Remember how Looney Tunes characters would act in the flush of love? Heart eyes, jaw dropped comically onto the floor, feet levitating off the ground as they float on a buffet of romance through the air: this is what new relationship energy feels like. If you’re in the early stages of a new date or relationship you feel over the moon about, this might describe you too. What is new relationship energy, and what do you need to know about it?
What’s new relationship energy?
Even if you haven’t heard the term before, you may have heard of the “honeymoon period” — the time at the beginning of anything, but most especially a relationship, where everything feels both exciting and idyllic. If it’s a new job, we might marvel at the degree to which we’re genuinely interested in the work, chummy with our colleagues, and appreciative of the hours and pay; if it’s a new neighborhood, we might be charmed by the novelty of the new shops and walking paths.
When we look at a honeymoon period in its original application, though — a romantic relationship — we get even more added to the mix: the heady rush of brain chemicals, hormones, sexual attraction, and our own powerful scripts about attachment and intimacy. The result is a powerful sense of euphoria and tunnel vision on our new person and new relationship: they may be all we think about, and spending time with them is all we want to do; we feel like they’re perfect, and when we have to spend time with people who aren’t them, they’re all we want to talk about.
How do you know it’s not just a really good relationship?
You’re in love, you’re bowled over to have your feelings reciprocated, and you’re amazed that your new partner gets you in all the ways your exes haven’t, happens to have all the qualities and skills you’ve always been looking for, and makes you feel like a million bucks just by texting you good morning. Why bring down this transcendent high by labeling it just “new relationship energy” — why can’t you just have finally found “the one“?
Maybe you have! New relationship energy isn’t necessarily false or deceptive — noting that you’re experiencing new relationship energy doesn’t mean calling your relationship into question or criticizing it. But no matter how good the relationship, we can all agree that it looks different at ten days in compared to ten years in, and new relationship energy is a big (and totally natural) part of that ten-day mark.
Conversely, no matter how deeply new relationship energy is grounded in genuinely healthy and positive things about your relationship, it can’t last forever (and that’s not a bad thing!). We tend to see our new partner and new relationship as perfect in the first few months of dating, and perfection is the enemy of true intimacy. As good as NRE feels, your relationship can’t truly hit its stride until you and your partner can let go of the fantasy of perfection because you’ve seen the truly messy parts of the other — until you’ve had your first fight, your first bad fight, identified the places you want slightly different things, and worked toward a compromise around it. The perfect relationship isn’t one that requires no work, it’s one where both of you joyfully commit to the work even when it’s hard — and that part only comes after the new relationship energy fades.
Why is it important to be mindful of new relationship energy?
Like any kind of first impression, it’s important to remember that as strong as the feeling of new relationship energy can be, it’s based on incomplete information. While intense, ecstatic NRE can indicate the beginning of something beautiful and healthy, it can just as easily be the opposite — emotional intensity and feelings of being destined to be together can also be hallmarks of toxic or even abusive relationships.
Even if a relationship isn’t abusive, it may not be as special and magical as those first few weeks of realizing you had the same favorite childhood TV show would suggest. Getting too fixated on the NRE stage — or making major commitments, like moving in together, based on it — can be risky. It’s also important to realize that just like buzzed driving, you don’t usually feel like you’re under the influence of anything — it’s key to be self-aware and intentional, because you may not realize the impact new relationship energy had on you until you’re (emotionally) wrapped around a tree.
Getting caught in the undertow of new relationship energy can also have a challenging impact on other relationships in our life. We’ve all likely had a friend or two who completely changed their dynamic with their social circles after getting into a new relationship — you never saw that friend socially again, or if you did it was only with their new partner in tow, or if they came alone, it was so they could talk about their relationship all night.
For nonmonogamous or poly people, this dynamic can also play out in challenging ways in your other relationships. While all people in a nonmonogamous dynamic take on the responsibility of managing some level of jealousy, it’s one thing to cope with your partner spending time and emotional investment in another person, and another to feel like you’re totally forgotten even when you’re together, because your partner is only interested in talking about, texting, and daydreaming about their new date. New relationship energy makes it feel like your relationship is the only thing in the world that matters — and while this can be really fun and beautiful to experience personally, it’s crucial to remember that this isn’t the case for the rest of the world.