How do I stay chill when I’m interested in somebody new? Getting too excited (read: obsessed) with new people is no good for any of my relationships, regardless of how well the new connection is going.
I’m a polyamorous person with a wonderful, supportive long-distance partner and several other fantastic people sprinkled throughout my life. My relationship style should theoretically offer up a very low-pressure situation for new babes. I don’t really need anything — but gosh I want it sometimes!
I find that pretty frequently I will get interested in somebody new and just devote way too much energy to them. Waiting for their texts becomes a special kind of agony. I think about them all the time and prioritize spending time with them when I should be doing something else, and so on. Nobody benefits from this, and it’s not really fun for me although it is exciting.
Where does new relationship energy come from? Why do I experience more limerence when the other person maybe doesn’t feel the way that I do? Technology certainly opens doors for obsession, and beyond making a lot of art during these times, I’m not really sure how to handle myself (and spare the people I’m attracted to from this nonsense as well).
Love (too much),
Left on Read
Dear Left on Read,
Limerence or New Relationship Energy (or NRE, a term used primarily in polyamorous communities) is known to be a chemical cocktail in your brain and body (mostly oxytocin and dopamine, the lovely brain drugs also involved in orgasms, sex, and addictions) that drives us to connect to people we’re into. Turning the corner from casual crush to non-stop daydreaming fantasytown is something many of us have done before, and can really kick our new connection go kart into the highest of gears.
In polyamorous communities especially, the NRE stage is touted as being a short-term, shiny-new-special-friend tornado that can rip through otherwise stable, pre-existing partnerships and is advised to be taken with an overly patient grain of salt on behalf of those with their ga-ga goggles firmly in place. With maybe just a touch of an eye-roll, it’s understood that this storm will pass and new partners either move on or are integrated into the sweet little non-monogamy constellation (some more smoothly integrated than others, I’m sure).
Sure, a little NRE can be an enjoyable ride to lean into. But you’re also right that for some people this time can feel just a little too close to the “special kind of agony” you describe, turning into a bit of a damaging, obsessive latching onto instead.
I’ve observed the correlation between those who lean more to the side of unhealthy obsession and those who otherwise tend to have a hard time identifying and meeting their own needs, those who might have a history of inconsistent boundaries, those who have a history of relational trauma or abandonment fears, or a mix of all three. (Oops, did I just list every person in humanity? Because who doesn’t struggle with at least one of these?).
These correlations leave me with this central question: What’s so scary about this new person potentially drifting away? Because that’s what impatiently waiting for that little “typing-in-process” ellipses to pop up is really about, right? (And maybe even then, the wrong emoji choice can spark a ‘Wait, why the blue heart and not the new heart-face emoji? Are they even into me anymore?’). Constant contact and affirmation is validating and ultimately lets us know that we’re special, valuable, and worth connecting to.
When I find myself in an NRE spiral or an impatiently-waiting-for-that-text-back-and-they-better-choose-the-right-emoji place, I like to practice reminding myself that I’m an amazing badass who is super valuable just by existing — emotionally, sexually, and relationally connected to or not. Whether this looks like making your art, LoR, taking a bath, exercising, or (in my case) writing your sex column, it’s important in these moments to genuinely connect to yourself. Ultimately, that practice is what will unwrap this idea that your value is based on what’s reflected to you from others and will bolster the reality that your value is already inherently within you!
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.