Do you feel like you can do anything? Are your palms sweaty and your stomach butterfly...ish? You may be feeling New Relationship Energy (NRE). This week we talk about the chemical overload your brain gives you when you're first falling in love, as well as strategies to stay grounded and care for other relationships even while you're over the moon.
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Emily: Who hasn't experienced new relationship energy? Whether they're in a monogamous relationship or in a polyamorous relationship, anything in between, new relationship energy, that's something that happens.
Dedeker: I believe people who are more aromantic or asexual may be experience it as a squish, for instance, people describe it as a friend crush, which I'm willing to bet incorporate some elements of NRE into it, as well, in that experience.
Jase: How would you sum up what NRE is? Could you define it for us?
Dedeker: Well, I think the technical term is limrence. I believe that was a term that came out in the '70s or '80s, something like that. Just that feeling of a high that you get when you're first entering into a relationship with somebody. The butterflies, the sweating, and the real intense feely wheelies that are coming up in your body when you're around them. From a pop culture stance, we often call it falling in love but I think those words are not quite accurate or adequate. We specifically use the term NRE to specifically refer to the period, usually at the beginning of a relationship, that has all these very intense feelings.
Dedeker: Is there anything I left out, Emily?
Emily: No, I think that that's a good way to describe it. I feel like the most intense NRE that I ever had was when I was younger. I feel like I was able to at least know, I know what's going on here to a degree, and it wasn't this unbelievably new thing in my life because I had experienced it before in some capacity, and in a really intense capacity.
Jase: Yes, I have a theory about that.
Emily: What is it?
Jase: The reason why teenagers have that. It just seems like they fall in love maybe harder than other people or they seem more obsessive over it or like, "No, I know this is the real thing." It's because they have no perspective. It's like if you were to imagine with pain. If you've never fallen down and hurt yourself before, you fall down and you're like, "Oh my gosh, my arm must be broken because this hurts so much," because you have no perspective. You haven't actually broken your arm yet to know, "No, this is--"
Dedeker: What that pain is like?
Emily: I've never broken my arm.
Dedeker: I've never broken any bone in my body so I have zero perspective. Knock on wood.
Emily: Me neither.
Jase: Well, I just have much better perspective. I'm older and wiser.
Emily: What have you broken?
Jase: My arm and my toe. [chuckles]
Dedeker: And all of our hearts, many times.
Emily: Wow, dang.
Dedeker: Well, hang on. I have a theory.
Emily: No, we've broken his heart. That's what it is.
Dedeker: We've broken so many hearts between the three of us.
Jase: Yes. [laughs]
Dedeker: Well, I was going to say I think that I definitely felt NRE so much more intensely when I was young. Not just because of the perspective thing, but now that I'm jaded also, now that I have had more of a broken heart, because I think that when you are young, you do things like, "This is exactly what they talked about in the Disney movies. Clearly, this is a sign. I'm with my soul mate. I'm going to be with this person forever. This is what they're talking about," when that's not necessarily the case.
Jase: I would just say, "Yes, that," but it's not about being jaded, even though that's the message we could believe. It's not so much about being jaded, it is just having a realistic perspective.
Dedeker: Just experience, I suppose.
Jase: Yes, exactly. Having experience, having calibrated your meters to what real life feels like and what falling in love feels like. I do, however, wonder if this might be somewhat extra challenging for couples who have been monogamous for a very, very long time who are then opening their relationships up for the first time after 20 years. Maybe they've forgotten what that felt like. I think that could, sometimes, be like, "Oh my gosh, it's making me question everything about my life. What's going on?" Maybe it's just that, a lack of perspective. I don't know.
Dedeker: Well, it reminds me of a story that they told in Sex at Dawn. I believe towards the end, they shared the personal story of this guy who had an affair in his marriage. It was an affair where he really fell in love, got into super intense NRE with the person that he was having the affair with, to that point where he felt like, "This must mean that this is actually the person for me." So he left his marriage, left his family, and had kids. It was this really, really devastating thing, and then pursued this relationship with the person he was having the affair with and found out about six months later, actually, we're not that compatible, and it's actually not that great.
Him expressing some regret of, "I actually was relatively happy in my marriage. I didn't cheat because I was unhappy. It was because I got really interested in this other person." I think about that, also about how much it can just really skew your perspective. I think that's a really common narrative I see, that if you're someone who hasn't felt NRE in a very long time, when it does hit you, it can bring up all these questions of, "Oh my God, what does this mean? What does my life mean? Does this mean I need to throw everything away and pursue this one person?"
