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Can You Love Two People at the Same Time?

January 21, 2023

Have you ever found yourself loving two people at the same time? Maybe you were already in a great relationship when someone else incredible came along. Or maybe you were going on casual dates and suddenly found yourself with two amazing guys.

If you’ve ever wondered “can you love two people at the same time?” we’re going to help you understand why this happens and what you can do about it.

Can You Love Two People at the Same Time?

Most of us are perfectly comfortable with the idea that you can love your friends and family. If you have children, you probably understand that loving one of them doesn’t reduce how much you love the others. But lots of people see their romantic relationships differently.

Because monogamous relationships are the default in Western society, we feel guilty if we fall in love with more than one person at once. We feel that loving someone new must say something negative about how much we love an existing partner.

This doesn’t have to be true. Some people are naturally monogamous and will typically only love one person at a time. Other people aren’t and are perfectly comfortable with loving multiple people at the same time.

If you realize that you love two (or more) people at the same time, the most important thing to remember is that love is just an emotion1. You don’t get to choose your emotions and it’s never “wrong” or “bad” to have feelings. What is important is what you do about them.

Although it’s perfectly possible to be in love with two people at the same time, that doesn’t mean that every time you have feelings for someone else it’s definitely “love.” Sometimes, we can develop feelings for someone else as a way of distracting ourselves from problems in our relationship. 

What to Do When You Love Two People Romantically

what-to-do-when-you-love-two-people-romantically

There is no single answer to what you should do when you love two different people at the same time. This is because you don’t just have yourself to think about. Working out how to cope with loving two people at once means taking their needs into account as well.

Here are some of the situations you might find yourself in and things you might need to think about.

1. You think you might be developing feelings for someone else

In this situation, you’re in a relationship but you think you might be falling for someone, but you’re not sure. You might be falling in love, or it might be a short-term crush or infatuation. You need to be really clear about how you feel before you can decide what to do.

How to deal with this

Spend some time thinking about how you feel about both your existing partner and the new person, but try to think about them separately. Avoid the temptation to compare them, as this can mask your true feelings and create unnecessary tension.

In this situation, you’re vulnerable to new relationship energy (NRE)2. This is where someone you’re interested in seems new and exciting and perfect because of the excitement and pleasure associated with the early days of a relationship.

Try to calm your excitement and take a longer-term look at your feelings. Ask yourself the same questions you might ask if a friend became interested in someone new and exciting; “do you have similar life goals?” “is he someone you can see yourself growing old with?” and “how well do you really know him?”

You can also find it difficult to know how you feel about your existing partner during this time. They might seem boring or stale compared to the guy you’re excited about. Their flaws might seem bigger than before and you can forget about the great things they do for you.

It might take a few weeks for your NRE to calm down and let you think clearly about both of the people you care about. Try not to do anything dramatic until you’ve had a chance to think clearly about how you feel.

2. You’re monogamous but you’ve met two people you’d like to date seriously

If you’re someone who values monogamous relationships, realizing that you’re in love with more than one person can be really upsetting. You know that you don’t want an open or polyamorous relationship, but you’re struggling to know what you should do.

How to deal with this

The first thing to do is to remember that you haven’t done anything wrong. Your feelings don’t make you a bad person. Try to be kind to yourself and recognize that this is a difficult situation to find yourself in.

Try to remember that we are all capable of loving lots of different people throughout our lifetime. You’ve just been unlucky that you’ve found two at the same time. Remembering that we don’t have one “soulmate” waiting out there for us to find can help reduce the stress of your decision.

If you’re falling for two different people at the same time, you could probably have a great relationship with either of them. However difficult it feels at the moment, you will probably end up with a wonderful relationship.

When you’re trying to make your decision, try to engage your logical self as well as your feelings. They’re both important. Falling in love is an emotion, but having a relationship is a decision. Relationships also take work, so it’s helpful to think about who wants the same things as you.

Consider questions such as what kind of lifestyle you want, how you see your relationship with each of the people going, who has the better communication skills, and who shares your important values.

Pay attention to your deeper feelings as well. Sometimes, one person has all of the traits that you value in a partner but your gut is telling you to choose the other one. Pay attention to that feeling and try to understand where it is coming from and why you feel that way.

3. You’re in an open relationship but your new crush is monogamous

Being in an open or polyamorous relationship sounds great. You get to date everyone you fancy. Well, not exactly. Even if the person you’re falling for is also into you, they might not be ok with dating someone who has other partners. 

