Can you love two people at the same time? Well, polygamy has been around since the beginning of humankind. Cavemen and women all had multiple partners – and more than one child from each of them. Even today, there are many people who still stick to this tradition – Mormons, for example – along with other non-monogamous societies where non-monogamous relationships are normal.
But what to do if polygamy is not among your life values, and it leaves you wondering how this is even possible? After all, most of us have been taught that you should be in a monogamous relationship, stay loyal, and truly love only one person at a time. And if your feelings change, you should break your current relationship and be in a single romantic relationship again with that new person. That is right – and that is ethical.
We are here to make things easier and show you how polygamy can work in monogamous societies these days. And most of all, we will make it clear that loving more than one person is completely normal.
Think about this: in your life, there are multiple people you love – parents, children, good friends, your current partner, and your previous partners (remember how it felt like each was the love of your lifetime, and you will never love anyone anymore?). Doesn’t it fit the notion of loving more than one person at the same time already?
Ok, you may say, but loving your parents and children and having several romantic relationships simultaneously are different things. Because you have an intimate connection with your love partners – and because the monogamous society has strict expectations regarding your love life.
Well, there are situations when monogamous beliefs prove themselves right – but there are multiple situations when they are not valid because limit your freedom and don’t recognize your unique circumstances. Let’s uncover them below.
Related reading: What Is Monogamy Today?
In most cases, you don’t start being in love with two people. You act like a traditional monogamous person, being fully invested in a romantic love with your current partner. But the feelings for someone else start to develop along the way – it may be a colleague at work, a fellow student in a class, or someone from their past they have re-connected with. You want it or not, but you feel attracted, and some chemistry hits you every time you see them.
This is how the conflict appears – you still have deep feelings for your current partner, yet a fresh and powerful sparkle with a new one. Not so many people have the strength and courage to walk away and choose one person. So what happens if you decide to stay and not choose anybody?
“Oftentimes, a long-term relationship can become more like a sibling relationship, and the sexual connection fades if the couple don’t know how to keep it alive…that opens the door for falling in love (or at least lust) with someone else.”
Dr. Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author
It often happens in a long-term relationship. Couples get comfortable in their relationship, and their romantic love takes a back seat as other activities and a repetitive schedule take over. It’s not that they don’t love each other, but the sexual chemistry and once passionate love have not been fed. They make love the same way as always and far less than when their feelings were new and exciting.
Life just goes on from day to day. Then, one of the partners meets a person, and that person brings up feelings they haven’t had for a long time. This is how “cheating” begins.
Now, this new relationship can go one of two ways:
And here, there is another choice to be made. The “cheating” person can choose between the two relationships in order to stay monogamous, or they can choose to keep both relationships and juggle the responsibilities that this entails. And especially if they are attempting to hide the new love from the person in the primary relationship, things will become complicated pretty quickly. And when the truth eventually comes out, it won’t be pretty.
According to relationship coach Iyania Vanzant, we all have multiple needs in a relationship, and one relationship with a single person may not satisfy them all. In the end, we inevitably find that one partner cannot meet all of those needs, which is often a rationale behind having more than one relationship.
Think for a minute about all of the needs you have that can be met by another person. You have intellectual connection needs; you have the need for affection, both verbal and physical; you need validation of your goals, aspirations, values, etc.; you need space, autonomy, and more. This is a tall order for any partner in a relationship.
Some find platonic relationships to meet the needs that their partner cannot meet – friends, colleagues, etc. And this is certainly a good option if they want to remain faithful in their current relationship.
But if the partner in the primary relationship is not meeting romantic and sexual needs, it’s a different story. A person will look for those needs to be met somewhere else. When this happens, healthy relationships between primary partners are at risk. Adding a second person to a relationship for these purposes, unless both parties consent to it, is a risky deal indeed. Deception will be involved, which can blow up in your face.
Related reading: ENM Relationship: What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy?
When a person has been burned in previous relationships, they are cautious when they fall in love with new people. And they see having a “backup” relationship as a logical choice to make.
Such people establish relationships with two different people, both of whom would be good potential monogamous partners. While you may have strong feelings for a person, your prior experiences have made you “gun shy” about relying on a new partner to remain in the relationship.
Related reading: Dreams About Your Ex-Boyfriend – What Do They Mean?
