5 Signs Your 'New Relationship Energy' Is Actually Unhealthy

"New relationship energy" can be fun and exhilarating, but also overwhelming. Here's how to know if yours has become a problem.
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Your stomach is full of butterflies, your heart is beating fast and your mind is consumed by thoughts of the new romantic partner you just can’t seem to get enough of.

There’s a name for this rush of excitement and emotion when you start dating someone new: “new relationship energy,” sometimes abbreviated as NRE.

“NRE can feel exhilarating and all-consuming,” said Kate Balestrieri, a psychologist, sex therapist and founder of Modern Intimacy. “It’s like being under a spell, where everything about the new partner seems perfect and magical.”

The term has roots in the polyamory community, but this common phenomenon applies to monogamous people too. Some liken the sensation to “being under the influence of a powerful drug,” Abigail Makepeace, a marriage and family therapist, told HuffPost.

This makes sense given that a heady cocktail of feel-good brain chemicals plays a major role in the NRE experience.

“Dopamine levels surge, but levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps with feelings of satisfaction, may drop,” said Dedeker Winston, host of the Multiamory podcast and co-author of Multiamory: Essential Tools for Modern Relationships.

“This can lead to the feeling of a ‘high’ that never quite feels like enough. You feel on top of the world when you’re around your new love, but you still feel like you can’t get enough, leading you to spend more and more time around them,” Winston continued. “For some, this is a wonderful feeling, and for others, this can feel obsessive and addictive.”

“It’s like being under a spell, where everything about the new partner seems perfect and magical.”

- Kate Balestrieri, psychologist and sex therapist

This period, also referred to as the honeymoon phase, typically lasts anywhere from a few months to a couple years, though the duration may vary depending on the individual and the relationship. Often, it tapers off within the first six to 12 months, Makepeace said.

And just because that NRE dissipates over time, that doesn’t mean the love and passion just disappear, Balestrieri said.

“Rather, they evolve into a deeper and more stable connection,” she said. “Understanding the phases of romantic relationships, including NRE, can help individuals navigate the highs and lows with greater awareness and resilience.”

While the NRE stage can often be a fun and enjoyable experience, sometimes those intense feelings get the best of us and can veer into unhealthy territory. Below, relationship experts share the signs to watch out for and what to do to keep your NRE in check.

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1. You’ve stopped making time for the other important people in your life

It’s natural to be excited about hanging out with your new partner. But if you’re consistently prioritising plans with this person to the point that you’re unable to nurture the relationships you have with friends and family, it could be a sign something is amiss.

“If this turns into regularly bailing on plans with friends or ignoring communication from your loved ones or other partners, then you may have a problem on your hands,” Winston said.

You may feel very fulfilled by this new relationship. Still, be careful not to isolate yourself from family and friends as you continue getting to know your partner.

“Healthy relationships thrive on balance and maintaining connections outside of the romantic partnership,” Balestrieri said. “If someone finds themselves cutting ties with their support network or dismissing concerns from loved ones, it may indicate an unhealthy level of attachment or a controlling dynamic within the relationship.”

2. You’re neglecting your commitments and interests outside of the relationship

If you’ve stopped making time for your hobbies and the activities you love because of your infatuation with a person, consider it a sign that your NRE might be out of hand.

“For example, you may have stopped exercising, studying, socializing with friends or pursuing your goals and hobbies altogether,” Makepeace said. “Instead, your new partner has taken precedence, becoming your primary focus and consuming all your time and attention.”

Similarly, if your new relationship is interfering with your job or other responsibilities, it’s time to reassess.

“This can include skipping work or social engagements, neglecting personal hygiene or ignoring important commitments,” Balestrieri said.

3. You’re making life-changing decisions after very little time together

If you find yourself making big commitments in the early days of a relationship, it’s a good idea to take a moment before rushing into anything. On Winston’s podcast, one of her favourite pieces of advice to share is, “Don’t sign anything in the first year.”

“Don’t sign a lease together. Don’t sign a work contract that has you moving across the globe for this new person. Don’t sign a pet adoption agreement together. You get the gist,” she told HuffPost. “Give the relationship at least a year of ups and downs and time to get to know this other person before making any life-altering decisions.”

4. You’re abandoning parts of yourself to fit in with what you think your partner wants

This might look like changing aspects of your personality or ignoring your own preferences in order to “better align with what you believe your partner desires,” Makepeace said.

“For instance, you might convince yourself that you enjoy their taste in music or adopt a more adventurous persona beyond your comfort zone,” she continued. “While it’s natural for your partner to influence you and shape your preferences, sacrificing elements of your happiness and individuality signifies the relationship is veering into unhealthy territory.”

5. You’re ignoring red flags about your partner

Another sign that NRE has taken an unhealthy turn? You’ve idealised your partner so much that you overlook incompatibilities or rationalise concerning patterns like poor communication or disrespectful or controlling behaviour, “believing that your intense feelings will somehow overcome any issues,” Balestrieri said.

“This can lead to a lack of critical thinking and boundary-setting, setting the stage for potential problems down the line,” she added.

Here’s What To Do If This Sounds Familiar

First, know that it’s “not uncommon for NRE to pose challenges, as the surge of hormones is definitely difficult to contend with,” Makepeace said. “Acknowledging when NRE becomes overwhelming is a healthy step.”

Additionally, she said that it’s crucial to remind yourself that you’re still getting to know this person.

“Also, even if you’re not yearning for space, forcing yourself to carve out time for friends and prioritizing activities that once brought joy can ground you amidst the whirlwind of a new romance,” Makepeace said.

Balestrieri recommended practicing mindfulness techniques to “help individuals regain a sense of balance and perspective.”

Taking a step back will help you see the situation in a more objective way. You can also talk to a trusted friend or mental health professional to get another perspective on your behavior and the new relationship.

“NRE in itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s one of the best experiences that life has to offer,” Winston said. “I advise my clients to find ways to enjoy having their heads in the clouds while keeping their feet on the ground. Soak up that delicious high, but be vigilant that you’re still acting in a way that matches how you want to be showing up for your loved ones and your commitments.”