People in the world of non-monogamy value many things, and since the label ‘non-monogamy' covers everything from swinging to polyamory (or even cheating), not every non-monogamous person's values align. However, swingers, poly-folk, cheaters, and even people in those mysterious ‘open relationships' do have at least one value in common: an intrinsic appreciation for the new. The unexplored, the mysterious. Variety. ‘New’ is a large part of what drives non-monogamous people to be non-monogamous. New people and relationships are exciting and fun. But.. what about the old?
If you spend enough time in various non-monogamous communities, you'll start to notice an overwhelming emphasis on the acquisition and appreciation of new partners and experiences. Why not? That is what sets us apart from the mundane, right? Yet, it struck me recently that perhaps we should do more to appreciate our existing partners. After all, without them, where would we be?
Somewhat ironically, it is a heavy dose of New Relationship Energy (NRE) that has led me to this conclusion. I find my mind swimming with thoughts and excitement brought on by my new relationship. I act giddy, smile broadly, and ramble endlessly about my new partner. These feelings are very obvious to observers as NRE emotions and actions are markedly outside of the routine. Yet I don’t know if my subtler emotions are showing.
The emotions that I have surrounding my primary relationship are gentler, more fragile, and much less obvious. There is more at stake so I am a bit guarded when it comes to these emotions. I find that seeing my husband in an accommodating and supportive role is just as exciting as my new relationship. If I bring attention to it, will I chase it away? Deep inside of me, I know bringing a voice to my gratitude isn’t something I should shy away from.
My NRE has definitely given me a newfound appreciation for my Old Relationship Energy (ORE). That feeling of warmth, security comfort, and long-lasting love has been amplified by the emergence of NRE in my life. There is nothing more amazing the quiet confidence of a partner with such trust in you and your relationship that they give you the space to explore new relationships and interpersonal dynamics. Since beginning my new relationship, my husband Ethan has been incredibly supportive. Negotiating boundaries in a poly relationship is tough, and at every turn Ethan has been there with a fair opinion. Ethan supports me in ways that I never expected and I truly have more respect and admiration for him now than I ever have before.
So, hats off to the old. Let's all appreciate some of the Old Relationship Energy. This isn't limited to the people you're sleeping with. ORE can be found with your primary partners, your husbands and wives, your boyfriends and girlfriends, or even just your friends and family. Celebrate the people who were there for you from the beginning of your journey. It's important to let these people know how greatly our lives still benefit from them.
Everyone has a friend who suddenly forgets that their friends and family exist when they acquire a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Perhaps you yourself recently decided to start swinging and you're so excited that you can't stop researching it on the net until the wee hours of the morning. Maybe your new poly love life has bloomed and every time you open your mouth to talk to your primary partner, an anecdote about your new partner blurts out. All of these scenarios happen – often. It's nothing to be ashamed of; it's a part of being non-monogamous. The lucky among us have Old Relationships that will understand that it's a phase, and the even luckier among us get to take a turn being the understanding partner while watching their partner's eyes and heart fill up with NRE.
I ask of you now, fellow non-monogamous folk, do take care to amplify your Old Relationship Energy. Take a personal inventory of all the wonderful things that you have experienced. How many of those things would be possible without the support of your Old Relationships? Better yet, would they be anywhere near as satisfying? So, go now. Buy flowers, slip your hand down their pants, book that vacation you’ve been putting off. Do whatever you need to do, but make sure you keep the flames of Old Relationship Energy burning.