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When someone you’re in a relationship with has a new relationship [building open relationships excerpt]

May 4, 2021

We’ve all been there - our partner used to see us as the newest shiniest person in
their life, then they meet someone new and all of a sudden we’re chopped liver. They
aren’t talking to us much, they might cancel dates, and all they talk about is their
new person. This. Sucks. Even if your partner isn’t being particularly rude, feeling
the heat of their attention transferring to someone else can be disheartening. So
what do you do when your partner has some strong NRE (new relationship energy) for someone else?

First of all, take some time to take care of yourself. Have you filled out the worksheet
on self-care while your sweetie dates? If not, do that now. What are the things you
can do to take care of yourself when you’re feeling left out, left behind, or less
wanted? How can you show yourself some good love? You want to do this first
because you’re likely to be able to have much more productive conversations if
you’re relatively centered and if you’ve taken some time to care for your own needs.

Next, find something to focus on other than what you’re not getting. Maybe that’s a
new dance class, a fun TV show, a new hobby, time with friends, a great book, or a
new dating friend for you! Whatever form it takes, the more you can find and build
your own joy, the easier it is to ride out the waves of your partner’s NRE.

Third, figure out who your support people are. Who are the folks who can hear
your concerns and complaints while keeping you balanced and grounded? We all
have those friends who will jump right on the “fuck that guy!” train - those aren’t
the friends we’re talking about here. Instead, you would likely benefit most from
identifying which of your friends can hear you with kindness and compassion and
help you keep things in perspective. After all, I’m sure that you’ve gotten stuck in the
NRE hole once or twice yourself, right? Having friends who can love and support
you and give you a solid reality check is essential for riding out a partner’s NRE.

If none of these are helping you and your partner’s NRE choices are still bugging
you, take some time to figure out what you want and need from your partner and
what they’ve done that upset or hurt you.

Now that you’ve sketched out what you need to say, ask your partner for a chat.
Let them know about how much time you think you’ll need and make sure you
can both find a time that seems like it will work. Remember that you are going to
have missteps too one day, so the more kindness and compassion you bring to
bear in a conversation, the better things are likely to be for you when your partner
needs to have a tough conversation with you about things you’ve done. Remind
yourself that you care about this person and that they aren’t themselves because
of biochemistry right now.

When you sit down to chat, try to focus on what it is you need from them. It’s
easy when we’re hurt to want to dump all of that pain onto them. While I’ll never
tell you that you can’t do something, dumping your hurt onto someone doesn’t
often lead to a productive conversation and positive outcome. If what you want is
to strengthen your relationship, a big crying, screaming fight isn’t likely to do it.

Be honest with your partner. Let them know you’re hurting and what is leading to the
hurt. Then listen to them and try, as best you can, to understand their perspective
too. Usually when someone is doing things from NRE, they aren’t doing them with
the intention of hurting you, they just aren’t thinking of the consequences of their

Finally, come up with a plan, the two of you together, for how you can move forward
from here. Is there a code word you can say to them when the NRE is making them
act like a jerk? Is there a commitment to a certain amount of time or attention
that will help you? Knowing your love languages can be particularly helpful here as
someone whose language is touch might not be happy with a plan that’s focused
on gifts. What can you both realistically stick with to help your relationship grow
and thrive while they explore this new thing? How can you support your partner as
they try to make it through their NRE with as little damage as possible all around?

If this conversation goes well, you’ll likely emerge from it as a stronger partnership.
However, if your partner can’t hear your concerns or offer to make changes that
will help you feel better during the NRE rush, it might be worth considering what
that means for you in this relationship. Check out the chapters on boundaries and
changing levels for more guidance about what your next steps might be.

Excerpt from the chapter Dating Struggles in the book Building Open Relationships by Dr. Liz Powell.

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