How To Embrace New Relationship Energy While Still Being Realistic

When we first start dating a person with whom we truly connect, it can feel like someone set off a bunch of fireworks in a dark tunnel. You're not just smitten; you're infatuated. You feel like you're floating on a cloud and the only thing that matters is spending time with that person. When you're not with them, you stare obsessively at the phone waiting for them to text, like one of your Instagram photos, or give you any sign at all that they're thinking about you. You are in the midst of what's called new relationship energy (NRE) and you're loving it.

Although NRE is something that comes up in the polyamorous community quite a bit, anyone can experience it. "It is that feeling that you have been made whole by meeting this new person. It is linked to the desire to mate," sex and relationships writing Charyn Pfeuffer told Dame. "[It's] kind of like being high all the time and feeling all the feels."

But while this honeymoon phase is amazing, if you get ahead of yourself, your unrealistic expectations can sabotage your relationship. While it's okay to be somewhat whimsical in the early stages of dating someone, at some point you have to take off the rose-colored glasses and protect what you have. That means embracing your NRE but doing so in a realistic way.

Take it slow

When it comes to new love, taking it slow can feel impossible. In fact, there's a very good chance that you don't want to take it slow, you want to be inseparable, and during this lust stage — the first stage of falling in love — you don't care about being realistic. You feel this way because your hormones are going nuts.

According to a 2016 study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, love is "an emergent property of an ancient cocktail of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters." This cocktail is comprised of testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, and norepinephrine cortisol all doing their thing to kick lust and attraction into high gear, while leaving any rational thoughts behind. As much as this feeling can make anyone feel intoxicated, it's important to take time and enjoy the present as opposed to rushing into things. It may feel good and even right to think about a future together, but you're really putting the cart before the horse when you do. Instead, try your best to revel in the present, as opposed to picturing your dream wedding with them.

Create boundaries

Boundaries exist so we can both respect and protect ourselves. But when we're feeling the hot heaviness of NRE, it can be hard to stand our ground and sometimes that means letting people get away with things we normally wouldn't. This ultimately can create a problem as the relationship evolves.

"When we're nervous about holding onto someone else's approval we can compromise on boundaries," relationship expert at eHarmony Rachael Lloyd told Mashable. "But once you start doing that, your own sense of self can erode and you can soon lose yourself in the relationship. You'll know when a boundary is overstepped because you're likely to suddenly feel triggered emotionally, within your body." When you're in the midst of NRE, the last thing you want to feel is a trigger that shakes you to your core. You can prevent it from getting to this point by slowing things down, being true to yourself, and expressing your boundaries.

Don't ignore the other people in your life

One of the worst things someone can do when experiencing NRE is to ignore the relationships they already have. In the moment it can feel like everyone is secondary to this new person, but the reality is that you don't really know how things are going to pan out. Because of this, putting friends, family, and other lovers on hold is never a good idea. It's also unfair to everyone involved.

Although 2010 research by Oxford University found that everyone loses two friends on average every time they enter into a new relationship, you still want to do your best to maintain what you have. "If you get into a relationship and you drop your friends, you cannot necessarily expect them to be there for you if or when you break up," relationship expert Jessica O'Reilly told Global News. "We push them aside, and then when we need them, we expect them to be there."

However, as a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found, no matter one's culture, friendships are paramount to having healthy lives, both mentally and emotionally. People feel less alone, more supported, and have higher levels of self-esteem thanks to friendships. Also, the people we've known for years are the ones who ground us — something we all need when feeling the intensity of the NRE.

Spend time solo

It's so easy to get caught up in new love that we can forget who we are. Suddenly "me" becomes "we," and then you're a shadow of yourself. While it's normal to give parts of yourself to a partner, it should never be at the expense of who you are and what you believe. Meaning, it should never be a sacrifice. You can help minimize this by making sure you're championing your independence by spending time alone and doing things you enjoy so as to not lose yourself in the NRE.

"It's important that couples spend time cultivating their own interests, doing things they enjoy on their own, which helps facilitate a healthy sense of self beyond the relationship," licensed psychotherapist and sex therapist Michael Moran, LCSW, CST told Mind Body Green. "Otherwise they risk enmeshment, which usually leads to complacency and feeling unfulfilled."

It may feel like torture to be away from the person you're seeing when you're in the throes of NRE, but let yourself feel that and embrace it. Not only is it beneficial for the long-term to spend time alone, but it's going to keep that desire for each other burning. It will also give you a chance to appreciate each other and the time you spend together.

Learn to recognize your NRE behavior

New relationships are supposed to be exciting, fun, and — to a degree — all-encompassing. But it's when things start to tip into la la land (read: you've only known them for a month and you're picking out your baby names), that you want to pay attention and invoke your self-awareness. "Part of the connotation with NRE is that there can be a sort of tunnel vision, where a person starts focusing more of their sexual/romantic energy toward a new partner," non-monogamy educator Michelle Hy told Bustle. "This is often not out of any malicious intent. The high dose of feel-good chemicals can temporarily shift a person's priorities."

You are absolutely allowed to immerse yourself in NRE as long as you're able to come up for air from time to time. While being realistic in the early stages of a new relationship can seem futile, it will serve its purpose when it comes to the long term and being sensible about your needs and wants. Relationships need something sturdier than daydreams to stand on, as unromantic as that may sound.