We’ve all heard of New Relationship Energy. It’s that intoxicating and passionate period of time toward the beginning of a relationship when, perhaps, things haven’t even been fully defined yet. It’s that thrill of exploring a new person’s body, of getting to know someone. It’s a heady high. New Relationship Energy is literally a neurochemical response. So what happens when it goes away?
As someone who works for a queer website where we dispense a lot of relationship and sex advice, I encounter questions about New Relationship Energy a lot, whether they use that exact wording or not. People often want to know what happens when the spark sputters, when the flame fades. The longer you’re with someone, the more familiar they become, and the less exploratory you might feel. But there are downsides to New Relationship Energy, too. It can lead to anxiety and obsessive behavior; it can cause people to hinge their own self-worth and desirability on the gaze of another.
Negative side effects of New Relationship Energy aside, I do think it’s normal for people to wonder if there are ways within monogamy to replicate or re-access the thrills it comes with. As someone in a long-term monogamous relationship that will soon become a marriage, I’m no strange to “keeping the spark alive” discourse, and I think it does queer people a disservice to pretend like this is merely a straight people problem. Yes, it’s true that queer folks often reimagine and restructure the ways we think about and practice relationships and sex outside of heteronormative expectations. And that can definitely make it easier to come up with solutions to dips in sex drive or increased monotony in a relationship. But it doesn’t mean we’re somehow above or impervious to those fluctuations.
While I understand the impulse for people to try to recreate New Relationship Energy and I think it can be achieved in ephemeral bursts, I think trying to go backwards in a relationship timeline can sometimes set people up for failure. Rather than striving for New Relationship Energy within a relationship that isn’t new, why don’t we embrace Stable Relationship Energy? Why don’t we recognize that can be just as hot and even hotter, even if it also feels different?
Here are some of the hot, delicious, even surprising benefits of Stable Relationship Energy, which I’ve also heard called Established Relationship Energy. But stable, to me, conveys an even more solid foundation and something to truly embrace and aspire to.
Stable Relationship Energy = Knowing What You Want and Being Able To Easily Ask for It
This isn’t true for everyone, but it was not until I really and truly entered a Stable Relationship Energy phase that I was able to best understand and ask for what I want when it comes to sex. Yes, I had really great sex during the New Relationship Energy phase of my current relationship, and it was the first time in my life when I was having the kind of sex I’d desired since coming out. While I was able to be exploratory during that phase and try new things out with a new partner, those possibilities increased and intensified when we reached a more Stable Relationship Energy place, especially once we were living together.
I was so overwhelmed the first time I was asked what sex toys I’d like to use or try. I didn’t even know where to start. There was an excitement to that, but I was even more turned on later when I could shop for toys with my partner with an existing understanding of what I already liked. This still means we can try new things, and in fact, I want to emphasize that Stable Relationship Energy does not mean Static Relationship Energy. We can still be exploratory and try new things together, and there’s a safety and comfort in taking that journey together. I’m often told by a friend of mine that my partner and I are the horniest monogamous couple she knows. It’s true! And I think it’s because we’re both good at embracing Stable Relationship Energy and using it to deepen our already deep desire for each other instead of trying to simply recreate the past.
Stable Relationship Energy = Knowing What Your Partner Wants, Too
This works in both directions! Within a stable relationship, you also know how your partner likes to be touched and what turns them on. You can cater to this. When you do want to try something new, you know what your partner’s limits might be. Stable Relationship Energy means having so much data to work from! STEM but make it sexy.
Stable Relationship Energy Sets You Up for Success During Periods of Destabilization
Say your sex drives become out of sync. It happens at various points for most couples! While periods of withdrawal or the slightest of rejections during the New Relationship Energy stage can feel like huge setbacks or disappointments and perhaps impact your self-worth, if you’re in a place of Stable Relationship Energy, you’re better able to understand that a decrease in libido isn’t necessarily a personal rejection.
Again, stable isn’t static. Things are going to change. But that stable foundation means you’re able to understand and worth through small shifts much better than you can when your judgment is clouded by New Relationship Energy. Communication, connection, and confidence are all strengthened by Stable Relationship Energy, and that all leads to better, more fulfilling sex.
If you find yourself longing for the New Relationship Energy phase of a relationship, I think it could be a good moment to check in with yourself and your partner. Is it possible you’re overly romanticizing that era of the relationship? Is it possible you’re wanting something to change in the relationship as it currently stands to better serve your needs and wants and that “why can’t things be the way they used to be” is just your emotionally avoidant and ultimately unproductive way of not dealing with how you’re really feeling? Often, the answer isn’t to look back but rather to figure out a path forward, building on the existing foundation of the relationship instead of trying to return to a place difficult to perfectly replicate. Embrace Stable Relationship Energy, and you might just find those same thrills of before, made all the better by a solid foundation of trust and understanding of each other.