Sometime in the last few weeks, I became aware of a change in me and Jon’s relationship. Not a bad change, but a somewhat profound and slightly sad (to me, at least) change.
Our NRE has finally run its course and been exhausted.
Looking back on the beginning, and how all that shiny, new energy felt, it was hard not to have a pang on sadness for what was. When we first started dating, we quickly decided that most of our time together should be spent just with the two of us – we were so ridiculously besotted with each other that we spent most of our time together oblivious to the rest of the world. It was a running joke with all of our friends that a room could catch on fire and as long as neither of us started burning, we wouldn’t notice. I remember Jon’s parents being amused and fascinated by how we would eventually sort of forget all the other people who were with us and just sit and silently stare at each other.
My NRE with Jon was definitely the most intense NRE I’d ever felt. I chalk part of that up to amazing chemistry between Jon and me. But I think the main thing was that Jon was the first person who I had romantic feelings for and felt as though I could build a life-time partnership with. Though NRE generally isn’t rational, mine always shriveled a little bit when a new person I was dating revealed some personality trait or belief that I knew I wouldn’t be able to live in close proximity with for an extended period of time. Being with someone that constantly felt more and more right to be with, where every conversation about difficult subjects revealed more compatibilities and mutual understanding fostered more and more NRE. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t actively trying to distance myself from the NRE, or holding it at arm’s length, for fear of making a bad NRE-fueled decision.
Jon also told me that it was the most intense NRE that he’d ever felt and that he also had that feeling of me being the first person that he could imagine spending the rest of his life with. For both of us, we hadn’t specifically been looking for a “rest of our lives” kind of partner, and in my case, I’d assumed that I probably wouldn’t find one. At the time, I was happy with Rachel and our slowly forming polycule, as well as the friend-lovers in my life. So while the lack of a long-term romantic partnership felt little bit sad, I was generally happy about the direction my life was taking. There was a lot to explore within my budding polycule, my other loves, and other areas of life. I was excited about exploring those branches of life.
How things have changed!
Jon was definitely a game-changer for a lot of ways. He brought more romance into my life than any previous partner. I’ve always been…not just a sucker for romance, but if unchecked (or encouraged), the sappiest, most ridiculous, over-the-top gonzo romantic. I’ve had to rein my romantic side in, because it was far greater (and more absurd) than those of my partners, even the ones who considered themselves romantics. But with Jon…I think part of what kept our NRE going strong was the absurd gestures, the willingness to be utterly ridiculous, the way we turned nearly everything into an expression of love for each other.
For the first few months we were together, I sent him a different romantic poem nearly every day. He would in turn compose little romantic ditties to various parts of my body – and not just those usual ones, the eyes, the breasts, the neck. He told me about the perfect bumpiness of my elbows, the swoon-worthy shape of my nose, the delight of the callouses on the pads of my feet.
And the nicknames…don’t bear repeating. They are still ridiculous, though less ornate and cringe-worthy than the overly decorated ones that we came up with in the throes of romantic silliness.
We were probably marginally less ridiculous than a pair of Bowerbirds. Marginally.
Though we settled quickly into a routine where we saw each other about half the week, not living together definitely kept the NRE going. On the nights when Jon was with Lora, I threw myself into pining for him, spending time with Rachel, and doing my chores/home upkeep, so that when Jon and I were together, we could focus near-exclusively with each other. Rachel was both comfortable and delighted with this. She often saw Rob and/or Jessica on the days when I was occupied with Jon. Rachel and I had always had a thing for cleaning together (we share the same kind of satiated delight in making our home gleamingly clean), so cleaning on the days that I spent with her didn’t feel like a hardship or unpleasantness to either of us. And she was also deeply amused and supportive of my utter besottedness with Jon, feeling that he was a truly wonderful person, and being fully aware that I’d never been so crazy for someone; she definitely helped to prolong it for me.
Overall, except for the problems that developed over time with Lora, the relationship between Jon and I was very fertile ground for long-term NRE.
Did our NRE contribute to Jon and Lora’s relationship problems? I don’t think so, for a couple of reasons.