Jase: For this episode, what we're going to do is look at some of the experience of being in NRE, both the positive things about that and also, some of the negative things, and then, we're going to look at some of the research that's been done and some of the science for what's actually going on in our bodies during that time. Then in the second half of the episode, we're going to then look at those and both from taking the science and just the behaviors and the experience of it and look at some ways to enjoy that to its fullest, while also not making terrible mistakes that you will regret forever like the one that Dedeker mentioned, or causing trouble in your other relationships.
Emily: First, let's talk about what our favorite parts of NRE are. There definitely are some really awesome parts of it. It's not all bad by any means.
Jase: Why don't you start?
Emily: It is like this feeling that you can just do absolutely anything. Your life during that time is just easier because you're receiving all of these amazing hormones in your body and so you just feel like you're walking on air all the time. That's pretty lovely.
Dedeker: I think it's funny because I definitely relate to that, feeling like you can do anything, but then the irony is that you actually don't end up doing anything, at least for me. It's like you feel like you can do anything, but the most that you do is just want to hang out with this person instead of pouring it actually into a creative project or something like that. At least that's my experience. It may be different for other people. I know for me I have a lot of memories especially when I was falling into NRE with one of my boyfriends in college, needing less sleep.
Jase: Or at least thinking you do.
Dedeker: Or at least thinking that I did. Feeling like I didn't need so much sleep. Going from being in bed at midnight, every night. Even for a college student. Yes, I've been this boring my entire life. Going from being in bed at midnight, almost every night, to staying up until 6:00 in the morning every single night when I was spending time with him, when I was first falling in love, and not feeling tired at all. Just feeling super energetic and not flagging anything like that. It's funny because I feel like now, if I fall into NRE now or in the past couple years, I think, definitely, there's somewhere in my body that goes back to that time. Specifically, I feel like I'm 22 again. I feel like a Taylor Swift song again.
Emily: See, I met Jase when I was 22.
Dedeker: Oh, snaps.
Dedeker: You're the tiniest baby.
Jase: Yes, gosh.
Dedeker: Jase, you're going to be what? 27, 28?
Jase: Something like that.
Emily: Yes, you're six years older than I am.
Jase: Yes, I guess I was, yes, 28.
Dedeker: So young and vulnerable.
Emily: We've known each other for eight years so it's a long dang time.
Jase: What else about NRE? Having sex all the time? That's always an exciting thing about NRE.
Dedeker: For some people, it manifests in that way.
Jase: That's true, yes. Like Dedeker was saying, feeling excited, and like Emily was saying you can do anything, is feeling more creative. It's like, "I can create all this stuff, write songs," or whatever. It's actually funny that in doing some research for this episode, I did find that there have been some studies showing that creativity is boosted by falling in love, which is interesting and maybe could go to support the idea why all of our actors and musicians, or whatever should probably be polyamorous, but then instead of having to continuously break up and fall in love with new people, you could just do all those concurrently.
Dedeker: Yes, but to be fair, breakups also fuel a lot of creativity, it would seem, based on pop songs. It's either the falling in love or it's the breaking up that we like to sing about.
Emily: Yes, that's a good point. On that note, are there bad parts of NRE? There definitely are. Especially if you are in a relationship, a non-monogamous relationship, it's sometimes difficult to be as empathetic towards your partner who may be struggling with the fact that you're off a lot or really excited about someone else. It may just be more difficult to see that and notice that, and be there for them during that time, because you might be so caught up in all of the amazing emotions that you’re going through.
Dedeker: That’s interesting, like that feeling of being able to do anything. It can also really be a detriment, because I think it can get you to really over-commit. I think it can get you to feel like this is never going to end. These feelings are never going to end. To be fair, I think we've definitely been sold that bill of goods by a lot of our media of once you actually find the right person NRE is never going to end. You're going to feel that way all the time to a certain extent.
I think also because if you meet someone, and you have this really intense reaction, it can definitely lead you to feel like, "It's always going to feel this way. I really need to prioritize my time with this person," or, "I need to move my life around for this person." It can definitely cloud your judgment, and lead you to make not as well thought-out decisions in the long run. I know I’ve definitely made so many bad decisions under the influence of NRE. Then along those same lines it's funny, because I feel like actually Shakespeare was pretty good at pointing out the bad sides of falling in love or NRE as well.
Jase: Ironically though, no one looks at that part of the story.
Dedeker: Exactly, no one looks at that part of the stories or the sonnets also. I used to have a book of Shakespeare's sonnets. I would try to flip through to a random one, and I'd feel like the majority of them are actually pretty negative.
Dedeker: There are some like the really famous ones that we know that are really romantic, but a lot of them are just lamenting, like this sucks actually. I feel like I've lost my judgment. I feel like both being separated from you and being with you, somehow feels terrible at the same time. I don't understand why, and why do people do this? This is such a folly. There's a lot of that.
