long term, love relationship (s).

This can prove to be a huge challenge and is often seen as the cornerstone of being a worthy polyamorous partner. What a balancing act! If you are of the school that NRE is a good thing (and I most certainly am while at the same time advocating for caution) where do you start? I suggest starting with strong intention. Intend to keep your heart open to both partners. Intend to maintain your primary and already established relationship with devotion to mindfulness. Intend to ride NRE with both wild abandon, and cautious, graceful integrity. How does one do that? Heck if I know as all relationships have different needs, but I do know that with intention all things are possible. Intention sets us on the path and the steps we need to take are often revealed on an as needed basis. There will be holes that trip us up and boulders that seem to block our way. When we are intent on maintaining an ongoing long term relationship while establishing a new one, we may need to put the wild abandon of NRE on a long but tethered leash. Depending on our situation, we may need to put it on a short leash. Maybe it needs to be practiced in a timed released sort of fashion--in small doses that don't rock the stability of the boat of our other relationships. Perhaps setting an alarm clock to wake us up from our NRE dream at scheduled intervals. Fuck if I know. There are no hard and fast rules that will work for everyone. We are the architects and I suggest using freedom as the foundation that we build our love relationships on. Again, how to do that? Intention provides the answers. We gotta make up our rules as we go along, caring as gently as we can for one another's hearts. And yet there are open relationship pioneers who have already blazed some trails into this wilderness and I think it prudent to follow their lead, at least listen their suggestions and try some of their ideas when we are first starting out. Reading lots of books on polyamory is a good idea. Finding and connecting with others who live this lifestyle is invaluable.

Good communication with both partners--your long term relationship partner, as well as your new love, is imperative. All three partners (or four, or however many partners there are) getting together and discussing the dynamics of NRE and how each person is being impacted by it is helpful.

I repeatedly advise couples I work with to keep their hearts and minds open to everyone involved and of course I attempt to do this in my own relationships. Also, to be a good friend first and foremost, and to love your lover's other partner (s) which I know can be most difficult at times but that's when it's probably most important. I think it's a good idea for the established, long term partner to be as generous and understanding as they can possibly muster in allowing for their partner's experience of NRE with their new lover and the dimished focus they will perhaps receive for awhile. This takes a lot of trust and emotional maturity, no doubt. At the same time and equality important is for the partner who is caught up in NRE with their new love, to simultaneously keep their long term partner's needs and vulnerabilities close to their heart at all times. They must be diligent in following through on the commitments to their older relationship (s). I've always felt that I wouldn't trust a partner who was lax with his attention and focus on his already established relationships. If he was willing to forsake his old love for me, I'd suspect that my heart would be next in line to be trampled when I was no longer so fresh and new. At the same time, I'm also worthy of attention and focus and I want my opening heart protected and cared for too. We have to be willing to talk about our needs and be creative at finding innovative strategies for making sure everyone's are being met.

So the point of this post is the contrast of dealing with polyamorous NRE as opposed to dealing with "monogamous" NRE. Polyamorous NRE is, or at least certainly has, the potential of being much more of a challenge. I've found it to be one of the biggest complications/challenges for many who are starting up a new polyamorous relationship. That and the simple fact that there may be unlimited love but there is not unlimited time and energy. There are only so many hours in a day.

This is one of the reasons that I am most attracted to a family centered model of polyamory, where time and energy can be used more efficiently. It affords one to feed two birds with one seed. I want the freedom to have all my lovers with me most of the time. This doesn't mean that everyone will necessarily be together most of the time, but rather that there is the freedom to choose to be together as much as is practical and possible for each particular person. It means that building a comfort level is paramount, one of knowing that you are welcomed, wanted, and loved. It doesn't mean that everyone lives together in the same house or that everyone spends an equal amount of time together. But it does suggest more fluid boundaries while extending the opportunities of more actual time that is available to be together. Kind of a mi casa su casa sort of mentality. What I don't like is when people end up feeling excluded and left out, disconnected and as if they don't really belong. If my lovers can flow more organically into and out of the days and hours of my life so that I'm spending time on my own, with other friends and activites, as well as in dyads, triads, quads, so on and so forth with my various loves and their various loves, cuddling in puppy piles and meandering into and out of each other's arms and space as fierce (and happy) individuals who are choosing to live interdependently in a close knit family of friends sort of way...well, this is my dream.

Some polyamorous people keep their different love relationships quite separated from one another and while this might work just fine for them, I think it more often adds to the potential of people not getting enough time and attention from their lovers and also possibly feeling excluded from the warmth of companionship. Again, there is only so much time in a day and while every relationship deserves some one on one privacy, if you throw in some family style dinners, play time and parties where everyone is invited, a willingness to share in another's chores and errands etc., everyone can get more time to share in the juicy love that's available in unlimited abundance.

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