The first was that Jon has always been very aware of (and willing to cater to) Lora’s sensitivities about potentially feeling secondary or left out. I was also aware (because I’d have had to be an idiot not to be aware) that Lora felt very sensitive about Jon’s attention being on her, so during the rare times that we did all spend time together at the beginning of our relationship, I did my utmost to dial it down and make sure that Lora felt included (which didn’t stop Lora from sometimes behaving ridiculously, but I feel pretty firmly that was because of her own insecurities and not as much from exclusionary behavior exhibited by me and Jon). Also, although we did end up in a dynamic where Jon saw each of us about half of the time, Jon and I were both very carefully to keep our time split evenly between our other loves. I needed time away from Jon to be with Rachel, just as he needed time with Lora. We were both vigilant about not seeing each other to the point where we shut our other partners out.
Lastly, I found out a few months into my relationship with Jon that his last attempt to have a relationship with another woman while dating Lora had ended disastrously and that the majority (though not all) the bad acts that led to that explosive situation were perpetuated by Lora herself. That relationship ended a few months before Jon and I started dating, and towards the beginning of my relationship with Jon, he and Kara finally were able to talk out what went wrong. He didn’t confide all the specifics to me, but he said that he learned things from Kara about how Lora treated Kara that he hadn’t believed at the time, though came to realize later were true.
According to a few of Jon’s friends, Lora had already established herself as having serious problems with Jon dating anybody other than herself, long before me and my NRE with Jon came along.
And to get back to that NRE, it was still going pretty strong up until we moved in together. Once seeing each other was a daily experience, instead of a half-of-the-week experience, feelings began to calm a bit. We finally felt like we were getting our fill of each other regularly.
For me, the problems that developed from Lora, Jon and I living together went a long way to dampen my NRE. Watching Lora be shitty, abusive, and controlling to Jon, and watching Jon continue to take it and not only hope for the best, but somehow decide that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Lora did a lot to crack those NRE-colored glasses.
But even without that, I think that living together would have slowly leached the NRE away. Though Jon isn’t any less precious to me, seeing him every day and becoming so entwined with each other made it hard to sustain that high, sparkling emotion that comes with NRE.
I think the end came a few weeks ago. I was out with a friend, seeing a play. It turned out that a friend of hers was a musician for the show; he invited us to the after party. Lora had to work the next day, so I knew that after she went to sleep around eleven, Jon would want to spend time with me. Previously, knowledge like that had me heading home so that I’d arrive right around when Lora went to bed; I didn’t want to miss any precious chance to spend time with Jon.
This particular evening though, I realized that I’d rather stay out with my friend a few hours more and maybe make some new friends. I did very much want to go home to Jon, but I also wanted more of an adventure first, and I didn’t feel that aching tug of the heartstrings to get every moment of time with him that I possibly could. So I stayed with my friend, did a little flirting, some dancing, and a lot of laughing. A few hours later, I headed home, feeling both that I’d had an awesome night and a little sad, though I didn’t realize why at the time. I think it was that inkling that the NRE had finally faded away and going home to Jon was no longer the topmost thing on my mind. Which is probably a healthier way to go about things for the rest of my life, but still a bit of a bummer.
A part of me idly wonders, if we end up not living together full-time in some months (as I still feel that I do not want to live with Lora permanently, and will check in with Jon about that in September, at the latest), will any of that NRE come back? I guess it wouldn’t be NRE anymore; I’m not sure what I’d call it. But I do wonder if seeing Jon less and going back to treating time with him like a valuable resource that I don’t want to be cluttered by cleaning or practical matters will spark similar intense feelings when he and I are together?
Either way, it feels good to take a moment to say good-bye to me and Jon’s NRE, and thank it for all the wonderful, romantic, absurd, scintillating memories that it helped create. I’m very grateful and happy that we had a long, shining time with NRE. I’m also glad that NRE and talking about NRE openly are parts of polyamory. I still want to have romantic, absurd, delightful moments with Jon. I think that it’ll take more effort to get to the same heights that we easily reached with NRE, but it’s still possible, even if the energy that is getting us there is less like a bonfire and more like a comfortable hearth fire. Either way, Jon is a light in my life, and I’m much the richer for having him.
I only hope that I’m as much a light in his life as he is in mine.