I think that is actually a fundamental part that we often don’t talk about, the fact that you can feel depressed when that person isn't around or you can feel really obsessive about what they are or not doing or really obsessive about they said this, but what does that mean. Then they did this, but what does that mean. Then should I say this or should I say that? Everything just really gets turned up sometimes in this really negative way.
Jase: Then also for non-monogamy, there are ways that NRE can be difficult to manage in your existing relationships. One of these is this experience where, because you’re in NRE, and you have that obsessive brain chemistry going on, it’s like all of your energy and all of your time and everything is being directed at this new person who’s activating these addiction feelings which can actually crowd out some of either your energy or your time that you have with your existing partners. That can definitely cause some trouble in that relationship.
Emily: It can also cause an intrusion on the outside relationships. It may just be in the form of a little interruption like unwanted phone calls or texts when you’re in the middle of a date, perhaps, or even just like sitting around watching TV with your partner, and all of a sudden you get a phone call or a text from your new partner that you're going through NRE with. That can be intrusive on your current relationships. Or just even spending so much time with this new person. That can intrude, and infringe upon the existing relationship as well.
Jase: You, guys, want to talk about some science?
Emily: Yes, although it's with a, "Oh hell".
Jase: Oh, hell.
Emily: Oh, hell. [laughs]
Jase: That's how we call her here. Helen Fisher, which many people probably know from her various TED talks and things like that that she's done, she's definitely the best known researcher today, who's doing research on love and the brain chemicals, and things that go on. We as well as many other people like Dan Savage or Kerry Jenkins or Chris Ryan, a lot of us have some issues with some of the assumptions that she makes about the way people work, being very heteronormative and very like the only purpose of falling in love is in order to pair-bond monogamously, and to have children, and totally discounting same-sex couples or asexual people or anything else that doesn’t fit that mold. But the science she does is interesting.
It's just the conclusions that she makes from it that are based on her assumptions that are problematic. In this study, that's the one that she talks about a lot, is the study done with a fairly large sampling of college students mostly who reported recently having fallen deeply in love.
Emily: What does that mean, really?
Jase: It's self-reporting.
Emily: College students in love.
Jase: Whatever they think that means, but in the studies they did find some interesting things by doing FMRIs and hormone tests. They found elevated activity in, I’m going to try to pronounce these these, caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area which the important takeaway there is that those are both areas in the brain that are associated with the reward system. The reward system being things involved in addiction or in seeking out food or sex or these base desires.
Dedeker: Right, the reward system is connected to having like dopamine injected into your system by your brain, essentially. The idea that if you're hungry, you go find food, you eat the food you feel a little rush of dopamine afterwards. That’s the pleasure you feel during and after eating. That encourages you to keep doing that to keep nourishing your body.
Jase: To keep living.
Dedeker: Keep living. Same thing with sex. We have a dopamine release during and after orgasm. The thing is that when you’re falling in love with someone, when you’re in NRE you definitely have the surge in dopamine. That’s the reason why it can end up feeling obsessive because it does become like an addiction. The same way that addictive substances usually cause a huge rush of dopamine, that's what you chase.
You’re chasing this high endless energy that you get from this new person that you’re involved with. There is also some evidence in her research of cortisol of the stress hormone being involved. She doesn’t really emphasize it, but I think anecdotally like it definitely makes sense. We talked about how there can also be this dark underside of NRE that is really stressful and actually unsettling as well.
Emily: There was a different study done Donnatella Marazzi. I'm not saying that right.
Dedeker: Come on. Use your Italian on us.
Emily: I know, I did. Donatella Marazziti, that's as good as I got, of the University of Pisa in Italy showed that in 2004 that compared to single people or people in stable long-term relationships, newly in love people, people probably in NRE they showed lower than normal levels of serotonin, and also significantly higher levels of cortisol. That's similar to clinical OCD which is interesting that that was said.
Dedeker: Yes, that makes total sense.
Jase: They have lower levels of serotonin.
Emily: Serotonin, yes.
Dedeker: -because serotonin is what kicks in to make you feel satisfied.
Emily: I want to make you satisfied- Damn it, sorry.
Dedeker: To bring you back to- when I listen to Hamill’s and it gets stuck in my head, and there’s no serotonin release, because I'm not done listening to it. I want to listen to it obsessively.
Emily: You will never be satisfied.
Dedeker: I will never be satisfied. Anyway to bring it back to a more reasonable example, like with the food thing. You seek out food, because your hungry, you eat the food you get the dopamine release. Then afterwards you also get serotonin that helps you know that you are satisfied, and you are sated. Then in addiction, that serotonin release doesn’t happen. That's why you need more and more and more and more, because there isn’t that feeling of being satisfied. I guess that makes sense with the clinical OCD thing, the idea that doing an action doesn’t satisfy that feeling, and you feel like you need to do the action over and over and over and over again because it doesn't actually get satisfied.
