I can still remember what my ex-husband said when we’d been dating each for a few months.
“I’m sad that the chase is over.”
I laughed at the time when he said it. Which he wasn’t fond of, because he was being serious (and he often interpreted laughter as hostile).
He went on to explain that his favorite parts of his past relationships had been in the courtship phase. The back and forth. Playing hard to get. The guessing game.
“You don’t do any of that,” he said. “You said, ‘I like you, too,’ right back. And ‘love you, too’ without much fuss. You didn’t wait for me to call you and just called me yourself when you wanted to talk to me.”
There were no mixed signals, he said. Which made it really confusing for him. And less thrilling, he admitted.
“Well, I hate that kind of stuff,” I said. “The real relationship starts after all that nonsense stops.”
He looked at me with confusion. He hadn’t had a lot of dating history before me (just two other girlfriends, and neither relationship got terribly serious). “That doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
He Changed His Tune
But then several months later, we were living together. Making shrimp egg rolls while on an EverQuest Plane of Growth raid together. Drinking a bottle of Arbor Mist (which I loved in my early 20s, as gross as I find it now).
And the subject came up again.
He changed his tune.
“Did you ever do this with any of your ex-girlfriends?” I asked, referring to the raid, the midnight snacks, the small apartment we’d just furnished ourselves, after visiting a flurry of yard sales.
“No,” he said. “This is wonderful.”
I reminded him of what he’d said a few months back, about how he’d been sad to miss the chase. Disappointed that I hadn’t played hard to get.
“I didn’t know what I was talking about,” he admitted. “Before I had this, I thought the chase was the best a relationship could be. I thought that was where all the fun was. But I was wrong. This is better.”
I’ve Always Loved ORE More than NRE
We were together for about a decade all told. We did end up breaking up down the road, but we’re both better for it — better for having been together and also for ending things when we did. Both of us are very happy and thriving these days, happier than even were when we were together. (Another thing neither of us saw coming, that there was a better life than the one we lived together for so long).
I’ve written many times about how I’m someone who appreciates Old Relationship Energy (ORE) more than New Relationship Energy (NRE). When I first started talking to other folks in the polyamorous community many years ago, I noted that this stance wasn’t usual, normal, or typical at all.
Instead, everybody I talked to at that time seemed hyperfixated on New Relationship Energy. It was more intense and intrinsically rewarding that Old Relationship Energy, folks said. You didn’t get addicted to ORE, they’d claim. You got hooked on NRE.
There was no room in those early conversations for someone who actually preferred the depth of trust possible in an established dynamic to shiny newness.
But lately, it feels like things have changed. Since I’ve started writing a bit more about it in public, I’m noticing that I’m not the only one who feels that way. And like me, many others wondered if they were the only ones.
I’m still not sure exactly how best to talk about this — the fact that some of us don’t actually like the chase all that much. The anxiety. The games. And some of us like to build something long-lasting and meaningful (and yes, some of us want to build those kinds of deep connections with multiple people at once).
I’m not sure exactly how to get the word out that some of us don’t like NRE all that much. And that it’s something we tolerate in order to get to the good stuff, which begins when it ends.
But I’m going to start trying.