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NRE, ERE, and the Ebb and Flow

New Relationship Energy (NRE) is a term you hear about a lot in polyamorous circles - and we've talked about it here on the blog before - the name for the excitement and giddiness at a start of a relationship that can lead you to view a relationship with rose-colored glasses or make more extreme decisions than you otherwise might. The positive opposite of that feeling - the comfortable, settled-in feeling of being with a partner you can truly be vulnerable with and you don't have to be worried around at all because they know you already - is one where the name hasn't stuck perfectly. For years, I'd seen people use "old? relationship energy" and then fumble through correcting themselves or clarifying that they meant it as a good thing in online forums. In the last year or so, I've seen folks using Established Relationship Energy for this phase and it has the vibe, if you know what I mean. Established sounds powerful and vital, and doesn't carry any of the baggage that "old" does in our ageist society. So, established relationship energy, ERE.

I know NRE and ERE are useful shorthand concepts for talking about our relationships and how they grow over time, but I feel like it’s more accurate in my head to think about the ebb and flow of proportions of different kinds of love (or different Greek words for love ) in my relationships, because it’s pretty much never linear for me. In case you don't remember them from one of the other times I've gotten pedantically into the different ancient Greek words for love, we've got:

  • Agape - Universal love (charity, selflessness)

  • Eros - passion (sexuality, madness)

  • Ludus - playful love

  • Storge - Familial love

  • Philia - deep friendship (serious, committed)

  • Philautia - self-love

  • Pragma - longstanding love (companionate love)

NRE for me is an excess of ludus and eros over other types of love, with a sprinkle of anxiety about attachment on top. ERE is when storge (familial, low-on-conditions love) and pragma (comfortable, companionate love) are ruling the roost or higher in the mix - but I don’t think I’d be HAPPY in a romantic relationship where they were the whole thing and even in ERE they’re a bigger section not 100% of it for most people, me included. Everyone's experience may vary, but I find that thinking of it this way helps me understand why I personally don’t go from NRE to ERE and stay there even once I’m secure enough in the relationship that the anxiety/limerence edge is gone- there are days, weeks or even months where playfulness, flirtation, or erotic passion are the focus of a relationship years in. Sometimes, a particular partner and you will just have that vibe, right now. Sometimes, your bond will be such that you do, in a pretty linear way, traverse into a higher percentage of your interactions feeling like they're closer to unconditional, and companionate, and the giggly-butterfly-inspired-to-get-the-sexy-outfit-feeling really will be a small component for the occasional anniversary date or spice-it-up night.

I get that it isn’t the case for everyone but know that if you feel like you’re “back in NRE” that can be normal! And it’s not just “borrowing” from other parts of your life. You don't "borrow" NRE from another relationship to put it into your existing ones - although being in a better mood because you're flirting and getting positive attention can make it easier to react lightly and positively with everyone in your life, which can make "playful" a bigger feature of all your relationships for a while. If being "back in NRE" is a feeling you've had before that you crave again, try taking a page from the RA manifesto and "build for the lovely unexpected" for a while, and see if that puts some of the spontaneity, passion and play back in the relationship in question.

Relationships are made of living people’s efforts and we feed them. But if companionate love is what a particular relationship is and what you feed it and where it most comfortably rests for you and your partner(s), then perfect- you are happiest with what’s popularly called Established Relationship Energy.


The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association reminded me that it's Polyamory Week! Monday, I shared that evergreen post, Compersion is Not Mandatory, across my social media. Tuesday we had a new post about The Polyamory Foundation. Yesterday, I posted a new graphic series summarizing the post You don't have a metamour problem on all my social media, and you're here today. More new content every day this week, and follow on Tiktok, Twitter, and Instagram for more. The Relationship Anarchy Applied class is running in two weeks; find tickets here - it's a good one.

I've scheduled the Polyam and Parenting class for April 23 at 3pm-5pm Eastern (Noon to 2 Pacific); your purchase comes with a recording of the class and admission to a second q&a session on April 30 at 11:30 pm ET (8:30 PT) to try to accomodate as many schedules as possible. Tickets are here.

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