New Love

I talk a lot about NRE.  Why? Because it’s something we don’t experience in monogamy as an outsider.  Sure, we see it in friends and family, but never in a significant other.  This can be an eye-opening experience, not just the first time, but every time a partner goes through NRE.  Navigating it as an observer can be difficult, but it can also be a growing experience.
The first time Hubby experienced me in genuine NRE he was unprepared.  We had been poly for a few years.  I had been in relationships, but until that relationship I had not realized how much I had kept those relationships on the surface.  I went through a very light NRE period with each one, but nothing that came close to what suddenly caught me off guard.  My NRE was quick and intense, and I threw myself at it wholeheartedly.  While Hubby had worked through what he thought my normal NRE behaviour would be he had no clue how to deal with the tidal wave of rainbows and sunshine that I became for this new relationship.  He had never seen me take my defenses down for anyone besides himself, and it rocked his sense of security and stability quite a bit.  Unfortunately that was also the relationship that put a lot of those defenses back in place, but it was a good learning experience for both of us as well as a chance to talk through some personal issues that the NRE in that relationship had exhumed.
My NRE with my current BF was a little different.  He was one of the first people I dated when I moved to Philadelphia, and we’ve been friends for nearly twelve years.  When we started this new relationship it was more of a feeling of relief and comfort than NRE, and we immediately fell into the roles we felt we’ve always played for each other.  Hubby has had to process this very differently than my past experiences.  The immediacy with which it seemed we established our dynamic was a little jarring for him.  He’s been inside my walls since before most of them existed.  It also means we’ve had to work a little bit at having that “new relationship” experience.  When we first realized this was happening I insisted we take the time to get reacquainted with each other.  We went on dates and to parties.  We had quiet nights in.  We tried to not cheat ourselves out of the full experience just because we had history.  Sometimes I still have to remind myself that in Hubby’s eyes this is all very new no matter how longI’ve known R.
I always have some patient processing to do when Hubby has NRE.  His already stubborn attention span severelyzones in on the new thing in his life, be it a new partner or a new project, and it can be exhausting trying to keep up.  I’d like to be able to just let him have his time and be confident his attention will be inclusive again soon, but we have household responsibilities together.  I can’t just let him loose in La La Land until he sees fit to join us here on Earth again.  For the most part I haven’t known his new interests until NRE is in full swing.  This can make me feel like I’m about to encounter some kind of supernatural being when we do finally meet.  In his eyes this new person is infallible and innocent as the baby Jesus.  No matter how calm or logical I am, if there is any contention I immediately get cast in the Wicked Witch of the Wife role.  But there is a flip side to this coin.  Hubby’s NRE is generally very healthy for us as long as there are no growing pains between me and this new partner.  It generally boosts his self-esteem, so when we do have time together he is much more squishy and sweet than usual.
Currently we are in a very new to us NRE situation, one in which his new partner is male.  While Hubby has had male play partners, this is the first fully reciprocal, healthy and happy, looking towards the future, romantic partnership with a man, which means there are two different types of NRE here.  There’s the usual ooey gooey warm center NRE, but there’s also a sort of slow epiphany happening.  This is such a new experience for him, and he has been reaching for this for so long, that there is an almost overwhelming glow that has developed as its own energy.  It has been amazing to watch, and as the one who has watched him fall short of this desire in his life over and over again I am thrilled for him.  I am happy to sit like girlfriends and listen to him gush about his new beau.  This doesn not mean, however, that I enjoy having our foreplay interrupted with cute anecdotes or need to be recounted with every single mushy text message that transpires between them, which is what I present you with now.
So how do we keep our sanity when faced with a partner’s NRE? 
First off, I urge you not to take it personally when your partner forgets something you’ve said to him.  NRE is a drug, and quite often clogs the brain with the aforementioned rainbows and sunshine.  You may want to invest in a pad of Post-it notes to keep the house from falling into shambles.
Next, don’t compare.  No matter how tempting it is to think “I don’t remember him being that way with me”, I can assure you he was just as cute and sickening with you.  Ask around.
Lastly, don’t let the sunshine pouring from your partner stop you from talking to him.  Miscommunication and distraction are rampant in NRE stages, so make sure important things are said clearly, concisely, and often.  If you’re having an issue with something, don’t let it build into resentment.  You’re not killing his buzz if you do.  You’re maintaining your established relationship.  Adversely, this is a rare glimpse at a side of your partner you might not get to see very often.  Enjoy it with him.  Be the bestie that brought you together int he first place.  Offer support if his self-confidence falters.  Give him advice if his flirting might need some help.  This kind of interaction always brings me and Hubby together and reminds us of what a good team we’ve always been.  It always brings me back to a time when we’d put on a rom-com from the Redbox and he’d do my nails while we gabbed like teenage girls.
I can also suggest you find a way to occupy yourself instead of sitting around pining for your distracted love.  Learn a new skill or find a new hobby.  Your partner will be really impressed when he’s back on this plane and you’ve knitted sweaters for the entire family…and all the pets.  Use the time to organize or clean something you’ve been neglecting.  I know these chores go faster for me without Hubby interfering or goading me to do it his way.  It also means I can toss those hole ridden socks he’s been  hanging on to without him ever noticing they’re gone.  Another thought, socialize!  Let your partner and his new love have some foundation building time, and go out a little on your own.  Meet some new people, reacquaint yourself with friends you haven’t seen in a while, or take the opportunity to bond with your metamours.  They probably miss him, too.  I always forget how much of my focus goes to Hubby until he doesn’t need it.  Use your temporary free time for you!
One of the hardest things to remember is that NRE eventually wears off.  When this happens, even if that couple is still together, there’s a lot of processing as things settle back into a comfortable place.  You may be relieved, but your partner may experience a crash, and he’ll need the support of his entire family to remember what comfortablefeels like.  Try not to be too hard on him, and welcome the newly placed piece of your puzzle with perfect love and perfect trust.
Go now, do something new!