Sunday, April 21, 2019

New Relationship Energy

How many times have I written a variant of what I am about to write? Too many. So many that it's entirely understandable why you'd scoff this time.

This time I mean it.

My new schedule starts on Tuesday. The days are long -- ten and a half hours -- but I get three days off a week. Those days are Monday, Thursday, and Friday.

It's not perfect. I have grown to appreciate my weekends, and would have loved at least one of my days off to be a Saturday or ideally a Sunday.  But as the saying goes, "it is what it is". (What else would it be? What it isn't? The literalist in me chokes on that phrase, brought  into your close proximity by the Department of Redundancy Department, Pointless Duplication and Needless Repetition Division, Pete Repeat, Division Manager.)

Anyway, the real issue you can pretend to care about isn't the days off, it's the length of the days on. And the fact I type for a living now. The last thing I feel like doing when I get home is typing a whole lot more.

Blog entries will be few and far between as I enter this next chapter of my life. Facebook time will be curtailed. Reddit time will be slashed. Are you getting the picture? Screens now belong to the work realm. My real life is going to involve a lot more real life.

Note to my friends and loves: I'm still here for you. THAT will never change. I just spent a day and a night trying to drive that message home and it doesn't seem to have taken. But it's true. If you need help, if your heart is hurting, I'll do what I can. That is who I am.


We've only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we're on our way
(We've only begun)
Before the risin' sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We'll start out walkin' and learn to run
(And yes, we've just begun)
--the Carpenters, of course: "We've Only Just Begun" (but it was a bank commercial first!)

I was going to viciously shred another viciously anti-polyamory article I ran across, possibly the worst I have ever seen, and that's saying something. But I've written that particular blog before at least three times, and I couldn't find a way to make it say something new this time. So behold: something new.

NRE. New Relationship Energy. That's new, right?

Everybody who falls in love, mono or poly, feels it. It's that giddy moon-spoon-June thing that would often qualify as a diagnosable psychiatric issue in other contexts: an obsession, in other words.
There are sound biological reasons for this feeling. It promotes bonding, which (I keep insisting) is the name of the game for me and for many others living this way.

(That's another thing that bamboozles me about casual sex, sex without feelings. I've lost my antipathy to it -- hey, you do you, or do each other, whatever -- but I'll never pretend to understand it. How do you casual sexers deny basic biology? A simple twenty second hug releases enough oxytocin to create a bond; an orgasm releases a whole hell of a lot more. How do you turn that off? And to my mind, why would you want to?)

But back to NRE. It's a bucking bronco that can even pitch seasoned poly pros. And it can last three years or longer, especially when you don't see your new love every day.

I'm convinced some people get into polyamory simply to experience the high of NRE as often as possible. That's not my jam...for me that would translate to total sensory overload. Hell, one instance of NRE can be total sensory overload.
It can be a real challenge to balance extant relationships against a new shiny one. For some people, new love reinvigorates old ones. Not so for others.

Watching your partner go through NRE is an amazing experience, at times exacerbating. I'm so happy you're in love, darling...psssst...I'm over here. It's at this stage when a lot of unthinking hurt is inflicted...people do have a tendency to put the new shiny relationship on a pedestal, after all, and say things like we have a bond, $NEWPARTNER and I, that's just as strong as the one you and I have. That stings when you've been with someone for years and $NEWPARTNER has been with them for a week or two. So: don't do that.

How to manage NRE? "Pay attention to all partners is facile and obvious. The thing about NRE is that hours go by in the space of least one of those hours could have been spent with your existing relationship, but you often don't even notice the time passing.

Confession: I find this to be one of the most challenging parts of polyamory. I go down the rabbit hole and end up expending vast amounts of time and emotional energy. Eva is a saint to put up with it, some days.

One thing you can to mitigate the hurtful effects of NRE is dedicate time to your existing partner and make sure everyone else knows it. Time and an activity they enjoy doing with you. Another important thing to do is to check in after a new relationship has reached a milestone so that your old partner knows they're still important to you, that you love them just as much. And a third thing is something very, very important to the beginning stages of any relationship: take off the rose-coloured glasses. When you're wearing rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags look like...flags. You may find your shiny new partner is actually a walking turd. I have seen this first hand more than once. PAY ATTENTION to what your partners, friends and family say about the new love. They have your best interest in their heart.

