Every time my girlfriend starts seeing a new person she kind of forgets about her other partners, or maybe it’s just me, and I’ve tried to talk about it with her and she gets really upset and tells me I’m just being jealous and possessive which isn’t true. She stop paying attention to me, she talks less, seems uninterested, stops asking me to do things, and talks about the other person a lot. The relationships don’t last long but it still bothers me to be cast aside like that. Idk what to do.
This is a relatively well-known phenomenon in polyamory called New Relationship Energy, or NRE. I am of the belief that NRE is everyone’s responsible - the person experiencing NRE needs to manage it such that they aren’t being totally selfish, and the other partners need to recognize that this is part of the ebb and flow of a polyamorous relationship.
Dating a new person is, for some people, fun and exciting and thrilling in a very specific way. Some people don’t like this newness, because things like figuring out how to flirt and not being sure of the other person’s feelings is stressful and exhausting. Some people see the early-dating games as just things you have to get past to be in a comfortable, secure relationship. But, for other people, it is a pleasure that can be nearly impossible to experience inside a long-term relationship.
I am, personally, something of an NRE thrill-seeker. I like being pursued and pursuing; I like the little butterflies I feel when a new partner answers my text. With my partner of 9 years, I absolutely love and enjoy him, but it isn’t super exciting when he answers my texts, because I know he’s going to. I love short little flings, but I recognize that this is not a thing I can expect all my partners to intuitively understand.
The thing about a new relationship is that it does tend to take more time and focus than an established relationship. Rather than coming over and flopping around on the couch if we have nothing planned, new relationships require dates, which require planning and time. And a new person does occupy a lot of thought-space, daydreaming about them, thinking about when and how to answer their most recent message, etc. This necessarily takes time away from established partners.
So it sounds like what’s happening is that your partner really enjoys NRE, but doesn’t have the language to identify what it is and what’s important to her about it. Since she cherishes this feeling, when you ask her to minimize or drop the focus on new partners, she gets defensive and accuses you of being jealous or possessive, because from her perspective, you’re asking her to stop doing something she really enjoys and does not want to stop.
From your perspective, she is “casting you aside,” but from hers, she is just doing something fun with her time, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how she feels about you. It sounds like there is a lot of room for compromise on both sides. She does not owe you 100% of her time and focus, but she also doesn’t have the right to be dismissive or inconsiderate. When she’s enjoying an NRE-heavy fling with a new partner, perhaps you could make the request that she not talk about them with you, that she not be texting them while with you, etc. Whatever specific behavior she is doing that makes you feel like she’s not interested in you, bring that up.
You may also have to make the compromise of accepting that there will be periods where she’s less available to you - just as there would be if you had a partner who traveled often for work or had a very sick relative that they cared for. It sounds like she returns to you in the end and her affection for you at its core isn’t threatened by these flings, so setting up the expectation that sometimes she enjoys throwing herself into a new relationship and you may need to do more of the date-planning or see less of her for a while could help on your end.
Of course, if you find it really uncomfortable to date someone who is way more NRE-seeking than you and who needs the freedom to enter these periods of lower-availability, you are well within your rights to decide that this relationship isn’t for you. But I’ve found that in the case of NRE-induced friction, putting names to the feelings and clarifying expectations can really help.