Even worse, they might not realize that straight away. Sometimes people are fine dating someone who has other partners as long as it stays casual. Once you start to fall for each other, they realize that they aren’t comfortable with anything other than monogamy.

How to deal with this

If you find yourself in this situation, you have my sympathy. No one wants to find themselves in this position, but it’s surprisingly common.

The first question to ask yourself is whether you would be happy in a monogamous relationship. It’s completely ok that your partner wouldn’t be happy with polyamory but it’s just as valid if you realize that you wouldn’t be happy being monogamous.

If you decide that being monogamous would leave you feeling as though something is missing in your life, your decision becomes a lot easier. However much you love your partner, you’re not compatible when it comes to a fundamental factor in your relationship and you will be happier apart.

If you think that you could be monogamous, your decision is more difficult. In that case, you are going to need to spend some time thinking about what you really want in your life. You’re choosing between two very different futures, as well as two different people.

If you’re in this situation, there will probably be a lot of different issues that you will need to sort through. You’ll need to understand how you feel about each of the people involved. You might also find that the idea of changing from being polyamorous to monogamous raises questions about your own identity. You might also feel as though you are betraying people you love.

Talking to a trusted friend can help you work through some of those issues, but you might also find it helpful to turn to an expert. Working with an experienced relationship coach, such as those at Relationship Hero, can make it easier for you to gain a clear understanding of what’s going on and help you come to the best decision.

4. You’re having problems in your relationship and you’re attracted to another person

you're having problems in your relationship and you're attracted to another person

This is a really common situation to find yourself in. You were becoming bored or unhappy with your existing partner and wondering what to do about it when suddenly a new person appears on the scene and he seems perfect.

You still have strong feelings for your existing partner, but now you’re even more confused. Should you carry on trying to work on the problems in your existing relationship or walk away to build something with someone new?

How to deal with this

This situation becomes so complicated because there are two issues going on at once. It’s usually best to start by resolving one problem at a time.

If you’re having problems in your existing relationship, it can change how you feel about other people. Someone might seem more attractive than they normally would because you’re looking for an excuse to end your relationship or just because you’re annoyed or frustrated.

It’s often best to keep some distance from the new person until you have properly resolved the problems in your existing relationship, however you end up doing that. This allows you to focus on your current relationship and make decisions about what to do without being clouded by your enthusiasm for someone new.

Try to avoid spending time with the person you’re falling for while you work on the problems in your relationship. Don’t send them flirty texts or hang out with them as friends. This just keeps you thinking about them. 

Depending on the situation, you might want to explain why you’re keeping your distance for a bit. You could say “I’m having some problems in my relationship and I’m trying to work out what to do about that. I’m going to need to keep my distance from you for a bit because I’m really attracted to you and I think it’s clouding my judgment.”

Remember that your relationship is something you work on with your partner. Talk to them about any problems you’re having or things that you would like to change. See if you can work together to resolve the problems and rebuild your relationship.

It’s really important that you try not to compare your current partner to the person you’re falling for. Trying to compare a longer-term partner to a new crush isn’t a fair comparison. Try to remind yourself of how excited you were when you first got together with your current partner and how perfect he seemed.

You already know all of your current partner’s faults and the little things they do that annoy you. Someone new will have their own faults and annoyances, but you probably won’t have noticed them yet.

Once you’ve made the effort to separate your relationship from the other person as far as you can, you’ll be able to make a better decision about whether to break up or stay and work out your issues.

Keeping the two separate in your mind can also make you more certain about your decision. It’s always scary to leave a relationship “for” someone else. There’s always the chance that you’re falling into the “grass is always greener on the other side” trap. Keeping them separate avoids this trap.

5. You love two people and they’re open to a polyamorous relationship

This might seem like the ideal situation; you’re in love with two people and you’re all keen to try having a polyamorous relationship. That’s great news, but there are also a few things you should make sure you bear in mind.

How to deal with this

The first thing to do is to create a habit of consistent, open communication. Polyamorous relationships can be great, but they’re also significantly more complicated than a traditional monogamous relationship. Great communication is going to be key, so work on it from day 13.

If you’re going to be in a polyamorous relationship, you’ll need to be able to talk about all kinds of awkward and uncomfortable topics. Everyone needs to be able to bring up things that are making them uncomfortable, without other people becoming defensive.

It might be helpful to do some reading about polyamory and the different ways people approach it. The Ethical Slut is a great place to start.