I think of my soul mates as soul leaves on soul twigs on a soul branch of a soul tree in the soul forest. The soul forest is the world, or if I'm feeling particularly New Agey, the universe; the soul tree is comprised of pleasant acquaintances; the branch has my friends on it, and the twig has my leaf-loves right next to me. Which brings up another point: the kind of poly I favour is called "kitchen table", where everyone is on friendly if not familial terms. (The other kind is called parallel poly, where one partner knows about and connects to others, but may not interact with them much or at all.) There's nothing wrong with parallel works for many, many people. I find it uncomfortable sometimes because it's all too easy to skate right over someone's boundaries without even knowing it.

But as regards NRE, parallel poly keeps that shiny new partner at a remove. That, I have found, can provoke all kinds of unwarranted jealousy. You really have to trust that new partner to communicate WELL with his existing partner(s)...and do bear in mind that NRE can masquerade as trust. Tread carefully, is all I am saying.

And I am. Yes, it's struck me well and good. There's another reason I won't be online so much, if things develop the way we think they might. You will pardon me if I keep the details...ALL the myself.

One of the things that did in my last relationship -- there were a bunch, fault no longer matters but yes, some of them my fault for sure-- was my oft-expressed need to be open. Open, I thought, meant valid. Cheaters hide.  People who are ashamed hide. I'm not cheating and I'm not ashamed and I want the world to know I LOVE THIS PERSON AND THIS PERSON AND THIS I'd press. I'd ask to be showcased every now and again on Facebook. I'd ask to meet family so they could get to know me the way they would any long-term partner.

But guess what? Out in the open doesn't necessarily mean valid, not to some people. Out in the open makes you a target, to some people. It's naive and idealistic of me to expect the stigma I have lamented so often not apply to my partners and I. It's been intimated that I should be ashamed. I've been told I'm not welcome; so has my partner. It still maddens me, but now I feel a kind of resignation. It is what it is. The hardest thing for me is that it's an arbitrary limit on the relationship. No...the hardest thing for me is that my love is not appreciated for what it is.

My thinking has evolved on this; it's been forced to. As much as I crave acceptance and understanding, if you can't be happy for my partners and I, I'd rather shield those partners from your disapproval than try and change your mind. Maybe once the NRE becomes ORE, you might accept me. In the meantime--it sounds like such a cheating phrase, but it is what it is: what you don't know won't hurt you. It's profoundly self-limiting...

I've just detailed one of the "perils of poly". There are others.  You may ask yourself if it's worth it. That's a question only you can answer. For me, it really is. I've had my heart broken more than once since I embarked on this path in 2014...but I've also loved and been loved in abundance. It's been incredibly beneficial at times like this. And it has woven a strong emotional safety net.

A note before I go in praise of ORE, in the form of Eva.

ORE: OLD Relationship Energy. ORE: a precious metal. Gold in her case.

She's seen some shit go down. She's seen me, completely unintentionally, act badly towards partners including herself. She's seen people act badly towards me. And she's still here; we're still here. Not going anywhere.

If you really stop to think about it, why would we? There's one huge benefit to polyamory: you need never "throw away" a marriage of 19 years simply because another relationship develops. Nobody need ever leave anyone unless a relationship no longer serves them. Which, if it's considered and not rash, is a very good reason to leave any relationship. But even then, often the relationships simply change form, they don't dissolve in a puddle of acrimony and bitterness. For me, that's huge. I couldn't hate Eva (or any other partner I've had) if I tried.

But Eva. Has stood by me as I'm tumbled and stumbled and fumbled and bumbled and humbled myself.  Has watched me bloom. Has cheered me on at every turn. She has been my rock. I am her roots. And if I had the chance, I'd marry her again tomorrow. I love her very, very much.

Our relationship was old when it was new. My soul saw hers and said "oh, it's you. I've been waiting for you." We did have NRE, of course, but much of that (for me) came from the way our lives just fell together, unlike anything I've experienced before or since. We were essentially married on the third date. We were making wedding plans by then, anyway, because that date -- July 1, 1999 -- is when I moved in with her.

We have a love that has withstood many things that tear other relationships apart. And most importantly, we are best friends. ORE. Dig it. Dig for it. Because it's shiny, too.

Love to all this Easter Sunday.

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