Jase: Serotonin is also related to just a feeling of well-being in general. Which is why a lot of the medications for depression or even anxiety are affecting serotonin, either by synthesizing it or by stopping your body from reabsorbing it so that more of it stays in your system, and is more freely accessible. It's a pretty big deal hormone. With all of these they're not just like more is better or a less is better. It's finding a balance.
I thought this was really interesting that they had previously years before the Helen Fisher study had seen this thing with cortisol being higher, meaning they were more stressed. I thought that was really interesting. Then also to go along with the making bad decisions thing, there was Andreas Bartels of the University College in London did a study that showed in newly in love people, they also did the same study with mothers looking at their children.
Jase: What they were looking at was not what hormones were happening but what areas of the brain were being activated, or more importantly here, being deactivated. They found that the neural circuits of the brain that are associated with critical social assessment are suppressed.
Emily: When they're looking at the person that they love?
Jase: Or at their child, the parts of their brain in charge of being critical of someone socially is actually suppressed.
Emily: Or in the case of some of our mothers, it's heightened.
Jase: Your mom might be a special case.
Dedeker: Maybe once you hit puberty then it gets heightened.
Dedeker: But when you're a baby less so.
Emily: I guess.
Jase: Right, but this is basically showing that there is also some scientific backing to the idea that we'll overlook faults in someone that we're in love with.
Dedeker: Or it's a mother's love.
Jase: I guess that's why they say that. [laughs]
Emily: Only a mother can love that human.
Dedeker: Yes, interesting. This is the whole package that you're dealing with, with NRE, and it seems like it brings some good stuff but also brings a lot of potentially troubling or some potential pitfalls for sure.
Jase: Either problems that you'll have later on once it wears off, like if you've made some bad decisions or problems in your other relationships. Even with your other friend relationships. We've talked many times on this show about something that I think is familiar to anyone whether they've been non-monogamous or not, is a friend or yourself falling into NRE, falling in love with someone and then just dropping all their friends, never seeing them again. Because they're so laser focused. They're so obsessed over this person.
Dedeker: Can we talk about the people who are laser focused in NRE intense love with our podcast?
Jase: For all of you out there who are in NRE or possibly existing relationship energy, some ERE, with us here at Multiamory, this is our last week of doing our iTunes review promotion. Just to recap for those of you if you're just listening today, that is for every written review that we get on iTunes before the end of this month which is only six days away, before the end of September 2018, we will donate $5 to the Ali Forney Center which is a center for LGBTQ youth, to protect them from the harm of homelessness. A lot of kids, unfortunately, when they come out find that the family that they grew up in is no longer a place where they're allowed to live.
A lot of them end up on the street or end up being abused and have to run away. This center is specifically there to help both shelter them but then also rehabilitate them and give them the skills to live a healthy life on their own. If you would like to give $5 to them for free, go write us a review on iTunes and just write up what it is you like about this show. It'll also help us to show up higher in search results and help people to find this show and know what to expect from it.
Dedeker: If we get 100 reviews we'll donate $500. If we get 1,000 reviews we'll donate $5,000.
Jase: I'm stoked.
Emily: No, that's not how it works. Wait, you said--
Dedeker: That's exactly how it works.
Emily: Sorry, I thought that you said-- I apologize. My math is incorrect.
Dedeker: Your mouth is incorrect.
Emily: No, my math not my mouth.
Dedeker: Your math, okay.
Jase: Your math and your mouth.
Dedeker: Your mouth also against.
Emily: Actually, I guess my mouth was also incorrect.
All right, continue.
Dedeker: Anyway, definitely, the best thing is that it's our money, not even your money. If you still want to support this cause and make us donate then just leave us a review on iTunes. There's definitely a part of NRE that's a little bit out of your control, right? Because you meet someone and sparks fly and you have these feelings come up and it's definitely not going to do you any good to just try to tamp it down or pretend it doesn't exist or definitely not to deny to your partners that it exists or anything like that. It's going to behoove you to still take care of yourself and still be aware of it, but there are things that can help you balance out that extreme hormonal chemical rush that you're going through.
The first one is that because when you're in NRE, science shows that you have this extreme rush of cortisol, that you're actually more stressed. There are a lot of things that you can do to help lower your cortisol. A lot of them are just the normal things that we know about for lowering stress. The first one being, get enough sleep. I know, if you're like me, you think that you don't need any sleep when you're in love, but you do.
Jase: You do.
