“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”
Bruce Lee, Unlikely Polyamory Master
Oh Bruce Lee, you unlikely poly sherpa. People know him more for his shirtless superpowers and “his ka-chawwww!” But really? Bruce Lee has all the poly wisdom.
Frankly, at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover a bootleg of Enter the Unicorn kicking around somewhere.
(Wait… a second. Enter the Unicorn? Oh dear. Maybe that’s what all the fuss is about. People taking that literally, as a command. No wonder there’s a line out the door at the unicorn stand.)
New Relationship Energy Versus Old Relationship Energy
In any event, Bruce Lee makes a fantastic point about the difference between New Relationship Energy and Old Relationship Energy.
I touched on this in earlier post about the 6 (at least) different kinds of love. While English has decided to just wing it with the one word for “love,” Greek is chock-full of words for more specific kinds of love.
Generally speaking, New Relationship Energy is a combination of eros (sexytime vibes, passion, lust, etc) and ludus (shenanigans, playfulness). So NRE? It’s basically lust and shenanigans. Super fun, super intense. The new shiny!
Whereas Old Relationship Energy can draw from a combination from any of the other types of love, but what differentiates it from NRE is pragma, i.e., mature love. Psychologist Sternberg has referred to this as “companionate love.” It involves working through things, developing mutual understanding, and trust. It is a seriously beautiful thing. Building a lasting love and growing old together.
Flames Are Brighter, But Coals? They’re When the Fire Really Cooks
But of course, Bruce Lee said it better than I just did. I love his analogy of the fire, flames turning to coals.
It reminds me of camping — when you want to build a cooking fire, you start with one that burns hot and bright, but it’s the coals you really want to do your nice even cooking. And this takes a bit of time. So once the intensity has burned away, that’s when the real magic begins.
But it’s subtle. And if you don’t know what you’re looking, if you don’t know how valuable or important those coals are, you can overlook them. And think the fire has burned out.