Hi! My bf and I are poly and lately he’s been talking about looking for a new partner. This makes me feel nervous as his mental health means he can be distant at the best of times. I was wondering when a partner starts a new relationship, if it’s common for the existing partner to be neglected? Or is it more common for the NRE to flow into the existing relationship too? Just wondering if you have advice for someone nervous?
They say that “statistics mean nothing to the individual,” and I think that applies here. Even if I told you that NRE-related neglect of existing relationships was very common, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your boyfriend is for sure going to do that. And if I told you that it’s not common, that doesn’t mean you’re home free and definitely not going to face that problem. I can’t predict your boyfriend’s future behavior or NRE risk profile.
But since this is a thing that can be named, it can be discussed! Talk with your boyfriend about his new period of partner-seeking and mention your concerns. Say something like “I’m excited for you to start dating and looking for a new partner, but I worry that based on past patterns in our relationship, NRE might be kind of a problem. Let’s put some plans in place to get out ahead of that!”
Those plans should be actionable but flexible ways for you two to manage this. One thing I’d definitely suggest is establishing with your boyfriend that it’s a low-key, non-threatening, very-permissible thing for you to bring up. Just a “hey, you’ve been focusing a lot on Gracielle this week; can we set aside Friday for just-us time?” and his expected response is “sure!” or “Friday I have plans with friends, can we do Saturday instead?” and not “Are you jealous? Stop accusing me of neglecting you. Don’t try and control my time!” etc.
Another thing that should help is just bringing it up in general. Maybe you two can read some pieces about NRE together and talk about what NRE feels to each of you, and what you enjoy about it, and what you two can do to cultivate compersion. Would you like it if he told you about his dates? Asked you for help picking outfits? Often, dating a new person pushes us to find cool new places to go and things to do in your area; he can totally direct that knowledge and energy to taking you to places he finds with his new partner, or that his new partner introduces him to. Let him know what you enjoy and what you don’t; you don’t want him to make the mistake of assuming it would be “awkward” to let that NRE flow into the existing relationship if that’s something you’d actually like!