Dedeker: You really do. I know it's so fun to stay up until 6:00 in the morning with your new beloved. But get some sleep.
Emily: Just fucking the night away but, no, go to bed.
Dedeker: That's fun, occasionally. Just make sure you make up for the sleep the next day.
Dedeker: Don't fuck the night away and then get up for a 7:00 AM brunch.
Emily: No, that's the opposite of what brunch is. That's breakfast.
Dedeker: Okay, sorry, 7:00 AM real early breakfast.
Jase: There you go.
Emily: Another thing to do which is another one of Dedeker's favorites is to go off and meditate. You can walk and meditate or you can sit and meditate. You can use the-- What is it? What's that app?
Dedeker: Head Space. It's a hot app all the kids love.
Jase: There's also Calm, a lot of people like that one.
Jase: There's a number of them now.
Dedeker: Or you can just download a meditation timer and just do it. I'm old-fashioned in that way.
Emily: Not everyone is as good at meditating as you are, Dedeker.
Dedeker: It's not a competition.
Emily: Professional meditator. Also, apparently exposure to sunlight. Get that D. Get that vitamin D.
Dedeker: Get the actual vitamin D not that kind of D.
Emily: Yes, the vitamin D. Not the other kind of D which you may be getting, I don't know. Apparently, that helps lower cortisol, which is really interesting. I think maybe just because you're so tired after being in the sun all day maybe you want to go to bed.
Jase: This is a funny one. This one is tied to seasonal affective disorder. You know how people would buy the light boxes to get super bright--
Dedeker: If you're in a place not like LA where during colder seasons it's gloomy and dark.
Emily: Like where Jase is from.
Dedeker: Yes, like Seattle.
Jase: Like Seattle, yes. What's interesting about it though is that even in sunny places we still, because we're indoors most of the time, and we're told so much to be afraid of being in the sun that we actually will spend very little of the day compared to what our ancestors would have for almost all of our existence as humans except for this tiny little blip that happened since we moved into cities and had electric lights specifically being brighter than 1,000 lumens. Something that we rarely experience indoors. That's very unlikely that you'll ever--
Dedeker: Just to give me perspective, is brighter than 1,000 lumens, is that just like a typical sunny day, not cloudy day?
Jase: Even a cloudy day it's still--
Jase: If it's like super cloudy, it might be a little bit darker than that but even if it's a little bit overcast that's still going to be brighter than inside.
Dedeker: I was told by a doctor [chuckles]
Emily: Doctor doctor?
Dedeker: I was told by a doctor that even just be on the sun for 10 minutes is enough. For people like me who are afraid of being in the sun and don't want to burn I was told that 10 minutes is enough to stimulate enough vitamin D production. You don't need to be out for a super long time. I need to double check that, but it was a doctor. She really was a doctor in a professional setting telling me this.
Jase: I feel like I've had a doctor who told me half an hour actually was better.
Dedeker: We'll split the difference. Well call it 20 minutes.
Jase: What's interesting about this one though is that this is not just about the sun being on your skin. This is more about your eyes seeing that bright of a light. You could still be in the shade or something but it's just like being exposed to that level of light, like maybe go sit on your porch and read a book or something like that can actually help. I thought that was a cool one.
Another one is to actually have fun. Something what I found, I don't know if you two have, but when you're in that NRE and every waking moment you want to spend with this new person who you have all these feelings for, but you also have to work and you have to sleep, and maybe you have other obligations. You end up in a situation where I am with this person getting my dopamine fix, or I'm working, or sleeping, or doing chores. Not doing something fun. I know you're being a little sarcastic but it's like I come home and don't do fun things because I'm exhausted from all the fun I'm having with this new partner, than actually prioritizing having fun. Whether that's for you personally, like making some time to--
Emily: To go to Disneyland.
Jase: I guess so.
Dedeker: If you want to, why not?
Jase: Like reading a book go watching a movie or playing a game, or going and seeing your friends. Doing stuff like that, that's not just with this partner and then just doing mundane things all the rest of the time.
Dedeker: Interesting. I guess that makes sense that that would also prevent you from building up a weird association of I only have fun and can relax when I'm with this new partner, my "Disneyland" relationship and the rest of my life is a terrible drag.
Jase: Yes, definitely. One of my favorites here is to pet a pet.
Dedeker: Any kind of pet?
Jase: You know what? The study was done with cats and dogs. I don't know if it would apply to any furry animal, like if you have a bunny rabbit?
Emily: Definitely pet a bunny rabbit.
Jase: But this one was cool. You've probably heard some mention of this before, but they found that petting an animal will lower your blood pressure but it will also lower your cortisol and, double bonus, it also lowers the cortisol for the animal, so it's a win-win for the two of you. What's fun is that they actually found that the reduction in cortisol is actually even greater if you're not a pet owner yourself, by getting to pet an animal.
