NRE Forever

We are all aware of NRE, New Relationship Energy. Those heady days when we’ve just met our new partner and can’t seem to get enough of her. The excitement of discovery, the anticipation and the wait. The frequent messages shared back and forth, the all night discussions punctuated by sex. Or, the other way around.

Most relationships start with this. The driving force in this phase is the unknown and the discovery. Many call this the ‘honeymoon phase.’ For many of us the fondest memories of a past relationship stem from this time. Typically, this phase lasts three months to a year, and then reality strikes in, and we either settle into a solid stagnancy or break off.

Decay in most relationships start right after the NRE ends. Even in stable and well-established relationships the later times are never as good.

I am not aware of any scientific studies that have been done between the correlation of the length of the NRE period against the life of a a relationship but from personal experience and from observations I can say with a fair degree of certainty that it is quite high. That is, the longer NRE lasts the better it is for a relationship.

What causes NRE to end? The answer is overexposure.

Those of us who dabble in photography are too aware of the pitfalls of overexposing a shot. Even a slight overexposure can flatten a photograph. It is the shadows that bring out the depth. My camera controls are permanently set to underexpose by half an ‘f’ stop. I find that makes the most interesting pictures.

Overexposure in relationships takes out the mystery and leads to enmeshment. Enmeshment leads to loss of our individuality and the emergence of couple identity. It has been observed that couples in long-term relationships start mirroring each other’s mannerisms and develop shared tastes and values that are antithetical to their individuality.

All this is good, but only to an extent. We have to remember that what makes us attractive is our individual identity, not our collective viewpoint. That is what drew your partner to you in the beginning, and you to her.

And, once we get to know everything about the other person she becomes predictable. Sometimes too much. This is comforting, but boring too. When we know what to expect we cease to be amazed.

So, the only way to lengthen NRE is by limiting the enmeshment. By having our own identities, our own visions and passions, and not giving in to the demands of a relationship at the expense of these. We also need to limit how much we disclose our inner selves and be careful of preserving boundaries. It is tempting to spend every free minute with our partner, but we have to understand that each additional minute we are spending today may steal several minutes from the future.

This is a fine line to walk. We get to know our partners by spending time with them. But, we cannot let that steal away from the time we need to spend with ourselves. We cannot grow the relationship without growing as individual selves. And, time apart may be as important as time together.

Underexpose your relationship. At least by half an ‘f’ stop.