In this post and the next one I’m focusing on the shift from new relationship energy to existing relationship energy in relationships that are geographically close and where participants are a regular feature in each other’s lives. I am deliberately not talking about long-distance or comet relationships, which often have a different trajectory.
I have already written about the particular challenges of NRE, and how it can disrupt and trouble your life and relationships. Existing relationship energy is the feeling you get when you are in an established relationship. It often includes a sense of rhythm, greater comfort with each other and more willingness to show each other your ‘warts’, a sense of having a shared history, and of knowing where you stand.
In my own life, I’ve found that transitions both into and out of NRE can be challenging. The beginning is awash with colour and chemistry and joy, though perhaps touched with a measure of chagrin from your other partners and friends who may notice that you disappear at this point. The ending of NRE is another transition, but one that is written about less. This is often the point where your relationship becomes driven more by connection and compatibility than chemistry. The easy high of NRE gives way to a more mellow kind of pleasure.
Many people really struggle with the transition from the exciting start of a relationship to something that is less chemical and more integrated into life. Others find it a blessed relief – they get their focus back and can settle into a comfortable routine with the new person. In this way, it feels like opening up to some people and closing down to others. Those that see it as a progression to something more stable may enjoy the greater freedom to be themselves in the relationship or to refocus some of the attention they had previously given to the new relationship to other relationships or pursuits. Those that see it as a closing down may mourn the loss of intensity and chemistry, and experience it as an unwelcome ending. In fact, these perspectives can coexist; after all, we are rather complex beings who often have more than one emotion at a time.
I invite you to think back through your relationships, can you identify times when you experienced this shift?
What have your experiences been like?
Have they differed depending on whether you entered the relationships slowly or quickly?
What aspects of this change have you experienced as opening up?
What aspects have you experienced as closing down?