Dedeker: Is it because it's novel?
Jase: That's the thing. It's like, is it that that's greater because it's novel or is it that the people who own pets are already experiencing some of the benefits and so for them like the little extra benefits not as much as someone who's at full stress capacity?
Dedeker: The take away being that regardless, anytime you feel you have high cortisol, if it's NRE or just normal day-to-day stress or whatever, definitely go ask to pet other people's pets?
Jase: Yes, totally.
Dedeker: Okay, I love it. I can totally take that away. Love it, I love this podcast.
Emily: No problem. Something to help actually boost your serotonin levels are supplements. There's a lot out there, stuff like saffron which I've heard is actually pretty expensive. I know it's expensive and it's put on food.
Dedeker: You buy it as a spice. I don't know what the supplements are like.
Jase: Actually, that's one I haven't looked into.
Emily: Maybe it's just the spice, but the spice can get pretty pricey but 5-Htp, heard about that in regards to a couple things, but yes 5-Htp for sure. Vitamins B6 and B12, all you vegans out there, you get that B12 and then also folate.
Jase: I was going to say there's another one that I was just reading about that is not as well known, it's called the Ashwagandha. It's like a root of some sort but the extract of this has been shown in studies to increase cortisol levels when taken, just a little bit in the morning and evening. That might also be something to look into. I haven't actually taken that one myself.
Emily: Increased serotonin levels?
Jases: Sorry, yes, increased serotonin. Feeling more satisfied, lowering anxiety, lowering stress, stuff like that. It's one of these people like to say it'll cure everything. But the studies I read about were specifically about cortisol and serotonin. They would help lower stress and also raise your serotonin.
Dedeker: Okay, those are all our sciencey things that you can do in order to help balance out the issues that may come up like from a more chemical level when you're falling in love or in NRE with someone. Let's talk about external behaviors more so. First of all, like we talked about at the top of this episode, that when you're in NRE it's definitely more difficult for you to empathize with let's say a partner of yours who's maybe having a hard time, whether that's them having a hard time with you being in NRE or having a hard time with any other things.
Because you're so laser focused it becomes really hard to tap into that empathy. First of all, just having an awareness of that really helps, recognizing that during this time period your ability to empathy may be compromised. You're probably going to need to overcompensate a little bit more than maybe you normally would. That means maybe checking in with your partner a little bit more, maybe verbally affirming their feelings a little bit more, affirming that you hear them or that you understand how they could feel this particular way.
I think a tip that we've talked about on a previous episode, if a partner shares with you maybe they're like, "I feel neglected because you've been out of the house so often going on so many dates with so-and-so," maybe it's not wrong for you to be going on dates with so-and-so but for you to mirror back, "I totally understand why you would feel that way then if it feels like I'm always gone I could totally understand how you feel neglected." Being able to use that kind of language to really be able to affirm and empathize with your partner's feelings.
Jase: Yes, to make sure that you're not just being like, "No, no, that's not the case," invalidating their concerns.
Emily: Yes, and to get all defensive.
Jase: Another one that we love to talk about is don't sign anything in the first year. Don't make any major life decisions. As we've seen, your ability to look at them critically is compromised as well as these feelings of addiction and euphoria when you're with them. So when we say don't sign anything we mean don't sign a marriage contract, a cellphone plan, a lease. Don't even make plans to sign those things. I should I should clarify even further. Just don't do it. It can wait, right? If you believe in true love, then as they say, true love waits to sign leases.
Dedeker: Don't adopt an animal together.
Jase: Anything that involves having to sign legal documents.
Dedeker: Don't put your signature on anything connected to this person within the first year if you can help it. That applies to major life decisions also like choosing to move across the country to live in the same city as this person you just met a month ago. Maybe not a great decision, maybe it'll turn out after a year that actually we are really compatible and I would love to move there but maybe not so much in the first month.
Jase: But it's this thing of if you don't go yet and then you find out more than a year later we really want to do this, then you can do that with confidence, and it's still okay. Whereas the other option if you do it and then realize it's not going to work out you've really screwed yourself over. Then the next one that's related to this is to listen to the people around you. This is your family, your friends, your other partners. You can take it with a grain of salt but pay attention if other people are picking up on things about this new partner that you might not be. If they seem shady or like they were weird that they didn't want to be friends with me at all or even talk to me, whatever it is, again, take it with a grain of salt.
Everyone has their own baggage coming into it, but still listen.
Dedeker: Again, your ability to be socially critical is really inhibited.
