This is a really interesting thread.
One statement that really struck a chord in me was the idea of 'good not great'. Limbo land. For me, it is absolutely worse to be in that middle ground than to actually be left.
I can relate to you, for certain.
NRE is a tricky one. There is a balance as a 'spectator' between riding it out, so that the active partner can enjoy it, guilt free.... and feeling completely neglected and/or disconnected from your partner whilst they experience NRE with someone else.
For me personally, NRE can be time consuming and intoxicating... but it isn't a patch on what I feel for my primary. And I'm always glad if she points out that I have become absorbed in it.
I also know that when I have sex with someone else, even when it is mind-blowing... or when I have a first date that is completely thrilling... I come home and the first thing I want to do is hear my girlfriend's voice. We have described it to each other as a 'swelling of love' feeling.... a sense of intense love and appreciation for each other after being with someone else. To me, that's one of the wonderful things about being poly. Freedom promotes love.
Alongside NRE as an emotion, new relationships can take a lot of maintenance in the early days. Usually involving lots of long conversations online, or other activities that come in intense bursts and take time away from the primary relationship.
I know that my perception is that when my GF starts dating others, she becomes almost obsessed with BDSM (she is a Domme, as am I, and she dates submissive boys). My perception
is that her sexual desire for me wanes a little during these times, because this new shiny thing has her attention. However... I worry about it less now and basically ride it out for a few weeks, until she has her 'sub boy fix' ... then she seems to be sated enough in that department and her attention seems to refocus on me. I've told her that she *seems* to do this and she said she wasn't aware of it, but that it was an interesting observation.
However... notice that I said 'my perception'. It could very well be that my GF feel absolutely no change in desire for me; but just seems distracted by all the shiny new stuff.
I know that I desire her just as intensely, if not more, when I'm going through NRE with someone else. Even if this new person makes me hotter than hot. I'd love to say that I always show that - but I bet if you asked her, she might sometimes feel the same way that I do when she's distracted by new toys.
It's the same way if I'm out at a bar with my GF and another girl starts talking to me. I never realised it until my GF pointed it out - but apparently, I have a habit of literally turning my back on my GF and focusing on this new person. I have since tried to be more aware of that behaviour! Even when I talk to these new people - I'm just caught up in the moment, the stimuli around me; I do not desire my GF any less.
Moving onto your other points...
Withdrawing affection. Yes, I completely understand this one. I felt it recently too, in fact.
Again, I think it's a balancing act. Of course I don't want to feel neglected or unimportant. I don't want to feel emotionally or sexually disconnected. However... if my GF is fixated on a new shiny thing until it consummates... well... we're together all the time and will be for a very long time to come. I'm not sure that she can want me with complete intensity 100% of the time. She might have a fine fillet steak at home, but occasionally she might want to lose herself gorging on some fried chicken!
Actually, a prime example of that is that my GF has been intensively dating for the past two months. After a month, I felt neglected and disconnected. I talked to her and she did the best she could. But my needs just could not be met. So I started looking at dating again. And I'm really glad I did. Now I have someone else to talk to, to sleep with... and I'm not emotionally or sexually withdrawing from my GF - but I'm not putting all of my needs on her, either. Rather than pushing us apart, getting some of my needs met elsewhere has kept us strong - because there's more balance and we can empathise with each other more.
The situation with your partner and her new guy is interesting. It's something I've experienced too; so again, I can relate.
There's a slight difference with my experience, though. If this helps:
Whenever we're in a situation where we might start basically 'hitting' on people for the fun of it (i.e. a bar, a play party), or especially if we're meeting up with a new secondary partner, as a group, we actually don't expect to focus a lot of attention on each other. Instead, we experience this strange sort of.... 'ride the NRE together' vibe.
i.e. We once went to a bondage club together. We ended up both talking to completely different women for most of the night. It was great. We both felt completely free, but completely in love with each other.
Another time, I met one of my GF's new secondaries. I made sure that my attention was on him, that I spent time asking him questions. It wasn't because I was attracted and was trying to cultivate something as a group - it was just because it was a new person to get to know.
So there's two issues there... expecting a connection when you two are out in public with a new secondary/people you may flirt with... and expecting a connection in the general relationship.
So... to finalize...
- sometimes the connection takes a dip; but the commitment bond is still there
- sometimes NRE can be endured until it passes
- sometimes NRE can be shared, by going out together and finding new people
- sometimes it's ok to take some 'you time' and have your needs met elsewhere
- sometimes long-term passion is still intense, even with the presence of short-term distraction
- it's always important to communicate your feelings without accusing and hopefully a middle ground can be met