Most of the time when New Relationship Energy (NRE) is mentioned, it's in the context of relationships (typically polyamorous relationships). The Poly Glossary on MoreThanTwo.com defines NRE as:
A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship. While similar in some ways to limerence, new relationship energy is distinct in that it often follows the beginning of a relationship (as opposed to desire for a relationship), and can last as long as several years.
I would bet that most of us are familiar with this feeling in a romantic context. I used to refer to it as the honeymoon phase of a relationship--everything is perfect, there's tons of sex/touching/kissing/cuddling, and there's almost no fighting. It's also the time when the "You hang up first!" "No, you hang up first!" phenomenon happens.
The thing that we don't talk about as much is when NRE happens outside of a romantic context. This is problematic because it can marginalize folks who are asexual, aromantic, or just simply aren't interested in pursuing romantic relationships at the time for whatever reason. The reality is that NRE can manifest in many and varied ways. Here are just a few:
Have you ever met a new person and quickly realized that you wanted badly to be friends with them? Maybe you have the same interests, maybe you love the same style of clothing, maybe you're passionate about the same social justice causes. Whatever the commonality, you've realized that you are simply compatible with this person. You love their energy and you love the way you feel when you're with them.
I was chatting about this with my friend and colleague, sex educator Rebecca Hiles, who added:
We can really see this a lot of platonic friendships and platonic relationships where people will get really interested in their friends for bursts of time--they'll go everywhere together and hang out together. We see this a lot in high school relationships where two people will become close friends really quickly and just connect on every level and then two weeks later things have just kind of cooled off.
We must remember that NRE can be fleeting--the initial rush of excitement can wear off within a few weeks, months, or sometimes years. It's important to put in the work to solidify the friendship so that it doesn't fizzle as soon as the novelty has worn off. My friend Andy Duran, the Educational Outreach and Affiliate Manager at my favorite Bay Area store Good Vibrations, had an incredibly insightful point:
During the period of new relationship energy, I find that I not only get to know the person I'm connecting with, but I get to learn a lot about myself too. Having to remember what my favorite restaurants are or thinking back to stories of my siblings and I growing up, or even just seeing how someone else responds to you.
Sometimes in relationships (friendships or otherwise) we get to know a person so well that it feels like we run out of things to talk about. Having a new person allows you to feel the novelty in sharing yourself, your thoughts, and your life history with a new person. You also have the opportunity to receive feedback on those things from a fresh perspective. I recently told a story to a new friend and he reacted totally differently to it than others had in the past. It was lovely to have new insight into my psyche!
I think every one of my sex educator friends will identify with this one. You come up with a brilliant new idea. You buy the domain, create the tumblr or the Facebook page, and start developing content/graphics/etc. You want to work on the project all the time. Hours go by like minutes. You're sure that this project is going to be the thing that really takes off for you and helps you do what you love full time. This lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Then gradually, you get bored, or run out of steam, or come up with the next big project idea. It's cyclical, especially if you (like me) have the ENFP personality type. Every new idea is greeted with boundless enthusiasm. Sometimes the projects are even completed! (Most times, they're not, but that's okay, because you can always pick them back up later!)
You meet at a bar, or online, or through mutual friends. Chemistry is present in a major way. You feel the aching inside, the intense desire to get to know every intimate part of this new person. You can't keep your hands off them (with consent!) You want to find all their feel-good spots--it's like an X-rated treasure hunt. When you touch, your heart pounds and your breathing quickens.
Rebecca pointed out that there's also a risk-free trial aspect to the NRE of casual sex. If it's awful, you don't ever have to see them again. Conversely, a less than stellar sexual experience in a romantic relationship can become a (surmountable) problem, but a hurdle nonetheless.
I recently had an experience where I was performing oral sex on a new partner. He had a lovely cock that I couldn't wait to get my hands and mouth on. I drew on a lot of my techniques that I teach in my classes, but I also wanted to tailor it to his specific tastes and preferences. It was a chance to find out how hard he liked the shaft gripped, how much attention he liked to have paid to the head of his cock, and how much he liked having his balls played with. In short, a delightful sexual fact-finding mission. We have plans to explore all parts of each others' bodies the next time we're in the same place. Sometimes I find myself daydreaming about finding each and every one of his hot spots and driving him wild with desire. It's exhilarating. That's NRE.
What are your experiences with NRE outside the traditional context? Let me know in the comments!