Emily: It's nice to have somebody to have a little bit of a perspective where you may not be able. Also, journal about your experience. This is something that's really cool to look back on potentially later on, to be able to write down all of the great things that you might be feeling and that might be happening. But also maybe some of the things that are potential red flags, anything that comes up that you're like, "I don't know why they said that. What do I actually think about that? Let me take the time to write it out instead of just being in front of them and having all these emotions come up."
I think it gives you a little bit of distance from them and allows you to write it down and and have a different method of figuring that out. Also, regarding the displacement stuff with other partners, just make sure to create really intentional date time and and really intentional quality time for your existing partners. Look cute for them too. Shower and shave, oput on some make-up, look awesome. If that's something that you're into. Basically make an effort for them because it may seem as though you're only making an effort for the new partner. Show that you care about your existing partners.
Dedeker: I have to say, all the time what I see working with clients is I see, especially with people who live together, that this comes up a lot. I see my partner get ready and shave and get all nice and fancy and put on cologne and head out to his date and then I just get normal t-shirt and sweats version of him. He never puts in that effort for me. On the flipside often with newer relationships or newer partners, someone who's in a relationship with someone who lives with another partner, they often complain about the opposite of, "We go on dates and we have a good time but I don't get any of that day to day stuff. We don't go grocery shopping together. We don't get to hang out on the couch and chill together."
Emily: The grass is always greener is what you're saying.
Dedeker: Oh gosh, completely. I always encourage people to just bear that in mind and do a little relationship anarchy style kind of thing and try to balance that a little bit. What are the things about day to day bonded existing relationship energy that you can bring to your new relationships and also vice versa? What are the efforts and the ways that you get excited and the little things that you do when you're in the thick of NRE that you can bring to your existing relationship as well? If you haven't talked with your partner about this already, or your other partners about this, have a conversation about texting etiquette, about how you feel.
I feel like, at least anecdotally, most people that I know are totally understanding and willing to have agreements around if we're on a date then we're going to be polite and not pay attention to our phones or not be glued to our phones. Or if we're having dinner or if we're trying to get the kids to bed or something like that, there's definitely specific times where we agree we'll just be focused here. Have that conversation about what actually makes you comfortable and what doesn't. Some people are more comfortable with if we're watching a movie I'd rather that we're not on our phones.
Other people are like, no, that's fine if we want to be looking at our phones occasionally and texting people. Other people are more comfortable with the idea of if you feel like you need to call someone just let me know and then step out and then call them. Any solution can work for you. Just make sure that you have that conversation with your partners, especially if it’s a partner that you live with. Also, something to bear in mind is if you have a partner who’s having a hard time with you being in NRE, it is okay if the best that person reaches right now, your partner, is feeling neutral about this new relationship.
Emily: I think that’s also in general.
Dedeker: Yes, we’ve talked a lot on the show about compersion and about how compersion is great, but it’s not necessarily something you need aspiring to at all times, especially if you have a partner who’s historically struggled. If they’ve reached the point of feeling neutral or positively neutral, that’s something to be celebrated, and that’s a really good thing.
I think slamming your partner for not being supportive enough or not giving it a high-five can definitely really backfire and cause the opposite of what you want. It’s probably not going to encourage them to be more supportive of you. That’s just something to bear in mind, again, connecting back to empathizing thing. Just have some compassion for that, and to also celebrate the small victories there.
Jase: To go back to the cell phone thing for a second, the texting thing, I think that your agreements with your existing partners is super important. Emily and I did this years ago when we were living together, having to try different things, like, “If you’re going to text, just do it in a block of time and be like, ‘I’m going to take five minutes to send some text messages, and then and then I'm back to not checking, and have periodic checks'."
Other times it was like, “I'm fine with you texting while we're watching TV together, but actually don't lean your phone away from me, so it doesn't feel subconsciously like you're keeping a secret from me.” Different things like that, and just try things and see what works for you. There isn't just an answer of like this is correct etiquette. You'll get different answers from different people. Just have that conversation on-going and work together.
The other part of that is have conversations with the new partner, also setting some reasonable and sustainable communication practices. What I mean by this is that often when we're in that NRE, even if it's not in a polyamorous context, you might be like I want to talk to them every second of every day, and so I'm staying up late texting with them or I'm sneaking away at work or sneaking text messages to them. While you might be able to get away with that for a little bit of time, it's not actually sustainable, because you do actually need sleep, and you do actually need to do your work when you're at work, all of that.
Also, again, with your partners, if you are teaching this new person, “I'm available at any second, and I'm always going to be texting you,” you’re setting them up for some disappointment or, even more so, I think sometimes they might also feel the burden of having to text you that much, because if you think you’re doing that doing that for the sake of the other person, because they’ll be disappointed if you don't. Really you're both putting yourselves out and you get in a situation where if they do start to put some boundaries in place, then you feel like, “I didn't do that, but they did. They must not care.” You see how you get yourself in this bad situation, when you establish-
Emily: When you don't want what you don't want.
