Is It Possible to Love Two People at the Same Time?

This is quite a popular and disturbing question. Let's see what the experts say about it.
Is It Possible to Love Two People at the Same Time?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 12 December, 2021

Is it possible to love two people at the same time? This is quite a common question. In fact, even science has considered it, and the answer, based on clinical and social research, is extremely interesting. However, from a moral point of view, this idea has always been both questioned and harshly sanctioned.

You probably know of a case or have heard of one. People who live with their respective partners for many years while, at the same time, maintaining another parallel stable relationship. Sometimes, they keep the other relationship a secret. Alternatively, they may have an open relationship with the three of them. In these instances, polyamory tends to challenge the traditional view of monogamy.

However, we’re not going to enter into the acceptance or rejection of these relational models. We don’t want to delve into the dilemma of whether they’re ethical or not. Of whether it’s acceptable to be with someone while deceiving another, or whether we should get used to seeing relationships made up of more than two people. In fact, what we intend to understand is, if it’s possible to really love more than one person. Furthermore, if that love is as real, genuine, and deep as when there’s only one love.

“Submitting to what they will say is a socially accepted form of slavery.”

-Walter Riso-

The conflict of loving two people at the same time

Therapists see many of these cases in their consulting rooms. “I want two people at the same time and I don’t know what to do.” In fact, these patients openly declare that they’re truly in love and that they feel the same emotional experiences, the same emotion, and the same sexual desire with both people. On the other hand, they also suffer conflict.

As a matter of fact, it’s usually a deep conflict because they assume (often conditioned by society) that it’s not the right thing to do. Furthermore, the suffering also comes from having to maintain a lie. The one where the two lovers aren’t aware of the existence of a third person in the relationship. Nevertheless, this kind of suffering does tend to point to the fact that, emotionally and biologically, it’s possible to love two people at the same time.

  • Attraction in the human being is an extremely complex experience. That’s mainly because, from a social and cultural point of view, we’re brought up to believe that true love is based on monogamy. This idea actually becomes a part of us. However, there are those who believe in the idea of polyamory, which doesn’t only relate to sexual attraction. In fact, it suggests that authentic emotional bonds with two people may be formed at the same time.
  • In most cases, these situations tend to cause great confusion. Indeed, the moment we move away from our traditional conceptions (love = monogamy) we experience suffering.
  • Furthermore, there exists the difficulty of sustaining a three-way relationship. Indeed, it’s sometimes the case that not all three people in the equation agree to this love triangle. Therefore, loving two people at the same time and having the chance of a stable future isn’t always easy.
Man with two women

The biochemistry of love in multiple relationships

There are certain psychologists and neuroscientists who defend one particular theory. They claim that, sometimes, people come to love two people at the same time for a specific reason. This is the theory that one partner offers passion and the other commitment. In other words, one offers the fascinating preliminary phase of love, while the other offers security.

To understand this, let’s think about the fascinating biochemistry of love. In the first phase of falling in love, emotions of great intensity prevail. They’re governed by dopamine and adrenaline. These are drugs of the brain that keep us in a state of semi-euphoria and that shape romantic and passionate love.

Later, oxytocin appears. This is the hormone of attachment. It’s when romantic love and the close bond between the couple develops and the relationship stabilizes. Experts like Otto Kernberg claim that this is ‘mature sexual love’ where love, commitment, and future plans of the couple are interrelated.

Boy in love giving a kiss to his girl

What if love is multiple?

When a person falls in love with two people, there’s a tendency to think that they’re just going through a phase. Perhaps they have that  ‘mature sexual love’ with their original partner, yet they’re also experiencing that initial phase of euphoria, governed by adrenaline and oxytocin with the other partner. As we mentioned earlier, one offers them stability, while the other brings them the emotion and intensity of the new.

In essence, each of these partners fulfills certain needs of the other at a given moment. However, most of the studies conducted in this regard claim that, in general, and on average, ‘mature love’  isn’t usually achieved in both relationships. Social pressure could be behind this explanation. In effect, the difficulty of consolidating these triangular relationships.

Nevertheless, there are cases where this kind of love is maintained for a long time. Furthermore, nowadays, three-way love affairs are far more common. Indeed, it seems that partners, at certain stages of their lives, give themselves permission to explore broader relationships. They have the desire to go to unexplored territories where they can make love new and more intense and satisfying.

How to handle loving two people at the same time

As we mentioned earlier, polyamory is becoming more common. Therefore, if you want to practice it without any parties getting hurt, it’s best to follow these guidelines:

  • You must talk to all parties and agree. Otherwise, you’d be committing infidelity. This is a scenario where everyone gets hurt. Furthermore, everyone must agree willingly. In other words, nobody should feel pressured in agreeing to something just to please another.
  • You must discuss the functioning of the relationship and its boundaries. Indeed, not all polyamorous relationships have the same characteristics.
  • As in any love relationship, in a relationship of three people, there’ll be problems. For example, jealousy or fear of being excluded. Therefore, you should clarify shared times and activities.
  • Always maintain communication and talk about anything that bothers you. Just as you would do in a monogamous relationship.
  • You must never consider polyamory as a solution to a relationship crisis.
  • See a professional (in this case, a couples therapist) if necessary.
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Have you ever felt like you were in love with two or more people at the same time? Have you ever heard of polyamory?