New and shiny syndrome
by Mx Ruby-Rouge
We’ve all been there, feeling the thrill of the chase of someone we desire, the tummy flip we get when we receive a text or tweet from them, the constant thought of them, fantasies, desires, scenarios playing out in your mind. All else fades into comparison as you become single-minded, and when you finally get what you want, the rest of the world ceases to exist. You’ve fallen prey to new and shiny syndrome. It’s perfectly normal, and understandable. But it’s something us polyamorous people, unlike our monogamous counterparts, have to control and manage, in order to keep the other, existing people in our lives happy. For a monogamous person, you may get complaints from your friends that you aren’t coming out as much since you’ve met your new love interest, but generally, your NRE will fade, and your friends will forgive you. For a polyamorous person, you have existing loves to which you have obligations, and who want to still be important to you, even as you persue a new connection. Ignore the negative impact that new and shiny can have on your existing relationships, and once you emerge from that rose-tinted world, you may find you have lost or seriously damaged some valuable relationships.
Dealing with a partner who has a case of new and shiny syndrome can be hard work, as you have to deal with feelings of jealousy, envy, hate, loss, grief and insecurity. Those things us poly folk rarely admit to, but often feel, even in small doses. There are few things harder than the feeling that your lover is slipping away, losing interest in you, chasing after the next new and shiny. Your time as the new and shiny has now expired, and someone else is taking that all consuming place in your honey’s life. You start to understand what your metamours have gone through, time and time again, and how your own entry in their lives was just as hard for them as you are experiencing now.
New and shiny syndrome is simply a case of inbalance. An improper focus on one, new person, a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side”. As we all know, it isn’t, and once the NRE wears off, the rose-tinted glasses come off, we are all the same. We have our good points and our bad. We have our confident parts and our insecurities. We have our neuroses and our obsessions. We are just people, and it’s difficult to see that in those heady, early days. Whilst it is perfectly acceptable, and normal, to be excited about a new connection, neglecting your existing relationships is not.
For those suffering from new and shiny syndrome, there are a number of things you can do to minimise the negative impact your new love interest can have on your life and loves. First is to ensure you maintain your existing levels of attention, time, affection and obligations to your existing connections. Be considerate of how much attention you pay to the new and shiny; don’t excessively display your obsession online or where it can be seen by a lover, and don’t let it intrude on your special date time with your partners. Sticking to your obligations is a vital thing to do: if you generally text your loves once a day, continue to do so. If you generally see them once a week, stick to it, even if it means you can’t see the new and shiny person that day. That hardest impact of a new and shiny on existing partners is that their partner reduces their involvement with them, in favour of the new and shiny, and it hurts. Don’t fall prey to that mistake.
Second is to take your time. Don’t rush headlong into something and expect the new and shiny to be fast-tracked into your accepted circle of loves. Enjoy the process of dating and getting to know you, talk to your existing partners, see how they are feeling about the new person, and ensure that existing agreements are discussed with the new and shiny before things get too involved. An easy mistake to make when involved with a new and shiny is forgetting your existing rules and agreements in the heat of the moment, or getting involved with someone unsuitable long term just because the chemistry is overwhelming. It’s hard for other partners to see this cycle repeated time and time again, so take your time with who you consider entering your life, consider their compatibility in your lifestyle and circle, and don’t just think with your genitals.
Finally, try and get things onto a real-life level. Let your existing partners get to know the new and shiny, so they know them as a person, and not just “the one I feel I’ve lost my partner to”. Let everyone hang out, chat, get a feel for each other as people, and not competition. It’s amazing how someone who is feeling insecure about someone can feel less so when they’ve met this person and talked to them, and realised they are just a person, and they get spots/fat days/holes in their socks too. Similarly, talk to your partners about how they feel about the new connection, any worries they may have, any negative feelings they may be experiencing. Deal with their answers tactfully, giving reassurance to worries, perhaps figuring out solutions to things missing between you, renewing your promises and obligations to them and assuring them they are loved and important to you.
For the partner who is on the shitty end of the new and shiny stick, there are things you can do too. First, be open and honest about how you are feeling with your partner, and seek reassurance and affirmation of your place in their heart and life. If you partner has reduced time or attention to you or bailed on some agreements, talk about that stuff, and come to a solution. Second, don’t see the new and shiny as “the enemy”, even if your partner is treating you badly in favour of them. It’s generally not their fault, and you need to take up that issue with the person responsible: your partner. Don’t write the person off as a bad metamour at the first sign of trouble, remember it takes time to negotiate into an existing structure and to find your place within it. Finally, accept that you were once the new and shiny too, and that NRE is ok, in moderation. Allow your love the space and freedom to make new connections, be happy for them, and remember that new and shiny is generally shortlived.
It is important to remember that as polyamorous people, we are all going to seek to form new connections and new relationships from time to time. The way we conduct those new connections, and the way we manage our existing obligations and maintain our relationships considerably affects the goodwill our partners have to our starting new relationships. A cornerstone for good polyamory is fairness: if you don’t have time for new connections: don’t seek to make them. Similarly, be honest and realistic about what you want; don’t promise what you can’t consistently give, don’t agree to things that breach your existing agreements with other loves. Remember that we’ve all been the new and shiny, and we will all at some point have to deal with a new and shiny. Either by experience or imagination, we can put ourselves in our metamours’ shoes, and feel the likely impact of our actions and behaviours. Bear that in mind, and it will make you more considerate when making new connections generally, whether as the new partner, or the partner seeking to add someone. Treat others as you would wish to be treated, and you won’t go far wrong.