Try to remember that there’s no set roadmap for a polyamorous relationship. You’re going to have to decide on your own rules, restrictions, and expectations4. You’ll also probably find that they change over time, so you’ll need to adjust and adapt to make sure that everyone’s needs are being met. 

Different Types of Polyamory

If you are trying to have a polyamorous relationship, it’s important to understand that there’s no “one size fits all” approach to polyamory. Instead, you negotiate an approach that works for all of you.

To help you with that, here are some of the most common types of polyamory5.

1. Open relationship

This is often the easiest version of a non-monogamous relationship. An open relationship is when an established couple decides that sexual fidelity isn’t something they want or expect from each other. They are happy to be sexually active with people outside of their relationship, but their relationship stays central.

Often an open relationship will include rules around whether you can sleep with the same person multiple times and what kind of emotional connection is ok with other people. People in open relationships would often draw the line at being in love with someone other than their partner.

In some open relationships, partners are allowed to sleep with other people as long as they don’t talk about it. This can work for some people, but it can also create resentment and distrust. Be very careful about an open relationship where you can’t have an open conversation about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with.

2. Primary and secondary relationships

This version of polyamory is similar to an open relationship. You decide that one relationship is the “primary” one. Other relationships are considered secondary relationships. They’re full, serious relationships, but they are slightly lower priority.

This can show itself in different ways. Your primary partner might be the person you take to work events or family gatherings. If you’re going to live with one of your partners, you would normally choose your primary partner.

3. Non-hierarchical relationships

For some people in polyamorous relationships, the idea of having one primary relationship is too hierarchical. They might choose non-hierarchical relationships, which is also known as relationship anarchy.

Relationship anarchy is when there is no hierarchy between different relationships. That doesn’t mean they’re all exactly the same. Each relationship will be important in different ways.

For example, you might have one partner who shares your love of Disney films and traveling. Another might be the person you turn to when you’re upset and need support. Someone else might be the one you love cooking with every Tuesday night.

4. Kitchen table polyamory

This isn’t exactly a relationship structure. Instead, it’s a set of principles behind your polyamory. The main idea behind kitchen table polyamory is that you want everyone involved in your relationships to be able to sit around a kitchen table and talk about the relationships.

This means that you want to know the people your partners are dating. You don’t need to date them, or even be good friends. You just have to be able to get on ok and work together to fix problems.

5. Polycules

polycules

An alternative to kitchen table polyamory is when your aim is for everyone involved in your relationships to also be involved with each other. Where a monogamous relationship creates a couple, a polyamorous relationship where everyone is dating each other is known as a polycule.

If you’re only dating 2 people, you create a triad. As you add more people into the mix, these relationships become increasingly complex.

FAQs

Is it OK to love two people at the same time?

Love is a completely natural emotion. You can’t choose who you fall in love with, or when. Falling in love with two people at once is completely ok, even if you’re in a monogamous relationship. The important thing is what you decide to do about it.

How do you decide who you love more?

Love doesn’t have to be a hierarchy. You can’t always say that you love one person “more” than another. If you have to choose between two people you are in love with, it can be helpful to think about other factors, such as having similar goals or life plans.

What happens if one or both partners don't accept your polyamory?

Being in a polyamorous relationship can be wonderful, but it’s not for everyone. If one or both of the people you love aren't comfortable with polyamory, you can’t make them ok with it. If this is the case, you will need to choose.

Conclusion

It is possible to love two people at once, but our society is geared towards having monogamous romantic relationships. If you find yourself loving two people at the same time, you may have to choose between them. If everyone is open to the idea, you could try a polyamorous relationship. These can be wonderful, but they are also often complicated.

How does this fit with your experience? Have you ever loved two people at the same time? What happened? Let us know in the comments, and please share this article with anyone who might be facing this same problem. We’re here to help.

5 Sources:
  1. Price, C. (2015). Emotion. Polity.
  2. ‌Muise, A., Laughton, A. K., Moors, A., & Impett, E. A. (2018). Sexual need fulfillment and satisfaction in consensually nonmonogamous relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(7), 1917–1938. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407518774638
  3. ‌Rubinsky, V., & Niess, L. C. (2021). Relational Communication and Consensual Nonmonogamy. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.1173
  4. ‌Pallotta-Chiarolli, M., & Pease, B. (2013). The Politics of Recognition and Social Justice. Routledge.
  5. ‌Scoats, R., & Campbell, C. (2023). What do we know about Consensual Non-monogamy? Current Opinion in Psychology, 48, 101468. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2022.101468
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