Romanticies, NRE and Other Pitfalls of New Relationships
I read, hear about, and have experienced multiple challenges around new relationships; both within the mono and poly communities that surround me. Girlfriends who pin all of their hopes and desires on a new love interest, only to have their co-dependent dreams smashed to smithereens. Men so blinded by NRE that they stumble into abusive relationships with women who don't appreciate them for who they are. In some ways, the challenges that many of us face in the poly-arena are simply mono problems multiplied, and we can approach them in the same ways that we do in monogamy. In most cases, however, the difference is that in the face of these adversarial issues, we are attempting to keep an existing relationship healthy and well tended in which case I think a whole new set of tools is needed.
In our poly relationship, our biggest challenges are NRE and Romantacies. For us specifically, my husband is the more emotionally based partner and so he comes up against NRE whereas I am a completionist and idealist, so Romantacies are my biggest challenge. If we are not careful, we can end up whirling each other up into a frothy mess of heady emotions that threaten to tip our relationship into the danger zone. I'll project us five years into the future where we're all living together, happily sharing household chores and bills, going on vacation as a poly family, maybe raising a child together, checking out fuel efficient vehicles for commuting, looking at real estate that would better suit an expanded family's needs.... WOAH NELLY SLOW DOWN. My husband is prone to falling deep into NRE, overcome by his sexual awakening and need for more time/talking/anything with her, transgressing boundaries in a haze of love, inadvertently neglecting me or idealizing our new partner to death in the process. WOAH NELLY SLOW DOWN.
We've done a lot of communication around our patterns and challenges, and have been making excellent progress; we slip and slide around a little bit (where would the fun be if we didn't get caught up in the moment from time to time?) but for the most part, we have come up with coping strategies to keep our relationship healthy even in the face of our own adversaries.
Let me preface this by saying that this works for US and by no means do I/we think that any/all of this will work for any other person/couple. There is nothing more insulting for me than having other people assume that what works for them will work for me, or being tromped all over by someone who thinks that they have it all worked out. That being said, I thought that it might be interesting for other people to see and share the things that we've discovered as a couple that help us navigate some of our own personal pitfalls in polyamory. We are equally curious abut the methods that other couples use!
For us, we employ the following:
1) Communication: We talk, talk, and talk some more. Part of this, for us, is being in touch with our feelings, and spending enough time with ourselves to be able to be in a fairly neutral place before we bring them each other. We use reflective listening to remain neutral even if we're hearing things that trigger an emotional response in us - we use "the conch" if necessary (ie - we choose an arbitrary object, and whoever is holding that object has the floor - the other person has to listen, and cannot speak until they are given that object. Starting all responsive sentences with "What I hear you saying is....." "My understanding of what you're saying is...." etc... helps us a lot too.)
2) Self Reflection: Giving our heads a shake is important whenever we come against a partner’s challenges with our behaviour. I quote a famous article on NRE with "Love objects may be closer than they appear" as far as looking closely at the way that we might be idealizing a new partner, or love situation. Being aware of our own patterns (my husband is very helpful in helping me identify them, as I am with him) and stopping ourselves when we start wandering down a familiar and counter productive path. Asking oneself "Who am I serving right now?" when participating in particularly heady or irrational behaviour serves us well.
3) Forgiveness: We delve deep into this in our relationship. Forgiving ourselves, our own patterns and each other is of PARAMOUNT importance. There is nothing worse than dealing with one issue, only to have another past one come up and bite us in the ass. If one of us still harbours resentment, we have not done enough work (either as a couple, or as individuals, or both) to have truly forgiven each other, and we revisit it. Knowing each other's patterns inside and out also helps us be forgiving when we bumble around in NRE/Romantacies and inadvertently hurt each other.
4) Taking Time: It's important during the first 6-18 months for us to take time for our own relationship and ourselves. It can be so easy to get caught up in another person during this time, and social media just makes it worse (txting, facebooking, emailing, skyping, twitterfeeds, forums, chatting AND seeing them in person.) We schedule time and dates for each other, and for ourselves to help us keep perspective, or refind it if we feel like we're getting sucked into emotional patterns that don't serve our relationship.
5) Fearless Self Inventory: WHY am I doing what I'm doing? WHY am I feeling what I'm feeling? Yes, it's important that I share my feelings, "I'm feeling threatened/jealous about your NRE with X" but am I doing my own inventory as well in journalling, meditating, or counselling? "Why am I feeling threatened? How is my own thought process manifesting feelings of jealousy? Where are these feelings originating from within myself? What work do I need to do to address these feelings inside of myself? Is it all my partner's responsibility? What do I need from my partner, and myself to feel more secure when I'm feeling this way?" are questions that we ask ourselves during that first flush of new love.
6) Taking Responsibility: If one of us is in a pattern, we take responsibility. This helps the other members of our relationship get clear too. We need to own our own feelings, take responsibility and ACT on the work that we need to do, be responsible for the way that we behave if we hurt a partner, and be responsible for the methods of communication that we engage in both with ourselves and each other. Taking responsibility means that we negate the need for blame and avoidance, and it allows each of us to own their own part in whatever drama/issue might be playing out.
7) Having Identifying Terms: My husband and I have long since identified our patterns and challenges. We found it really helpful to name those challenges so that we can point out a problem without having to do a ton of communication. For example, my husband tends to get REALLY into the sexual side of NRE. The beast awakens, and he has a fantastic time having sex with a new partner - it can throw his sexual approach into hyper-drive, and be a little overwhelming (I love sex, LOVE sex, but three times a day when I'm a VERY busy woman in my community/business is a bit much, thank you!) When he starts to get overly charged, I say "Mr. Penis" and he knows to back it up a bit. When I start Romanticizing too much, and start making him feel like I'm going to move a girlfriend into the house and have babies with her (kind of joking here, kind of not) he says "Projection" and I know what I'm doing. This works for us, and sums up many hours of deep communication in a semi-humorous way that allows us to check ourselves.
7) Take a Break: During intense conversation, we take a break. Whether it's taking a night off from talking about an issue at hand, or taking a walk if we start getting worked up emotionally we stop and leave it alone until we calm down a little bit. Trying to communicate when one of us really want to smash something is counter-productive for us. Taking a break from our other relationships is also important; we do this with communication to our other partner(s) as well, "We're experiencing some challenges in our relationship, and need a weekend to reconnect. Are you okay with that?" Having time and space with each other to work out our problems is SO helpful for us. This is sort of like "Taking Time" but it's a little different, in that we stop seeing our other partners to deal with an important issue in our own relationship, or that we take a break from the heat of the moment that might be keeping us from being able to do the hard work needed to move past an issue.
These are the main things that we use to balance ourselves out, check in, and do the work that polyamory demands of us for it to be successful while keeping our own relationship healthy and happy. What does everyone else do?
Last edited by ChloeJane; 01-14-2012 at 09:14 PM.
Reason: wrong pronouns.