So, as you know NRE is exciting, but it can also burn down your life if you feed the flames too much. If you’re someone that is contemplating seeking new partners, then you’re in an excellent position to work out some guidelines for yourself that keep your action in line with your own values. I will write another post about including a section on NRE in your user manual, which includes commitments to yourself. If that particular horse has already bolted and you are already deep in the wonderful and bewildering chemicals of NRE, this post is for you. I’m assuming that you have already decided that you would voluntarily like to stop feeding NRE because it is having negative impacts on your life, or because you are afraid it will. If you aren’t at that stage yet, maybe fill out this worksheet to spend some time thinking about whether it would be a good idea for you.
How to stop fanning the flames:
1) Map out your relationships and interest – and reflect on their importance to you.
This is an exercise that I put together about intentional relationships a few months ago. It asks you to create a visual representation of your important people and activities. When you lay out all the things in your life, and how close or far they are from you, it might help you see whether there are things getting crowded out by your new squeeze. Even if you aren’t overjoyed at the idea of carrying on all the activities that pre-NRE you loved, make sure you’re still doing some of them. Equally, give your other connections some thought. Are you in the amount of contact with those people that you actually want to be? If not, make some changes so that you can be. It might feel artificial at the time, but stick with it.
2) Take care to make sure your closest people feel loved, wanted and important.
Some relationship advice on new relationship energy focuses on romantic partners, but I think that is limited because what happens in NRE can affect relationships with business partners, activity partners, friends, children, other family members as well as romantic partners. Once you have created your “pod” of people you will have a sense of who feels closest. During NRE, you will probably need to pay more attention than normal to give these relationships the nourishment they require to stay healthy and strong. Giving your other important relationships some focus can help you to maintain a balance in your life between the exhilaration of NRE and the grounding effect of longer standing connections. It can also reduce the chance of unintended consequences, such as people feeling neglected or abandoned in favour of your new shiny.
3) Don’t plan ahead more than the duration of your relationship into the future.
For the first two years of a relationship, it is usually a good idea to limit future planning to the duration of your connection to date. This means that if you have been together for three months, then plan just three months into the future. Such a rule of thumb can stop you from making life-changing commitments that you can’t know you’ll keep (despite NRE-fueled certainty that you will when you make them). Even if you feel like you have known someone forever, the reality is that you are just getting to know them, and chemistry is likely to reduce your capacity to notice things that would otherwise put you off or present a future problem. This doesn’t mean you can’t imagine a future together or enjoy fantasizing about what life might be life if you spent much more time with your new person, but it does mean refraining from transforming yourself, your life and your other connections right now to make that future a reality.
4) Think about your post-NRE capacity for contact and intimacy.
When you’re in NRE, it often feels like nothing else on earth will ever feel as good as being with the object of your affection. That means many people have the urge to allocate their time very differently to the way they might post NRE. If you can, try to work out how much time you would like to be spending with them in 6 and 12 months. If you find this too hard to know, then think about what you have done in the past, or what you might advise a friend in a similar situation. Granted, this is very difficult in the throes of passion. It is unlikely to be possible to limit your contact to this level, but having an idea of what it is will likely help you to work out some limits on contact. One of my people has a rule of thumb that says she should be in no more than 1.5 times the contact with a new person than she would like once the relationship is an established part of her life. Having a framework or idea that works for you is likely to help you to balance the excitement and newness with keeping the rest of your life going the way you would ultimately like it to.
5) If you find yourself unable to carry out basic functions of life, like sleeping, eating and washing, create some deliberate space
If a new relationship is overtaking your life to the point that you aren’t able to carry out the basic functions of being an adult, you can be pretty sure it will burn itself out if you don’t start looking after yourself. That, or it will burn your life down! Have a conversation with your sweetie about your need to manage your own life and try to scale back the time you are in contact or thinking about the other person. This might mean you need to take up active hobbies to distract you from the constant desire to talk to the other person. Use podcasts, exercise, time with friends, music, knitting, reading, and whatever else works for you to take a little step back so that you can regain some sense of normality.
6) Make time to check in with your most important people and have radically honest conversations.
It is often the case that people in NRE feel a dramatic (and usually temporary) drop in their sexual and romantic attraction to existing partners and a reduction in enjoyment of their passions. It can be hard to admit how overwhelming a new relationship feels, especially when it is a “game changer.” Part of the process of getting to grips with what you want is actually recognising the impact of this new connection on your life. When the only person you are sharing your plans and fantasies with is the object of your affection it can feel like a big secret, and that intensifies the experience. It also means you may not be taking account of how your new relationship and current NRE is affecting the rest of your life (and potentially your future). Just like it is important to address your own wants and needs, it can be important to take into account other perspectives. Especially those of your nearest and dearest.
Talk about your plans over the next few months, and the fantasies that you have about how this connection will develop. Sometimes you will have a really strong sense of what you want – for example, I have been very confident about wanting a comet-style relationship with some people even when utterly besotted with them. Other times you won’t really know, but you will likely have a sense of whether your new person is going to be someone you want a lot of time with or a little time with. Have conversations with people that you trust and respect about how you are feeling, what you want, and how this might change your life. Allow these conversations to happen frequently and evolve over time. This is likely to increase intimacy in other relationships and help you manage the urge to change everything to be with your new person
7) Reserve your most productive or creative hours for you, and don’t have contact during that time.
I know it can be hard and painful to feel separated from the object of your affection, but it is also an important test of whether your relationship is likely to have long-term potential. Create pockets of the day when you are intentionally not in contact. Make sure that these are at times that work for you, and that they don’t just fit the other person’s schedule. Try pouring some of the creative energy that they are stirring up in you into other passions.
8) Let the energy spill into the rest of your life.
There is a lot of joy in NRE, and that positivity can make pretty much everything better. Let it come out in work, other relationships and in your (likely neglected) passions. If you have other romantic relationships then take the time to reminisce about how it felt at the start of your relationship, or significant emotional events like having kids or special holidays together. Use the energy to bring a positive burst across your life.