Given the liberating relationship environment in which we live today, a person may decide to throw old societal norms to the wind. They may seek multiple potential partners and spend time with them as they wish – or add a partner to one relationship they are already in.
This is called an open relationship with one or more polyamorous people, coming out of a decision to “buck the norm” and choose adventure over security. One partner just doesn’t “cut it” anymore, so having a couple of them looks rather rational for them.
Related reading: Rules of Open Relationships
Bisexuality is real. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 4.4% of the adult population identifies as bisexual. And this identity means that one partner will not satisfy their romantic and/or sexual needs.
It’s obvious that at least two people will be in their “love sphere,” though the amount of partner time may vary. The point is they can and do feel love for more than one person, but it will be important to keep communication open among each person involved.
Marriage is declining in popularity as more singles choose to date multiple people simultaneously or enter into open partnerships where both are free to date others. In short, marriage is not on their agenda, at least not for now, and it is in their best interest to remain unattached.
Can this change? Of course. A person may develop strong and real feelings for one person and choose a monogamous relationship.
If you do choose to love more than one person at a time, these are the most common reasons. But first, you need to understand how you are defining the word “love.”
Love, crush, and lust represent similarly strong yet completely different feelings. Some of them are worth breaking the norms immediately, while others may fade before you get the divorce. Thus, make sure you can take responsibility over your feelings – and define them correctly – before you act upon your love with two people.
Crush is related to physical attraction to a new person. When we are aroudn or think about them, our brain releases “feel good” hormones.
When you have a crush on someone, you feel infatuation and obsession. This results in idealization, making up scenarios with your crush, and looking for this crush to return your own desires. You experience a really strong feeling, and it may push you to act boldly to get what you want.
But crushes are usually temporary and not deep. They involve lingering feelings from time to time, but it is not lasting love. So if you act upon a crush and pursue a romantic or sexual relationship with this new person, the chances of it turning into something lasting are minimal.
Reality sets in, and you realize that your idealized perception of this person is not reality. Coming out of crush, a person makes wrong decisions mostly. You need more time to check if it’s real love, or just an attraction to a new good friend.
Lust is a strong sexual attraction to someone. When mutual, lust causes sparks; if not, strong sexual desire and fantasies about a person.
If lust is the basis for a relationship between two people, feelings beyond that are rarely present. And when it comes to loving two people simultaneously, when lust is the only reason behind that, it’s a sign that person is not sexually satisfied “at home.” That primary partner is the true love and is meeting all of their other needs – expect this one.
If you have moved into a relationship just out of lust, it is probably time for some open communication and (optional) seeing couples counselor to see how this can be fixed. Couples therapy may be able to get to the underlying issues of sexual disparity between two people.
On the other hand, if one partner just has no sex drive (sometimes called asexuality), then non-monogamy may be an answer, as long as all parties involved understand the clear boundaries of the non-monogamous relationship.
When you feel lust, it does not mean you are in love with two people. It means that you have more than one partner for a very specific need to be filled. If, on the other hand, you begin to develop feelings for this sexual partner, it’s a whole new ballgame, and it needs to be addressed openly.
Related reading: Are You in Love or Lust? Here’s Your Answer
According to the Triangular Theory of Love by Robert Sternberg, love is based on the combination of intimacy, commitment, and passion.
Love is far more complicated than a crush or lust. Two people who are truly in love experience far more than just superficial attraction and sex. In a nutshell, though, love involves a host of important factors:
Now, there are certainly times when two people do not have all of these factors in a monogamous relationship. And so, they may seek someone else to fill those missing needs. They thus enter non-monogamy and, within that situation, start falling or actually fall hard.
And yet, they continue to love that first person for all of the needs they satisfy – and thus, become in love with two people at the same time.
Can such a polyamorous relationship include multiple people? Yes, it can. But including multiple people in love relationships can make things far more complicated and stressful, not to mention there may be guilt involved. If you find that being in love with two people or more at the same time is messing with your head and your life in general, it may be time to talk with a relationship coach to understand your motivations, needs, and how to better get them met.
So, can you be in love with two people at the same time? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is there are both benefits and drawbacks when you decide that your needs can be best met by two different people (or more).
In the end, this is a decision that only you can make for yourself. But understand this: current societal norms are far more progressive regarding multiple simultaneous relationships. Your job is to do so in an ethical way.