Jase: Right, you establish some patterns that are not sustainable, because then they have to change. That change can be stressful, it can be difficult.
Emily: Finally, we know that we've talked about a lot of ways to tame this NRE a bit, and deal with it. Do remember to enjoy the good parts, because it's not going to last forever, so enjoy it while it lasts. Have fun with this free awesome body high that you’re getting, where you just feel amazing all the time. Be supportive of your partners as well, because it may be a little bit challenging for them to go through.
Dedeker: We always have to reiterate, “Don't sign anything.” It's one of the mottos of the show, “Don’t sign anything in the first year.”
Emily: Don't sign anything the first year.
Jase: I want to get T-shirts like, “Don't sign anything in the first year.”
Emily: Multi NRE.
Dedeker: Welcome, our Patreon listeners, to this week's bonus content. Before we dive into the question that we thought that we'd tackle for this one, can I share some really amazing trivia with the two of you?
Jase: Oh, my gosh, I love trivia.
Dedeker: You know the Museum of Drastic Technology in Culver City?
Emily: I’ve heard of it, never been to it.
Jase: I have been to it.
Dedeker: I have been to it.
Jase: I went there on a second date or something.
Emily: Really? Cool.
Jase: It was a weird second date.
Dedeker: It’s really cool, actually. I think it's a really cool spot. Anyway, I learned from there that there's this old superstition, and I don't know if this is ever based in fact or if it's purely superstition, that if you eat ant eggs, ant egg-sac, I think they come in sacs, I don’t know if they do, if you eat ant eggs mixed with honey, it will make you fall out of love with someone.
Dedeker: Of course, I want to know was this ever based in fact?
Emily: I’m never going to try that.
Dedeker: Is there some hormone or enzyme in ant eggs that does cancel out some of these hormones in your brain? Is this just bonkers? Was someone just desperate, one day, and so painfully in love with someone they couldn't be with that they would just say, “I'll do anything, whatever you tell me?”
Emily: I’m going to eat these eggs.
Dedeker: Maybe eat ant eggs and have some honey to wash it down, I don't know. Isn't that bizarre?
Emily: Yes, gross, all the way around yuck.
Jase: I was actually just rereading Carrie Jenkins book when we were preparing for this episode, and one of the thing she talks about in there is the potential ethical questions about using drugs to influence our falling in love or falling out of love.
Dedeker: Right, I remember that part of the book.
Jase: It is such an interesting thing of-
Emily: Molly, you mean or?
Jase: No, actual drugs that affect your levels of oxytocin, which is a-
Dedeker: It’s the bonding chemical.
Jase: Yes, that's one we didn’t talk about in this episode. It came up in some of the research, but was a little bit more about longer term bonding. Although I found some fascinating stuff about oxytocin related to orgasm and pillow talk specifically. After orgasm your oxytocin goes up for five minutes or so. Not for very long. During that time you are less likely to perceive threats, and you're more building relationships and more trusting. That post-sex pillow talk can actually be revealing even more about yourself than you might otherwise-
Dedeker: But very productive as far as relationship-building goes?
Jase: Right, they found, actually, that sometimes it can also lead to feeling regrets of like, “I’ve shared too much,” after the sex. They did different things trying to figure out when you were more likely to feel regrets about it afterward or when you weren't. Either way, it was an important discovery, because oxytocin had more been thought of this more long-term pair bonding. It’s actually very much involved in being able to have orgasms, as well as experiencing them afterward or experiencing that trust and connection afterwards.
Jase: Yes, that was really cool stuff. Anyway, just the ethics of if you could, almost like Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, take a pill that would suppress your oxytocin or whatever chemical it was that was making you feel so obsessively in love, would you do that to not to be in love with someone?
Dedeker: Or if you could induce yourself to be in love with someone?
Jase: Or you could force yourself to be in love with someone that you had an arranged marriage, and you’re like, “Well, I'd like to be in love with this person.” So, pup. What the ethics of that?
Dedeker: What are the ethics of that? Does it count as real love or if it feels the same?
Jase: There's the question, is it real? It’s all brain chemicals, but is it?
Dedeker: Initially, the question that we did come up for this bonus content was we wanted to ask each other, do you remember the first person that you felt really intense NRE for? You instantly knew who it was.
Emily: Yes, my high school boyfriend, Patrick.
Emily: It was not a good relationship later on, but initially, he was the first person I French-kissed with-
Dedeker: I can’t forget that one.
Jase: -or did anything sexual with at all.